For the third year in a row, Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, was a keynote speaker at the Canadian Telecom Summit (“CTS”). In his closing keynote for CTS 2018, he reiterated the importance of increasing the quality and coverage of innovative technologies at affordable prices for Canadians. He then updated the attendees on the progress being made and outlined how the Government of Canada has taken action to ensure innovative technologies are both accessible and affordable nationwide and how these efforts have made a difference across Canada.
Starting with quality, he emphasized the importance of having telecom services that are fast enough to allow everyone to participate in a digital community. One of the efforts that have been made to improve quality is the collaboration with Ontario and Quebec to launch ENCQOR (the Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Québec and Ontario for Research and Innovation) partnership. This $400 million public-private partnership provides access to 5G networks to SMEs, researchers and academia. Through ENCQOR, the federal government hopes to advance 5G networks and drive long-term economic growth across Canada.
Minister Bains also described the Spectrum Outlook 5-year plan (to be implemented between 2018 to 2022), which has the objective of maximizing the amount of spectrum that is available in order to avoid “traffic loads” and ensure that Canadians have unhindered access to wireless networks.
With nearly 70% of all schoolwork being connected to the Internet, access to the Internet is a necessity for our youth today, not a luxury. However, with 1.2 million Canadian children living in poverty, such access is unequal and incredibly limited for a large number of young Canadians. Minister Bains stated that it is important to correct this imbalance and ensure that these children have access to high speed Internet so that they can progress in both their academic careers and future endeavours. Similarly, measures have been taken to ensure that rural communities have access to high-speed Internet with the Connect to Innovate Program. Through this program, $500 million will be invested by 2021 into rural communities to help bring new infrastructure and provide coverage nationwide.
The provision of free computers to schools nationwide is one way the government is tackling the issue of cost by making telecom services more affordable and allowing low income Canadians the opportunity to participate in the digital economy.
Minister Bains’s key message is that this is all “… about the kids”. The purpose of these government initiatives is to help young Canadians who do not have reasonable access to the Internet – “every youth should have the means to stay connected in this digital economy to fulfil their aspirations.”
In conclusion, Minister Bains lauded industry support has being integral to the success of these initiatives and encouraged the IT industry to “keep swinging for the fences” and make Canada a global centre for innovation. Despite the efforts and consequent successes that have resulted from actively addressing the issues of quality, coverage and affordability of innovative technologies, Minister Bain’s remarks demonstrate that building Canada’s innovation ecosystem is a never ending work in progress.
Neda Foroughian is an IPilogue Editor and a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.