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Navdeep Bains: Canada will lead the world in fast, affordable wireless networks

Financial Post logo Financial Post 2020-01-30 Special to Financial Post
a close up of a bicycle: Our priority is to make Canada’s telecommunications industry as fair as possible for consumers, while also ensuring that our companies have the best incentives to make investments into quality networks. © Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images files Our priority is to make Canada’s telecommunications industry as fair as possible for consumers, while also ensuring that our companies have the best incentives to make investments into quality networks.

By Navdeep Bains

In 2020, mobile and wireless access is no longer a luxury, but a necessary part of how we work, socialize and stay connected to the world around us. Many of us would be hard-pressed to imagine day-to-day life without using our devices. We’d have a harder time working, learning, travelling, banking and engaging with modern society. While Canadians have access to reliable networks in Canada, they still need more affordable plans; that’s why Canadians elected a government that committed to lowering their cellphone bills by 25 per cent.

The 2018 Price Comparison Study of Telecommunications Services in Canada and Select Foreign Jurisdictions, prepared by Wall Communications Inc., provided a comparative price analysis of telecommunications services within Canada, as well as an international comparison with G7 countries and Australia. The study showed what Canadians already know and feel: they are paying more than their G7 peers for an essential service, one they and their families likely couldn’t get by without.

We spoke to Canadians across the country during the 2019 election, and heard their concerns about cellphone and wireless bills putting too much pressure on their household budgets. To suggest that Canadians are not worried about this is not consistent with expert and independently validated data.

Speaking of data, we need more of it than ever before to keep on top of our work, school, finances, health care and more. As a result, data usage around the world is on the rise. This is true here in Canada as well, where if the need to use more data continues at our current price point, some of us could be left behind.

Making life more affordable is our priority. That’s why we’ve given clear direction to the CRTC to promote affordability, consumer interests, and all forms of competition and investment — keeping Canadians at the forefront of their decisions. We will work with industry partners to reduce the cost of cellphone bills by 25 per cent — so that Canadians don’t have to feel concerned that staying connected will hit them where it hurts.

We are at an exciting turning point in the future of connectivity. We are on the most aggressive timeline of any past Canadian government to release new spectrum, with four key spectrum auctions scheduled in four years. Spectrum is the collection of radio frequencies through which all communications signals travel. It is what all our wireless devices rely on to function. In short, it is the lifeblood of the industry.

Canada has been a global leader in the allocation of spectrum. We have created the ideal conditions for investment in our telecommunications infrastructure, and have seen one of the fastest, most reliable networks in the world develop as a result. Be it through changes made to the accelerated capital cost allowance or through direct funding programs such as Connect to Innovate and the Universal Broadband Fund, or through the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, there has been no better time to invest in Canadian networks.

As the global conversation turns to the next generation of wireless, we will continue harnessing those investments to build a 5G network that is just as effective. In March 2018, we announced — with the governments of Quebec and Ontario — ENCQOR (Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Québec and Ontario for Research and Innovation) a new partnership that will lay the groundwork for 5G by bringing together five global digital technology leaders and provincial co-ordinators to unlock the power and potential of 5G, ensuring it is accessible and affordable for all Canadians.

Our priority is to make Canada’s telecommunications industry as fair as possible for consumers, while also ensuring that our companies have the best incentives to make investments into quality networks. We will continue to keep that approach in mind as we work to ensure that Canadians can afford to keep up with our rapidly changing world.

Navdeep Bains is the federal minister of innovation, science and industry.

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