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Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2019-02-21 9:02
Good morning, Mr. Chair.
Members, I'll forgo introducing myself and my colleagues, as the chairman has already done so.
We appreciate the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss the findings of the Office of the Auditor General and to explain the CRTC's role in increasing connectivity for Canadians living in rural and remote areas of our country.
As the Auditor General's report noted, the commission has a limited but important role to play. Our job as an independent regulator is to ensure that Canadians have access to a world-class communication system that promotes innovation and enriches their lives. We believe that all Canadians, no matter where they live, should have access to broadband Internet services on both fixed and mobile networks. As the Auditor General's report underlines, connectivity is vital in today's world. Broadband is the critical tool we use to communicate with each other, educate and entertain ourselves, find information, apply for jobs and do routine activities from banking to accessing health care and other government services.
So Canadians need access to an unfettered Internet experience.
While we don't hold all the levers, there are areas where the CRTC can—and is—helping to advance this goal. A perfect example is the CRTC's December 2016 announcement that broadband Internet is now considered a basic telecommunications service.
At the same time, we established a new universal service objective, as just mentioned by the deputy minister. We call for all Canadians to have access to fixed broadband services at download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of 10 megabits per second, as well as access to an unlimited data option. The latest wireless technology, currently known as LTE—long-term evolution—should be available not only in Canadian homes and businesses but also on major roads in Canada. By the end of 2021, we expect that 90% of Canadian households will have access to speeds matching the universal service objective. By our current estimates, it will take another decade or so after that for the remaining 10% to join them.
Mr. Chairman, 84% of Canadians have access to the Internet at the new speed targets today. However, many people, particularly those living in rural and remote areas, can only dream of this level of service. While 97% of households in urban areas have access to service that meets the universal service objective, only 37% in rural areas have similar access.
As a result, 16% of Canadian households or nearly two million Canadians still don't have access to the universal service objective speeds or unlimited data option. Fast, reliable, high-quality Internet is simply out of reach, whether physically or financially, in many parts of the country.
That message came through loud and clear during the CRTC's public hearing on basic telecommunications services. We heard from more than 50,000 people—individual Canadians, business owners and leaders of indigenous communities. Many of them told us they're being left behind in the digital age.
Coverage gaps, of course, vary by region. Smaller maritime and prairie communities often do not enjoy the high speeds of major urban centres. The worst off and most in need are almost always found in the Canadian north.
Efforts to close these gaps need to be coordinated, as they are a shared responsibility among numerous players. Beyond the CRTC, this of course includes Innovation, Science and Economic Development, as well as the provinces and territories, indigenous governments, the telecommunications industry itself and non-governmental organizations.
For its part, the CRTC has announced a new broadband fund. It will provide up to $750 million over the next five years to help pay for infrastructure to extend Internet and mobile wireless services to underserved areas. Our objective is to ensure that rural residents have comparable service to those in urban areas.
Of that $750 million to be made available, up to 10% of the annual total will be provided to improve services in satellite-dependent communities. These are communities that rely exclusively on satellite transport to receive one or more telecommunication services, such as telephone, fixed and mobile wireless, and Internet services.
Of course, when we launch our first call for applications this year, it will be important for potential applicants to know where the greatest needs are located. We agree with the Auditor General's report on this issue.
Last month—it has actually been a few months now—we published maps indicating the areas of the country that do not have access to broadband speeds of 50 megabits for download and 10 megabits for upload. The maps also identify communities without high-capacity transport infrastructure and where homes or major roads do not have access to LTE mobile wireless service. In short, the areas of the country that do not currently meet our universal service objective. We have asked Internet and wireless service providers to verify the accuracy of our maps.
This is consistent with our overall approach regarding broadband data. We make information available to the public in as much detail as possible, while respecting the confidentiality provisions of the Telecommunications Act.
In fact, we will soon publish an update to our annual communications monitoring report that will provide fresh data on broadband availability and other related information.
Moreover, a memorandum of understanding was established a number of years ago between the CRTC and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. This agreement governs our collaboration and the data that is shared between our organizations. We're committed to sharing information on broadband infrastructure to support evidence-based decision-making. We're also committed to working with all levels of government as part of a collaborative effort to provide broadband Internet service to underserved Canadians.
