OTTAWA – Internet advocacy groups say they’re unhappy Canada’s telecoms regulator has halved the minimum speed that projects need to meet for a $750-million fund designed to make broadband internet more accessible.
The CRTC said in its policy release Thursday it changed the minimum requirement so more projects would be eligible for the fund, since challenges such as geography, transportation costs and other barriers make the higher speed harder to meet.
The decision, however, shows a lack of ambition to provide Canadians with faster internet services, said OpenMedia executive director Laura Tribe in a statement.
“Today’s decision is a stunning step backwards…if Navdeep Bains and Justin Trudeau are serious about building an innovative and connected Canada, they need to send this decision back for reconsideration immediately.”
The CRTC said the revised minimum of 25 Mbps downloads and five Mbps uploads is in line with the service the majority of Canadians use today. It says applicants will have to design projects so they can scale up to the original target of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds in the future.
Byron Holland, president and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority said in a statement he was “disappointed” in the lower speed requirement and hopes applicants will still aim for the higher speeds.
“We encourage applicants to strive to meet these targets to ensure Canadians have access to quality internet that is required to participate meaningfully in the digital economy.”
He welcomed the wide variety of groups that can apply to the fund.
“We are pleased to see that both for profit and non-profit entities, as well as band councils, provincial, territorial and municipal governments will be eligible to apply for funding.”
The CRTC announced the industry-sponsored fund in 2016 as part of its designation of broadband as a basic service across the country. It said in 2015 that about 82 per cent of Canadians had access to speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps uploads.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the CRTC had lowered its targets rather than its minimum requirements.