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broadbandWith an estimated 100,000 of the 230,000 underserved premises in Southwestern Ontario ineligible for funding, SWIFT is requesting a review of the CRTC's Broadband Fund eligibility criteria.

SWIFT is encouraging all rural broadband stakeholders to submit comments to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in support of a review of the CRTC Broadband Fund’s restrictive eligibility criteria. SWIFT has filed an application of appeal requesting modifications to the Commission’s ruling in order to increase equal access to funding for all underserved Canadians.

SWIFT is proposing that modifications be made to the exclusive use of the 25km hexagonal system used by Innovation, Science and Economic Canada (ISED) to map “served” and “underserved” areas as a base to determine CRTC funding eligible.

Why this is important to you:

The CRTC has classified “high-speed” Internet access as a “basic service” and has committed to providing Internet speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads as a universal service objective. Yet, the eligibility and assessment criteria used to evaluate applicants excludes “partially served” areas, a hexagon with at least one household that has access to 50/10 target speeds. "Partially served" areas are not eligible for funding.

The use of ISED’s mapping and data as the basis for eligibility for the CRTC Broadband Fund has led to a significant underestimation of the magnitude of the problem and restricts the ability of underserved communities to access much-needed funds.

SWIFT estimates that around 100,000 of the 230,000 underserved premises in Southwestern Ontario alone, are located in CRTC “partially served” areas and are not eligible for CRTC funding.

To highlight the federal funding gap, SWIFT has developed a map to illustrate the large number of underserved businesses and households in its project region of Southwestern Ontario, Niagara and Caledon that are not eligible for funding based upon the Commission’s assessment.

The Commission's approach to restricting eligibility of “partially served” areas reduces the overall quality of the Broadband Fund, leaving many gaps within the network that market forces are unlikely to address anytime soon.

Recommendations made by SWIFT in the appeal to the CRTC to help ensure all underserved Canadians have access to broadband funding include:

Redefine service area boundaries and allow areas that are lacking access to meet the Commission’s “basic service" (50/10) thresholds as eligible to apply for funding.
Allow lower levels of government and underserved communities to provide other evidence such as standardized Internet measurements to demonstrate their needs and therefore eligibility to apply.
Reconsider that in “partially served" areas market forces are not “likely” to improve connectivity anytime soon.
At a minimum, allow underserved areas in “partially served” zones to be eligible to apply as part of larger projects to incentives private sector participation.
Make your voice heard – support rural broadband funding

CRTC has invited written submission for comments from interested individuals and organizations on the issues related to SWIFT’s application to review and vary Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2018-377 (Development of the Commission's Broadband Fund).

• by completing the online form
• by mail to: CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2
• by fax to: 819-994-0218

The deadline for comment is February 8, 2019.

source: media release, SWIFT

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