Globe and Mail, Letters to the Editor

Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009
Gareth Shearman, president, TeleCommunities Canada

Infrastructure, on (the) line

Victoria -- Abundant broadband capacity at affordable prices is still a distant dream for millions of Canadians (Clement, Lord Push For Boost To Broadband In Stimulus Plan - Jan. 16). An estimated three million Canadians, many in rural and remote areas, are unserved by broadband.

Many areas that are served are subject to reduced speeds. In the North, the CRTC reports that 60 per cent of telephone lines can provide five megabits per second (Mbps) or higher. But on the ground, "nobody is getting this kind of access unless it is three o'clock in the morning" says a user in Nunavut. A similar situation exists in numerous pockets of urban and suburban areas. In an area just 10 minutes from Parliament Hill, the real speed on an ISDN line is 1.5 Mbps or less: Average download speeds in Japan are 63.6 Mbps, in France 17.6 Mbps.

We are still building a communications system designed for the previous century. The federal govern- ment should consider funding next-generation broadband technologies capable of vastly improved speeds.

Like roads, bridges and sewers, broadband should be public infrastructure allowing products, services and applications to evolve in the marketplace of innovation and ideas.