CATA, i-CANADA Call for New Broadband Policy Model to Deal With Usage-Based Billing, Service Provision
February 1, 2011

OTTAWA, February 01/11  --  Canada’s largest high-technology organization joined supporters of an initiative to connect Canada with ultra-fast communications, to call today for the creation of a new model for the implementation of broadband in Canada.  The call for a unified approach was made in response to the controversial decision recently by Canada’s communications regulator to allow usage-based billing for Internet delivery.

“Fast and affordable communications is vital to society as well as business,”  stated John Reid, President of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA).  “We are in danger of falling even further behind the rest of the world if we can’t develop a new, workable model for the adoption of broadband  --  the fundamental infrastructure for today’s knowledge economy. We need to collectively resolve issues such as usage-based billing within the framework of a larger national plan."

“Our i-CANADA program to accelerate the development of connected communities and to regain Canada’s leadership in the digital economy is in danger of getting tangled,” said Bill Hutchison, Chair of the i-CANADA program.  “We have a New National Dream that will bring global leadership through the use of ultra-fast intelligent communications and collaboration within communities to reach new levels of economic, environmental and social growth and prosperity.  This dream is being threatened by a start-and-stop policy environment in Canada.”

Mr. Hutchison illustrated some of the crippling problems that Canadian society faces due to the lack of a consensual overall model:  “There may be as many as 700,000 homes in Canada that lack broadband Internet access, and many of those who have it are complaining of speeds so slow that they are barely faster than dial-up.  By comparison, the U.S. government’s “National Broadband Plan” sets a target speed of ‘affordable’ 100 megabits-per-second Internet service connecting at least 100 million homes by 2020.  Australia has pledged $43-billion to the creation of a high-speed network.

“We need a firm consensus in Canada on what our ‘baseline’ of acceptable speed and cost is,” said Mr. Hutchison.  “Businesses need to plan, communities need to build jobs, and residents need access to services such as online health care and education.”

Conflicts like the one over usage-based billing can only be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction if Canada has a strategy for broadband development:  “The old model where the private sector is expected to pay for infrastructure development from their profits, has greatly changed,” indicated Mr. Hutchison.  “Now that communications is a ‘commodity’, it no longer affords the same level of profit to the telecommunications companies.  We need a new model for infrastructure development.  We have a good momentum going, but we need a national debate to be able to resolve the broadband issue."