The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has selected the first five projects to receive funding from its Broadband Fund.
The fund will provide $72 million CAD to Broadband Communications North and Northwestel for projects in Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Broadband Communications North is receiving $9.9 million for its satellite project in Manitoba to service five communities and 899 households.
Northwestel is receiving $16.8 million for its fibre project in the Northwest Territories, which will serve 18 communities and 3,643 households. It’s also receiving $38.6 million to serve 19 communities and 4,680 households through its fibre project in Yukon.
The carrier’s Old Crow satellite project is receiving $2.86 million and will serve one community and 189 households in Yukon. Lastly, Northwestel will receive $4.1 million for its satellite project in the Northwest Territories, which will serve eight communities and 692 households in the area.
These projects will improve internet access services to more than 10,100 households in 51 communities. The CRTC notes that the significant majority of these communities are Indigenous.
“The projects in Yukon and the Northwest Territories will provide speeds of 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload with unlimited data to close to 26 percent of the households in those two territories,” the CRTC outlined in a press release.
Further, there will be a total of 316km of new fibre installed to connect many communities in Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The CRTC notes that in five satellite-dependent communities in northern Manitoba, residents will have access to speeds of 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload with unlimited data, which it says is a significant improvement over current services.
“This initial funding from the CRTC Broadband Fund will improve access in the North and have a positive impact on many communities. We recognize, however, that too many regions across the country are still underserved,” CRTC Chairperson Ian Scott said in the press release. “The assessment of the applications we received following our second call for applications is a high priority.”
The CRTC outlines that applications were evaluated based on factors including technical merit, financial viability, the level of community consultation and involvement, and the amount of funding from other sources.
It’s interesting to note that projects submitted to the first call of applications for Nunavut have been deferred to the second call for applications. It’s unclear why this is the case.
The CRTC’s universal service objective for fixed internet access service across Canada is having access to at least 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload. It notes that in 2019, only 42.6 percent of rural households had access to these speeds.
It expects that these speeds will be available to 90 percent of Canadian homes and businesses by the end of 2021.
The Broadband Fund will provide up to $750 million over five years to improve broadband internet access services in underserved areas across the country. It’s meant to complement private-sector investments and public-sector initiatives.