Chris Seidl to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

Speech

June 6, 2019
Ottawa, Ontario

Chris Seidl, Executive Director, Telecommunications
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I’m Chris Seidl, the Executive Director of Telecommunications at the CRTC. I’m joined today by Ian Baggley, Director General, Strategic Planning, Broadband Fund and Networks, and Renée Doiron, Director of Broadband and Network Engineering.

We appreciate this opportunity to contribute to your Committee’s study of Motion M-208. This study addresses important areas within the scope of Canada’s telecommunications regulators: Innovation, Science and Economic Development as the spectrum regulator and the CRTC. Reliable and accessible digital infrastructure is indispensable to individuals, public institutions and businesses of all sizes in today’s world – regardless of where Canadians live.

That’s why, in December 2016, the Commission announced that broadband Internet is now considered a basic telecommunications service.

The CRTC’s universal service objective calls for all Canadians to have access to fixed broadband at download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, as well as an unlimited data option.

As well, the latest mobile wireless technology not only needs to be available to all homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian roads.

Our goal is to achieve 90% coverage by the end of 2021 and 100% as soon as possible within the following decade.

We want all Canadians – in rural and remote areas as well as in urban centres – to have access to voice and broadband Internet services on fixed and mobile wireless networks so they can be connected and effectively participate in the digital economy. Reaching this goal will require the efforts of federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as of the private sector.

We are taking action on multiple fronts to realize that goal. One of our most important initiatives is the CRTC Broadband Fund. The Commission established the Fund to improve broadband services in rural and remote regions that lack an acceptable level of access.

The Broadband Fund will disperse up to $750 million, over the first five years, to build or upgrade access and transport infrastructure to provide fixed and mobile wireless broadband Internet service in underserved areas. The contributions to the Broadband Fund are collected from telecommunications service providers based on their revenue. The Fund is meant to be complementary to – but not a replacement for – existing and future private investment and public funding.

Up to 10% of the annual amount will be provided to satellite-dependent communities. Special consideration may also be given to projects targeted to Indigenous or official-language minority communities.

Earlier this week, we launched the first call for applications for funding from the Broadband Fund for projects in Canada’s three territories as well as in satellite-dependent communities.

According to the latest data, no households North of 60 currently have access to a broadband Internet service that meets the CRTC’s universal service objective. And only about one quarter of major roads in the territories are covered by LTE mobile wireless service. The digital divide is also evident in satellite-dependent communities across the country where there is no terrestrial connectivity.

Canadian corporations of all sizes, provincial, territorial and municipal government organizations, and band councils or Indigenous governments with the necessary experience – or a consortium composed of any of these parties – can apply for funding.

The CRTC will announce the selected projects from the first call for applications in 2020. A second call – open to all types of projects in all regions in Canada – will be launched this fall.

The CRTC’s Fund is only one part of the work that must be accomplished by the public and private sectors. To this end, we noted in the most recent federal budget a commitment of $1.7 billion in new funding to provide high-speed Internet to all Canadians. The government intends to coordinate its activities with provinces, territories and federal institutions such as the CRTC to maximize the impact of these investments. We support the government’s efforts to the extent we can under our mandate and status as an independent regulator.

Mr. Chairman, even with financial support from the CRTC’s Broadband Fund or other public sources, some Internet service providers may still face challenges and barriers that limit their ability to improve broadband access in rural and remote areas.

For this reason, we are planning a new proceeding related to rural broadband deployment. We will examine factors such as the availability of both rural transport services and access to support structures. These services are crucial to expand broadband Internet access and to foster competition, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Extending broadband to underserved households, businesses and along major roads is an absolute necessity in every corner of the country – including rural and remote areas. Access to digital technologies will enhance public safety and enable all Canadians to take advantage of existing and new and innovative digital services that are now central to their daily lives.

We would now be pleased to answer your questions.

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