Should Canada copy Europe’s broadband development strategy?

One of the biggest questions in telecommunication (telecom) circles is whether or not European telecom infrastructure models should influence Canadian policy. There is no clear answer, but I believe there is definitely a lot to learn from Europe’s approach to broadband development.

The Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy was adopted by the European Commission in 2015. It aims “to establish common European data protection rules, reform telecoms rules and modernise copyright rules, among other goals,” while exploring how small business can benefit from big data and whether or not the advantages of dig bata are limited to larger corporations with the funds to invest.

In my eyes, research likes this already puts Europe ahead of Canada. Plus, Europe has been making investments in scalable broadband infrastructure for years, so they actually spend less per capita on telecom.

According to Regulatory Federalism and Broadband Divergence: Implications of Invoking Europe in the Making of Canadian Telecom Policy by Reza Rajabiun and Catherine Middleton, Canadian telecom debates often cite Europe’s policies regarding “wholesale broadband access, consumer protection, network neutrality and basic service policies.”

Of course, some also believe that Europe is lagging behind; “The mismanagement of broadband in Europe – where state-imposed mandates and top-down regulations have contributed to underinvestment and poor network quality – offers a cautionary tale for Canada as it seeks to develop its innovation agenda.” - Andrea Renda, Winners and Losers in the Global Race for Ultra-Fast Broadband.

It’s an ongoing debate, but the future of reliable, high-speed Internet relies on Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH), and Canada truly is lagging behind. Only recently have Canadian telecoms started investing in FTTH and only in high density areas. The US, Asia, and Europe all outpace Canada when it comes to FTTH development, which directly impacts our country’s global competitiveness.

When it comes to fibre diffusion, Canada falls pretty low on the list behind Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia. The world’s leaders in fibre development are Japan, Korea, and Sweden (according to OECD Broadband Statistics, 2015).

I highly recommend reading through the different reports created with the DSM strategy update. Watching other nations progress or take the necessary steps to do so is inspiring, and I hope we can learn from all that’s being done overseas. Our rural communities deserve access to affordable, high-speed Internet in order to efficiently operate their businesses, enhance education, and lead better lives in general.