Cybera Supports SWIFT Call For Equal Access to the CRTC’s Broadband Fund

Bright/translucent lines: Areas where SWIFT estimates internet service provider offer service packages with speeds that meet or exceed CRTC’s 50/10 “basic service” target.
Dark hexagons: Areas considered served/ineligible to apply to CRTC fund.

Last week, Cybera submitted a letter in support of Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT)’s appeal to the CRTC to reconsider its Broadband Fund eligibility criteria. The SWIFT Network is a not-for-profit, collective broadband initiative that seeks to help southwestern Ontario connect, compete and keep pace in a digital world by building a holistic, ultra-high-speed fibre optic network across the region.

In its appeal, SWIFT argued that determining eligibility for the Broadband Fund through the use of 25km² hexagonal units, and the exclusion of “partially served areas” for eligibility, has led to significant underrepresentation. The organization has found that, through the current Broadband Fund eligibility criteria, 100,000 to 250,000 underserved premises in partially served areas in southwestern Ontario alone are ineligible for funding.

In our original response to the CRTC’ consultation on the Broadband Funding Regime, Cybera similarly argued against the use of the 25km² hexagonal unit system, questioning its lack of granularity:

“The current 25 square kilometre hexagonal units are not ideal for defining geographic eligibility.  Geographic units don’t take into account actual population density or distribution, and only makes sense when the population is uniformly distributed across the entire hexagonal unit.  Most importantly, the threshold of one serviced household indicating that the entire unit is served is problematic. Service coverage needs to be as granular as individual households.”

As such, we support and second each of SWIFT’s four recommendations in their application:

  • Redefine service area boundaries and allow areas that are lacking access to meet the Commission’s “basic service” 50/10 thresholds as eligible to apply for funding.
  • Allow lower levels of government and underserved communities to provide other evidence, such as standardized internet measurements, to demonstrate their needs and therefore eligibility to apply.
  • Reconsider that in “partially served” areas, market forces are not “likely” to improve connectivity anytime soon.
  • At a minimum, allow underserved areas in “partially served” zones to be eligible to apply as part of larger projects to incentivize private sector participation.

Cybera continues to support the Commission’s current priority to fund eligible geographic areas where no service at the universal objective standard is available. And while we also support SWIFT’s recommendation that partially served areas be designated as eligible for funding, we don’t want this to be at the cost of funding areas that have no service at all.

You can find out more about SWIFT’s appeal here.

And you can read Cybera’s submission here.