CCA report suggests Canada’s 50/10 broadband goal is too little, too late

Federal government needs to address the “non-technical issues" behind the country's connectivity gap

A new report from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) suggests that Canada’s goal of connecting every household with 50/10 broadband speeds by 2030 is too little, too late for households in rural areas and on First Nations reserves.

For context, the 50/10 benchmark refers to a promise made by the federal Liberal government in March 2019.

Through the “Universal Broadband Fund,” the government pledged to invest $1.7 billion over 13 years to ensure every Canadian household has access to a broadband internet connection with minimum speeds of 50Mbps for downloads and 10Mbps for uploads.

In this new report titled ‘Waiting to Connect,’ the CCA notes that in 2019, only 45 percent of rural households had access to 50/10 broadband internet speeds, and only 25 percent of households on First Nations reserves (and no households in the territories) met the 50/10 threshold.

In comparison, nearly all — 99 percent — of urban Canadian households already had access to 50/10 broadband speeds.

This regional discrepancy in basic internet access is jarring, considering many carriers are currently in the process of rolling out high-tech 5G networks across the country.

Moreover, the report argues that the 50/10 benchmark is insufficient, suggesting that a better goal would be to ensure that Canada’s internet networks are more reliable and feature “symmetrical or near symmetrical upload/download speeds.”

According to the report, the government’s benchmark also fails to address the “non-technical issues that led to the connectivity gap, the barriers that persist, and the practices and principles that can guide the journey to equitable connectivity.”

Equitable connectivity is presented by the CCA as crucial for Indigenous reconciliation, as “high-quality broadband connectivity in Indigenous communities supports self-determination and Indigenous economic reconciliation by elevating Indigenous participation, innovation, and leadership in the economy.”

However, the report argues that “current approaches to deliver broadband connectivity have left Indigenous communities in Canada at a disproportionate disadvantage” — as indicated by the 25 percent 50/10 access rate mentioned above.

The CCA is a non-profit organization that gathers experts from different fields to publish research studies relevant to public issues in Canada.

You can read the full report, which was commissioned by the National Research Council of Canada, on the Council of Canadian Academies website.

Source: Council of Canadian Academies