SaskTel granted another extension to find broadband fix for rural customers
September 28, 2012
OTTAWA - Just days after announcing it would ensure its rural customers continued access to high-speed Internet, the federal government has intervened by deploying more spectrum and granting SaskTel a second extension to find a better solution.
SaskTel’s 8,000 customers have relied on a system of towers that were to be discontinued at the end of this year due to broadband spectrum allocation changes being implemented by Industry Canada. The Crown Utility’s original proposal earlier this week to have customers choose from SaskTel High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Internet Service or a 4G Mobile Internet Stick service plan was met with an outcry from users who considered the options inferior.
SaskTel has had since 2006 to find a solution when it was initially given a five-year transition period to reconfigure their networks and find appropriate solutions for their customers. In March of 2011, Industry Canada provided SaskTel with an extension through to December 31, 2012. But following another SaskTel call for more time, the government has extended the deadline until March 31, 2014.
“In this day and age, access to the Internet is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Access to the Internet opens up new opportunities, especially in rural and remote communities. In order for every Canadian to reap the benefits of the digital economy, we need a reliable digital infrastructure. That is why we are deploying more spectrum for mobile broadband services and ensuring greater choice for consumers with new entrant telecommunications companies,” said the Harper government in a news release.
"Canadians lead the world in Internet use, but there remains a gap between rural and urban Canadians in terms of access to leading-edge broadband," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry. "This is unacceptable and our government is taking steps to ensure rural Canadians have the same reliable access as urban Canadians."
The Harper Government is making additional spectrum available to allow telecom companies to bring the latest 4G LTE mobile networks to Canadian consumers and businesses, including those in rural areas. This it says will result in improved connectivity for consumers, increased business productivity and enhanced safety for Canadians.
"Our government is ensuring that Canadians can access essential online services like online banking and e-health at a competitive price," said Kelly Block, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar.
"Leaving 8,000 rural Canadians without reliable access to the Internet is unacceptable. That's why we are giving SaskTel the additional time they need to upgrade their systems and provide a leading-edge service to Saskatchewanians."
SaskTel maintains it is the only major provider that continues to improve coverage and service options in rural Saskatchewan.
We are extremely pleased to receive an extension on the spectrum license from the federal government,” said Ron Styles, SaskTel President and CEO. “I would like to assure our WBBI customers that we are committed to providing them with comparable or better services to what they presently have and we will continue to analyze viable service options as we transition customers to new technologies.”
The Harper Government plans to hold the 700 MHz auction next year, to be followed by auction of the 2500 MHz spectrum within a year.