Ottawa, November 22, 2010 - The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, today updated Canadians on the Harper government's progress toward a digital economy strategy. In a keynote address at the International Institute of Communications Canada conference, Minister Clement highlighted how the government has been moving forward in shaping an environment where information and communications technologies (ICT) and digital innovation can flourish.
"The Harper government has a clear vision of what Canada can achieve," said Minister Clement. "By 2020, we see a country that boasts a globally competitive digital economy that is driven by innovation and enhanced productivity and generates enduring prosperity."
Minister Clement touched on five priority areas where the government is focusing its efforts in creating a digital Canada:
- a world-class infrastructure;
- business adoption of digital technologies to boost productivity and innovation;
- a digitally skilled workforce;
- successful Canadian companies supplying digital technologies to the world; and
- Canadian content on all digital platforms.
In his keynote address, Minister Clement also announced several measures designed to position Canada for leadership in the global digital economy.
One such measure and a key element of Canada's digital economy is the opening up of spectrum for next-generation wireless networks and services. To that end, Minister Clement announced plans to launch consultations on the 700 MHz spectrum shortly, with a view to auctioning this spectrum by late 2012. He also announced that another round of consultations on the 2500 MHz spectrum will be held early next year.
These consultations are in preparation for making available radio frequency spectrum that is suitable for the latest wireless broadband services, part of the foundation of a strong digital economy for all Canadians.
Minister Clement also announced that personal communications services and cellular fee rates have, for the moment, been frozen at their current levels. Given how important the duration of spectrum licences is for investment planning purposes, he also announced that the length of licences for mobile broadband spectrum will be extended to 20 years for all future auctions and upcoming licence renewals.
In 2008, a tower sharing and roaming policy was introduced to reduce tower proliferation and facilitate competitive entry by expediting network deployment and enabling new entrants to offer national service coverage to their subscribers from the initial launch of services. To ensure the tower sharing and roaming policy is working effectively, Minister Clement announced that Industry Canada will conduct a review of the policy.
Noting the importance of intergovernmental collaboration, Minister Clement announced that he and Clément Gignac, Quebec's Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, will co-host a federal, provincial and territorial meeting of economic development ministers early in the new year to explore ways of working together to drive important digital issues forward, including skills development and the availability of broadband in rural and remote areas.
Minister Clement was also pleased to announce 25 new Knowledge Synthesis Grants on the Digital Economy. The research proposed by the grant recipients reflects both the diversity of Canada's intellectual capital and the diversity of the digital economy itself.
To encourage the development and use of innovative digital technologies across the economy, Minister Clement has asked the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to make ICT adoption among its clients a strategic focus. The BDC will raise awareness of the benefits of ICT and help clients incorporate ICT into their operations.
Minister Clement will launch Canada's digital economy strategy in spring 2011.
For further information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
Strategy for a Digital Economy
The 65-day public consultation period on Canada's digital economy closed July 13, after receiving an outstanding amount of input from Canadians. In the months since then, Industry Canada, along with Canadian Heritage and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, has been analyzing the submissions, ideas and comments received to better understand the issues facing Canada and to develop Canada's digital economy strategy.
Minister Clement will launch Canada's digital economy strategy in spring 2011.
1. A World-Class Infrastructure
Broadband in rural and remote areas
As part of Canada's Economic Action Plan, the Harper government provided $225 million over three years, beginning in 2009–10, to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband coverage. The largest component of this strategy is the Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians program. The program aims to extend broadband service to as many unserved and underserved Canadian households as possible. To date, 98 projects have been conditionally approved, which will bring broadband to an estimated 250 000 households in rural and remote areas.
Auctions for 700 MHz and 2500 MHz spectrum
A key element of the digital economy is making suitable spectrum available for next-generation wireless networks and services. When television broadcasters move from analog to digital transmission of their signals, they will free up valuable 700 MHz wireless spectrum for new wireless services. Industry Canada will soon launch consultations on the use of the 700 MHz band to ensure that this newly available spectrum meets the needs of emerging wireless broadband services in Canada. These consultations will cover policy and competition issues as well as band structure. Subsequent consultations on auction design for 700 MHz will be held with a view to auctioning this spectrum by late 2012. Another round of consultations on the 2500 MHz spectrum will begin early in 2011.
Mandated tower sharing and roaming
A policy on tower sharing and roaming was put in place in 2008 to reduce tower proliferation and facilitate competitive entry by expediting network deployment and enabling new entrants to offer national service coverage to their subscribers from the initial launch of services.
