In 2019 Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of innovation and economic development resolved to make broadband a national priority, resulting in the High Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy.
Broadband networks are an important component of the knowledge economy, and affect many sectors and economic activities. Investments in broadband technology drives growth, innovation, efficiency, and global competitiveness. The 2020 formal launch of the $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) is an important component of Canada’s Connectivity Strategy. Projects funded under the UBF (as well as through other public and private investments) will help connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2026 and achieve the national target of 100% connectivity by 2030. The UBF supports high-speed Internet projects across the country – ones that will bring Internet speeds of 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to rural and remote communities.
- Up to $50 million for mobile Internet projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples, including projects along highways and roads where mobile connectivity is lacking,
- Up to $750 million for large, high-impact projects, and
- Through a Rapid Response Stream, shovel-ready projects that can be completed quickly.
Various programs benefiting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a direct result of the UBF initiative. In 2021, the Canadian government invited SMEs to develop a cost competitive fiber optic sensing technology. And Innovative Solutions Canada launched a new challenge – led by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) – to build on their innovative ultrafast laser inscription of fiber Bragg grating technology. This technology is used in many Canadian industry sectors, including civil structure health monitoring (e.g., bridges, hydroelectric dams, wind turbines), energy production and environmental monitoring (e.g., oil pipelines, gas turbines), and green technologies (i.e., electric vehicle battery performance).
In addition to the UBF Fund, the Canadian government has identified and outlined key targeted areas under their connectivity strategy. The Government of Canada is:
- Investing $1.7 billion in new funding for broadband infrastructure, including a UBF fund to support broadband projects across the country; it also includes a top-up for the successful Connect to Innovate program, support for low-Earth orbit satellite capacity, and two new Statistics Canada surveys to measure broadband usage,
- Supporting broadband projects through the $2 billion Rural and Northern Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program,
- Extending broadband infrastructure through the CRTC’s newly announced $750 million Broadband Fund,
- Supporting connectivity projects through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which will seek to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years and leverage at least $2 billion in additional private sector investment, and
- Using the Accelerated Investment Incentive to encourage Internet service providers to invest in high-speed connectivity across the country.
Broadband results in the development of new inventions, new and improved goods and services, new processes, new business models, and increases economic competitiveness and flexibility. Canada’s investment in a comprehensive connectivity strategy will benefit not only Canadian SMEs, but foreign SMEs with goods and services designed for the connectivity sector.