Does Canada need a national broadband initiative? The country’s broadband penetration is rising but Canada’s position relative to other countries is falling behind. There are a number of local and provincial initiatives – Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have all announced programmes to encourage broadband facility construction within the past month and Industry Canada is supporting these initiatives with funding – but there is no real national leadership, no real articulated Canadian broadband plan.
President-elect Obama has stated that increasing broadband penetration will be one of his priorities when he takes ofﬁce. We haven’t seen a parallel vision, yet, in Canada.
Broadband penetration, that is, the number of connections is one measure of a country’s broadband infrastructure. By this measure, Canada is still in the ﬁrst rank of nations, although its position is slipping. But quality of infrastructure is important too. Canada’s average broadband access speed of 4.5 Megabits per second (Mbps), while better than the OECD baseline of 256 Kilobits per second (Kbps), pales somewhat against Japan’s commitment to 100 Mbps+ service.
This paper proposes that Canada’s federal government needs to take a more active role in fostering broadband services. There are federal funds ﬂowing in various provincial
initiatives today, but there seems to be no central political vision, or commitment to advancing and proselytizing Canadian’s adoption of broadband technology. We argue that this is an important issue and that Canadians deserve more active leadership.
This paper will make the point that Canada’s relative position in broadband development is important. That broadband services will be a key element in the economy and a key facet of our education and cultural industries. An antique communications infrastructure should be as worrying as crumbling roads. To focus the country’s energies on broadband and to spur the industry to drive higher capacities to touch more Canadians, we suggest that government should take a role.
Canada led the world in telecommunications development and the reach of our
telecommunications network for much of the last century. We can lead the world again. A better broadband infrastructure will mean a better prepared workforce, a more
empowered population, and a stronger national competitive position. Noble goals. The
result? The whole country will have Internet as “Hot as Laval’s”.