Canada’s federal government has increased the funding available through the Universal Broadband Fund to CAD1.75 billion (USD1.35 billion), an increase of CAD750 million from the original CAD1 billion allocated to the Fund in its 2019 budget, stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of access to high speed internet. Via the Fund and several other initiatives, the government now aims to ensure 98% of Canadians can access high speed (50Mbps/10Mbps down/upload) connectivity by 2026, an increase from the previous commitment of 95% for that year in Canada’s Connectivity Strategy set in June 2019.
To help accelerate the timeline for new connections, the government is including a Rapid Response Stream for the Universal Broadband Fund, making up to CAD150 million available for projects that will be completed by 15 November 2021. The Fund also includes CAD50 million dedicated to improving mobile internet availability in areas of benefit to Indigenous communities. Selected projects under the new funding will be confirmed starting in early 2021.
The government also reiterated that it has entered into an agreement with Telesat to secure high speed internet capacity through the company’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, to significantly improve connectivity in rural and remote areas including the Far North. The government said it has committed up to CAD600 million to secure the LEO capacity which will be made available to ISPs at a reduced rate (note: at the time of agreeing the Telesat partnership in July 2019 the government earmarked ‘up to CAD685 million’ for the project, including CAD85 million through the Strategic Innovation Fund).