Arctic Council Task Force on Improved Connectivity in the Arctic (TFICA)

Digital connectivity has become one of the key factors to help close economic, social and territorial divides, supporting the modernization of local economies and underpinning the diversification of economic activities. However, in many areas of the Arctic, the existing telecommunications infrastructure is insufficient to meet current and future demands. In 2015, the Arctic Council created the Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic to prepare a circumpolar infrastructure assessment as a first step in exploring ways to improve telecommunications in the Arctic.  In 2017, a second taskforce, the Task Force on Improved Connectivity in the Arctic (TFICA), was created to continue this work and will report back to Ministers of the Arctic States in 2019.

Recently, TFICA met with representatives from the telecommunications sector.  The main goals of this meeting were to gain a better understanding of the technology that exists today, discuss user needs and explore ways to accelerate network deployment in the Arctic. Many of the participants shared the feeling that we are on the threshold of something new; various solutions and new innovations will be available in the near future, in 2-4 years’ time. A variety of technologies – LEO (low-Earth-orbit) and HEO (highly elliptical orbit) satellites, sea cables, HF (high frequency) technology, and even 5G, to name some examples – will likely be increasingly available in the years ahead.

Many companies share the vision that those services that might ultimately be available in the Arctic could also work in other remote areas. Perhaps they could even be used globally or reproduced in other challenging contexts. Nevertheless, it was underlined that the Arctic region has very specific challenges and very severe conditions.

Overall, connectivity in the Arctic will depend on different solutions, as there is no “one size fits all”.  The TFICA will continue its work and concentrate on clarifying needs of different users, exploring financial models, and creating an overview of available technology. The common goal is to improve connectivity to enhance the lives of those that live and work in the Arctic. ◉

Thank you to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency for providing this brief.


Broadband Connectivity in Rural Canada: Overcoming the Digital Divide

Report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

In April 2018, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released a report making 12 recommendations to the Government of Canada to improve broadband internet access across Canada, including in rural and so-called remote areas. The list of recommendations appears here.

Recommendation 1
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission consider not only broadband speed, but also other indicators in its targets. These indicators could include, but not be limited to, standards of parity between urban and rural centers, network performance, purchased consumer packages, latency and redundancy.

Recommendation 2
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission consider regularly reviewing its target broadband speeds (currently set at 50 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload) to ensure they remain relevant with technological development and international standards, and publish their findings in their annual report on the telecommunications sector.

Recommendation 3
The Government of Canada integrate broadband accessibility issues such as affordability and digital literacy in rural Canada within federal programs.

Recommendation 4
The Government of Canada take steps to address the challenges of small providers, non-profit providers, and non-incumbent providers of accessing existing infrastructures for the purpose of deploying broadband access, including easements, real servitudes, especially in regards to utility poles. Such measures could include legislative amendments, when feasible, in collaboration with provincial governments.

Recommendation 5
The Government of Canada consider ways to encourage the integration of broadband deployment within all infrastructure renewal programs.

Recommendation 6
The Government of Canada consider the spectrum allocation process for the purpose of broadband deployment. More specifically, it should focus on the scope of licences, pricing, and effective use of allocated spectrum, including ensuring that small providers, non-profit providers, and non-incumbent providers have reasonable access to spectrum for broadband deployment.

Recommendation 7
The Government of Canada consider ways to further encourage non-traditional network operators to apply for federal funding, including, but not limited to, cooperatives, non-profits, partnerships, and local governments.

Recommendation 8
The Government of Canada consider ways to increase the accessibility of funding programs for small providers, non-profit providers, and non-incumbent providers. This may include various means, such as simplifying the application and reporting process for these providers.

Recommendation 9
The Government of Canada ensure funding programs support both backbone and “last-mile” infrastructure, and remain technology neutral.

Recommendation 10
The Government of Canada incentivize and encourage investments and partnerships for broadband deployment in rural and remote regions.

Recommendation 11
Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada develop a comprehensive rural broadband strategy in collaboration with key stakeholders including, but not limited to, all levels of government, civil society, Internet services providers, First Nations, and non-profit organizations.

Recommendation 12
The Government of Canada consider new ways of collecting service and performance data in addition to the speed of Internet services, including, but not limited to, adding new indicators, using local knowledge, and reconsidering the conclusions drawn from the current hexagonal mapping system. Y

To read the full report and the Government of Canada’s response visit:

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