A day after a hearing wrapped up into whether the federal telecommunications regulator should get involved in pushing rural broadband
, Industry Canada announced more funding for providers to bring high speed Internet to outlying communities.
On the weekend Industry Minister Tony Clement announced conditional financial support for 21 more projects in four provinces and one territory. If all are approved 30,184 households will be able to get broadband. It was the third round of projects, the first of which was announced in May.
"The new economic opportunities these projects will create in these communities will benefit Canada for many years to come," Clement said in a news release.
The $29.1 million that 16 carriers and operators will get will come from a $225 million Broadband Canada fund set aside in last year’s federal budget.
The goal is to bring high speed Internet capable of download speeds of up to 1.5 megabits per second to 250,000 households. By comparison Bell Aliant is offer some residents of New Brunswick download speeds of up to 120 Mbps.
The rural-urban broadband divide is worrying the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which on Friday ended a two-week examination of its basic services and obligation to serve rules for incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) – in other words, incumbent local phone companies.
One of the basic services they have to offer is local dialup calling to an Internet provider at a speed of 56 kilobits per second, about four times slower than 1.5 Mbps.
It isn’t clear how many Canadians still have only dialup Internet access to their homes. Estimates at the hearing ranged from 750,000 to 1.5 million people.
Many of the carriers with the obligation to provide basic service, as well as competitors pushing into their territories such as cable companies and independent Internet providers, are loath to see the regulator impose a broadband obligation.