As the Obama Administration moves to provide Americans with better Internet access, the National Union wonders if the Canadian government is paying attention.
Ottawa (20 Jan. 2015) — With the Obama administration announcing measures to stop giant U.S. telecommunication companies from blocking American Internet users from more affordable Internet services the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is wondering whether the Canadian government is watching.
“Canada is quickly falling behind in terms of our access to broadband Internet services,” explained James Clancy, NUPGE National President. “In 2003, Canada was second among the 34 OECD countries in broadband penetration. In 2014, we had dropped to 24th among OECD countries.”
“The Internet is essential to an innovative economy and for citizen engagement. When is this federal government going to realize that it needs to start catching up with the rest of the world?" Clancy asked.
Forward looking measures in the United States
The Obama Administration is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to override the laws in 19 states that prevent independent options for Internet services. In addition, there was a call for new funding for municipal and rural broadband. These policy directions follow the decision by the FCC to increase minimum Internet speeds from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
This contrasts with Canada’s unambitious digital strategy that sets a target of a minimum speed of 5 Mbps by 2019.
In addition, the United States plans to connect over 100 million households to 100 Mbps broadband by 2020. Currently, Statistics Canada says that 42 per cent of households in the lowest quartile of $30,000 or less do not have home Internet access.
Falling behind internationally
In a recent article, Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law wrote, "the OECD data has Canada ranking poorly for wireless broadband subscriptions when compared to the rest of the developed economy world. The OECD release comes one week after a CRTC sponsored report found that Canadian wireless pricing is among the most expensive in the G7 in every tier of usage."
"Seven countries, including Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Korea, and the U.S., have at least one subscription for every inhabitant. In Canada, the number drops to 53.3 subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants. That places Canada 24th out of 34 OECD countries." says Giest.
Canada is not just lagging behind the U.S. in its national digital strategy. Other countries are moving quickly to ensure better access for its citizens. For example,
- the European Union is aiming for all Europeans to have access to 30Mbps broadband networks by 2020
- Australia’s National Broadband Network will see most Australians have access to 25 Mbps speeds by 2016
- Argentina has set a target for 97% of its citizens to have 10 Mbps access for this year.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE