With the Federal Election just days away, an issue that is becoming more prevalent is Canada’s digital future. Vancouver’s Open Media recently submitted a survey to each of the political parties in order to evaluate their commitments to making the Internet more accessible and affordable to Canadians. According to Open Media:
The major parties — with the notable exception of the Conservatives — have responded to the desire for pro-Internet commitments this election. Despite letters from over 20,000 Canadians in just the last two days demanding that they complete the Survey, the Conservative Party has remained silent.
While the Conservatives held back, the other parties made significant pro-Internet commitments, outlining how far they will go to make the Internet open and affordable, and stop Big Telecom from stifling the digital economy.
Open Media provided scoring results from the surveys in the form of a “Digital Future Rating” on each party. It also contacted local candidates to express themselves as “Pro-Internet Candidates.”
The NDP ranked the highest in the survey while the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois ranked lowest; the Conservatives could not be properly scored.
- NDP: 29/30
- Pirate Party: 29/30
- Liberal: 27/30
- Green: 24/30
- Bloc Quebecois: 24/30
- Conservatives: N/A
CBC provides a good summary of the survey and outlines some key points in the spending commitments of some of the major parties:
The NDP promised to spend the most money on expansion of high-speed internet — $2 billion over four years, contingent on matching funds from industry — to expand the service to underserved communities. The Liberal party believes it can achieve “100 per cent high-speed internet access for all Canadian households” with just $500 million over three years.
In his few comments, Conservative candidate Tony Clement mentioned his party’s 2009 commitment to spend $225 million over three years to expand high-speed internet access…
The biggest voice behind the issue has been Steve Anderson of Open Media. According to Anderson,
Canadians already pay some of highest prices for the Internet in the industrialized world.. Whereas other countries are making the Internet cheaper and faster, Canada is moving backwards. This serves as a reminder that Big Telecom companies are not going to move on their own — we need smart policy that restructures the telecom industry so it works for Canadians again.
He attributes this problem to the fact that there is little competition in Internet provision and that organizations are responsible for both building Internet infrastructure providing access.
In Canada, we have a few companies that dominate both the business of providing access to the customer via the last mile of the Internet (wholesale), as well as the business of providing access to the wires that connect the customers to the backbone of the Internet (retail). It is this domination of both wholesale and retail markets that experts say is at least partially responsible for the high costs of Internet access in Canada, as well as the lack of choice and competition in the market.