Broadband access in rural areas is costly whether it is fixed or mobile. The low population density often coupled with remoteness make a positive return on investment for providers difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Subsidies are available to help broadband providers bring their services at an affordable price for those living in rural areas, especially considering that broadband access is not a luxury but a necessity for everyday life and economic activity.

Obtaining subsidies to deploy high performance broadband services rural and remote areas is not easy and LYA brings  extensive and successful prior experience in supporting applicants to government programs.

But before we address this, we focus below on key statistics on the urban and rural divide as well as  key elements of the second call for applications of the CRTC Broadband Fund.

As an example and as shown in the Table below, data collected by OpenSignal in mid 2019 reflects the poorer access to 4G in rural areas compared with major cities. The Canadian data is compared with the USA and the UK, where the maximum availability of broadband in rural areas surpasses the Canadian availability. Canada is not that far behind but there is still substantial work to be done to have full availability.

CRTC issued a second Call for Applications for subsidies (Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2019-372) to bring mobile and fixed broadband in rural areas of Canada, recognizing the lack of service there. Both satellite and terrestrial operators are eligible for these subsidies. This call does not however cover communities in Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (which were the subject of a prior Call for Applications).

There are numerous criteria per which the applications will be evaluated. As per CRTC 2019-379, in satellite-dependent communities, three types of project will be considered:

  1. Projects to increase satellite transport capacity (operational costs only):
    applications for funding to cover operational costs annually, over a certain
    amount of time, to increase satellite transport capacity.
  2. Infrastructure projects: applications for capital funding to be invested in the
    earth station equipment and access infrastructure to improve broadband
    Internet access service.
  3. Infrastructure projects and operational costs: applications for a combination of
    capital funding for infrastructure and funding for satellite transport operational
    costs.

The CRTC defines geographic areas where projects are eligible using the following criteria:

  1. To be eligible for funding for a fixed broadband Internet access service project, an
    applicant must propose to build or upgrade infrastructure in an eligible geographic
    area, defined as a 25 sq. km hexagon in which Statistics Canada’s latest census data
    show that there is at least one household but in which no household has access to
    broadband Internet access service at universal service objective-level download and
    upload speeds (50 megabits per second [Mbps] and 10 Mbps, respectively).
  2. To be eligible for funding for a transport project, an applicant must propose to build
    or upgrade infrastructure to an eligible community, defined as a small population
    centre with a population of fewer than 30,000 residents, that is located at least 2 km
    from a point of presence (PoP) with a minimum capacity of 1 gigabit per second
    (Gbps).
  3. To be eligible for funding for a mobile wireless service project, an applicant must propose to build or upgrade infrastructure in an eligible geographic area, defined as either
    • a 25 sq. km  hexagon in which Statistics Canada’s latest census data show that
      there is at least one household but in which no household has access to
      coverage by the latest generally deployed mobile wireless technology
      (currently long-term evolution [LTE]), or
    • part of a major transportation road that does not have access to coverage by
      the latest generally deployed mobile wireless technology (currently LTE).

The applicants and projects will be assessed on their eligibility with many other criteria: the ability to operate in Canada, financial solvency, relevant infrastructure experience, project’s lack of viability without funding, the amount to be invested, evidence of community consultation and support, minimum capacity, open access (a criteria which brings extensive implications), minimum service speeds, pricing and affordability, and the extent to which the project makes use of the latest technology

It is perhaps most important to demonstrate that the project being assessed is not viable without obtaining a subsidy from the Broadband Fund.

The applications are due by 17:00 Pacific Daylight time, on the 27th of March 2020.

LYA has successfully supported a number or organizations in obtaining broadband subsidies across Canada in prior government programs. We can help you and your team develop your entire proposal from securing community support to developing the business case and service offerings, as examples of key elements that CRTC will be looking for. Please do not hesitate to contact us at lya@lya.com or via our web site at www.lya.com. We look forward to hearing from you and to contributing to your success.