CATA pressures government to provide broadband Internet for all

Canadians love to complain about their various services that they must pay for on a monthly subscription basis, Internet being just one of those items. But when compared to the rest of the world, it looks like we actually have some creedence to gripe. The latest Akamai data report says that Canada has slipped nine spots in a global ranking of Internet speeds, to 14th overall. 

In response, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance has started a petition calling for the federal government to establish the environment needed to create a national network providing 100 Mpbs within one year. That’s no small feat, considering the leading country in the world, South Korea, provides average Internet speeds of 17 Mpbs. But the network is needed to provide Canada with the necessary infrastructure to compete in the innovation economy of the 21st century, the petition introduction argues. 

Whether the federal government can commit to such a lofty goal is uncertain. What is certain is that Canada has been slipping from its former standing as a world leader in providing Internet access. Aside from the Akamai report, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows Canada is slipping in terms of Internet penetration rates compared to the rest of the world. In 2009, it was ranked 11th, and it slipped to 12th in 2010. In the report released by the OECD late last year, it was rated 13th out of 34 countries.

Canada’s large geography definitely poses a challenge to rolling out broadband to more disparate parts of its population. The fibre optic networks Bell is installing in urban centres just can’t be rolled out to the far reaches of northern Ontario. But high-bandwidth wireless technologies could help solve that problem, connecting rural communities using LTE cell phone towers.

How it will be achieved isn’t the focus of CATA’s petition, just that it should be achieved. The government has yet to release a long-awaited Digital Economy strategy. But including a plan on providing broadband Internet for all Canadians should be a part of it. 

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