Daily News Apr 7, 2014
Money and funding for the development of Canadian telecom and Internet infrastructure has been announced by the Federal government.
It’s new Digital Canada 150 program includes some $200 million to help small and medium-sized businesses adopt digital technologies, as well as $300 million in venture capital for digital companies.
“Digital Canada 150 recognizes that technology and innovation are drivers of economic growth,” said Iain Klugman, CEO at Communitech, a digital business incubator and commercialization centre in Waterloo, ON, the city that hosted the 150 announcement proceedings. “By providing access to venture capital and support for the adoption of technology, this strategy will help small and medium-sized companies grow more quickly, leading to new jobs and increased productivity across the country.”
As described by Industry Minister James Moore, there are five key principles guiding the government’s new digital strategy: to improve connectivity among Canadians; to protect Canadian while connected, to enhance economic opportunities, partly through a digitization of government functions.
The program also includes references to boosting and supporting Canadian content creation and distribution.
Among the commitments contained in the Digital Canada 150 document, a pledge to connect over 98 percent of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2019, with speeds of at least five megabits per second.
While that does include nearly 300,000 Canadian households, mostly in rural and remote communities, that will have access to high-speed Internet for the first time, it also marks a change in the broadband commitments previously made.
The government had set similar speed and access targets for 2015 for all Canadians; nevertheless, broadband connectivity projects will be eligible for federal funding under the Building Canada Fund.
The government also intends to see the unbundling of TV subscription packages, a target that was previously announced, and it says it plans to work with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to develop a plan to unbundle television channels and ensure cable and satellite providers offer Canadian consumers the option to pick and choose the combination of television channels they want.
Domestic roaming fees are to be capped, construction of new cell towers to be under new rules of community engagement, and greater wireless choices across the country are to be encouraged in the new 150 program.
Digital Future 150 does make reference to digital media content production, with notes of recent website launches by the government to celebrate contributions made by the country’s armed forces, and to document key activities, people and events in its history.
The government says it will continue to support digital content creation through its partnership with the National Film Board, referencing that organization’s interactive apps and innovative NFB.ca content channels with international partners.
“Canadians are already avid users and producers of online services and content. This strategy will accelerate digital adoption and technological innovation among Canadian businesses, which is essential if we are to remain a global economic power,” said Chris O’Neill, managing director of Google Canada, in a statement responding to the program release.
The 150 program does highlight the Canada Media Fund, although no specific commitments to maintain the private-public partnership were included.
Many of the measures announced by Industry Minister James Moore, while positive, amount to little more than a repackaging of previous government announcements and existing government programmes, says community-based telecom advocacy group OpenMedia.ca.
“The government has had years to get this right – which makes [the] unveiling all the more disappointing”, says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “This reads like the digital strategy for the last 5 years – not for the 5 years ahead. Although there are some positive proposals here, all in all Canada will still be left playing catch-up with the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to Internet access and affordability.”