COVID

Rural Internet Consultations

Download the Conservative Party Rural Broadband Consultation Document and complete the survey of recommendations below.

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  • Slow internet in rural areas is a significant problem that needs to be immediately addressed. This poses large problems, especially in times of emergency. To alleviate the current bandwidth shortage in the short term to emergent situations such as COVID-19, we propose that the government request ISPs or other entities to deploy portable Cell on Wheels (COWS) with a priority to those areas where residents don’t have internet. The government should work with ISPs to ensure there is an adequate supply of these devices available to deploy under a framework for who can use them and under what circumstances. This would act as a quick mechanism to immediately deliver better service to rural communities in urgent need of access in light of COVID-19. It should be noted this is not intended to fix long term bandwidth shortages.

  • Conservatives believe that from coast-to-coast-to-coast, Canadians should be able to connect. With the current system, this is not the case. Our goal is to ensure that Canadians are able to connect, whether it be via phone or online. The current situation, where many Canadians remain unconnected and do not have reliable access, is not good enough and we will change this.

    This strategy should be in place prior to the government spending tax dollars within the existing regulatory system, or the risk of nothing changing will persist, especially given the lack of clear and coherent broadband strategy. The big telcos have also failed to deliver for Canadians on time and on budget. The government must articulate a clear plan on broadband by developing a holistic Canadian Broadband Strategy for rural internet. The CRTC has established the benchmark of access speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.5 The CRTC stipulates that these speeds are to be the actual speeds delivered, not merely those advertised. Yet, the speeds available to customers only have to be POSSIBLE to achieve, not necessarily consistently available. This means that customers can regularly experience much lower speeds for which they are paying.

    The strategy to address these and other issues could include:

    • Ensuring that government infrastructure funding purchases a stake in the infrastructure (funding as an interest-free loan perhaps) to increase accountability and ensure a measure of public input.
    • Increasing the capacity of regional ISPs by mandating preference or set asides for them in competitions for spectrum.
    • Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are an important tool for combining the reach and backing of government with the expertise and ingenuity of the private sector. PPPs give the government a chance to overturn the current natural monopoly big telcos have in broadband infrastructure by funding regional ISPs to build infrastructure or having the government build the infrastructure and wholesaling network access.
      • By routing the funding through regional ISPs, we create competition that forces big telcos to reduce their prices.
      • Therefore, PPPs can be used to roll-out broadband infrastructure in a farreaching, cost-effective way that increases the competitiveness of the market.
    • All government infrastructure projects like roads, pipelines, wind energy projects, etc. could be asked to include conduit for future fibre or they will not receive any public funding.
    • Proper advertisement and enforcement of speed benchmarks.

    Given the urgency of the situation, this strategy should be delivered by the end of June 2020.

  • Infrastructure in rural Canada remains a barrier to better internet access. To incentivize rural infrastructure the government could:

    • Allow individuals to voluntarily contribute to a local connectivity infrastructure fund in exchange for a tax credit.
      • The government could also potentially match the contribution.

    All contributions would stay in the region which would be a combination of municipalities. Therefore, such a region would be able to use the funds to contract out the construction of infrastructure owned by the region/community. This would ultimately allow connectivity providers to use the infrastructure.

  • There is a growing concern with small ISPs who have been recipients of government connectivity program funds and sell their business to large telecoms, profiting from such funds. Additionally, there is concern that when a small company is bought out, the buyer shutdowns a service/piece of infrastructure they have bought as they deem it unprofitable.

    The rationale behind such a proposal is because it contradicts the intent of the funding and the programs. Funding initiatives for broadband providers is to assist with helping smaller players enter the market by diluting some of the financial barriers to entry and provide broadband access to unserviced regions. These markets that the smaller companies want to do business in are deemed ‘unprofitable’ by the big telcos.

    Option 1: Any internet providers who have received over ($100,000) in government funding for connectivity must pay back (75%) of government grants if they sell their business to a large telecom provider.

    Option 2: Any internet provider who has received over ($100,000) in government funding for connectivity must allow existing infrastructure to be shared in perpetuity with the local region if they sell their business to a large telecom provider.

  • Consumers should have real-time information available to them on their speeds and bandwidths. Many customers, especially in rural areas, have raised concerns about the quality of coverage and performance they currently receive; contradicting the quality they are paying for. In the interest of consumer protection and information, we propose that the government take decisive action to ensure that Canadians’ access to connectivity is independently verified and fairly reviewed. It is necessary to distinguish theoretical LTE coverage and speeds from what is actually available for customers in terms of volume, usage, and proximity.

    That is why we propose that the government work with service providers to:

    • Ensure Canadians have access to accurate, real-time information regarding speed and bandwidth.
    • Inform consumers when a website is being traffic-shaped (i.e. with a pop up).
    • Call for a nation-wide audit on both ‘High Signal Reception*' coverage and speed/performance to compare with telco’s claims and over-promising marketing statements. This may also be a method of identifying dead-zones.
    • Review the mandate, dispute process and board appointment process of the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services to ensure independence of consumer dispute resolutions.
    • Review performance of CRTC related to the desired outcomes and priorities of connectivity.
    • Require ISPs to advertise average speeds, not best-case scenario speeds.

    *Certain cellular providers diminish the dead zones in their coverage maps because they use ‘low signal’ mapping. This makes a provider look like they have superior coverage; however, areas with ‘low signal’ would result in around one bar of service that can barely send a text or hold calls. This highlights the difference between theoretical and practical speeds and coverage.