Since announcing the details of our fund late last year, we've met with representatives from provincial and territorial governments, as well as all the relevant federal departments, to explain how the fund will work and to understand their broadband funding plans.
Mr. Chairman and members, extending broadband and mobile coverage to underserved households, businesses and along major roads will require billions of dollars in investment and infrastructure. There is no doubt that this objective is an ambitious one, in part because of our vast geography and shorter construction season in many parts of the country.
The CRTC's broadband fund is obviously just one part of the equation. It is meant to be complementary to but not a replacement for existing and future public funding and private investment.
Having detailed, accurate and up-to-date information at the disposal of the public and policy-makers will ensure that the funds are being directed to the most appropriate projects and communities. There's also no doubt that much work remains to be done. I'm confident, however, that this objective will be met in the same manner that railways and electrical grids were built in the past, by connecting one community at a time.
Thank you very much.
We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
View David de Burgh Graham Profile
Lib. (QC)
Okay. My assessment of what I'm seeing is that, if there's any problem to identify here, it's that there simply wasn't enough money in the program to begin with. But as for the operation of the program, I have trouble finding the problems that have been identified in the audit.
I do have questions for the other witnesses as well, and I'll move on to them. I might come back to you later on.
Mr. Scott, you mentioned that you have a limited but important role. Do you find the CRTC's hands are tied in any way, and is there any way for us to help untie them?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2019-02-21 9:18
No, I don't believe the commission's hands are tied in any way. We have a very constructive working relationship with ISED in relation to these and the development of broadband maps and ongoing coordination. We too will assist the department in the federal-provincial-territorial discussions. So, no, the commission has a somewhat different role because we are an arm's-length, independent agency, so there are times when we are more insular, for lack of a better term. We must be, to respect our arm's-length relationship.
No, there are no impediments to our working toward fulfilling these broadband objectives.
View David de Burgh Graham Profile
Lib. (QC)
All right, thank you.
I'm going to go back to the CRTC and pick up where I left off earlier.
On the mandate question, if the CRTC mandate were expanded to permit the direct breaking of telecom monopolies and positional abuse, or the power to mandate that a company that services a community must service the entire community, would the CRTC be comfortable applying that?
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2019-02-21 10:18
It's very much a hypothetical question, and perhaps in my response I can also try to answer a question Mr. Arseneault asked earlier.
The commission's overall role is to supervise the industry. It goes to the discussion we just had about the CRTC changing the basic service objective, that the original objective in telecommunications was universal service—getting every household phone service.
The carriers actually have an obligation to serve. That has not been removed. We do have competition in most places, and we rely, to the extent we can, on competition. Where there's a lack of competition, we still engage in more traditional detailed regulatory tools to oversee the services provided. The broadband fund is the vehicle that we hope to use, and will use, as an incentive and a tool to fulfill the broadband service objective in those harder-to-serve regions.
Christopher Seidl
View Christopher Seidl Profile
Christopher Seidl
2019-02-21 10:21
We do have interim tariffs in place for the resale of the fibre, so it's available. We don't have the final rates in place, but we're working on those now, and those will be coming out in a few months. It is in Ontario and Quebec right now, and we're working to extend that across the country.
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2018-12-12 16:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We appreciate the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss the findings of the Office of the Auditor General and, perhaps more important, to explain the CRTC's role in increasing connectivity for Canadians living in rural and remote areas of the country.
As the Auditor General's report on connectivity in rural and remote areas noted, the commission has a limited but important part to play. Our job as an independent regulator is to ensure Canadians have access to a world-class communication system that promotes innovation and enriches their lives. The CRTC believes that all Canadians, no matter where they live, should have access to broadband Internet services on both fixed and mobile networks.
As the Auditor General's report underlines, connectivity is vital in today's world—
Ian Scott
View Ian Scott Profile
Ian Scott
2018-12-12 16:18
Broadband is the critical tool we use to communicate with each other, educate and entertain ourselves, find information, apply for jobs, and do routine activities from banking to accessing health care and other government services. To be clear, then, Canadians need access to an unfettered Internet experience.
