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Historic decision aims to give all Canadians access to reliable, world-class Internet

Open Media

This statement was originally published on openmedia.org on 21 December 2016.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has just ruled that all Canadians must have access to reliable, world-class mobile and residential Internet services. The decision underpins a call for a new national strategy from the CRTC and citizens alike, resulting from the Commission's Review of Basic Telecommunications Services consultation.

OpenMedia, which led a nearly 50,000-strong citizen movement for Internet as a basic service (and facilitated more than 95% of the comments to the CRTC proceeding), describes today's decision as truly historic. The ruling will be a game-changer for rural and underserved communities across Canada where Internet access is either unavailable or unaffordable, due to a digital divide keeping almost one in five Canadians offline.

“Canadians asked for universal Internet access, support for rural communities, world-class speeds, unlimited data options, and minimum guarantees for the quality of their Internet. And today, we won it all!” said Josh Tabish, campaigns director for OpenMedia. “With this ruling, the CRTC has finally listened to Canadians and agreed that residential and mobile Internet is a basic service required for modern life, as important as the telephone.”

Tabish continued: “For too long, rural and underserved communities all across Canada have faced an uphill battle to participate meaningfully in our digital economy. Today's decision will go a long way toward closing this digital divide. Now that the CRTC has spoken, we need to hold the Trudeau government accountable for ensuring this exciting vision becomes a reality.”

Key points from today's CRTC decision, and the accompanying national broadband strategy:

- 100% of Canadians must have access to reliable, world-class mobile and fixed Internet services.

- The decision includes: Internet access defined as a basic service, access to world-class speeds, options for unlimited data packages, and a level playing field for rural and remote Canadians.

- New network speed targets of 50 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed, and the ability to subscribe to fixed Internet package with an unlimited data option.

- Canadians from coast to coast to coast must have access to high-speed mobile and residential Internet connections. To fund this, the CRTC will redistribute hundreds of millions of dollars from telecommunications company revenues over the coming years.

- Going forward, rural, remote, and urban communities must be able to access Internet speeds five times as fast as the U.S. minimum (10/1) and the government will encourage the widest availability of the fastest 4G/LTE mobile networks.

- Finally, the CRTC issued a new report outlining the imperative for a national broadband strategy and what the federal government should consider when building it.

Throughout our participation in this proceeding, OpenMedia argued that only a properly-funded national strategy can tackle Canada's digital divide. We asked the CRTC to create new rules to ensure all Canadians have access to guaranteed minimum service levels on fixed and mobile networks — rules that will enable all Canadians to enjoy equal opportunity to participate in the social and economic activities afforded by Internet access at a fair price.

Our community-driven submission argues that these new rules should not hinder industry, but should instead promote investment, competition, and openness.

Canadians can call on the government to build on the CRTC's vision to create a national broadband strategy at https://act.openmedia.org/broadband-plan

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