CARL welcomes CRTC Regulatory Policy establishing new objective for broadband access

OTTAWA, January 27, 2017 – The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) welcomes the recent announcement of Regulatory Policy 2016-496 in which the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) establishes a new universal service objective: that “Canadians, in urban areas as well as in rural and remote areas, have access to voice services and broadband Internet access services, on both fixed and mobile wireless networks”. The policy document notes that “Canadian residential and business fixed broadband Internet access service subscribers should be able to access speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload, and to subscribe to a service offering with an unlimited data allowance.”  CARL agrees with the CRTC that “modern telecommunications services are fundamental to Canada’s future economic prosperity, global competitiveness, social development, and democratic discourse.”

The Commission intends to authorize up to $100 million in funding in the first year of implementation, and will increase that amount by $25 million annually over the following four years (#145). This money will be a welcome addition to the $500 million investment in bringing high-speed Internet to rural and remote communities by 2021 recently announced by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (see CARL press release, December 16, 2016).

Two elements of the Regulatory Policy deserve special attention from an academic library perspective.

First, CARL supports equitable and affordable broadband access for all Canadians.  While we note that the CRTC views affordability concerns as “best addressed by the emergence of a dynamic market place where service providers compete on price for telecommunication services, in conjunction with social responsibility programs of telecommunications carriers and different levels of government,” we believe affordability of the new access options will need to be monitored. CARL members regard equitable and affordable broadband access as an essential service for individuals and communities seeking to benefit from educational opportunities, including online courses and other forms of distance learning. Members are therefore especially pleased to see the CRTC address the needs of people with disabilities (#205-226).

Second, CARL sees itself as one of the “multiple stakeholders” noted in the Report for their concern with digital literacy. It supports the view that digital literacy programs are a critical component in a national strategy to benefit from enhanced access to broadband services, and looks forward to contributing to the Government of Canada’s Innovation Agenda on this issue (#246).

– 30 –

CARL’s members include Canada’s twenty-nine largest university libraries and two federal government institutions. Enhancing research and higher education is at the heart of our mission. CARL promotes effective and sustainable scholarly communication, and public policy that enables broad access to scholarly information.

For more information:

Gerald Beasley
Chair, CARL Policy Committee and Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian, University of Alberta

Susan Haigh
Executive Director, CARL