Statement from Minister Hutchings on the Auditor General of Canada's report on rural and remote connectivity
March 27, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario
The Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development, made the following statement:
"We thank the Office of the Auditor General of Canada for its report on rural and remote connectivity. We accept the recommendations and look forward to continuing our work to connect all Canadians to affordable high-speed Internet by 2030 and to improve mobile connectivity across Canada.
"In June 2019, the Government of Canada released Canada's first Connectivity Strategy. The strategy sets out ambitious targets to ensure all Canadians have access to high-speed Internet, no matter where they live or work. The Government of Canada has made available over $7.6 billion to expand access to high-speed Internet in underserved areas, which is more than 10 times the funding of all previous federal programs combined before 2015.
"I am proud to be part of a government that prioritizes investing in rural Canadians. The $3.2 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) has already helped connect over 200,000 underserved homes to high-speed Internet, with an additional 80,000 homes getting connected by the end of this year through UBF alone. Moving forward, we are on track to connect a further 750,000 homes through this program. Since 2015, approximately 2.2 million Canadian households have received access to better, faster Internet thanks in large part to investments by our government together with our provincial, territorial, Indigenous and community partners, as well as large and small Internet service providers from coast to coast to coast.
"In 2014, only 79% of households had access to high-speed Internet. As a result of our actions, 93.5% of homes have access today. Not only did we exceed our first goal of 90% coverage by 2021, but we are also well on track to surpass our next goal of 98% of homes having access by 2026.
"The Government of Canada has committed $50 million through the program for mobile projects that benefit Indigenous communities. These targeted investments, such as our partnership with the Government of British Columbia to connect the Highway of Tears, will improve mobile connectivity for communities that need cellular service the most.
"We prioritized projects that would keep prices affordable for Canadians in rural and remote areas, while balancing the needs of the future. That is why 80% of the projects funded so far under the Universal Broadband Fund are scalable to speeds of one gigabit per second.
"The investments are supported by complementary regulatory initiatives. More spectrum frequencies are available, along with rules to better support rural and remote wireless services. This includes access to white-space spectrum and to licence-exempt spectrum in the 6 GHz band, as well as lowering fees for spectrum to connect towers. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced new rules for access to poles owned by the large telephone companies to speed up deployment by other service providers.
"To continue this momentum, our government will ensure that the recommendations in the audit are implemented to guide future initiatives and bolster those already under way. The newly announced policy direction to the CRTC came into force in February 2023 and directs the CRTC to take action on a range of issues, including improving measurement activities as well as competition and affordability. We will also improve measurement of affordability and adoption, and we have committed to making more spectrum available to support better connectivity, including by facilitating access to underutilized spectrum in rural and remote areas.
"The past few years have only further highlighted that access to high-speed Internet and mobile connectivity are no longer a luxury—they're a necessity. I encourage all Canadians to check on our progress by visiting our interactive connectivity dashboard at Canada.ca/Rural.
"The Government of Canada will continue to work with provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and Internet service providers so that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to affordable high-speed Internet and mobile connectivity."
Office of the Minister of Rural Economic Development
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
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