Broadband and Cellular Connectivity: a Mechanism for Economic Recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical need for communities to be connected through broadband and cellular services as well as the stark inequality of service between communities. Ontarians need connectivity to access work, education, food, health care, and other necessities. Businesses need to be able to leverage online tools to improve sales, services, and efficiency. COVID-19 has increased the strain on rural communities already dealing with poor internet service due to low population density or geography.
AMO has long advocated for universal access to high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband and cellular connectivity. In the 21st century, broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. That is why AMO was pleased to see the federal government commit nearly $3 billion and the provincial government commit nearly $4 billion to improve connectivity in communities that need it.
Given the diversity across communities, one size or solution will not fit all. That is why AMO remains neutral to technology or service providers and is simply focused on finding the most effective solutions to meet a critical need. For example, last fall AMO partnered with the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association (ROMA) to develop a Broadband Connectivity Municipal Primer and Municipal Roadmap. These documents outline how municipal governments can help their communities by improving cellular and broadband connectivity for their students, families, businesses, and seniors. Connectivity will be particularly vital to Ontario’s economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.
At the provincial level, AMO continues to work with the Ministry of Infrastructure, Infrastructure Ontario, and other stakeholders to ensure that the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program and the newly-established Ontario Connects program are implemented in a way that leverages existing infrastructure investments and internet service providers (ISPs) who already operate in their communities.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates broadband and cellular services. Federally, the goal of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) department is to have 95% of Canadians connected to high-speed internet (defined as up to 50Mbps download/10 Mbps upload speeds) by 2026, and all Canadians (including those living in rural and remote areas) by 2030.
The Province has committed to servicing all Ontarians by 2025 to at least the CRTC standard. At the time of writing, the details of the Ontario Connects program (e.g., service standards, reverse auction rules) are unknown.