While CRTC doesn't hold all the levers, there are areas where it can and must help to advance this goal. A perfect example is CRTC's December 2016 announcement that broadband Internet is now considered a basic telecommunications service.
At the same time, we established a new universal service objective. It calls for all Canadians to have access to fixed broadband services at download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second, upload speeds of 10 megabits per second, and access to an unlimited data option. The latest mobile wireless technology, which is currently called “long-term evolution”, better known as LTE, should also be available, not only in Canadian homes and businesses but also on major roads in Canada. By the end of 2021, we expect that 90% of Canadian households will have access to speeds matching the universal service objective. By our estimate, it may take as much as another decade after that for the remaining 10%.
Today, 84% of Canadians have access to the Internet at those new target speeds. However, many people living in rural and remote areas can only dream of that level of service. While 97% of households in urban areas have access to service that meets the universal service objective, only 37% in rural areas have similar access.
As a result, 16% of Canadian households or nearly two million Canadians still don't have access to the universal service objective speeds or unlimited data option. Fast, reliable and high-quality Internet is simply out of reach, both physically and financially, in many parts of the country.
That message came through loud and clear during CRTC's public hearing on basic telecommunications services. We heard from more than 50,000 people, including individual Canadians, business owners and leaders of Indigenous communities. Many of them told us they're being left behind in the digital age.
Coverage gaps vary by region. Smaller maritime and prairie communities often do not enjoy the high speeds of major urban centres. The worst off and most in need are almost always found in Canada's north. Efforts to close these gaps need to be coordinated, as they are a shared responsibility among numerous players. Beyond the CRTC, this includes Innovation, Science and Economic Development, but also provinces and territories, indigenous governments, the telecommunications industry itself, and non-governmental organizations.
For its part, the CRTC has announced a new broadband fund. It will provide up to $750 million over the next five years to help pay for infrastructure to extend Internet and mobile wireless services to underserved areas. Our objective is to ensure that rural residents have service comparable to that available in urban areas.
Of the $750 million to be made available, up to 10% of the annual total will be provided to improve services in satellite-dependent communities. These are communities that rely on satellite transport to receive one or more such telecommunications services as telephone, fixed or mobile wireless, or Internet access services. Of course, when we launch our first call for applications next year, it will be important for potential applicants to know where the greatest needs are located. We agree with the Auditor General's report on this issue.
Last month, we published maps indicating the areas of the country that don't have access to broadband speeds of 50 megabits per second for download and 10 megabits per second for upload. The maps also identify communities without high-capacity transport infrastructure and where homes or major roads don’t have access to LTE mobile wireless service. These are the areas of the country that don’t currently meet our universal service objective. We've asked Internet and wireless service providers to verify the accuracy of our maps.
This is consistent with our overall approach regarding broadband data. We make information available to the public in as much detail as possible, while respecting the confidentiality provisions of the Telecommunications Act. In fact, we'll soon publish an update to our annual communications monitoring report that will provide fresh data on broadband availability and other related information.
Moreover, a memorandum of understanding was established a number of years ago between the CRTC and ISED. That agreement governs our collaboration and ensures that data is shared between our organizations. We're committed to sharing information on broadband infrastructure to support evidence-based decision-making.
We're also committed to working with all levels of government as part of a collaborative effort to provide broadband Internet service to underserved Canadians. Since announcing the details of our broadband fund earlier this fall, we have met with representatives from all provincial and territorial governments as well as federal departments to explain exactly how our fund will work and to understand their broadband funding programs.
In conclusion, extending broadband and mobile coverage to underserved households, businesses and along major roads will require billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure. There is no doubt that this objective is an ambitious one, in part because of our vast geography and shorter construction seasons in many areas of the country.
The CRTC's broadband fund is obviously just one part of this equation. It is meant to be complementary to, not a replacement for, existing and future public funding and private investment. Having detailed, accurate and up-to-date information at the disposal of the public and policy-makers will ensure that funds are being directed to the most appropriate projects and communities.
There also is no question that much work remains to be done, but I'm confident that this objective will be met in the same manner that railways and electrical grids were built in the past—by connecting one community at a time.
Thank you. We would be pleased to answer your questions.
Results: 1 - 8 of 8

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