The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced $9.9 million in funding Aug. 12 for a company trying to improve satellite internet speeds in five remote Northern Manitoba First Nations.
Broadband Communications North is receiving the money to boost satellite internet in Brochet, Lac Brochet, Pukatawagan, Shamattawa and Tadoule Lake to a speed of 10 Mbps for downloading and one Mbps for uploading with unlimited data. The project could boost available internet access for nearly 900 households in the five communities and is expected to cost about $21 million overall. One of the conditions of receiving the funding is that the recipient must provide broadband internet access at the maximum price committed to in their application for at least five years.
The CRTC said it expects this project to be an interim step, with Broadband Communications North planning to offer improved services in the future.
About $62 million is also going to four other projects, two Yukon and two in Northwest Territories.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need for reliable communications networks to navigate everyday life, as many Canadians were challenged by poor internet connections,” said Ian Scott, CEO of the CRTC, which will provide up to $750 million over five years to projects improving internet access in underserved areas of Canada through the CRTC Broadband Fund. “Today’s announcement marks a key milestone toward closing the digital divide. This initial funding from the CRTC Broadband Fund will improve access in the North and have a positive impact on many communities. We recognize, however, that too many regions across the country are still underserved. The assessment of the applications we received following our second call for applications is a high priority.”
OpenMedia, a non-profit advocacy organization that works to keep the internet open, safe and surveillance-free, said the funding is great for those communities benefiting from it, but that northern Canada needs much more money for internet infrastructure.
“It is good to see that the CRTC is finally making some funding available to some rural communities,” said OpenMedia campaigns director Matt Hatfield. “But a real disappointment to see the first announcement come in such a meagre and piecemeal approach. The government needs to provide a strategic plan that makes it clear how it plans to connect the entire country, not just make patchwork improvements here and there.”