Rural Economic Development Minister open to internet being a public utility to increase access

Monsef says she believes internet access is an essential service

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Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef says she is open to idea of internet access being a public utility in order to increase rural access.

Monsef told the CBC that she believes internet access is an essential service, and that she’s open to the idea of it being a utility that is funded like water or electricity.

“What COVID has done is create an opportunity for a resurgence of good ideas, and that’s a good idea that I’m open to. This is among the many good ideas that we are considering: What are the pros? What are the cons? How do we get it done? Who’s on board?,” she said.

The federal government plans to connect 100 percent of Canadian households to speeds of at least 50 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds by 2030, no matter where they are located in the country. For context, around 60 percent of rural households currently do not have access to these speeds.

The Liberal government has allotted $6 billion for its Universal Broadband Fund for this target, and Monsef says that money is not a barrier in getting better access for rural Canadians.

“Money has not been the limiting factor; there’s $6 billion set aside. We’re fine tuning that plan, and within a very short period of fun, we’ll roll out the funds” Monsef told the CBC.

Monsef told The Wire Report earlier this month that the government plans to accelerate its rural broadband funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted 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.

This comes as Members of Parliament who live in rural areas have 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.

Source: CBC News