Canadian government may help municipalities start their own Internet service providers

cpc business 2.jpg

Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan is expected to unveil a strategy next month to permit municipalities to become telecom service providers to expand Internet and cell phone coverage.

There are many communities right across Canada that have done just that quite successfully, in some cases, for decades. So, Minister Jordan does not need to reinvent the wheel. Links to some examples are as follows:

Coquitlam, BC

New Westminster, BC

Olds, AB

Stratford, ON

Hamilton, ON

Niagara Region

Newmarket, ON

Kingston, ON

Fredericton, NB

Annapolis Valley, NS

There are various governance and deployment models these and municipalities have used to provide broadband services. Some networks are built, owned and operated directly by the municipality, others are run by municipal electric utilities, and others administer contracts between a municipal services corporation and private telecom service providers. Some are dark fibre networks that lease fibre strands to telecom service providers and business users while others provide managed services including Internet, IP-TV, voice and data. In every case, these solutions are not being delivered by large incumbent telecom service providers.

Internet service is an essential service. Equitable access to the Internet is a determinant of one’s equal access to healthcare, education, government and marketplaces. By equitable I mean the same price and performance regardless of one’s geographic location or demographic characteristics.

As such, all levels of government have a responsibility to ensure equitable access is accomplished in the shortest possible time frame. Aiming at ubiquitous access of 50/10 Mbps by 2030 as the CRTC has stated is their goal and the government has adopted as the measure of success is actually going to make the digital divide wider and increase the gap in access to healthcare, education, government and marketplaces. Wealthier urban neighbourhoods enjoy 1/1 Gbps access to the Internet today and the promise of 10 Gbps access is just around the corner. Rural communities and lower-income urban neighbourhoods must have the same Internet access as their wealthier urban peers as their economic prosperity and social well-being are at stake.

Therefore, it is only fitting that municipalities be able to provide Internet services as they are mandated to ensure equitable access to government services.

Campbell Patterson