While I sympathize with the frustration over the CRTC’s decision to essentially make broadband a “watching brief,” I wonder why Canadians should expect the CRTC to lead on broadband targets and funding. Universal access to globally competitive broadband (in terms of speed, pricing, and consumer choice) is a perhaps the most important digital policy issue Canada faces and it should not be viewed through a narrow telecom regulatory lens.
Rather, it is a government policy issue, one that requires a serious commitment by elected officials. With a new Conservative majority government, the era of excuses (the Liberals did nothing, minority governments make this issue too difficult) are over. Given the fixed date for elections, there are roughly 1,500 days left in the Conservative mandate. July 2015 provides the real target date for addressing the competitive and access concerns associated with Canadian broadband.
It provides four years to open the market to new competitors, facilitate the introduction of new wireless broadband alternatives, encourage the market to offer fibre connections in all major markets, foster new local competitors, leverage the role of high speed research and education networks, consider using spectrum auction proceeds to fund broadband initiatives, and address anti-competitive pricing models. It allows the government to set a realistic but ambitious target for broadband speed, pricing, and competition that allows Canada to reverse a decade of decline and once again become a global leader. Canadians can look at the benchmarks today in terms of current access, pricing, competition, and global ranking and use them to judge the change over the next 1,500 days. This is the challenge for the government – not the CRTC – and the clock is running.