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Public interest and consumer groups applaud CRTC’s internet access decision, look forward to more work on affordability

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), as part of the Affordable Access Coalition (AAC[1]) applauds the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision today in its important “Review of basic telecommunications” proceeding.

In the review the AAC argued that broadband access is without a doubt a “basic” and essential telecommunications service, and that the “basic” broadband speed all Canadians should be able to access is the speed that most Canadians already have access to, and the speed a household needs to meaningfully participate in society. Because the Coalition’s evidence indicated that not all Canadians have access to that basic speed, either because broadband is not available where they live, or because it is unaffordable to low-income Canadians, the Coalition proposed two subsidies to support broadband availability and affordability.

In today’s decision the CRTC declared that 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload is a “basic” telecommunications service which all Canadians should be able to access – a significant step forward from the current 5 Mbps / 1 Mbps. This should be universally accessible, via a fixed connection, by 90 percent of Canadians by 2021, and the remaining 10 percent within ten to fifteen years. To support that the CRTC will implement a fund where market forces and government funding had been insufficient to get Canadians the speeds they need. Additionally the CRTC put in measures to ensure consumers can access an unlimited internet plan, and benefit from various consumer protection and quality of service measures. The CRTC also made recommendation the Government of Canada regarding telecommunications affordability, recognizing the compelling evidence it heard from many low-income Canadians.

“The CRTC seized an important opportunity to make sure all Canadians, regardless of where they live can have access to the same standard of internet service that most Canadians already have”, said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel at PIAC. “Although we believe more work is needed to address affordability, we are hopeful the CRTC’s submissions on affordability to the federal government, and its commitment to monitoring affordability, will eventually result in more support for low-income Canadians.”

“There is no question that broadband is an essential and indeed vital service that all Canadians should have access to so that they are able to participate in Canadian society and the digital economy,” said Geoff White, Counsel to the Coalition. “Although there are many details to be determined, this is one the CRTC’s most important, transformational decisions, and one that will have lasting, positive effects for all Canadians.”

For more information please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ×25, lawford@piac.ca
Geoff White

Co-Counsel to the Affordable Access Coalition

(613) 612-1190

geoff@geoffwhitelaw.ca

[1] The Affordable Access Coalition comprises of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada); the Consumers’ Association of Canada; the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia; the National Pensioners Federation; and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

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