Feds to cut regulatory fees for satellite Internet, TV services for rural areas

OTTAWA – Ottawa has unveiled its plans intended to make Internet and television services less expensive for people in rural areas.

Industry Minister James Moore said Tuesday the government aims to reduce regulatory fees charged to satellite companies that provide service to communities outside the reach of the large telecom networks in urban and suburban centres.

The move would make Canada more competitive and attract new investments from companies that want to expand or improve their services, he said.

Rural Canadians depend on satellite companies to deliver wireless, TV and Internet services through high-frequency spectrum, a valuable radio frequency that transmits large quantities of data quickly.

“By putting in place the right market conditions that support greater investment in the satellite sector, our government is supporting Canadian consumers by providing them with more choice, lower prices and better service,” said Moore in a statement.

The lower fees are scheduled to come into effect by April 1, 2016.

Access to the airwaves in rural communities has been an area of contention for operators for several years.

In 2012, Chatham Internet Access in southwestern Ontario said it was struggling to provide enough bandwidth to its thousands of customers, while Xplornet Communications said the high cost of buying more spectrum meant more rural Canadians would be forced back onto dial-up connections.

Industry Canada responded by making changes designed to simplify the process of acquiring spectrum and the way that providers could gain access to additional bandwidth.

The federal government outlined plans in the 2014 budget that would set aside $305 million over five years specifically to expand rural and northern broadband Internet service.