New CRTC ‘Basic Service Objective’ Decision Supports First Nations Digital Innovation
December 22, 2016 – Across Canada, First Nations have been building and delivering broadband services to people in rural and remote communities. The recent announcement by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declaring broadband Internet as a basic telecommunications service is a big win for these digital innovators.
For too long, First Nations community-based broadband organizations have faced barriers in the construction and operations of their networks and services. The CRTC’s creation of a new fund investing up to $750 million over and above existing government programs for rural and isolated regions will help level the playing field. This decision will allow First Nations technology organizations to continue to improve connectivity for their people and communities.
The new fund will support the development of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved remote and rural communities. The fund was a key recommendation to the CRTC in the intervention by the First Mile Connectivity Consortium (FMCC). FMCC looks forward to working with the CRTC as it develops this new fund to ensure the governance and operational model will respond to the specific needs of remote and rural First Nation communities.
The decision to increase the requirement for internet connection speeds to 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up also recognizes the importance of fibre infrastructure that FMCC members can use to deliver these speeds and ensure long term, sustainable connections. In remote and rural communities, quality broadband is needed for telehealth and telemedicine, distance education, and a range of other community services including public administration, economic development, policing and justice, emergency services, public safety and others.
“The CRTC decision means that First Nations organizations will finally be able to access, own and manage the internet connections that serve their immediate and long-term needs,” stated Tim Whiteduck, IT Director at the First Nations Education Council in Quebec and Chair of the FMCC board. “We have been doing this work for years, and now the CRTC has provided a major support for our efforts.”
“Every member organization of the FMCC welcomes this exciting announcement from the CRTC,” commented Dr. Rob McMahon, FMCC Coordinator and lead for the FMMC participation in the CRTC BSO hearings. “This new fund provides opportunities for remote and rural communities to finally access the connections they require to effectively participate in today’s digital society and economy – and to continue building and operating the broadband systems that make that possible. We are also pleased that the CRTC recognizes that connectivity is very limited in the North and that available connections may be shared by many people in one household.”
“Finally the government is making the link between broadband connectivity and economic development in remote communities,” said Sally Braun, from the Western James Bay Telecom Network. “There is considerable untapped entrepreneurial energy and spirit in remote First Nation communities, and improved broadband networks will support these new contributions to the government’s innovation agenda.”
The CRTC’s vision for telecommunications makes it possible for all Canadians to become effective contributors to Canada’s innovation goals, as defined by the federal government’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development department. FMCC looks forward to the time when everyone across Canada is able to participate equally in our society, no matter where they live.
About the First Mile Connectivity Consortium (FMCC)
The FMCC is an award-winning incorporated, independent, national not-for-profit association. Our members are First Nations Internet service providers that also represent residents in remote and rural First Nation communities. Importantly, our member organizations support broadband-enabled public services such as online education and telehealth, as well as services for household consumers. The FMCC associate members are university and private sector researchers and others interested in Indigenous and community communications and telecommunication services for the public good.
Their work is tied to a paradox – the regions with the highest need for broadband (due to the lack of locally available services, such as brick and mortar schools, hospitals and businesses) are also those with low-speed, expensive, inadequate services, when compared to urban communities. To address these challenges, the FMCC is promoting the ‘First Mile’ approach to telecommunications development. Rather than start in urban centres, this perspective advocates for community-based organizations to drive their own development initiatives.
The FMCC research partner is the First Nations Innovation project that has conducted and published research on innovative solutions to digital infrastructure and services with and in rural and remote regions and communities across Canada. The research has supported the CRTC intervention as well as other policy and regulatory interventions made by FMCC since its inception. For more information on FMCC and the research publications please visit: http://www.firstmile.ca.
For further information about why the CRTC decision is good news for remote and rural First Nations, contact one of the FMCC member organizations:
FMCC Coordinator, Assistant Professor at U of Alberta
Atlantic Canada’s First Nations Help Desk
First Nations Education Council (Quebec)
Keewaytinook Okimakanak K-Net Services (Ontario)
Western James Bay Telecom Network
First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba
First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group Inc. (Alberta)
First Nations Technology Council (B.C.)