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Image credit: Reuters/Chris Wattie

Canada sets aggressive targets for minimum broadband speeds

Slow internet and caps plague rural parts of the nation.
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CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais Reuters/Chris Wattie

Canadian regulators have declared that all citizens should have access to high-speed internet, even in remote areas. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ruled that minimum broadband speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds are now a "basic telecommunications service." Furthermore, it said all customers should have unlimited data options and not be capped, as they often are in rural areas.

The Canadian definition is now double that of the US, and that's not an accident, as the CRTC carefully considered targeted speeds in other nations. "They are ambitious targets but I think they're realistic," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais told the Globe and Mail. "The U.S. is at 25 [Mbps], Australia's at 25, Europe generally is targeting 30 and Germany is at 50. So we didn't want to be in the middle of the pack."

They are ambitious targets but I think they're realistic. The U.S. is at 25 Mbps, Australia's at 25, Europe generally is targeting 30 and Germany is at 50. So we didn't want to be in the middle of the pack.

While Canadian cities already meet those targets, many rural areas of the vast country have poor speeds and capped data. To help bring them up to par, the CRTC launched a $750 million fund for projects in areas that don't meet its speed targets. That will go in hand with a $500 million federal fund aimed at beefing up backbone connections going into small communities. All of that will be "complementary to existing and future private investment and public funding," the regulator said.

The CRTC added that "broadband internet access services are necessary to the quality of life for Canadians and empowers them as citizens, creators and consumers," adding it's also necessary for businesses to compete, particularly in smaller communities. The FCC, under Tom Wheeler, used similar arguments in the US to rule that the internet is a utility, not a luxury, giving it more control over what ISPs can and can't do. Under a Trump administration, however, all of that is now in doubt.

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