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e-3699 (Media and telecommunications)

Initiated by Lynne Gornon from Notre-Dame-du-Laus, Quebec

Original language of petition: French

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • We live in the 21st century;
  • Our astronauts travel to the moon;
  • We are controlling Perseverance on Mars;
  • The next generation is leaving the crib with a cellphone in hand;
  • Cellular phone service must be considered an essential service, just like high-speed Internet;
  • We reject Bell Canada’s approach to wait until 2024–2025 to invest in a cellular network in our village because, in 2021, being able to use a cellphone is no longer a luxury but essential for safety;
  • We are a tourist village in a beautiful part of the country that would like to attract young families and entrepreneurs, and we should be able to ensure the safety of the tourists on our roads and of all our residents.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada and residents of the municipality of Notre-Dame-du-Laus, call upon the Government of Canada to work with the major telecommunications companies to install cellular towers in rural regions in the immediate future for reasons of national security.

Response by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): THE HON. FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for sharing their views on the importance of mobile connectivity in rural and remote regions, particularly in the municipality of Notre-Dame-du-Laus, Quebec.

Certainly now more than ever, the Government of Canada recognizes that telecommunications coverage is of crucial importance and that Canadians who currently do not have access to adequate wireless services are frustrated. This is precisely why the government has taken a number of steps to encourage the expansion of wireless services, including in rural, remote and Northern areas.

Notably, the government is taking steps to improve wireless connectivity by using policy tools to enable operators to increase their radiofrequency spectrum holdings. Spectrum is a key resource used by operators to connect wireless devices such as smartphones and provide services to Canadians. Canada allocates most mobile wireless spectrum through an auction process, where carriers bid for the right to use certain bandwidths.

As one example, in July 2021, the government concluded its auction for the 3500 megahertz (MHz) spectrum band, where it reserved approximately 50 MHz of spectrum, or 25% of the total band, for small and regional carriers in most markets. The 3500 MHz band has been identified worldwide as one of the key spectrum bands to be used for the next generation of technology, commonly referred to as 5G. As a result of this policy, small and regional providers – many of which play an important role in connecting rural, remote and Northern communities –  have increased their total mobile spectrum holdings by more than 50%, strengthening their ability to offer high-quality services to Canadians.

Most recently, on June 30, 2022, the government released a decision on the licensing and policy framework for the 3800 MHz band, which includes setting a 100 MHz cross-band cap on the amount of spectrum operators are able to acquire across both the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands. The application of this cross-band cap will effectively reserve even more key 5G spectrum for small and regional providers, better positioning them to expand their services. The 3800 MHz auction is scheduled to take place in 2023.

Additionally, both the 3500 MHz spectrum licences, and upon issuance, the 3800 MHz spectrum licences, include ambitious deployment requirements to ensure that service providers put the spectrum to use in a timely manner. These “use it or lose it” policies are the most stringent to date and should result in accelerated deployment to help connect Canadians sooner.

Participation in auctions is not the only way to access spectrum in Canada. For example, providers in rural areas have access to licence-exempt spectrum in a variety of bands that do not require a fee. Potential providers also have the option of entering into a commercial agreement with an existing licence holder to use a portion of that licensee’s spectrum.

In addition to spectrum policies, the government also offers a variety of programs targeted at expanding wireless services to rural, remote and Northern communities. Notably, in June 2019 the government released High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy. It represents a historic commitment to make affordable, high-speed Internet infrastructure available to all Canadians and to improve mobile wireless access from coast to coast to coast.

As part of this Strategy, the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), which is the single largest federal investment in broadband in Canada’s history, is providing $2.75 billion to help ensure that 98% of Canadians are connected to high-speed internet – defined as 50/10 Mbps – by 2026, and all Canadians by 2030. The program aims to improve connectivity in rural and remote areas and includes $50 million to support mobile projects that will primarily benefit Indigenous peoples, including along highways and roads where mobile connectivity is lacking.

These new investments build on existing programs that continue to roll out. For example, the $585 million Connect to Innovate (CTI) program has projects that will bring improved Internet to over 975 communities, including 190 Indigenous communities, by 2023. CTI projects focus on supporting new backbone infrastructure and connecting public institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and First Nation band offices. High-capacity backbone infrastructure can also help service providers support improved speeds and service quality for surrounding households, businesses, and mobile wireless users.

As another example, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – Canada’s telecommunications regulator – has established a $750 million fund, paid through an industry levy, to assist in funding projects to build or upgrade access and transport infrastructure for fixed and mobile wireless broadband Internet access services. Most recently, in March 2022 the CRTC announced it had awarded funds to six access projects and one mobile project benefitting communities in British Columbia and Alberta.

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 mobile service in all regions of the country.

Open for signature
December 7, 2021, at 10:59 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 7, 2022, at 10:59 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Marie-Hélène Gaudreau (Laurentides—Labelle)
June 9, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00553)
Government response tabled
August 17, 2022
Photo - Marie-Hélène Gaudreau
Bloc Québécois Caucus