Thank you. Sorry.
Lisa Setlakwe is senior ADM of strategy and innovation policy at ISED.
I'd like to thank the distinguished members of this committee for the opportunity to update them on our government's efforts to bring high-speed Internet service and mobile wireless service to the millions of Canadians who live in rural and remote regions.
First, I want to acknowledge the valuable work that the committee has contributed and is contributing to our understanding of this complex and vitally important issue.
From day one, our government has been working to ensure that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to succeed no matter where they live. I know this committee shares that goal, as do all members of Parliament. The unanimous support that this House has given to Mr. Amos' motion shows government and private sector partners who are working together to address the Internet and wireless deficit across the country that there is a real commitment to get this important work done.
Since January, when I was appointed Canada's first Minister of Rural Economic Development, I have met and spoken with Canadians from all walks of life in rural and remote communities from coast to coast to coast.
From my own personal experience of living in rural Nova Scotia, I have seen how rural Canadians make our country a more vibrant and prosperous place to live and work.
Though small in population, rural communities account for roughly 30% of our country's gross domestic product. They are the drivers of Canada's natural resource and agricultural sectors, and they are supported by dedicated workers who are deeply committed to their communities.
In his mandate letter to me, the Prime Minister asked me to develop a rural economic development strategy.
Since I started travelling across this country in January, I have listened and learned, and while each community is unique and faces different challenges, the number one on most of their lists is the need to be connected.
Our rural economic development strategy is in its final stages of development, and I can assure you that it will fully reflect the concerns about broadband and wireless that I have heard repeatedly throughout my travels. We know that, when it comes to digital infrastructure, there is an urban-rural divide, and I'd like to take a moment to look at some of these disparities.
Although more than nine of 10 urban households have access to high-speed Internet service, only one in three rural households have the same access. Lack of high-speed service means that these communities lack the essential services that urban Canadians take for granted. It means that Canadians cannot sell their products and services online. They must resort to accessing government services over the phone instead of online. Many farmers with multi-million dollar agribusinesses still rely on phones and fax machines to run their operations. These realities are having a real impact on people in rural Canada and, in some cases, are leaving them behind.
It's incumbent upon us as the federal government to work with provincial, territorial and private sector partners to bridge that divide.
The divide that we're talking about shouldn't be limited specifically to the communities in rural and remote areas of our country. It exists on our roads and highways where there is no mobile wireless coverage. This lack of connectivity is a significant challenge for those working in the transportation industry, such as truckers, for example, and it is a risk to public safety, particularly for rural Canadians, who need to be able to communicate along remote roadways, fields and natural areas.
Wireless coverage is also essential to the national public alerting system, which relies on wireless service to deliver emergency alerts to Canadians.
On a more basic level, rural wireless mobile services are as important to rural communities as they are to urban communities in terms of economic development, as well as personal use. That is why we announced the accelerated capital cost allowance, which is helping telecommunications companies make investments in rural Canada. As announced by Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus and Xplornet, this change will connect thousands of people in their homes and provide cell coverage along unserved highway corridors across the country.
With respect to both broadband and mobile wireless access, this digital divide holds back rural Canadians from participating fully in the global and digital world. Through the connect to innovate program, we are extending high-speed Internet access to 900 rural and remote communities and an estimated 380,000 households, with more to come. That includes 190 indigenous communities across Canada. This program sets the stage for increased investments coast to coast to coast.
Since launching the connect to innovate program in budget 2016, the government has leveraged $554 million from the private sector and other levels of government for about 180 projects. These projects will improve Internet connectivity to those 380,000 households and 900 communities, more than tripling the 300 communities initially targeted. ln total, through the connect to innovate program, 20,000 kilometres of fibre network will be installed across this country.
We are connecting households and business, schools and hospitals, as well as supporting mobile wireless networks. We are establishing fibre optic connections in the farthest point north in all of Canada.
These investments show that our government recognizes that access to high-speed Internet and mobile wireless service is not a luxury; it is a necessity. We're not finished making these investments.
ln budget 2019, our government has made an ambitious new commitment to ensure that, over time, every single household and business in Canada has high-speed connectivity. As you know, we anticipate having 95% of the country connected by 2026, and 100% of the country connected by 2030.
We are investing in tomorrow's technologies, such as 5G and low earth orbit satellite capacity, today. The budget announced $1.7 billion in new broadband investments, including a new universal broadband fund and a top-up for the connect to innovate program that will focus on extending backbone infrastructure to underserved communities. For the most difficult to reach communities, funding may also support last-mile connections to individual homes and businesses.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank will seek to invest up to $1 billion over the next 10 years and leverage at least $2 billion in private capital to increase broadband access for Canadians. The CRTC's $750-million broadband fund, launched last fall, will help to improve connectivity services across the country, including wireless mobile services. Broadband infrastructure projects are also eligible for funding under the $2-billion rural and northern communities stream of the investing in Canada infrastructure program.
We understand that our success depends not only on our government's commitment to invest, but also that of our provincial, territorial and private sector partners. That's the reason we created the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is currently exploring opportunities to attract private sector investments in high-speed Internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved communities.
Overall, budget 2019 is proposing a new, co-ordinated plan that would deliver $5 billion to $6 billion in investments in rural broadband over the next 10 years to help build a fully connected Canada.
To ensure maximum efficiency and coordination and to bring maximum benefit to underserved Canadians, officials are currently drafting a national connectivity strategy that promotes collaboration and effective investments of public dollars. This strategy will outline clear objectives and targets against which progress can be measured; provide a tool to guide efforts and improve outcomes for all Canadian homes, businesses, public institutions and indigenous peoples; and create accountability and responsibility for all levels of government to contribute towards eliminating the digital divide.
I'm proud to be part of a government that recognizes that building our nation's high-speed Internet is as important as building our nation's roads. That's how we will ensure that all Canadians have equal opportunities to succeed, regardless of where they live.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. I'm happy to take your questions.