Ensuring Canada has an accessible, affordable, surveillance-free, and open Internet is essential for our economy, culture, and global competitiveness.
We now have a new, heavyweight Industry Minister in James Moore – someone with the power and influence to take on Canada’s entrenched Big Telecom giants. Expectations for Minister Moore are high, with citizens expecting him to deliver real change to ensure that all Canadians can enjoy fast, affordable, and ubiquitous Internet service.
OpenMedia.ca has worked with thousands of Canadians across the country to develop a clear action plan for a connected Canada - a plan Canadians expect Minister Moore to implement through the government’s long-awaited Digital Economy Strategy.
Here are ten actions Minister Moore should take if he wants to leave a lasting positive legacy for Canadian Internet users:
10. Invest in city-wide open wireless Internet access initiatives
Imagine being able to travel the length and breadth of your local town centre without ever needing to worry about being in range of a reliable Internet connection. Well that’s the reality in Fredericton, NB which has created a fast and open Wi-Fi network throughout much of the city. The network now includes over 1200 Wi-Fi Access Points and is free to use for residents, visitors, and business people alike.
With Olds, AB installing lightning-fast fibre Internet, and Fredericton, NB leading the way with free community Wi-Fi, Minister Moore should draw inspiration from these examples of pioneering local governance. What’s possible in Olds and Fredericton should surely be possible in towns and cities right across Canada – so long as the political will is there to drive these ideas forward.
9. Tackle Canada’s Digital Divide by prioritising investment in Internet access for low-income Canadians and residents of Northern Canada
According to Statistics Canada, only 46% of Canadians in the lowest income quartile have access to the Internet in their homes. This contrasts with 97% of Canadians in the top income quartile who have home Internet access.
We need clear action from the Minister to ensure that all low-income Canadians have home access to the Internet at a rate they can afford. Why not fund programs to improve Internet access through revenues raised from the upcoming auction of valuable wireless spectrum?
Residents of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut also face unique challenges when it comes to Internet access. The cost of Internet access in Arctic Canada can be three to five times higher than in urban Canada – and even that hefty bill buys download speeds that are a fraction of what urban Canadians are used to.
Minister Moore should listen to what residents of the territories are saying about the need for a long-term, sustainable solution to their connectivity needs. This could, for example, be through investment in community-driven broadband services which place the needs of users, rather than telecom companies, first and foremost.