Speech Article from  Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Jean-Pierre Blais at the Basic Telecommunications Services Press Conference

Good afternoon and welcome.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting here today on the traditional territory of the First Nations. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their elders.

Thank you for being here today as the CRTC unveils a very important decision for Canada’s future in a digital world. This decision will have a generational impact.

During the last year and a half, Canadians from across the country told us that both fixed and mobile broadband is crucial for both their personal and professional lives. We heard from many Canadians, businesses and governments in rural and remote communities who don’t have access to the telecommunications services they need to do their online banking, use eHealth services, conduct business, access emergency services, further their education, access online government services or buy goods that are not available in their region.

We heard from Canadians that a download speed of 5 megabits per second and an upload speed of 1 megabit per second doesn’t cut it anymore. We heard that data caps often impede their capabilities in a data-hungry digital world. We heard that they need access to mobile wireless services at home and on the road.

We listened to Canadians and we are taking action. This is what Parliament mandated us to do.

We are establishing as a universal service objective that Canadians – in rural and remote areas as well as in urban centres – should have access to voice services and broadband Internet access services on fixed and mobile wireless networks. This is quite a departure from our previous objective, which focussed primarily on voice services.

The CRTC is setting the following targets for these services pursuant to sub-section 46.5(1) of the Telecommunications Act:

  • For fixed broadband services, access to an unlimited data option as well as minimum speeds of 50 megabits per second for download and 10 megabits per second for upload. This is a tenfold increase to our previous target set in 2011. It is also in line with the targets of our major trading partners and our international competitors in the digital economy.
  • For mobile broadband services, access to the latest mobile wireless technology not only in homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian transportation corridors.

These goals are ambitious.

They will not be easy to achieve and they will cost money.

But we have no choice.

The future of our economy, our prosperity and our society—indeed the future of every citizen—requires us to set ambitious goals, and to get on with connecting all Canadians for the 21st century. Today’s decision signals a shift in our regulations for basic services from voice-related issues to broadband-related issues.

The CRTC will do its part to attain these objectives by setting up a fund to support the achievement of these goals. This funding mechanism will be aligned with the broader ecosystem of current and future funding and investments from the public and private sectors. This includes the Government of Canada’s recent announcement on connecting Canadians.

Canadians who live with a hearing or speech disability stated that it is difficult to find information related to telecommunications plans and services that address their needs. They also indicated that there is no uniformity among wireless service plans for people with disabilities, nor is there consistency in how American sign language and langue des signes québécoise users are informed of these plans.

As we can’t depend on market forces to address these issues, all wireless service providers will have to offer and publicize, no later than six months from today, mobile service packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities. Furthermore, all wireless service providers’ websites are expected to meet the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by June 1, 2017.

Before I conclude today, I want to address some of the other issues that Canadians talked about during our Let’s Talk Broadband conversation.

Canadians told us about the many gaps that hinder their ability to participate in the digital economy. With the new fund, the CRTC is helping to ensure the infrastructure is in place to make high-quality broadband services available.

However, some of the other gaps, like digital literacy, fall outside of our core mandate. Others, like affordability, will require a multi-faceted approach, including the participation of other stakeholders. At this time, the CRTC is not taking any additional action that could inadvertently impede the development of further private and public-sector initiatives for affordable broadband Internet service for low-income Canadians.

Nonetheless, we have submitted a report to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada as part of the Innovation Agenda, at his request. In this report, the CRTC highlights the key challenges to broadband access. The report also speaks to the critical importance of a coordinated effort by all players such as the CRTC, different levels of government including First Nations, the telecommunications industry, and non-governmental organizations.

Our decision complements the Innovation Agenda. The CRTC is doing its part to close the broadband gaps and we hope, for the sake of our future, that other players will also act.

Thank you. I will take your questions now.

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