Distributel applauds expanded broadband funding to help bridge Canada’s digital divide

Company calls on CRTC to enforce its 2019 rate decision to create certainty and stimulate innovation

TORONTO – November 18, 2020: Distributel Communications Limited applauds the Government of Canada’s decision to increase the funding available through its Universal Broadband Fund to 1.75 billion. This funding will accelerate the much-needed infrastructure expansion and help improve internet access for underserved communities across the country.

This announcement serves to emphasize the urgent need for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to enforce both of the critical elements of its 2019 decision: One, creating rate certainty for independent service providers (ISPs) like Distributel, enabling them to operate and invest sustainably; and two, calling for a retroactive overpayment refund to the ISPs, which Distributel will use predominantly to accelerate efforts to expand rural broadband and invest in other innovative initiatives that deliver value to all Canadians.

“Bridging the digital divide in Canada has long been a core part of Distributel’s purpose and mission,” says Matt Stein, CEO of Distributel. “High speed connectivity helps transform businesses, nurture community networks and foster innovation on a global stage. Bridging the divide is not just about increasing access, but also about offering great packages and affordable rates. We are committed to delivering exceptional service to everyone across Canada, no matter where they live.”

Stein points to Distributel’s 2018 partnership with Eeyou Communications (EC) as a great example of successful rural expansion. The two companies worked together to bring state-of-the-art 1-Gbps fibre-optic internet service, on par with what’s available in major markets like Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, to the Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee and to the municipalities of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region in Northern Quebec. “These communities now benefit from the highest quality internet service available, going way beyond what was mandated by the Government. That’s what every Canadian deserves,” says Stein. “What’s more, the prices they pay are comparable to major Canadian cities, too – that’s how you bridge the divide.”

The expansion to the Universal Broadband Fund will allow Distributel to move forward with more investments in the EC community and rural communities like it across Canada. The company is already working on plans to invest $75 million into 10 additional rural communities, to deliver the broadband speeds, services and support they deserve. These plans align directly with the CRTC’s 2016 declaration that broadband internet is a basic service for all Canadians and that connectivity improves quality of life, enhances economic prospects and encourages connected and engaged communities.

With the government now projecting that 98 percent of Canadians will have access to broadband internet by 2026, and with so many families having been hit hard by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for fair, competitive offerings becomes all the more critical, says Stein. This underscores the urgent need for the CRTC to implement its 2019 rate decision, bringing much-needed certainty to the independent service providers so that they can pursue more projects like the EC partnership.

“We need the CRTC to enforce its decision so that we can pass it on to the consumer,” says Stein. “This is about doing the right thing for Canadians, especially those who have been denied access to this type of service in the past. We are committed to working with local partners like EC to bring these benefits to underserviced parts of Canada.”

It’s time for the CRTC to enforce its well-thought-out decision

Despite being more than a year old, the CRTC decision continues to be shrouded in uncertainty. That’s due to obstruction by the incumbent telecom companies, which continues despite the Federal Court of Appeals’ September 2020 assertion that the incumbents’ claims have “dubious merit.”

“The incumbents’ constant stream of delay tactics,” says Stein, “including their latest move of appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada, has only served to benefit the big players and stifle the rest of the industry. Canadians deserve better. We need a healthy, competitive market that stimulates innovation, serves every community equitably, and offers Canadian consumers not just price relief but also varied offerings and exceptional service. It’s time for the CRTC to stand firm on its decision to institute fair wholesale rates and repay the ISPs for years of overcharging, which will translate directly to better value for Canadians.”

With the CRTC rate decision in place, and the increased funding from the Government of Canada, Distributel sees a clear path to a day when all Canadians – no matter where they live – have access to choice, fairness, competition and value when it comes to accessing the internet.

About Distributel

Established in 1988, Distributel is a national, award-winning, independent communications provider offering a wide range of business and residential communications services. In 2020, the company proudly achieved certification as a Great Place to Work®, and it has also earned recognition for its progressive, collaborative workplace. 100% Canadian-owned, with offices across the country and a national network, Distributel continues to forge new partnerships and bring innovative solutions to market directly and through a thriving wholesale division. ThinkTel, the Business Services Division of Distributel, is a provider of advanced voice and data services for the SMB and Enterprise markets throughout Canada. The company offers TV services through TotalTV Inc., an IPTV service provider that operates in Ontario and Quebec. As a top Microsoft Solutions Partner and a Cisco PMP, the Business Services division is focused on driving industry innovation. For more information, visit www.distributel.ca.

For further information:
Andrea Lekushoff
Broad Reach Communications
T: 416-435-2569
E: alekushoff@brpr.ca