Waiting to Connect
The Expert Panel on High-Throughput Networks for Rural and Remote Communities in Canada
The internet is essential to nearly every aspect of our lives. We go online to work, access e-learning, register to vote, share our personal stories, connect with friends and family, and so much more. While we depended on this connection prior to COVID-19, the pandemic only pushed more of our lives online. It also made it clear how critical it is to ensure access to a reliable, affordable, high-quality connection for the communities that still do not have one.
Compared to urban areas, broadband connectivity in rural and remote communities is generally less likely to be available, slower, and more expensive. The connectivity gap is a decades-long problem that has not improved despite continued calls from those living with underservice. For the people living in these communities, low-quality internet limits social, cultural, and economic opportunities and choices.
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has developed the High-throughput and Secure Networks Challenge program, aimed at developing innovative technologies to enable the provision of ultra-fast broadband in rural and remote communities. In support of the program, the NRC asked the CCA to assess the multiple legal, economic, ethical, social and policy challenges that limit deploying and adopting these technologies in rural and remote communities.
Waiting to Connect examines the systemic issues that have resulted in a persistent connectivity gap, and the promising practices and guiding principles that can help achieve equitable connectivity.
National Research Council Canada
What are the legal, regulatory, ethical, social, and economic policy challenges associated with the deployment and use of high-throughput secure networks (HTSN) for rural and remote communities, including Indigenous communities, in Canada?
Broadband connectivity underservice in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous communities, is not only a technology problem. Existing network technologies would greatly increase the quality of broadband connectivity in rural and remote regions, and some rural communities already have access to ultra-fast speeds.
If a new technology or funding program is offered without consideration of long-standing legal, regulatory, ethical, social, and economic policy challenges, it will primarily improve connectivity for those with the resources to take advantage of it, leaving the most underserved communities further behind. For this reason, Waiting to Connect focuses on the systemic challenges that have consistently contributed to the ongoing underservice for millions of people living in rural and remote regions in Canada.
There is no one size-fits-all solution to bringing connectivity to rural or remote areas. The provision of equitable and sufficient broadband connectivity must be place-based, while also considering available technology, parallel essential infrastructure, and funding.
Proposed Principles for Equitable Connectivity
Based on available evidence and documented lived experiences, the Expert Panel identified key principles to help achieve equitable connectivity: