Do You Consider the Internet an Essential Service in Mississauga?

Although some people might still consider high-speed internet (or any internet) a luxury, the CRTC does not.

Today, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared that broadband access to internet service is now considered a basic service for all Canadians. While some might consider the announcement bold (or perhaps frivolous), it's an acknowledgement of an important truth: it's not 1993 anymore and internet, for many, is a necessity.

While it's all well and good to declare internet access essential, the move will, ideally, prompt service providers to increase internet speed and access for all Canadians, particularly those in more remote areas.

"Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive. Canadians who participated during our process told us that no matter where they live or work in our vast country -- whether in a small town in northern Yukon, a rural area of eastern Quebec or in downtown Calgary -- everyone needs access to high-quality fixed Internet and mobile services," said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC. "We are doing our part to bring broadband services to rural and remote communities.The availability of broadband Internet, however, is an issue that can't be solved by the CRTC alone. All players in the Canadian communications landscape will need to do their part to ensure Canadians have access to the services they need to participate in the digital economy.

According to the CRTC, the organization is "setting ambitious new speed targets and creating a new fund that will invest up to $750 million over and above existing government programs."

The CRTC says those targets include allowing residents to access speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download/Mbps upload for fixed broadband internet access services, an unlimited data option for fixed broadband services and making the latest mobile wireless technology available along major Canadian roads.

"The CRTC is establishing a fund to support projects in areas that do not meet these targets," the release reads. "Applicants will be able to submit funding proposals in order to build or upgrade infrastructure for fixed and mobile broadband Internet access services."

While this all sounds lofty—and perhaps complex—the move will, ideally, make life easier for consumers seeking reliable internet access. Starting no later than six months from now, service providers will have to ensure contracts are written in clear and plain language and they'll be required to present user-friendly online tools that will help customers better manage their data usage.

Service providers will also have to offer and promote mobile service packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.

While the news is no doubt good for all users, it's particularly important for those living in less connected areas. The CRTC just submitted a report that identifies internet access gaps resulting from infrastructure, affordability and digital literacy issues, as well as barriers to connectivity in indigenous communities.

While some people might, again, dispute emphasis on technology when other issues plague Canadians, it's crucial to acknowledge the positive impact reliable internet access can have on disconnected (and even less tech-savvy) residents. Now, the internet connects people to everything from employment opportunities to click-of-a-button contacts for essential services (healthcare providers, legal and law enforcement services, etc) to other people.

While anyone could use an old-school paper map, pull out a phonebook or join a community centre to make connections, the internet provides incredibly easy (not to mention convenient) access to directions, services and peers. It's encouraging to see the government declare internet access essential because, well, it is.

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