Canada is making some major moves to ensure that every citizen in the country has access to fast broadband speeds. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced this week that it was setting up a fund of $750 million available over the next five years to expand internet access.
The CRTC is implementing a standard of universal availability of home internet with download speeds of at least 50Mbps and upload speeds of 10Mbps with the option of unlimited data. In doing so, the Canadian government is declaring that broadband internet is a basic telecommunications service, akin to phone service.
The fund will be used to finance projects to ensure these standards are met. Currently, 18 percent of Canadians do not have access to internet speeds at these standards. According to CBC News, "The CRTC's goal is to reduce that to 10 percent by 2021 and down to zero in the next 10 to 15 years."
Many remote areas of the country do not have this kind of access to the internet, if at all. The main goal of the initiative is to connect these rural and remote communities. Ten percent of the money is being allocated specifically to communities that depend on satellites to access the internet.
The decision is being celebrated by non-profit media advocacy group OpenMedia. The group described it as "a game-changer for rural and underserved communities across Canada where internet access is either unavailable or unaffordable."
OpenMedia believes that lack of internet access is actually an important factor in terms of equality: "This digital divide doesn't just prevent vulnerable groups from accessing the internet. This divide actually perpetuates and — worse yet — accentuates problems of inequality."
The internet is an integral part of the daily lives of so many people across the globe. Access to so many opportunities and so much information is available only to those with the internet. From completing job applications to paying credit card bills to reading the news, so many things we used to do in person or using a physical medium are now done digitally, so living without the internet inherently puts a person at a disadvantage.
Back in June, the United Nations passed a non-binding resolution that condemns countries that intentionally take away or otherwise disrupt the internet access of their citizens. The resolution also emphasized the importance of educating girls in technological fields.
In the United States, President Obama has said,“Today, high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” but as of last year, fewer than half of the poorest homes in the United States had internet access, according to a White House report. While the U.S. has made some small pushes to remedy this inequality, none have been on the scale of what Canada has proposed this week. Let's hope more countries follow their lead, and we can soon bring internet access to all of the world's citizens.