CRTC rules all Canadians to have access to high-speed Internet

The CRTC’s decision signals a shift in what is seen as essential to the communication needs of Canadians.
The CRTC’s decision signals a shift in what is seen as essential to the communication needs of Canadians. (Photo: REUTERS/Daniel Munoz)

The CRTC declared yesterday that high-speed Internet is a basic service. The regulator also told Canadian Internet service providers to start working on offering high-speed Internet services to all Canadians, including those who live in rural and isolated areas.

“. . . High quality and reliable digital connectivity is essential for the quality of life of Canadians and Canada’s economic prosperity,” CRTC Chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais said after the ruling.

Up until now, the only service that was declared to be a basic or essential telecommunications service is local telephone landline calling. The CRTC’s recent decision signals a shift in what is seen as essential to the communication needs of Canadians.

An essential service is defined under the Public Service Labour Relations Act as: “any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada [that] is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.”

Though the decision is a victory for consumers, the regulator is not directly intervening in making the prices of these services cheaper, saying they rely on market forces to regulate prices. However, Blais did comment that, "If that step does not work, then we'll intervene with a regulatory process."

Pricing of the services is not the only concern, as implementing fast Internet for all won’t be cheap.

To pay for it, the CRTC ordered Internet service providers to pay into a fund it’s creating for projects which will lay the groundwork to build or upgrade Internet services. ISP’s will have to provide $750 million over the next five years.

In response to the recent ruling, Ontario ISP Teksavvy sent e-mails to its customers telling them that they will lower the price of their services in 2017. It wasn’t made clear by the company how much cheaper the services would be, although one enthusiastic customer tweeted:

Other providers are not ready to lower prices yet. Rogers Communications wrote in a statement that they are already providing high-speed Internet at competitive prices.

The CRTC plans to reduce the number of households who don’t have access to high-speed Internet by 10 per cent by 2021, and then get it to zero in 10 to 15 years.

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