(Adds Telus' response to criticism in paragraph 8)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, July 22 The Canadian government on
Tuesday invited remote communities across the country that lack
high-speed Internet access to make a claim on some of the C$305
million ($284 million) it plans to spend over the next three
years to upgrade access.
But consumer group OpenMedia.ca was skeptical of the move,
skewering both the Conservative government and Canada's telecom
companies for failing to finish earlier projects on time or to
the scale required.
The government's Connecting Canadians plan aims to deliver
high-speed Internet - judged to be speeds faster than 5 megabits
per second (5 Mbps) - to 280,000 households that it says sit
below that line.
Critics say, however, that the government's minimum
"high-speeds" are not fast enough for users to participate in a
number of data-intensive activities, including video conference
The plan "will still leave many Canadians struggling to
catch up with our global counterparts when it comes to broadband
access, reliability, and speed," said Steve Anderson, executive
director of OpenMedia.ca.
The country's telecom regulator wrote to BCE Inc,
Telus Corp, and Manitoba Telecom Services last
month, concerned they would miss an end-August deadline to
complete remote access projects already underway.
The regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said it is considering
what penalties to impose if the deadline is missed.
Telus said it is committed to its obligations but that in
less than 30 of the 159 communities it needs more time to
implement complex transmission assets via logging roads or
helicopter. BCE and Manitoba Telecom were not immediately
available to comment.
CANADA WELL CONNECTED
Industry Minister James Moore likened the launch to such
pivotal moments in the country's history as the completion of a
transcontinental railway and the opening of the Northwest
He said areas eligible for funding will be made public later
this year and companies invited to pitch for connection
The move is part of a long-promised comprehensive plan for
digital communications and commerce that Ottawa says will also
strengthen online privacy protection and beef up cybersecurity.
Many of the underserved areas shown on a government map are
in the Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta and farther
west in British Columbia. Connection would mean some 98 percent
of Canadian households would be linked to online services by
2017, the government said.
"Connecting Canadians is about ensuring that Canadians,
whether they live in urban centers or remote regions of the
country, have access to the latest wireless technologies and
high-speed networks at the most affordable prices possible,"
Moore said in a statement.
An OECD broadband report released on Tuesday ranked Canada
quite highly with over 70 percent of households connected, while
falling behind France, the United Kingdom, and well behind the
United States on wireless penetration.
The new infrastructure being funded can be either wired or
wireless, the government said.
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Peter Galloway and