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Telecommunication Policy Overview in Canada

Regulatory Agency | Regulation | Broadband Market and Major Player | National Broadband Strategy

Regulatory Agency

Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) is an independent regulatory agency that supervises broadcasting and telecommunication systems in Canada. The CRTC implements policy guided by the objectives of the Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act of serving the interests of the public, industries and the government.

In the broadcasting sector, the CRTC ensures that all Canadians have access to high-quality and varied Canadian programs. In the broader telecommunications sector, the CRTC ensures that Canadians receive affordable and reliable telephone and telecommunications services.

In addition to the CRTC, Strategic Policy Sector and Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications Sector under the Department of Industry also formulate and implement telecommunication policies.

The Strategic Policy Sector (“SPS”) provides policy leadership for the Department of Industry to stimulate economic growth. A division of SPS, the Telecommunications Policy Branch, provides recommendations and formulates telecom and radio communication policies, regulations and legislation to promote the development of telecommunication facilities and services such as radio frequency spectrum and geostationary orbits.

Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications Sector (“SITT”), on the other hand, implements policies to promote economic growth through the dissemination and development of information and communication technologies (ICT). SITT ensures that Canadians have skills and access to a world-class ICT, encourages all sectors to strategically use ICT, increases competitiveness of ICT industries at the international level, and ensures effective and efficient use of radio frequency spectrum.

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Telecommunications Act of 1993
The Telecommunications Act is established in 1993 and implemented by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The Act hereby facilitates the development of telecommunications system in Canada and ensures that the Canadian telecom policies are effective and meet its objectives:
1) to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of telecommunication services;
2) to ensure the quality of telecom services at affordable prices in all regions across the nation;
3) to encourage the innovation and development of telecommunication and to promote usage of telecom while protecting users’ privacy;
4) to set effective regulations to increase the provision of telecom services relying on market forces.
5) to promote the ownership and control of Canadian carriers by Canadians;

Radio Communications Act of 1985
Radio Communications Act of 1985 is established to manage the use of wireless spectrum. Under the Radio Communication Act, the Minister of Industry Canada is responsible for ensuring efficient operation of radio communication and the establishment of radio stations. The Minister also sets policy to allocate spectrum for effective use and grant spectrum licenses to wireless service providers via auctions. The task of managing wireless spectrum such as by auction was later transferred to the CRTC.

Broadband Market and Major Player

According to CRTC Communication Monitoring Report 2010, Canada has reached 72% (or 10.1 million) high-speed Internet subscribers, 62% of which are broadband subscribers with speed at 1.5Mbps or higher by 2009. Cable is the mostly used technology for Internet connection, followed by Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL).

Wireline broadband Internet providers:
Bell Canada
Shaw Communications
Rogers Communications
Telus Communications

Mobile wireless providers:
Rogers Communications
Bell Mobility
Telus Mobility
Other providers include SaskTel Mobility, MTS Allstream, and Bell Aliant with smaller market share.

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National Broadband Strategy



Goal and Objective

Broadband For Rural and Northern Development Pilot program (BRAND)


National Satellite Initiative (NSI)



The Minister of Industry initiated the National Broadband Task Force in 2001 to establish a strategy for fulfilling the  government’s goal of bringing broadband services to every Canadian community by 2004. The Task Force launched several programs to increase broadband coverage especially in underserved and unserved areas.

The BRAND program is a three-year program launched in September 2002. The $105 million initiative with a matching capital cost structure is designed to bridge the broadband gap between served and unserved communities, particularly in rural and remote areas. The program aims at implementing and developing broadband services to address the needs for job creation, education, health, economic development, and governance. As of 2006, 63 projects were selected to serve 896 communities with funding totalling $80.3 Million.

The NSI project provides satellite broadband services to geographically difficult rural communities where satellite is the only option that can be implemented. Together with Infrastructure Canada (through the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund) and the Canadian Space Agency, $155 Million in funding is available for 400 communities to expand broadband coverage in the Mid to Far North and other remote communities.

Ubiquitous Canadian Access Network (U-CAN)



Telecommunications Policy Review Panel established by Industry Canada encouraged the Canadian government to initiate another program called Ubiquitous Canadian Access Network (U-CAN), whose goal was to provide sufficient amounts of spectrum and subsidies to service providers to support efforts to bring broadband to the rest of the unserved communities that Pilot Program, NSI or other government programs were unable to cover by 2010. The Program encouraged both private and public sectors to apply for the funding in an effort to provide the most suitable broadband technologies to meet regional needs and imposed access requirements on grant recipients, requiring them to open the network to other local service providers with discounted rate reflecting the subsidy received.

Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians


Canadian government launched the program as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan, providing Industry Canada with $225 Million to develop a strategy to extend broadband coverage in all underserved and unserved areas over a three-year period beginning in 2009. Under the plan, telecommunication providers recieiving program support are subsidized 50% of total buildout costs.