A national gigabit dream

Earlier this year, TELUS and Bell announced plans for significant investments in fiber to the home in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto and expansion to other communities in their home territory. On Friday, TELUS announced a $1B plan to build fibre across all of Vancouver.

According to Cartt.ca, Rogers is expected to announce later today that it will be rolling out gigabit per second internet across its entire operating territory, leveraging the investments already made for its DOCSIS 3.1 hybrid fibre cable plant.

The service will be available later this year in parts of Toronto, along with Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill, Ajax, Pickering and Whitby. With downstream speeds up to 1 Gbps (1000Mbps) Ignite GB will then be available across the company’s cable footprint, from St. Thomas, Ontario to St John’s Newfoundland, in 2016.

Two different technology approaches to provide gigabit services to customers. Over a span of 6 months, there have been announcements to provide more than half of all Canadians with connections at the world’s fastest speeds. It appears that for many customers, more than one carrier will be building gigabit networks to their doorstep, delivering facilities based choice.

Access to gigabit networks is not just limited to those who live in Canada’s biggest cities. Bell Aliant has been building fibre networks throughout its territory, delivering high speed future-proof network capabilities to larger communities such as Saint John and Fredericton and small towns like Harbour Grace and Deer Lake.

It didn’t require government money to deliver these advanced capabilities, unlike the billions of dollars of public funds being spent in Australia.

Canada’s carrier community is deploying the capital to deliver advanced services, driven by market demand and competition.

In the meantime, other carrier are continuing to increase the speeds being delivered to rural and remote communities; at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit, Allison Lenehan, CEO of rural service provider Xplornet, challenged Canadian carriers to upgrade their networks to provide access to 100 Mbps speeds to all Canadians.

Fibre, coax, satellite, wireless can each play a role in delivering universal access to high speed services. As I have written before, one technology doesn’t fit every application. The government, both Industry Canada and the CRTC, have tended to examine networks from a geographic basis, but we have seen that the private sector has been able to deliver competitive, world-class solutions – and for many Canadians, allowing customers to choose between multiple platforms.

As I have written before, affordability, on the other hand, is not just a rural issue.

How can we ensure that all Canadians are able to take advantage of the networks that are being built to their doorsteps? What is the role of each level of government in developing targeted programs to increase adoption, especially among low income households?

How can government contribute to encourage continued investment? Should government contribute?

With an election in 2 weeks, which party will demonstrate digital leadership?

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