The Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) has raised the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) to $1.75 billion, up from the $1 billion announced last year.

The increased funding announced yesterday, according to ISED, will help bring CRTC’s recommended 50Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload internet service to all Canadians as a part of Canada’s Connectivity Strategy.

In a press conference call, senior ISED officials noted that High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy aims to bring this speed to 95 per cent of Canadian homes by 2026 and 100 per cent by 2030.

“Now more than ever, Canadians need reliable access to high-speed Internet as we work, learn, and communicate with our family and friends from home,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a press release regarding the announcement.

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The government provisioned $150 million of the fund for a Rapid Response Stream to kickstart projects that are ready to begin development but lack the necessary funding. Projects included in the rapid response stream should be completed by Nov. 15, 2021. Its application window will close on Jan. 15, 2021.

Funding breakdown:

AmountAllocation
$750 millionLarge impact projects
$150 millionRapid response stream
$50 millionMobile projects that benefit Indigenous peoples.

The program will pay for up to 90 per cent of the projects in Indigenous areas and 75 per cent in most other areas. Eligible costs include cost for new hardware and network software, equipment, leases to satellite capacity, salaries and benefits and fees for associated contracted services related to the build of the network.

The UBF is a part of Canada’s Connectivity Strategy to bolster Canada’s network infrastructure. Other funding projects under the same strategy include Connect to Innovate, CRTC Broadband Fund, collaboration with Canada Infrastructure Bank, Broadband projects for rural and northern communities, and the First Nation Infrastructure Fund. These investments are on top of the funding provisioned by the various provincial and municipal governments. Click here for a full list from the Government of Canada.

In parallel with UBF, ISED also announced a formal $600 agreement with Telesat to secure capacity for its low-earth orbit satellite internet. The agreement had been outlined in budget 2020 to bring internet service to communities where it lacks a compelling business case or face development challenges. Through the agreement, Telesat will sell its capacity to local internet service providers at a reduced cost. Telesat is expected to start providing services in 2022/2023 to rural regions followed by the rest of Canada in the succeeding year.

During the press briefing, ISED officials noted that the front-end application process can be complex for the applicants. The headache is amplified given the manifold of funds in place. To partially alleviate these issues, ISED has developed pathfinder services to help them to compose their applications. In addition, a new mapping tool will help organizations identify and assess projects more quickly.

The ISED officials further underscored the need for transparency with project development. Because many of the projects span across multiple years, staying silent after their announcement induces confusion on their status. Keeping track of which project falls under which program, as well as their progress, can be difficult. To combat this, ISED said it’s exploring ways to better track various projects, including releasing a collective annual report on development progress and reactions to various efforts.

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