Don’t sever Canada’s digital lifeline

Update: The comment period for Notice #: 2012-0509-7 ended on June 18, 2012. You may continue to submit your comments as a symbolic gesture to let the CRTC and CBC know that Canadians don't want the digital lifeline severed.

Communities across Canada may soon lose access to key towers that could be used to access Internet, cell phone, and other digital services independent of Big Telecom conglomerates.

Due to budget cuts, CBC/Radio-Canada is being forced to shut off, sell, or scrap more than 600 transmission sites currently used to give rural Canadians free access to the CBC1. This infrastructure is vital for people in rural areas, who don’t enjoy the same access to Canadian culture or to highspeed Internet services that Canadians in big cities take for granted.

The towers represent a digital lifeline to prosperity in the 21st century for many rural communities, and a huge benefit to all of Canada, as increased connectivity in rural areas is essential to the development of a diverse and prosperous country overall.

The government has recently cut other digital services for rural and low-income Canadians,2 widening our digital divide. Big Telecom companies want to swoop in and monopolize rural Canada's digital future.

Communities who are dissatisfied with Big Telecom’s price-gouging and poor service have increasingly taken it upon themselves to build their own solutions.3,4 But if this message isn't received in time, our rural communities will lack crucial access to towers and equipment already paid for by taxpayers. They will be forced needlessly to rebuild digital connectivity from scratch.5

Let’s call on the CBC and the CRTC to give communities access to this lifeline to the digital future >>>

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Footnotes

[1] In this post, CACTUS describes how TV transmission infrastructure can be used to deliver not only community television, but also wireless Internet, and emergency and weather information services.

[2] According to University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, “the government has quietly notified Community Access Programs across the country that it is cutting funding for the longstanding program that provides Internet access to the public. Statistics Canada's 2010 Canadian Internet Use Study found that 54% of low income Canadians still do not have Internet access at home.”

[3] This report released by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and the Benton Foundation explains how communities’ local governments have built some of the best broadband networks in the U.S.

[4] Success story (via Intelligent Community Forum): Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. This community of 50,000 was a broadband "have not" until the City Council led an effort to aggregate public-sector, university and business demand and created e-Novations, its own fiber carrier, then launched the Fred-eZone wireless network offering free connectivity across the city. Today, Fredericton contains 70% of the province's knowledge-based businesses and is using ICT to substantially reduce its carbon footprint.

[5] Local wireless Internet projects can reduce the cost of rural broadband from as high as $160/month per household for satellite Internet to $20/month by sharing costs among community members. (You pay for a single satellite uplink/downlink at the tower, and then share the service among community members from the tower.)