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Results: 1 - 15 of 41
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 8:54
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Overall, the Government of Canada sees connectivity and broadband as a critical enabler. It really is the way for all Canadians to participate in economic growth, innovation and social inclusion.
Overall, we also agree with the recommendations of the Auditor General. I thought I should, at the outset, acknowledge the contribution of the former Auditor General Ferguson. We had several heated conversations—good conversations—about this topic.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 8:55
I want to start by thanking the Auditor General and his office for their report. This is an extremely important set of issues. We accept the recommendations and are moving forward to improve rural and remote connectivity.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 8:55
I have just a few words, then, on the three specific areas of comment in the Auditor General's chapter: first, on strategy; second, on programs; and third, on spectrum.
On strategy, we agree on the need for a connectivity strategy, particularly in light of the CRTC decision in December 2016 declaring broadband a basic service and setting that 50/10 target. I personally believe that this declaration has created a significant inflection point for the delivery of broadband, which has required us to move from an evolutionary, step-by-step approach, addressing gaps, to a more collaborative, integrative approach to broadband.
As a basic service, the department's broadband programs predate this announcement from CRTC. As I said, they were designed to be step by step and to focus on specific gaps in services, coverages and speed. We focused on closing the gaps in speed between urban and rural areas in a way that carefully balances the public interest and private investment. We do want to avoid crowding out private investment in whatever we do.
I would also want to stress to members and to the chair that connectivity is very much a moving target. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and in this context, strategy is important, particularly as we set specific goals. However, it's constantly evolving. Only a few years ago our target was five and one, as opposed to 50 and 10.
As indicated earlier, work was already under way on a strategy this past spring. We established a federal-provincial-territorial connectivity committee. Federal-provincial groups have existed before, but we formalized it.
In June, the department launched a national digital and data strategy consultation, in which connectivity was the foundational component.
On September 25, Minister Bains released the economic strategy tables report, which focused on six sectors. This included the importance of broadband and digital infrastructure for economic growth, innovation and social inclusion.
Finally, on October 26 of last year, the federal-provincial-territorial ministers met. They agreed as a group to make broadband a priority, and to work together to that end. They agreed to a set of connectivity principles and to develop a long-term strategy to improve access for Canadians to high-speed Internet and mobile services. In other words, they accepted the 50/10 goal and the objective of serving Canadians with broadband as a basic service.
They did announce three specific principles: access to ensure reliable, high-quality service; collaboration to leverage all partners, and end fragmentation; and effective instruments, especially targeting market failures, so that government supports this where it is most needed in a real world context and does not crowd out private investment.
I would like to end my comments on the strategy by reminding members that the department has been very active in the digital and connectivity space for many years. It goes back to Minister Manley. There was a national broadband task force in 2001, led by David Johnston. If you look at their principles—I suspect I'll point them out to you later—you will see that they are remarkably similar to ones that are at the heart of our new strategy. The department has been committed for many years to providing programming around education related to digital and broadband activity. I can talk to you about some of those programs.
The second area of focus for the Auditor General was our two programs: Connecting Canadians, a $240-million, five-year program launched in 2014 to install last-mile connection for households; and our more recent program, connect to innovate, a $500-million, five-year program launched in 2016 primarily to support new backbone infrastructure to connect institutions such as schools and hospitals, and to ensure that communities have access to broadband.
I do want to stress that the findings of the audit focus solely on the design phase of the connect to innovate program. That's where we were at the time of the work of the Auditor General. I am pleased to report, and I have been asked to do so by Minister Bains, that the program will connect 900 communities across Canada. That's three times the program's original target of 300 communities.
Of the 900 communities, 190 are indigenous communities, some of them in the direst need of better high-speed Internet. I want to stress that above all what was targeted in this program were the areas of highest need for rural broadband, typically where the private sector is not inclined to go and that, overall, our $500 million program leveraged another $500 million, so that $1 billion is dedicated towards improved connectivity.
Let me just turn to the issue of spectrum and the issues raised there by the Auditor General. We certainly agree that the impact on rural and remote areas is a very important consideration when developing spectrum activities or licensing frameworks. We continue to develop policies that encourage service into rural areas to ensure that all Canadians will benefit from high-quality services, coverage and affordable prices. For example, we've just published a consultation on the development of similar geographic service areas for spectrum licence, known as the tier 5 consultation, which was referenced in the Auditor General's report.
What we have been doing is trying to drill down to a smaller geographical service areas so that we have a better understanding and mapping of what can be available to Canadians.
Also the 600 megahertz spectrum auction is scheduled to take place shortly. This spectrum can provide expanded rural coverage, specifically because we set aside 40% of the spectrum for regional service providers.
