An Action Plan for a Connected Canada

As this report demonstrates, ensuring Canada has an open Internet is essential for our economy, culture, and global competitiveness. The goal of digital policy should be to bring fast, affordable and ubiquitous Internet service to all Canadians. Openness should be the guiding principle and cornerstone of all digital policy.

Digital policy must also balance the needs of large urban cities, smaller cities, rural towns, and remote communities. Canadian-made digital policy should recognize regional diversity and employ a variety of tactics to bring affordable Internet to all Canadians. To have a future-oriented Internet, Canada must address both the need to develop the core terrestrial network and complement that network with spectrum management that enables new opportunities for wireless access.

The following recommendations were derived from in-person consultations with hundreds of Canadians in several cities, an online consultation, and input from academic experts. As detailed in “The Open Internet: International Comparisons,” the third section of this report, many of the policy recommendations below have been demonstrated to work in countries that have successfully restructured their telecommunication markets after facing similar challenges to those faced in Canada.

Access

Bring fast Internet access to all Canadians and stimulate the economy
  • The federal government should invest 2.2 billion (from spectrum auction proceeds) in 21st century Internet infrastructure-investment decisions should be guided by public interest criteria and made in consultation with citizens and, where appropriate, local governments.
  • Projects should only be funded if they are open access networks; subsidized providers must guarantee minimum levels of service in the subsidized markets
  • Provide incentives for construction to include fibre as a component of any construction process.
  • Invest in city-wide open wireless Internet access initiatives
  • Support the installation and extension of fibre to public institutions such as schools, libraries, community centres, hospitals, and public housing. Encourage CANARIE to allow these institutions to connect to its network.

Choice

Enable ISP autonomy, competition and choice
  • Functional separation should be adopted to enable ISP competition and choice.
  • Users and service providers should be free to develop applications and operate any services without the prior approval of carriers, provided they do not interfere unduly with network operations or violate the neutrality of the network.

Diversity

Spectrum allocation in the public interest
  • Reserve from auction a band of no less than 2 contiguous 5 MHz in the 700 MHz band for Canadian innovation and local community services. (example: City of Fredericton’s Wifi)
  • Make spectrum available to lease rather than to own.
  • Impose a use-it-or-lose-it clause that requires the successful bidder to launch the planned service within three years, or give up the spectrum.
  • Ensure that a portion of the spectrum available after full digitization of TV signals is available for unlicensed use.
  • Set aside one-quarter of the remaining spectrum in the band for auction to carriers with less than 2% of market share in order to enable the development of more carriers and more consumer choice.

Innovation

Canada needs objective, reliable, open and understandable ISP data to use, plan and invest in new applications.
  • Mandate regular ISP openness audits, measuring:
    • Traffic management practices
    • Average speeds (Ofcom in the UK and the FCC in the US do this in various ways)
    • Billing practices as set against costs (there have been stories of overbilling/mis-measuring usage by ISPs etc.).
    • Congestion
    • Regional broadband speed levels (See: http://broadbandmap.gov )
  • The audits should be applied to both wired and wireless access to the Internet.
  • Parliament should amend the CRTC Act to permit the CRTC to levy administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) that can be used to enforce transparency requirements and regulations.
  • The objective of the audits is to ensure users are able to freely decide which applications they run on their Internet connection, no matter which device or pricing tier they choose.

Openness

Open CRTC: The best guarantee of an open Internet is a policy-making process that is open, citizen-centered, and public-interest oriented.
  • The government should direct the CRTC to ensure the creation of open, accessible and neutral networks and maximize user preference.
  • In the interests of accountability and transparency, the government should show how all new appointments ranked in the overall scorecard based on the must-have and should-have criteria listed in the job postings. The criteria should include significant experience in the public interest or consumer advocacy community.
  • The government should include broader stakeholder and citizen participation in the appointment process of CRTC commissioners.

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