The Liberal government is promising to spend more than a billion dollars to connect most Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026.
The announcement comes as more Canadians find themselves living online while stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced his government’s plan to launch a $1.75-billion universal broadband fund to build infrastructure across the country, mainly in rural and remote communities; $1 billion of that sum was announced in the 2019 federal budget.
The prime minister said the government has also reached a $600 million agreement with Telesat for satellite capacity to improve broadband service in remote areas and in the North.
“Good reliable internet isn’t a luxury. It’s a basic service,” Trudeau said told a news conference in Ottawa this morning.
“Now more than ever, a video chat cutting out during a meeting or a connection that’s too slow to upload a school assignment — that’s not just a hassle, that’s a barrier.”
The prime minister said the goal is to get 98 per cent of Canadians connected to high-speed internet by 2026 and the rest by 2030.
“These are ambitious targets and we’re ready to meet them,” he said.
Trudeau, who was joined by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said $150 million from the fund will be available immediately for projects.
This morning’s announcement will be followed by a technical briefing for reporters about how the program will work.
The CRTC declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service in 2016. But its data suggest just 40.8 per cent of rural Canadian households have access to download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps.
The government said those speeds will allow Canadians to work and learn online and access telehealth services.
The Liberal government made a promise to improve access last year on the campaign trail and Monsef promised to hasten those plans in response to the pandemic.
That pledge was also reiterated during September’s throne speech.