Canada’s telecom regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is currently considering whether it should amend the 10-year-old ‘basic service obligations’ under which incumbent phone providers are obliged to provide, at the very least, local phone services and dial-up Internet services, to communities in rural and remote areas. Responses to the review have been diverse.
For instance, incumbent phone companies are calling for the modernisation of out-dated service obligations in the face of increased competition from alternative service providers. Specifically, some are insisting on the complete elimination of basic service obligations thus creating a level playing field for all competitors. In contrast, others are arguing that market forces will be insufficient to close the gap between rural and urban service quality, calling instead for the government to mandate universal high-speed broadband access in order that all Canadians may realise the benefits of advanced information and telecommunications technology.
The Chairman of the CRTC agreed that a minimum broadband speed goal should be set for the entire country. In its analysis of the public hearing, the CRTC agreed that there was merit in considering high-speed Internet access within the context of a basic service objective. However, the CRTC also noted that there are already a number of government-sponsored initiatives in progress that aim to facilitate the expansion of high-speed broadband access across the country. Indeed, many operators insisted that the CRTC refrain from upgrading the basic service obligation to broadband, with Bell Aliant suggesting such a move would signal a return to the days of ‘old school regulation’.
The outcome of the CRTC review may have profound implications for the future of broadband across Canada.
For more information on the Canadian broadband market see Canada – Broadband Market – Overview, Statistics & Forecasts.