The announcement by the CRTC that they will hold a policy hearing in October to examine whether carriers should be required to provide high-speed Internet access to poorly served rural regions in this Globe and Mail article is good news. Of course the response from the telecom/wireless carriers in the article is no surprise . . .
“ The CRTC’s question, at essence, is: Shouldn’t Canadians all have access to broadband service? The problem for everybody is, that’s a nice idea, but who is going to pay for it? You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars if you’re going to extend wire line, broadband Internet to rural communities ”— Michael Hennessy, Telus’s senior vice-president for government and regulatory affairs
Boo-Hoo! Imagine that, the big telecoms (Telus, Bell, Rogers) may actually have to dip into their huge profits to improve services to its customer base. Sounds like Mr. Hennessy and his cohorts are just setting the stage to beg for a hand-out from the Canadian government in the form of a subsidy to do what they should be doing anyway. The fact of the matter is, the UK and the US governments are pouring huge amounts of taxpayer money into improving rural broadband access so it might not be a bad idea for the Canadian Fed’s to do the same for it’s citizens living outside the current profit-rich corridors of internet access. The whining and crying from the telecoms was to be expected.
Here in Central Alberta you don’t need to go far to lose access to high-speed broadband. Fifteen minutes off the main corridor (QE II highway) and you’re into dial-up country. These folks aren’t hillbillies or hippies living in some hard to get to mountain hide-away. A ten minute drive east or west of Red Deer Alberta (population 89,000 plus) and you have few choices for internet access. In some areas even air-cards won’t work due to scarcity of towers. Sure it costs money to build out the infrastructure but these folks deserve access to internet in the same way people living in dense metro areas such as Toronto do. Government information, services for seniors, educational access for children and even arts, culture and news via the web are as important to the rural population as they are to those living in downtown Vancouver. Maybe even more important since it keeps them connected to the global world around them.
There is a digital divide occurring in regards to high-speed internet access and it needs to be addressed by our federal and provincial governments. Let’s hope the CRTC has the vision and more importantly the back-bone to do something about this.
BTW Mr. Hennessy, how are the executive bonuses doing this year?