EU invests in broadband for everyone by 2020, Canada lags behind

The European Union (EU) is directing critical investments toward broadband infrastructure, with the goal of bringing the same high-speed broadband internet service enjoyed in urban areas to rural communities. This move will provide opportunities for rural businesses to compete in the global market, and improve their economic contribution to the EU.

Phil Hogan from the EU Agriculture and Rural Development highlights the importance of investing in rural broadband in article:

“Introducing or improving broadband coverage in rural areas is crucial for boosting growth and jobs in rural areas, enabling businesses to remain competitive, integrating rural areas into the overall economic context, and enhancing the attractiveness of rural communities. One of the aims of this initiative is to ensure that the EU funds that are already foreseen for the coming years – including an estimated 2 billion EUR from the CAP’s Rural Development Programmes – are spent efficiently and where they are most needed, to give a real EU added value.”

The EU already recognizes that broadband for everyone can have a meaningful impact on the economy – they have committed $6.4 billion EUR across several funding streams through the year 2020 for the deployment of broadband infrastructure.

While the EU has taken initiatives to connect its rural and agricultural communities, Canada continues to lag behind in broadband coverage and speed. According to theOokla Net Index, Canada ranks 32nd worldwide in broadband download speeds, and 64th in upload speeds, behind many EU Country members.

Canada is comprised of vast agricultural land and many rural communities, presenting a unique challenge to provide broadband to everyone. Arecent wireless spectrum auction by the federal government hopes to tackle this problem through wireless services. The CRTC has set a goal of only 5Mbps download speed for basic connectivity, which does not support the current or future needs of many Canadians.

In contrast, the SWIFT initiative has set a goal of 100% access to 1Gbps through fibre-optic wired connections by 2040 so that rural citizens and businesses in Southwestern Ontario can efficiently participate in the modern economy. The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus has created and support SWIFT because they understand the importance of rural connectivity – like the EU – and if Canada can commit and invest in the same goals, our rural and agricultural sector can effectively compete in the global economy.