Industry Canada will review this policy, which was put in place at the time of the Advanced Wireless Services spectrum auction, to ensure that it is working as intended.
Spectrum fee rates and licence duration
To increase the predictability of the spectrum regime and encourage infrastructure investment, personal communications services and cellular fee rates have, for the moment, been frozen at their current levels. Given the importance of the duration of spectrum licences for investment planning purposes, the length of licences for mobile broadband spectrum will be extended to 20 years for all future auctions and upcoming licence renewals.
2. Business Adoption of Digital Technologies
While Canada's digital economy strategy is taking shape, the Harper government has been laying the legislative and regulatory groundwork. A number of important new laws and amendments, including copyright, anti-spam and privacy legislation, have been introduced to support content creators and users and to increase confidence in online transactions. Furthermore, Canada's Cyber Security Strategy, launched by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews at the beginning of October, will promote better online security practices.
Our government will be reviewing how it can recalibrate existing policies and programs to ensure the digital economy strategy's success; however, its success does not rest solely with the government but rather will depend on a concerted effort of the private sector, all levels of government, academia and Canadians.
The essential legislative components of Canada's digital economy strategy are as follows:
- Copyright - Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, will update Canadian copyright law for the digital age while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation and attracting new investment to Canada.
- Anti-spam - Bill C-28 is intended to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam from occurring in Canada, creating a more secure online environment for consumers and businesses.
- Privacy - Bill C-29, the Safeguarding Canadians' Personal Information Act, proposes to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to better protect and empower consumers, clarify and streamline rules for business, and enable effective law enforcement.
Business Development Bank of Canada
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has been asked to make the adoption of information and communications technologies (ICT) among its clients a strategic focus. The aim is to help companies evaluate their level of ICT integration and to offer them new consulting services to enhance their capacity to use these technologies. The BDC will raise awareness of the benefits of ICT and help clients incorporate ICT into their operations.
3. A Digitally Skilled Workforce
In order to have a workforce that is up-to-date on the development and use of information and communications technologies, collectively we need to do more to foster and build a culture of science in this country.
Though education is a provincial and territorial responsibility, our government is acting where it can. It has invested in the Canada Research Chairs Program to attract the best students and to strengthen Canada's position as a world leader in research excellence. It has delivered more than one million computers to schools through the Computers for Schools program. And it has expanded the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and for Excellence in Early Childhood Education to raise the profile - and heighten the importance - of science, technology, engineering and mathematics among young people.
Furthermore, on November 22, 2010, Minister Clement announced that 25 Knowledge Synthesis Grants on the Digital Economy were awarded to scholars at 15 different universities across Canada. As a result of these grants, which total more than $500 000, analysis of the current state of knowledge about the digital economy will be undertaken to help identify research opportunities in key areas related to the digital economy.
4. Successful Canadian Companies Supplying Digital Technology
Our government provides support to the ICT sector in a number of areas. Since 2006, it has invested significantly in ICT-related science and technology initiatives - a key priority under the Science and Technology Strategy. Our government has invested in ICT-related research through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Significant ICT-related investments include the following:
- $120 million for the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry and Education (CANARIE)
- $83 million for the Microelectronics Innovation Centre in Bromont, Quebec
- $50 million for the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ontario
- $173 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation
- $75 million to support the Business Development Bank of Canada's new $300-million growth capital fund.
Recognizing the importance of capital for growing established companies and launching new ones, our government introduced a number of initiatives, including increased investments in venture capital and amending section 116 of the Income Tax Act to encourage more foreign venture capital.
As part of the Science and Technology Strategy, the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research program was created. The program, which funds the Canadian Digital Media Network and the Centre for the Commercialization of Research, harnesses the research strengths of academia, industry and government on issues of social and economic importance.
On September 24, 2010, our government launched the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, through which federal departments and agencies will help bolster innovation in Canada's business sector by adopting and demonstrating the use of innovative prototype products and technologies developed by Canadian businesses.
5. Canadian Content on All Digital Platforms
Our government has already taken some important steps to ensure the availability of Canadian content on all platforms. This is a key component of a national strategy to ensure that Canadian choices are available in the crowded digital marketplace. Content drives demand for digital technologies and bandwidth, attracting continued investment and talent.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage has revamped a suite of digital media and content programs, including those for music, television, books and periodicals. The Canada Media Fund (CMF) is a prime example of these program changes. Government investment in the CMF, along with that of the private sector, is spurring innovation and increasing Canadian content on all platforms.