Broadband internet for the people

A recent episode of TVO’s The Agenda featured a panel discussion on “Ontario’s Broadband Problem”.

“Better broadband has been promised by both the federal and Ontario government, but it is still a long way away from being equitable and available across the province. The Agenda looks at the challenges and path forward.”

I have a few thoughts of my own on the path forward, none of which were discussed in this episode.

  1. We should make it easier for Ontarians to move to Toronto.

    Toronto has more and better paying jobs, more and better cultural and entertainment amenities, and of course, much better broadband internet.

    Many people from Ontario’s smaller communities would like to move to Toronto but can’t because of our insane housing prices. As discussed previously on this blog, these high prices are a direct consequence of restrictive land use rules that constrain housing supply.

    By building more housing in Toronto, we make it possible for more people to live here, and to participate in all the awesome things that the city has to offer– including broadband internet.
  2. We should address cell tower NIMBYism.

    One of the show’s panelists was Caledon mayor Allan Thompson, who mentioned that access to broadband was the number one issue mentioned the last time he was out door-knocking.

    According to a friend who knows this beat better than anyone, Caledon has one of the most onerous telecommunication tower protocols that make it very hard to get new towers built.

    Among other things, the City of Caledon has set a very large notification radius within which residents must be notified of the new tower proposal. This notification provide opportunities for (often successful) organized opposition.

    The City of Caledon is now circulating a petition to declare broadband internet an essential service. They might want to start by allowing for more of the required infrastructure to be built quickly.
  3. We should let foreign-owned telcos operate in Canada.

    CRTC rules currently prohibit any foreign-owned telecommunication company from obtaining a domestic market share of greater than 10%. This protectionist regulation limits participation by the larger American and global firms, who might otherwise jump at the opportunity to invest and compete in our regional markets.
  4. We should issue Elon Musk his BITS license for Starlink.

    On May 20th, an application for a Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) from Elon Musk’s SpaceX was posted on the CRTC website. This license would permit SpaceX to provide satellite internet across the country.

    That should be an easy “yes”.