Let me conclude by just reaffirming that we recognize how important affordable high-speed connectivity and broadband is for rural communities and Canadians and that we all work very hard to ensure that we service and meet the objectives related to that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:24
That's still my position. The 3,500 issue has not yet been moved forward, but it will be in due course. As I mentioned in my opening remarks on the 600 side, we did set aside 40% of the spectrum for rural purposes.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:26
The strategy since 2001, consistent with the Johnston task force, has been to do with a staged approach to addressing the gaps in the broadband service for Canadians. We have had five programs since 2001, contributing $1 billion overall, from a government perspective, to addressing and fixing these gaps.
In light of the decision that broadband is a basic service and our goal of 50/10 megabits, we are working with provinces and the private sector, recognizing that we have a common objective. We have a time frame of addressing this 10% in 10 to 15 years. Again, we formalized, much more than in the past, our working groups at the federal-provincial level. As I mentioned, the ministers met last fall and committed to meet the goal of 50/10 and to develop an integrated strategy related to this. In that context, officials are working together to develop, province by province and territory by territory, how we will proceed on this basis.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:27
We have a plan. We have an objective of 50/10. We know that there is another 5% that will evolve through the private sector in the next five years, and we are working together with all the stakeholders to address this 10% gap.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:32
I think it is important for members to understand that since 2001 there has been a staged approach, which is a strategy, to closing gaps in broadband. The strategy has been to identify where there are areas of greatest need and to address those.
What has happened as a result of the declaration in December, 2016 that broadband is a basic service and that we agree as a country on moving towards a 50/10 goal—because in the past there have been different views on what the goal should be, and whether it should be 5/1, 30, or 50/10—is that we are now in a position, thanks to the CRTC I would say, to work together in an integrated way to really address the issues together, along with the provinces, private sector, etc.
I would make just one more point about that staged approach. I think that the underlying policy issue at play always, and it continues to be even in this new integrated world we're in, is how to ensure that we get value for money and do not crowd out what private sector input would normally occur.
So there is always a balancing act going on between what is the public interest in closing these gaps and how we work with the private sector, and indeed with provinces and communities, to ensure that there is value for money as we go forward.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:34
There was a strategy of staged implementation and—
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:34
—now we've moved to a national strategy.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:39
I think the first thing to emphasize is that the federal, provincial and territorial ministers met in October and decided to put a strategy in place. They talked about and agreed on the 50/10 target, a speed of 50 megabits per second for downloads and 10 megabits per second for uploads, which are decent speeds. They then asked officials to take an integrated approach to identify the future needs of the provinces, the federal government and the private sector, so that they can all work together to achieve this target.
I am convinced that, thanks to the CRTC, we are now in a better position to achieve this objective because we have a very specific target and tools for sharing and collaboration. The ministers established three fundamental principles for developing a strategy: access, innovation and collaboration.
Ms. Setlakwe leads a team working on this and perhaps she could add some comments.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:45
The nuance I'm trying to bring to this is what the Auditor General raised, which we agree with, is that there was no national integrated strategy with a common, agreed-upon goal. We have now reached 50/10, and we have not had a situation before where all the players, whether the provinces or the federal government or even the private sector, have agreed on that goal and moved ahead.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:45
I agree there was no national integrated strategy in that sense, and the Auditor General was totally appropriate to point that out. Very shortly after the CRTC identified broadband as a basic service, the government moved ahead very quickly to work on an integrated strategy with provinces, to agree that 50/10 was a goal, to bring together working groups that include the CRTC and the provinces.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:46
Because no one could agree on a common technological goal: provinces might have 30 as a goal, for five to one. Technology is always an issue. Various players don't always agree on the extent to which the private sector will go in and solve a situation or where they will invest. As the Auditor General pointed out, in terms of value for money, a big issue is, how do you balance public investment with private sector investment? Even in the case of our 50/10 goal, we have already identified that we're going to move from 84 to 90, really, with private sector investment. Private sector companies invest $12 billion a year to do this.
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:47
Again, I guess I am saying that it's not straightforward, but complex. The nuance that I'm trying to bring to this is that all governments in the last 15 years, of whatever stripe, have taken the approach of identifying specific gaps. It's a staged approach. What are the specific problems that we're trying to address? Are we trying to do the last mile, where we hardwire two households? Are we trying to do more backbone-type activity, where we take the broadband to a community, to a school? What's the best solution to help the community and to provide the best service to these very remote areas that Canada encounters across the country?
John Knubley
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John Knubley
2019-02-21 9:48
There are issues of coordination, technology, and there are issues of money. As you have just heard, the cost of meeting the 50/10 goal, at least as we currently estimate it, is $8 to $9 billion.
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