Ensuring Connectivity for Every Canadian

ByOlivera Zatezalo

December 11, 2020

Olivera Zatezalo

In the modern world, everyone needs to be connected. Unfortunately, not everyone is just yet.

As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to broadband Internet is no longer a luxury. It’s become essential to how we live, work, and communicate. Those who don’t have – or can’t afford – access to a reliable, high-speed connection are at a distinct disadvantage and risk losing out on economic and social opportunities.

Even here in Canada, some rural and remote parts of the country still don’t have reliable 4G – or even 3G – service. For a number of Canadians who do have dependable access to coverage, affordability is increasingly becoming a barrier.

Bridging the Digital Divide

The federal government has prioritized bringing reliable Internet access to Canadians in rural and remote areas. In the 2019 budget, it announced a commitment to ensure that high-speed Internet is available to 95 percent of Canadian homes and businesses by 2026 – and to all Canadians, no matter where they live, by 2030. This commitment reflects the modern reality that access to broadband Internet is now fundamental to our ability to work, learn, share, communicate, run a business, and stay informed.

Currently, however, just 40 percent of rural households have access to the high-speed connection they need. That leaves 2.4 million Canadians underserved and at a distinct disadvantage compared to others. In response to increased Internet usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has started investigating ways to bring high-speed broadband coverage to rural Canada more quickly.

For many, broadband access is not affordable

Even when Canadians do have broadband access, it can be too expensive for some to afford. The hard reality is that mobile plans are often cheaper in cities because the costs of installing networks in remote areas can be significantly higher.

Reducing the cost of Internet access in rural and remote areas must become a public policy priority. Yes, telecommunications providers have stepped up and waived Internet fees for low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure everyone in Canada was able to access critical online services and information. But a long-term solution is needed.

With so many of our social, educational, and economic activities taking place online, we cannot afford to exclude anyone from reliable Internet access, regardless of whether the barriers are related to geography or affordability.

Reaching Canada’s remote Arctic regions like Iqaluit with affordable connectivity is tough but doable with the right solutions & partnerships

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted just how important this access has become. A main service provider saw data traffic in its rural broadband network jump by 40 percent this past spring. Another service provider that mainly serves rural customers saw data traffic surge by more than 30 percent. In a time of crisis, people relied on connectivity to provide the information they needed.

Indeed, without reliable, affordable access to the Internet, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic would likely have been much worse, as people would not have been able to stay home as much as they did in order to flatten the curve.

5G and Fixed Mobile Access (FWA) for Rural Broadband

5G will bring faster speeds, fewer delays, and the capacity for more connections at a price point that more people can afford. This new technology is already being installed and activated in some Canadian cities.

The first stage of 5G deployment will be in enhanced mobile broadband, which increases network throughput and mobile upload and download speeds. While fiber-to-the-home service is growing in cities, next-generation fixed wireless access (FWA) is the best way to deliver broadband to rural areas. This will bring remote work, virtual healthcare, distance education, smart agriculture technology, e-commerce and more to rural Canadians – at speeds that far exceed what’s been available in the past.

In the meantime, federal and provincial governments continue to invest in rural broadband. The federal government has launched several funding programs to bridge the digital divide and help make progress toward its 2030 pledge. And Ontario recently announced a plan to invest 150 million Canadian dollars to bring reliable broadband and cellular services to rural, remote and underserved areas of the province.

What Are We Doing to Help?

Governments and telecommunications providers each have a crucial role to play in bringing increased and affordable connectivity to rural Canada. The good news is that when rural communities are connected, residents are able to benefit from some of the fastest and most reliable networks in the world. Huawei has been proud to play an important role in connecting many of Canada’s rural and remote communities.

We must now work together to ensure that more communities – and more Canadians – have affordable access to high-quality connections. In doing so, we will close the digital divide and create new opportunities from coast to coast to coast.

Click the link to read more about Huawei’s 5G solutions.

Further Reading

This post is adapted from an original version that appeared in MILESTONES (Ontario Good Roads Assn.).

Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Olivera Zatezalo

Chief Security Officer, Huawei Canada Olivera’s responsibility is to ensure Huawei Canada’s operations are compliant with Canadian cybersecurity laws and regulations. With over 20 years of experience in the telecommunication industry, Olivera is best known for creating value through collaborative leadership style, agile execution, and for her global cybersecurity expertise. IT World Canada and the Women in Security and Resilience Alliance (WiSECRA) have named Olivera as one of the Top 20 Women in Cyber Security in Canada for 2020. Olivera holds Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Belgrade and is a Certified Information Security Manager.

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