Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for her question. I am pleased to respond to her comments about wireless network coverage.
Canadians need access to telecommunications services, including wireless services, in order to participate in the digital economy. This is why the government's telecommunications policy is based on three main objectives: quality, coverage and affordability.
Mobile coverage is indispensable, and gaps in service are frustrating to Canadians. The government has taken steps to expand the mobile wireless network in rural areas. This involves requiring that providers provide service in rural areas in accordance with the terms of the appropriate spectrum licences so that Canadians across the country have access to state-of-the-art wireless services.
The government is also looking to the future. Data traffic from the growing number of connected devices will only increase over time. Wireless airwaves, known as spectrum, are essential to supporting increasing demand for data. The government is responding through the release of different types of spectrum. For example, the 600 megahertz spectrum band is excellent for providing rural and urban areas with mobile services because it can carry signals over long distances and deep into buildings.
That is why our upcoming 600 megahertz auction will require carriers to deploy beyond the major urban areas. These requirements are more stringent than in the past and place an emphasis on promoting rural connectivity.
Mid-band spectrum allows for a mixture of providing coverage and capacity. The government initiated a consultation to release additional mid-band spectrum, known as 3,500 megahertz, while supporting the provision of services in rural areas.
The release of spectrum is part of the government's broader rural strategy, which also includes the connect to innovate program. This program will invest up to $500 million by 2021 and bring enhanced high-speed Internet to over 900 rural and remote communities.
Also, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, recently announced the details of its $750-million broadband fund. As part of the fund, the CRTC set a goal that wireless coverage should include major transportation roads to the greatest extent possible.
Wireless projects will be chosen by geographic coverage and kilometres of road covered. The CRTC will begin the competitive process to select projects in 2019.
Supporting new technology also requires investment in network infrastructure. In 2016, Canadian telecommunications companies invested over $11 billion in their networks. Wireless 4G or LTE networks are available to 99% of Canadians.
The government understands the need for high-speed Internet—