Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef says the government plans to accelerate its rural broadband funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monsef told The Wire Report that the federal government will be announcing details about the process soon. It’s currently unknown what exactly the initiative would entail and when it would begin, but Monsef noted that all options are on the table.
A spokesperson for Monsef told the CBC that the government is working with service providers and rural municipalities to determine the best way to speed up plans to improve access to high-speed internet.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have had to shift to working from home and attending school remotely. Unfortunately, there are several remote and rural areas of the country where Canadians do not have access to high-speed internet.
For instance, data from the CRTC indicates that only around 40 percent of rural Canadian households have access to broadband at 50/10Mbps.
“Whether you’re at home, at work, or on the road, your phone should be able to connect using LTE, you should have an internet connection with access to broadband speeds of at least 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload,” the CRTC notes on its Broadband Fund page.
“But many Canadians, particularly those in rural and remote areas, do not have adequate access to these services.”
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which is the agency that manages the .ca domain, says that it hopes Minister Monsef’s promise can help narrow the gap between rural and urban internet speeds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to high quality internet services more important than ever. Despite this, one in ten Canadians still don’t have an internet connection in their home,” said Josh Tabish, CIRA’s corporate communications manager in a statement sent to MobileSyrup.
Members of Parliament who live in rural areas have also said they hope the COVID-19 pandemic will shine a light on the importance of connectivity issues in rural parts of the country.
Northwest Territories Liberal MP Michael McLeod recently said that he would be unable to attend the virtual House of Commons sessions via video due to limited bandwidth.
The government is expected to make an announcement on its accelerated plans shortly.
Update 03/05/20 11:55pm: The article was updated to clarify that the CRTC data about rural households refers to access to 50/10Mbps.