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SWIFT has filed a petition to the Governor in Council seeking a review of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision to restrict municipal governments and regional initiatives access to federal broadband funding while relaxing eligibility standards for private sector service providers. 

SWIFT is appealing the CRTC’s ruling issues on September 27, 2018 to the federal cabinet and urging the Government to carefully consider the decisions made by the CRTC that will deprive underserved communities by putting municipalities and regional initiatives as a distinct disadvantage in accessing funding.

“Instead of complementing public initiatives to promote private sector innovation and investment in underserved communities, the Commission’s approach will counteract local government efforts,” says SWIFT CEO, Geoff Hogan. “The private service providers can now bypass community engagement and accountability with direct access to subsidies from the Commission and side-step municipal and regional projects.”

In 2016 the Commission ruled “high-speed” Internet access as a “basic service” and determined that funding was required to induce private sector investment in broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. It was identified that private sector return on investment was not always sufficient in providing reliable and affordable Internet connectivity in rural and remote communities.  The Commission therefore determined a funding program should be established to complement other public-sector initiatives. 

Since it’s original ruling the Commission has take steps back from it own commitments it adopted two years ago. In a sharp departure from the more flexible and balanced approach in 2016 the Commission’s latest revised funding decisions resembles program design strategies of the past that side-stepped community engagement in project development, lacked transparency at the assessment stage, and failed to effectively commit subsidy recipients to deliver some minimum level of performance. 

“The recent change in decisions made by the Commission jeopardize equity and  efficiency and threaten the ability to counteract Canada’s growing rural and urban digital divide in broadband quality and affordability for underserved communities,” says SWIFT spokesperson David Mayberry, the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus (www. chair. “In order to complement efforts by local governments and communities who are already taking the lead in bridging the digital divide it’s critical that the Commission centralize local accountability and control.  Simply subsidizing service providers without community input and oversight would be a critical shortcoming.”

In order to maximize value for money in terms of network quality improvements for the largest number of people SWIFT urges the Government to adopt the following changes:  

  • Remove restrictions on eligibility to enable municipal governments and regional initiatives to apply directly for funding.  
  • Enhance the CRTC’s commitment to the application of minimum service quality standards.  
  • Empower underserved communities and promote public-private cooperation needed to counteract Canada’s growing rural-urban digital divide in Internet access quality and affordability.
  • Enhance the accountability of subsidy recipients for actual speeds/quality of broadband services they ultimately deliver.
  • Enhance the transparency of the Commission’s funding decisions by publishing submitted applications. 

To view SWIFT’s petition, click here.

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