Feds promise high-speed Internet across rural Canada by its 150th anniversary

There will be a lot of celebrating when Canada reaches its jubilee in 2017, but according to Industry Canada, the cause should not only be the Constitution Act of 1867 but the arrival of high-speed Internet to Canadians in rural areas.

The ministry said Wednesday that it has exceeded its initial target of connecting 280,000 rural, remote and northern households at minimum speeds of five Mbps by more than 75,000, and pledged “most” other projects will be done within the next two years.

“The Internet makes goods cheaper and the world smaller, but for many Canadians living in rural or remote communities, access to high-speed Internet, which is critical to the success of a modern digital economy, is simply not available,” a statement from Industry Canada read.  “It is unfair that rural Canadians are denied fundamental digital opportunities simply because of where they live.”

Based on the current work underway with “dozens of ISP partners,” the ministry said, over 98 percent of Canadian households will be able to subscribe to new or improved high-speed Internet services by the country’s 150th anniversary.

Last October, Industry Canada said it would fund up to 75 per cent of the cost of projects under the Connecting Canadians program, part of the Digital Canada 150, the government’s vision to extend digital technologies and opportunities to Canadians by providing incentives to providers to build and extend digital infrastructure in rural areas.

Not everyone is satisfied, of course. Earlier this year the U.S. telecommunications regulator said ISPs must support downloads of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 3 Mbps as part of its “broadband benchmark.” That’s significantly higher than Canadian standards for rural high-speed Internet. Critics have suggested even if the federal program meets its milestones, users in many parts of the country won’t be able to use video and other technologies as effectively as they should.

Meanwhile, Industry Canada has also recently been working to reduce the fees providers pay to provide satellite-based Internet and TV services to rural Canadians.


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