Trudeau promises to connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed internet in the next few years

The Liberal government is promising to spend more than a billion dollars to connect most Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026.

The announcement comes as more Canadians find themselves living online while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday his plan to launch the $1.75-billion universal broadband fund to build infrastructure across the country, mainly in rural and remote communities. One billion of that was previously announced in the 2019 federal budget.

The prime minister said the government has also reached a $600-million agreement with Telesat for satellite capacity to improve broadband in remote areas and in the North.

“Today’s investment puts us on track to get 98 per cent of Canadians connected to high-speed internet in the next few years, and everyone connected a few years after that,” he said during a briefing in Ottawa. 

“These are ambitious targets, and we’re ready to meet them.”

Trudeau, who was joined by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef, Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said $150 million from the fund will be available immediately.

Monday morning’s announcement will be followed by a technical briefing for reporters about how the program will work.

The CRTC declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service in 2016.

However, its data suggests just 40.8 per cent of rural Canadian households have access to at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds.

The government said those speeds will allow Canadians to work and learn online and access telehealth resources.

The Liberal government made a promise to improve access last year on the campaign trail and Monsef promised to hasten those plans in response to the pandemic.

That pledge was also reiterated during September’s throne speech.

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