Vicky Eatrides to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
October 5, 2023
Vicky Eatrides, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Good morning and thank you for inviting us to appear before your Committee.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people.
I am joined today by my colleague Scott Hutton, who leads the CRTC’s consumer and research work.
Let me start by thanking the Auditor General and her team for their report on Internet Connectivity in Rural and Remote Areas.
I am looking forward to your questions, so let me just briefly touch on three things.
First, what the CRTC has heard directly from Canadians on the importance of high-speed Internet.
Second, the role we are playing as part of the broader collective effort to connect communities.
And finally, what we are doing to respond to the report.
Importance of Internet connectivity
I think we can all agree with the Auditor General that access to the Internet is vital.
No matter where we live, Canadians need reliable, affordable and high-quality Internet for every part of our daily lives.
Since taking on my role earlier this year, I have heard stories directly from community members across Canada, in places like Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Cape Breton and other regions about how our telecommunications services have fallen short.
Let me share a couple of examples of what we heard in the Yukon.
We heard about the lack of education for children, where during the pandemic they lost out on one, two and three years of schooling without access to reliable high-speed Internet.
And we heard about the impact on the safety of community members, including seniors. We were told about an Elder lying on the floor for 24 hours, because she needed medical attention and was unable to access medical alerting services that are common elsewhere across the country.
These types of stories are troubling. And though we have made strides together to connect communities, more needs to be done.
The CRTC’s role
This brings me to the CRTC’s role.
As you know, we are a quasi-judicial tribunal that regulates the broadcasting and telecommunications industries.
In 2019, the CRTC launched the Broadband Fund to help improve access. It is 100% funded by Canadian telecommunications companies.
The Fund is part of a much broader effort to connect communities. It represents less than 3% of all federal, provincial and territorial government support for these types of projects.
So far, the CRTC has committed just over $240 million to improve access to high-speed Internet and cellphone services in 205 rural and remote communities, including 89 Indigenous communities. So we are making progress, but we know that more can be done.
That’s why we welcome the four recommendations that relate to the CRTC in the Auditor General’s report and are taking action to address them.
One of the recommendations relates to the CRTC’s Broadband Fund application process and three relate to data collection and management.
We are already improving the application process and moving faster.
Our third call closed in June. We received over 100 applications seeking $1.9 billion for projects to improve service in the hardest-to-reach communities.
With this call, we have cut the time it takes us from receipt of applications to issuance of decisions by over 40%.
At the same time, we launched a broad public consultation on how to make the application process faster and easier; on creating a new funding stream for Indigenous communities; and on funding projects that would increase the reliability of rural and remote networks.
With respect to the Auditor General’s recommendations regarding data collection and management, we are working with ISED and other partners on those joint recommendations.
The action that the CRTC is taking in collaboration with ISED and other partners is aimed at ensuring that all Canadians have reliable high-speed Internet.
We all want Canadians to participate fully in our society and to access essential services, such as education and healthcare.
We are committed to doing our part and to working with partners to help connect Canadians.
Thank you. We look forward to your questions.
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