The CRTC is launching the third stage of its “Let’s Talk Broadband” public hearing so that Canadians can sound off about what matters to them regarding the state of internet access in Canada.
The CRTC’s online discussion forum will be open for public commentary until 8:00 pm EST on April 28.
Proceedings of the sessions will take place in-person in Gatineau, and can be watched online on the Cable Public Affairs Channel’s website or listened to via an audio stream on the CRTC’s website.
“Today, we are starting a three-week hearing to examine the basic telecommunications services that Canadians need to participate in the digital economy,” said CRTC Chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais. “This will be an opportunity for the CRTC to test, challenge and validate the evidence that has been put on the public record. Even if they cannot attend or appear at our hearing, we invite Canadians, including those who follow us on social media, to participate in these discussions through our online forum. This is a way to ensure their views are taken into account as part of our evidence-based process.”
The CRTC’s current telecommunications policy was formulated in 1999, and most recently reviewed in 2011.
At the moment, the minimum basic telecommunications service in Canada comprises: individual line local touch-tone service; a capability to connect to the Internet via low-speed data transmission at local rates; access to the long distance network, operator/directory assistance services, enhanced calling features and privacy protection features, emergency services, voice message relay service; and a printed copy of the current local telephone directory upon request.
Adding to that admittedly modest stack of mandatory services, the CRTC is using the “Let’s Talk Broadband” sessions to examine “the services that Canadians need in order to participate meaningfully in the digital economy”.
A recent survey conducted by the CRTC reported that while less than 1% of Canadians had no home internet access, at least 20% of them no longer had any home phone land line.
So obviously, the basic conception of what constitutes the “telecommunications” needs of Canadians has to be drastically rethunk.
Given that high-speed, affordable broadband access is no longer merely a nice-to-have service, but essential for economic development for communities and participation in the economy for individuals, it seems like a no-brainer to recommend that making those services as widespread and accessible as possible makes economic sense.
With children and students increasingly required to use computers for course work, and emergency services using social media to disseminate alerts, it’s now ridiculous that someone might not know about an impending crisis because they don’t have internet access.
And since the current federal government is talking infrastructure these days, now might a good time to point out that internet access, while it may not fall into the “unsexy” category of infrastructure that needs immediate attention, is still mostly made up of wires and physical structures that all need improvement if we’re to open broadband access to rural communities and lower income people.
The CRTC started its “Let’s Talk TV” hearings back in October 2013, which basically resulted in the skinny basic cable packages that are now being reluctantly rolled out by Canada’s TV providers, and also in the decision to do nothing about Netflix.