Internet for All – Canada’s First Connectivity Strategy
The Canadian government has pledged to connect all Canadians to reliable, high-speed internet by 2030. In doing so, the federal government has confirmed that the internet is no longer a luxury – connectivity is vital to communication, education, and economic development, especially in rural communities. According to the Connectivity Strategy, released June 27th, 2019, one-quarter of the $8 billion in investments needed to achieve universal connectivity will come from the private sector.
How serious is the connectivity gap?
The government has set its sights on high-speed internet for all – meaning at least 50/10 mbps upload/download speeds. Currently only 37% of households in rural communities and 24% of households in Indigenous communities have access to these speeds, compared to 97% in urban areas.
In some communities, the internet is so slow that X-rays cannot be uploaded unless other users are temporarily kicked off. Businesses cannot use the latest cloud computing software and must take cash payments instead of card, which requires internet connection.
What’s the plan?
The government is planning to continue strategically investing in scalable infrastructure and new technologies while partnering with stakeholders to reduce administrative burden for potential funding applicants. Rural communities are diverse, and the Strategy recognizes that there will be no one-size-fits-all approach to rural infrastructure projects. Wired, wireless, and satellite technologies will all be leveraged in creating a universally connected country.
With the federal government investing $6 billion, there are a variety of funding opportunities and incentives through programs like Connect to Innovate and the new Universal Broadband Fund. Canada has also pledged to work with partners to streamline the application process and make precise connectivity mapping data available for companies to use in considering potential projects.
How will universal connectivity impact Canadians and businesses?
Affordable internet connection will be revolutionary for businesses in rural and remote areas. The target internet speeds will allow them to communicate with colleagues via video conferencing, use cloud software and applications, and modern payment systems. Reliable internet will support skills development, talent acquisition and retention, and may attract businesses to rural areas. In addition, telehealth, educational applications, and smart agriculture have the potential to improve quality of life and present opportunities for companies. Universal connectivity will enable rural Canadian businesses to break into national and international markets, driving economic development and innovation.
The government’s investment in scalable infrastructure will also prepare the country for higher internet speeds in the future. With the advancement of 5G looming, rural and remote communities, in particular, stand to benefit from present-day investments in scalable, high capacity infrastructure.
You can read the full Connectivity Strategy here.