‹ Infrastructure

Telecom in northern Canada

August 01, 2013

The Conference Board of Canada has published a major paper on Canada’s telecom sector.

The report looks at satellite dependency, affordability, “connectivity scenarios”, case studies and covers off some lessons learned from various jurisdictions and experiences. It make recommendations for public policy.

A few interesting points from the report:

The reports recommendations:


The Conference Board report is well researched, well written and thoughtful. The focus of the report on bandwidth and connectivity is sensible. The recommendations make sense, as far as they go, with one exception noted below.

We can all agree that capital investment in telecom infrastructure is needed in the north. The nub of the problem is how to garner this investment. The private sector requires a return and government funding is very limited. Governments have invested millions in very wasteful ways, yet the Conference Board suggests public ownership as being a panacea. Northwestel, for example, has invested several hundred million dollars in capital over the past 25 years in northern telecom infrastructure, would territorial governments be willing to take-over this investing ? Or do they now have enough on their plates delivering health-care, roads and schools ?

The regulator, the CRTC, adheres to antiquated rules that focus on telephone network access. The focus more rightly should be on delivering maximum bandwidth for minimal cost to consumers. But everyone should realize that bits and bytes are not free, and if investor-owned entities like Northwestel are expected to invest millions in far-flung communities they need to earn a fair return.