Madam Chair and honourable members, on behalf of Telus I would like to thank the committee for inviting us here today to talk about how we are supporting Canadians through the COVID-19 crisis.
My name is Tony Geheran, and I am the executive vice-president and chief customer officer at Telus and the executive prime of the Telus emergency management operating committee. Joining me is my colleague Stephen Schmidt, our vice-president of regulatory affairs.
COVID-19 has exposed how important connectivity is to all Canadians. Telus is consistently experiencing four times the network traffic compared with our busiest day pre-COVID-19. Our networks have stood up to this test. In fact, Opensignal released a report on Tuesday that shows Canada now has the fastest wireless speeds in the world. This is a direct result of careful planning and long-term investment. As we begin to look toward Canada’s economic recovery, it is critical to focus on policy frameworks and continue to maintain a stable regulatory regime that supports and encourages ongoing investment in robust high-quality networks.
At Telus, supporting our communities and our team is at the heart of our corporate culture. Our quick and decisive actions have contributed $150 million to support Canadians through the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed us to protect our team and preserve our capacity to support the nation. Between March 18 and March 23, we leveraged our existing flexible work styles program to increase our work-from-home rate for our call centre agents from 40% to 99%, in addition to implementing industry-leading safety and physical distancing practices for our teams supporting customers in the field.
We put power behind our Telus Health business, enabling virtual doctor visits through our electronic medical record platforms. Since launching in April, doctors have scheduled more than 30,000 virtual appointments with Canadians. To support at-risk populations, we repurposed our mobile health clinics to help with testing, assessment or emergency quarantine shelters across Canada’s major cities.
We committed publicly not to disconnect any customers during this time and offered flexible payment arrangements for those experiencing financial challenges. We waived fees for low-income families enrolled in our Internet for good program and expanded it to include students in need. We've also supported our front-line health care workers through a $10-million donation from our Future Friendly Foundation.
This only scratches the surface of how Telus is delivering on its social purpose, and I would be happy to share a full list with this committee following this meeting.
I would like to turn now to the question of rural connectivity, a topic of much debate in recent meetings of this committee.
COVID-19 has accentuated the need for high-speed Internet access for Canadians everywhere. Since 2013, we have connected 282 rural communities to the Telus PureFibre network, including 53 indigenous communities, and we have another 50 rural communities planned for this year. Since the start of the pandemic, our commitment to rural connectivity has only deepened. In Alberta and B.C., we accelerated our investment in rural broadband to more than 60,000 Canadians across 32 communities, with an additional 27 in progress.
Here are two examples I'd like to share with you. Our $7.5-million investment to connect Pemberton and the Lil’wat Nation, a B.C. community of some 2,000 residents, to our PureFibre network was completed last year and was supported by the local developer community, which raised an additional $250,000 to help the project reach the financial barrier so it could go ahead. These homes and businesses now have access to connectivity of up to one gigabit per second. In addition, in partnership with the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada, we recently embarked on a project to bring connectivity to the 5,000 residents of 14 hyper-remote communities on Quebec’s lower north shore. These are only accessible by air or sea. We expect to complete this project by December, one year ahead of schedule.
Where fixed network costs are prohibitive, we’re leveraging our wireless network. We currently serve 80,000 high-speed Internet subscribers through wireless and have invested a further $9 million to support increased capacity for the usage we are now experiencing. We also connected more than 1.5 million rural Canadians to new or improved wireless LTE coverage between 2015 and 2019.
As you can see, Telus has a long-standing track record of connecting rural communities. We have invested $5 billion in infrastructure over the past six years, of which $1 billion has been used to connect 40% of all rural Canadian homes we serve, despite 30% higher build costs.
Telus is the right partner to close the rural connectivity gap. We are committed to finding creative solutions, but we need support from the federal and provincial governments and better spectrum policy. For example, the current practice of setting aside more than 40% of available spectrum for regional providers is not working. Although this practice has been in place since 2008, large amounts of set-aside spectrum remain undeployed in rural areas.
Set-asides have also led Canada to have some of the highest spectrum costs in the world. Additionally, the current 20-year deployment model is not working. More stringent deployment conditions should be attached to all spectrum licences to drive network construction.
With COVID-19 demonstrating how important it is to bring connectivity to all Canadians, it's time we rethink our country's approach to spectrum policy.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.