- High Speed internet has become an essential service from an economic, educational, and quality of life-perspective in Canada.
- In Saskatchewan, we enjoy exceptional access to internet in urban areas. However, in rural areas, the access has speed and data cap limitations that create barriers for our farmers and rural residents.
- It is essential to the development of our rural areas, that we continue to improve access to high speed internet with higher speeds and fewer restrictions.
- At the current time, the Saskatchewan Telecommunications Corporation (SaskTel) is the primary delivery agent for internet services in rural areas. However, its mandate is predominantly commercial with cost to expand being a limiting factor.
- Public policy mandates have been at the heart of the rationale for the Saskatchewan Crown sector for the past hundred years; I believe an enhanced mandate for SaskTel is in order.
- I propose that we ensure that telecommunication infrastructure is in place to enhance economic success and improve quality of life for rural Saskatchewan.
- Key to this success is an enhanced high-speed internet. To that end, if I become Premier, I would mandate SaskTel to improve high speed internet access for farm and rural communities. Specifically, I expect at least 25 Mbps – a 225% increase over present available speeds - within five years. As part of that mandate, I would direct SaskTel to institute a program to extend fibre optics to residents in smaller rural communities.
- 1. Question: What would the cost of this policy/commitment be?
Answer: Funding for this program would be as a SaskTel capital initiative and paid for through the increased service revenues. While the program would likely not create any large profits, we believe that it would, at a minimum, cover its cost.
- 2. Question: What prices would rural consumers pay for the new services?
Answer: Rural consumers pay according to the cost of the services; rates will be similar to what major urban areas pay.
- 3. Question: How much do you believe this program would cost?
Answer: Through a combination of increased capital and redirection of existing SaskTel capital, we believe that it would be a $150 M program over the next five years. SaskTel spends approximately $300 M each year on capital. Therefore, this program would be a minor increase to and redirection of their capital program.
- 4. Question: Would other telecommunications companies participate in the program?
Answer: No, this would be a program with SaskTel. More importantly, other Telecoms have never invested in rural telecommunications and we do not expect that to begin now.
- 5. Question: When would SaskTel begin this program?
Answer: It would begin in the 2018/19 fiscal year and completed within five years.
- 6. Question: Would there be data caps for the new services?
Answer: There would be no data caps for all land-line or fibre optics-based services. Wireless service data caps must be appropriate.
- 7. Question: Why do you think that this type of initiative is important?
Answer: From a quality of life-perspective, the internet allows us to email, shop, watch television and play videos/games. But more importantly, the internet is a key business tool for our farmers; they need access to real time weather data, farm prices, information related to suppliers and more. In addition, the internet is a valuable resource for online and remote education – both formal and informal. The web is essential for the introduction of new products and services and is a key piece of infrastructure for our farmers and rural residents; staying competitive and informed is important.
- 8. Question: What high speed internet services are presently available in rural Saskatchewan?
- Answer: Rural Saskatchewan has high speed internet through four services:
- Wireline DSL service which provides speeds between 5 and 10 MBPS (megabytes per second) with unlimited data (SaskTel).
- Wireless Fusion Service which provides speeds between 5 and 10 MBPS with a data cap of 50 GB (Gigabytes - SaskTel).
- Wireless Mobility Service which provides speeds between 5 and 50 MBPS with limited data caps (SaskTel).
- Satellite Service which provides speeds between 5 and 10 MBPS with limited data caps and limited reliability (Explornet).
- 9. Question: What are the internet speeds that SaskTel provides in rural Saskatchewan? Answer: We understand that SaskTel provides Wireline DSL High Speed internet service to 401 rural communities in Saskatchewan.
- 20 have download speeds up to 1.5 Mbps,
- 30 have download speeds up to 5 Mbps,
- 240 have download speeds up to 10 Mbps,
- 10 have download speeds up to 25 Mbps (and Max Television service).
- 10. Question: Would make any changes in Northern Saskatchewan?
Answer: SaskTel has recently completed a series of northern major upgrades, designed to improve services for northern residents. These include:
- SaskTel has worked with SaskPower and Cameco to deploy over 500 km of fibre to Northern Saskatchewan.
- SaskTel has deployed DSL High Speed Internet to 26 more northern communities under a federal program.
- SaskTel has also completed an upgrade to 6 communities including Creighton, a community that has provided those northern communities with internet speeds of five Mbps
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