Consider high-speed Internet access when you head to the polls in October

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It’s official - the Canadian federal election is now underway. There’s a lot to consider before you head to the polls in October; healthcare, education, employment, housing, poverty, sustainability, the economy - the list goes on. 

One thing I want you to keep in mind is the future of the Internet - how much you use it, how much you pay for it, how fast it is, how reliable it is, where it’s available, and what your choices are. 

In anticipation of the federal election, OpenMedia released its “pro-Internet platform,” which was written based on crowdsourcing and expert consultation. OpenMedia focuses on improving Internet affordability and keeping it surveillance-free through community-based campaigns that aim to educate and empower Canadians.   

The pro-Internet platform is broken down into three main categories: Privacy, Free Expression, and Access. Under Privacy, OpenMedia wants Canadians to be protected from blanket surveillance by requiring warrants for data, increasing transparency, and stronger oversight over government spy agencies. When it comes to Free Expression, they want the public domain better protected, they’re opposed to censorship, and want more transparent and democratic copyright rules. 

Access is the section I’m most interested in. OpenMedia makes some great points and has some interesting ideas about how Internet access can be improved for all Canadians. The platform is based on the idea of creating more choice, empowering local communities to build broadband, and promoting innovation. 

One of the strongest points in the platform is when OpenMedia says, “Prioritize opportunities and funding to support non-incumbent ISPs and IPTV providers, municipalities, community access programs and non-profit service providers to deliver services to Canadians.”

We need more of this, especially with municipalities. I am and have been urging municipalities to build its own fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure for years because it allows for higher speeds and a wider selection of providers amounts to more competitive rates and services that are constantly improving. 

Another section I like is where the platform reads, “Ensure 100% of Canadians have access to a range of world class, affordable Internet services at speeds on par with our international counterparts.” 

Canada’s current goal of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload is not world class, not on par with international counterparts and therefore, not good enough for Canadians. While the government is funding the Big Three to provide rural communities with 50/10 Mbps by 2030, wealthier urban areas will be working towards 5G and 10 Gbps, and the digital divide will continue to widen.

I’d rather see the feds funding municipal fibre broadband projects in order to provide Canadians in urban, rural, and remote areas with the Internet they require to compete on a local and global scale. I’d also like to see the federal government and their provincial counterparts declare Internet access an essential service. Instead of waiting for the federal government and CRTC to do so, I urge municipalities to declare Internet an essential service and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to do the same in order to bring pressure to bear on federal candidates and bureaucrats to act.

If a service is “essential” it must also be “equitably” accessible. By equitable, I mean the same price and performance regardless of one’s geographic location or demographic characteristics. Therefore, the CRTC needs to mandate ubiquitous and equitably accessible Internet access for all Canadians, which translates into fibre-to-the-premises for every household and LTE/5G for every Canadian as they move about in their daily lives.

I highly recommend taking a closer look at OpenMedia’s pro-Internet platform.

Campbell Patterson