CRTC declares Internet an essential service
The Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has declared the Internet should be an essential service for all Canadians, which is coming as welcome news in rural communities including Haliburton County.
On Dec. 21, the CRTC declared that access to broadband, high-speed Internet would be considered a basic telecommunications service in Canada, announcing new high-speed targets, as well as a $750-million fund to be spent over five years help achieve those targets.
According to the CRTC, minimum speed for this basic service should be 50 megabits per second for downloading and 10 megabits per second for uploading.
Other goals include having wireless technology usable in all homes and businesses, and also along all major roads in the country.
The funding is to be spent in areas that are currently under-serviced, the CRTC says.
The announcement was welcomed by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), of which Haliburton County is a part, as well as the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), which co-ordinates broadband projects throughout the jurisdiction of the EOWC.
“It is what we had hoped they would do,” said Highlands East Reeve Dave Burton, who is chairman of EORN, in a release. “Together both of our organizations have been working hard over these past eight years to close the gaps in Internet service across the whole of our region. When we made our submissions to the commission last April, EORN urged them to help ensure that rural people and rural businesses get the same type of access to high-speed Internet service that our urban neighbours enjoy. We asked that the commission also develop an ongoing fund to help organizations like ours to continue to work with the telecommunications industry and that is exactly what they have done.”
EORN estimates that about one sixth of the region considered Eastern Ontario is a cellular dead zone.
EORN is embarking on a $200 million-plus project to fill cellular gaps in the region, a project that will require the construction of more transmission towers and on which the organization is hoping to begin construction in 2018. The goal is outfit an additional 72,000 homes and businesses with mobile access, bringing the area’s total coverage to 99 per cent.
“We need to build new towers, improve existing ones as well as add coverage and capacity and we are confident given our experience on the first EORN project that we can create another success partnership with private sector companies in our region,” Burton said.
Between 2010 and 2015, EORN embarked on a $175-million project that aimed to connect 95 per cent of homes and businesses within its jurisdiction with broadband, high-speed Internet. Haliburton County contributed $500,000 to the project. It fell short of expectations, with swaths of the municipality still without access.