Supporting rural internet service Will Amos and David Graham confront CRTC

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Pontiac MP Will Amos and David Graham, MP for the

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Pontiac MP Will Amos and David Graham, MP for the
neighbouring riding of Laurentides–Labelle, submitted a joint letter at the beginning of February to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecom-munications Commission (CRTC) as part of its “Let’s Talk Broadband Internet” study on improving internet service in non-urban areas. “Our two ridings are very similar with the same geography, proximity to Gatineau and Quebec City, and the same problems with internet and cell phone coverage,” said Amos. Both MPs have worked in the telecommunications industry.
The letter outlines the reality of rural areas in terms of internet and cell phone service. “Can you imagine that entire communities only a few kilometres from the TransCanada highway have the choice of low speed dialup or high latency satellite for Internet? It has been a long time since most of us considered a 56k modem an acceptable connection, or cloud-cover an acceptable excuse for losing signal, but that is the daily reality for many people in the ridings we represent,” said the letter.
The MPs also highlighted the impact of the lagging, sometimes non-existent, service and how digital access inequities prevent rural populations from participating equally in our democracy, to be heard in their communities, and to attract desperately-needed outside investment as well as new residents. “For many people, in a time when human experience is increasingly mediated by digital technologies, this ‘social disconnect’ is simply too high a price to pay,” they said.
“The biggest difference between the city and rural areas is access to affordable, reliable internet and cell phone coverage, which makes the areas less attractive to investors and families looking to move,” Amos told the Journal.
At the end of the five-page letter, the two MPs asked the CRTC to: find ways of encouraging or requiring providers to serve all residents in markets where they are active and at the same price for everyone; to consider new rules to encourage governments and providers to work together to finance digital infrastructure; to study foreign models and the best way to adapt them to Canada; to create policies that deem high speed, network stability, low latency and unlimited access as universal rights; to increase the speed and size of network connections, considered to be highspeed: ie: connections with a round-trip time to the nearest network backbone of more than 100 milliseconds and connections with a sustained capacity of less than 10 megabytes per second would no longer be considered high-speed; to increase these thresholds gradually; and to remove bandwidth caps and limits or apply them only where technically necessary.
At the very least, Amos hopes the letter will sensitize the CRTC about the challenges the two ridings face in terms of economic development because of cell phone and internet gaps and take into account the arguments both he and Graham made. “We need the CRTC to change the way it regulates the telecommunications
industry so there are greater incentives for companies to invest in rural regions and provide reliable, affordable and universal services,” Amos concluded.