Editorial – 5G Internet service for urban centres should not displace rural Canadians

Mac Olsen

Rural residents in the Peace Country should take notice of a federal proposal to provide 5G Internet service to urban centres, because we stand to lose substantially if it proceeds.

The Edmonton Sun had a story about this issue in their Sept. 17 edition.

In a September 17 story in the Edmonton Sun, writer Wayne Lowrie says that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is considering a proposal to “take broadband spectrum used by rural wireless providers and auction it off for 5G wireless that would be available mainly in the big cities.”

The definition of 5G, as found at https://searchnetworking.techtarget.com:

“Fifth-generation wireless, or 5G, is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections could travel at rates as high as 20 Gbps by some estimates…”

However, Xplornet has warned against the ISED proposal, saying it would have “dire consequences for rural Canadians.”

“Since there are no alternative spectrum bands available to which Xplornet and other providers can move their rural customers, the result of the options proposed will mean the reduction or disconnection of service to 200,000 or more rural households, with Xplornet alone forfeiting between 25 to 66 per cent of its spectrum in the 3500 MHz band,” the company told ISED.

As I said in a previous column, companies like TELUS should be mandated to roll out fibre optic service universally, and not just pick and choose where they want to provide it.

Lowrie’s article also says that urban 5G service could open the possibility of improved connectivity for things like self-driving cars.

But I don’t care about the capabilities of self-driving cars for urban centres. I care about the improved quality of Internet service that rural residents deserve.

If the ISED approves urban 5G service at the expense of rural residents, then once again we will be short-changed. We will be left struggling to participate in the global economy.

What about First Nations and Metis Settlements? Their need for upgraded Internet service is just as compelling as for rural residents, especially as many are trying to address poverty and mental health issues within their communities.

And let’s not forget that, in 2016, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission declared that all Canadians should be allowed to have access to high-speed Internet and the federal government was to provide $750 million over five years for expansion of remote service.

And the proposal that the ISED is now considering would contradict the CRTC’s mandate – which must not be allowed to occur.

It’s important for rural residents across Canada to voice their disapproval of the ISED proposal to their MPs. Stand up for your Internet service, rural residents and for improved service. Make the federal government live up to its promises to us.


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