Canadian Government To Commit More Money Toward Rural Broadband Initiatives

The CBC is reporting that the 2014 federal budget, which is scheduled to be tabled tomorrow, will feature money to “extend or improve high-speed Internet access to 280,000 households and businesses in rural and remote areas.” A new commitment to broadband access, which was promised in last fall’s speech from the throne, is certainly welcome. It is also the latest in a long line of commitments for public funding to support to broadband connectivity in rural regions in Canada. Industry Canada claims that the Broadband Canada Program, which ran from 2009 to 2012, provided broadband access to 218,000 Canadian households that previously did not have it (full list of funded projects here).

Given the ongoing digital divide in Canada – there are still many Canadians without access to broadband in their homes – this is a welcome development. Yet spending money on rural broadband initiatives is only part of the solution. In many instances, the absence of broadband in the home is not a function of access, but rather affordability. Statistics Canada reports that Internet use among the richer half of the country is actually over 90 per cent with the top quartile of household income at 94.5 per cent and the second quartile at 90.2 per cent. Internet use among the bottom quartile of Canadians stands at only 62.5 per cent (the third quartile is 77.8 per cent). Governments at all levels must be thinking about both access and affordability.


  1. internet use
    before conservatives we had 24-25 million users….i htink its down to 18-19 million now …no worries there buddies will get the handouts while you pay triple


  2. digital divide
    I am dubious about the conclusion that since access is not the deciding factor in poorer households, that it would therefore be affordability. I don’t doubt that money can play a factor, but think that education is likely the biggest culprit. As someone in the lowest economic group, I can tell you that I would have to be living on the street before I would be without internet access, and money certainly wouldn’t be a factor. A functional computer is generally free and bandwidth can be shared with a neighbour if needed. As it stands, I spend my small amount of extra money on things like buying server space so that I can fully participate on the internet.

    As it stands, the $36 per month for high speed internet in this area is lower than the cost of TV which I don’t need, precisely because I have a little education. Also, most people in this rural area pay $40 or more for a telephone which (by my actual experience) is less reliable and a lower quality than my under $10 VoIP. I should also point out that, at least in this rural area, there are quite a few who don’t have a computer or internet connection. The reason given is that they have no idea what they would do with one. There is no economic differentiation.

  3. Digital devide
    There is a rural internet divide. I live 7km from the closest center with true wired internet (cable/dsl). My only internet option is a cellular hub device. & kilometers from me the average bill for 80 gigabytes of data is $35-$40. I get 20 gigabytes for $90.00, and I must also add a cellular phone to the bill to achieve that price so an additional 50 dollars. with taxes and fee’s my bill is closer to $200 per month for inferior services because I live on a farm.

    I can understand that the big telecoms do not wish to spend the money on infrastructure to service 1500 people over a 20 square kilometer radius. But in this day and age internet is almost a basic necessity for anyone in any profession to stay relevant, or anyone with children to give them the fair advantage to achieve the same educational bar as their counterparts in urban serviced areas.

  4. I see your point Doug. However, the rural internet which is being discussed is the one with wireless delivery. Typically a Microtik radio on the outside of your house which connects to a tower which covers a larger area and is fed from some hard wired or more expensive backhaul. This is a very efficient and relatively inexpensive way to get internet to sparsely populated areas. We’re around 100 people in this area, and 18 km from the nearest wired/cable connection. Your situation is not what they are talking about. Actually, since you are in a dense enough area to have cell service (we don’t) then I can imagine that you are in a category that is problematic in that it doesn’t qualify for the federal rural internet program, and the big ISP(s) aren’t going to service you any better than they are already.

    I understand how the big companies don’t want to service rural areas. That is why the government is sponsoring these programs. The first one was quite successful and I’m glad to have functional internet here. However, they keep confounding broadband (which by their own definition is 5 Mbps) with high speed, which tends to be 1.5 Mbps unless one pays a very high amount of money. I don’t watch movies, and limit my large downloads to a few isos per month, so I’m good in that department. But just because actual communications are good, doesn’t mean that we can do what others do in the city with their 50-100 Mbps connections.

    Anyway, I understand what you’re saying about a rural internet divide. It certainly exists in the sense that you bring up. However, my point was that it is not primarily an economic one unless one is talking about a fairly luxurious level. To browse the net and communicate with the world, you can get a computer from the dump and log into your neighbour’s wireless – and yes, people do that.

  5. If they can get a power line there, then there is absolutely no reason why decent high speed internet cannot also be run along the same lines. None.

    Will it be cheap? Nope. Would it be worth it? Yep.
    Get fibre run out ‘nearby’ then even cable would work for the last mile.
    (fibre direct would be a better long term INVESTMENT)

    Gee, they could use some of those tax dollars to support that. hmmm, paying to improve the infrastructure, provide jobs as an investment for the future…. naww, the politicos aren’t that smart. pity.

  6. Where do you live?
    As a private company operating an ISP (FTTH / Wireless) I highly doubt there is really an area with 1500 homes in 20 square km’s with no good high-speed options anywhere in Canada.
    We serve 400 Customers over 150 square km’s with 14 repeaters and 90% of our users can get a speed of over 10M’s < Watch our video!!!! If you're serious about this place please leave a comment on our video.. You might just get a fiber to your home or a solid 30M Wireless Connection... Big company's wait around for big money.