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e-2344 (Media and telecommunications)

Initiated by Inger Calder from Kenora, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

  • Internet access is playing an increasingly vital role in everyday society;
  • Many communities in rural and remote parts of the country continue to face barriers to Internet connectivity; and
  • The Speech from the Throne made no mention of rural Internet connectivity.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to take immediate action to improve rural broadband connectivity in all regions of Canada.

Response by the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Signed by the Parliamentary Secretary Gudie Hutchings

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for sharing their views on the importance of broadband connectivity in rural and remote regions.

The Government of Canada recognizes that now more than ever, Canadians rely on high-quality broadband Internet services to stay informed, work from home, study, manage their finances, access government services, and stay connected with friends and family.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the necessity of these services. Since the pandemic began, the Government has engaged with Canada’s telecommunications service providers to ensure that our networks are able to manage the increased demand to ensure the continued provision of critical telecommunications services at this time. The Government of Canada has taken several steps to assist telecom service providers, such as extending the payment date for spectrum license fees to provide cash-flow relief, allowing unused spectrum to be shared to increase capacity for wireless services, and accelerating the process to get licenses. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is similarly engaged with providers regarding COVID-19 issues and adjusting its processes in response.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The Government is also moving forward on a number of ambitious initiatives to improve broadband access in rural areas more broadly. In recognition of the importance of this issue, the Prime Minister appointed Canada’s first Minister of Rural Economic Development, with a mandate to lead the Government’s work to increase high-speed broadband coverage in rural Canada. In June 2019, the Government released High Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, a historic commitment to connect every Canadian to affordable, high-speed Internet and to improve mobile cellular access from coast to coast to coast. The Strategy outlines Canada's action plan to leverage new and existing investments and technologies, as well as to collaborate with partners to ensure high-speed Internet access for all Canadians at speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload, regardless of where they live or work.

Central to the strategy is funding announced in Budget 2019. In particular, the Government committed $1.7 billion for a new Universal Broadband Fund to support broadband projects in underserved rural and remote regions across the country, a top-up for the successful Connect to Innovate program, support for low-Earth orbit satellite capacity, and data gathering initiatives to measure household and business Internet access and use.

Under Connect to Innovate, over 200 projects are already underway. Once completed, these projects will bring new or improved high-speed Internet access to over 975 rural and remote communities, including 190 Indigenous communities. These projects also have the potential to benefit up to 390,000 households across Canada. The new Universal Broadband Fund will build on this success, and is being designed with the needs of rural and remote Canadians in mind. The Government is focussed on launching the Universal Broadband Fund as soon as possible.

The CRTC, Canada’s independent telecommunications regulator, also has a $750 million Broadband Fund in place to help expand universal broadband Internet and mobile access. The CRTC’s first call for applications closed in October 2019 and focused on projects targeting broadband and mobile connectivity in the three territories, as well as satellite dependent communities across Canada. A second call for applications is currently underway and is open to all types of projects in all eligible geographic areas. The CRTC recently extended the deadline for the second call to June 1, 2020.

These investments are complemented by other initiatives including the Accelerated Investment Incentive - an accelerated capital cost allowance designed to encourage businesses to invest, general infrastructure programs administered by Infrastructure Canada, investments through the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, and funding for broadband from local levels of government including the provinces and territories.

The Government is also taking action to improve access to spectrum used for wireless services in rural areas. In July 2019, ISED unveiled a smaller set of geographic areas for spectrum licencing that could be used in future licensing processes. These new tiers could make auctioned licences more affordable for smaller providers seeking to provide Internet services in rural areas. ISED is also making spectrum available to support the deployment of 5G services in Canada by holding three spectrum auctions in the coming years. The next planned auction is for 3500 MHz spectrum which will be a key band for the initial deployment of 5G services. This will be followed by auctions for spectrum in the millimetre wave bands and the 3800 MHz band. Through its spectrum auction consultations, ISED develops conditions of licence to extend connectivity beyond urban centres into rural areas.

Other complementary actions to promote broadband access include reviewing policy and regulatory frameworks on antenna towers and support structures, raising awareness among stakeholders of the importance of access to passive infrastructure assets needed for network expansion, and the ongoing review of Canada’s communications legislation.

The Government looks forward to continuing to engage with Canadians and key stakeholders including the private sector, provinces and territories, Indigenous communities, and not-for-profit organizations in promoting access to high-quality, robust, and affordable broadband networks in all regions of the country.

Open for signature
December 13, 2019, at 3:26 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 12, 2020, at 3:26 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Eric Melillo (Kenora)
April 29, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00163)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Eric Melillo
Conservative Caucus