Clarifying the CRTC’s service objective

There seems to be some confusion about what the CRTC meant when it updated its service objective to include broadband in 2016.

It is often a challenge to try to paraphrase a 55-page, 259 paragraph Decision and summarize it in an easy-to-understand soundbite.

The CRTC’s “Broadband Fund” webpage says: “Whether you’re at home, at work, or on the road, your phone should be able to connect using LTE, you should have an Internet connection with access to broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload and access to unlimited data.”

I wonder if it would have been more clear for the CRTC to say “you should have access to choose an Internet connection with broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload and access to unlimited data”?

Some [including the deeply flawed Ryerson University Local News Data Hub] point to that CRTC Broadband Fund web page as the source of their interpretation (misinterpretation) of the service objective.

They have apparently misread that summary to mean that the CRTC objective is for everyone to have a 50/10 broadband connection.

That clearly wasn’t the intent. How do we know? In its 2020 Communications Monitoring Report, the CRTC reported that “87% of households had access to Internet services with speeds of 50/10 Mbps with unlimited data and 96% of the population were covered by Long-Term Evolution Advanced (LTE-A) networks.” The 87% figure has been the headline number for how we are doing on the broadband scorecard.

On the other hand, CRTC data shows that just 46% of residential service subscriptions were for a 50/10/unlimited broadband connection. Nearly half of the households with access to a 50/10/unlimited chose a different service.

And if that isn’t sufficient evidence, the CRTC itself said (on a different page of its website), “That is why we set new targets for Internet speeds. We want all Canadian homes and businesses to have access to broadband Internet speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.”

The absence of a clear understanding of our national broadband objective has led to at least two flawed reports from researchers at Ryerson University [ConnectTO and the Local News Data Hub] and it appears to be a contributing factor to communities adopting the flawed CIRA broadband test to measure the need for broadband investment in various communities.

Hopefully, university researchers and advocacy organizations will take a step back, review their studies and reports, and make the appropriate adjustments to their work.

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