Question Period Note: CONNECT TO INNOVATE

About

Reference number:
RED-2023-QP-00012
Date received:
Jan 4, 2023
Organization:
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Name of Minister:
Hutchings, Gudie (Hon.)
Title of Minister:
Minister of Rural Economic Development

Issue/Question:

How is the Connect to Innovate program improving access to high-speed Internet in rural and remote communities?

Suggested Response:

• No matter where they live, Canadians need reliable high-speed Internet to work, learn and access essential services.

• Under the $585 million Connect to Innovate (CTI) program, 766 rural communities and 199,000 households were connected to high-speed Internet.

• When the program ends in 2023, 975 communities–more than triple the initial target–and nearly 400,000 households will have benefitted.

• Building on the success of the CTI, the $2.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund will help connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2026 and 100% by 2030.

Background:

• The Connect to Innovate (CTI) program will bring new or improved Internet access to more than 975 rural and remote communities, including 190 Indigenous communities. This is more than triple the initial target of 300 communities.

If pressed about the speed of Connect to Innovate (CTI) projects or status of particular projects:

• The government understands that some CTI projects have experienced delays, but most are well underway and 766 communities are already connected, including 93 Indigenous communities.

• These are multi-year infrastructure projects that experience delays due to things like weather, procurement challenges, and securing permits. COVID-19 is also having an impact on procurement and labour. In addition, some remote communities have closed their borders in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, which is delaying construction.

• The government is working closely with CTI recipients to resolve project delays, and to report to Canadians on progress.

Additional Information:

Connect to Innovate (CTI)

CTI is primarily focused on the construction of new backbone infrastructure to connect institutions like schools, hospitals, First Nations band offices, and libraries, as well as to improve residential and business Internet services. Backbone networks are digital highways that move large amounts of data in and out of communities at high speeds.

A portion of the program’s funding is also being used to provide “last-mile” infrastructure, bringing Internet access to households and businesses have service speeds lower than 5 Megabits per second (Mbps). Communities using new backbone infrastructure will see a transformative change in the speeds and services they can access. The CTI program launched in December 2016 with a competitive national call for applications. Applications were accepted until April 20, 2017.

As of March 31, 2022, 766 rural and remote communities across Canada are already benefitting from completed projects that have the potential to bring improved Internet speeds to over 199,000 households. By the end of the program in 2023, more than 975 communities and nearly 400,000 households will benefit from access to improved connectivity with CTI projects.

Canada’s Connectivity Strategy

The government set a national target for 98% of homes to have access to speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps by 2026 and 100% by 2030, no matter where they are located.

Universal Broadband Fund (UBF)

Budget 2019 committed $1 billion to the UBF, which was increased to $2.75 billion by program launch in November 2020, and included an accelerated connectivity target of 98% of Canadians by 2026. This funding envelope supports broadband projects that will connect households and includes:
• A Rapid Response Stream (RRS) for shovel-ready projects that can connect households quickly.
• Up to $750 million for large, high-impact projects that are transformative in nature. For example, projects that connect a large number of households, large geographic areas, or will substantially improve speeds being offered.
• Up to $50 million for mobile Internet projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples.

The application intake period for the RRS closed on January 15, 2021. In total, 605 applications were received from all provinces and territories, except the Yukon. These applications requested over $577 million and represented total project costs of over one billion dollars. Announcements are underway and regularly posted online on the UBF website: Canada.ca/get-connected

The application intake period for the main UBF closed on March 15, 2021. A total of nearly 1,900 applications requesting $9 billion were received. Project selection is underway.

Other high-speed Internet programming across the Government of Canada includes:

• The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) $750 million Broadband Fund (sourced from a levy on telecommunications service providers’ revenues) to help achieve universal access at speeds of 50/10 Mbps, as well as mobile coverage along major roads.

• The Canada Infrastructure Bank's (CIB) $2 billion in financing for large, high-impact broadband projects.

• The $2 billion Rural and Northern Communities stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, which includes broadband, among other infrastructure projects.

• The First Nation Infrastructure Fund (FNIF), which helps First Nation communities improve and increase public infrastructure, including high-speed Internet, to improve the quality of life and the environment for First Nation communities.

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