Concordia University Media Studies MA students in Professor Leslie Shade’s Fall 2010 Media Policy course considered the issue of whether broadband access should be considered a basic service for all Canadians. They created a video-podcast exploring the issues, in light of the CRTC hearing hearings for 2010-43, "Obligation to serve and other matters" that took place in the Fall.
On May 3, 2011 the CRTC issued its decision on the matter of Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2011-291. In the decision the CRTC ruled that rural and remote broadband access should be left to market forces and targeted government funding with private-public partnerships. The ruling also stated that broadband access will not be a requisite of any basic service objective. In the decision the CRTC established target speeds of 5 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, for all Canadians, by the end of 2015.
Roddy Doucet, a student in the class, commented, “With the decision to allow incumbents the right to charge higher rates for rural telephone lines and its continued reliance on market forces to achieve accessibility goals the CRTC demonstrates its lack of vision for a national broadband network that works to reduce boundaries and unify Canadians.
Our class research demonstrates that access to broadband, at fair and affordable prices, allows unique regionally-based small businesses to flourish, improves quality of life, and allows education and research to flow freely around the country and the world. Canadians look to our regulatory agencies to protect them against price-gouging and also shape the future of our communications networks and sadly the CRTC is failing us.”
The discourse over the state of Canada’s broadband infrastructure illustrates the contentious debates between industry, government, the CRTC and public interest groups over whether and if regulatory intervention can increase competition in the broadband sector. Dominant industry groups contend that too much regulation will merely stifle competition by restricting their ability to innovate and invest in established and emerging markets. Public interest groups argue that only government intervention, whether through a pro-active regulatory environment that requires incumbents to contribute to building out broadband in under-served and remote areas and/or a more fulsome funding structure for community broadband initiatives, can ensure and sustain wider broadband access for Canadians.
CRTC, Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2011-291: