Telecommunications carriers should set a non-binding goal of offering every Canadian household broadband service with a download speed of 5 megabits a second within the next five years, say the country’s biggest cable operators.
The three-speed plan brought to a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing Monday also would promise offering broadband download speeds of up to 100 Mbps to 75 per cent of the country and 10 Mbps to 90 per cent of homes within the same time period.
Being able to get 5 Mbps would be a hundred times faster than the minimum high speed Internet service incumbent phone companies have to offer customers in the most distant parts of the country now.
Cities would get the 100 Mbps service – some already get 50 Mbps.
The plan would in essence replace the binding target incumbent phone companies now have of offering at least dialup Internet service to all customers, which is 56 kilobits per second.
The commission is looking into whether it should rewrite the binding obligation to service and basic services incumbent phone companies are required to offer customers.In particular, it has focused on whether it needs to ensure that Canadians in rural and outlying areas get access to the same Internet speeds as people do in cities.
The cableco plan was presented by Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc., Toronto-based Rogers Communications Inc., Montreal’s Cogeco Cable and Montreal’s Quebecor Inc., which operates the Videotron cable network.
“All of these objectives we set think are realizable,” Dennis Beland, senior director of regulatory affairs for telecommunications at Quebecor Media, told the commission.
Satellite and wireless provider Barrett Xplore Inc. has told the commission its latest satellites will be able to cover all of the country next year with faster speeds than it offes now, Beland said, while mobile broadband wireless technologies from phone and cable companies such as HSPA and the upcoming deployment of LTE are also being extended to customers who can’t be reached by phone lines or cable.
Cable companies already offer at least 30 Mbps to three quarters of the country, he added. To boost that to 100 Mpbs would take pushing fibre optic lines deeper into their networks.
But the cablecos’ plan also comes with a couple of strings. The commission, which regulates telecommunications, would have to let the private sector alone to do all the work. The plan would be agreed upon by carriers and governments, not a fixed target set by CRTC. And only incumbent phone carriers in areas where there is no competition could have their networks subsidized.
That gave commission chairman Konrad von Finckenstein problems. Some very small communities or individuals could only be served by satellite, he noted, which often has an installation and startup cost of up to $700. That’s “a real major impediment,” he said, and asked why that cost shouldn’t be subsidized.