Trudeau’s internet funds will be difficult to coordinate: experts

The government wants to connect 100 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2030. REUTERS
The government wants to connect 100 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2030. REUTERS

Experts say Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is going to have a challenging time coordinating between different departments to roll out funding for broadband internet projects as the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) announced $2 billion to connect Canadians.

Trudeau, with Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, and Michael Sabia, chair of the board of the CIB, announced Thursday the $10 billion CIB’s growth plan in an effort to support Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery. 

The additional $1 billion from the CIB that was announced in the 2019 budget, will connect about 750,000 homes and small businesses to broadband services in “underserved communities,” over the next three years. Sabia said funds from today’s announcement will be rolled out by the end of 2020.

John Lawford, executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said in an interview that while the announcement is positive, it is more of a political move under the “excuse of COVID.”

“I haven’t seen a coordinated government thing. This is yet another sort of political layer of funding on top of all the other political layers of funding on top of the very inadequate CRTC fund,” Lawford said. 

Since 2016, the government has announced various funds to help connect more Canadians to broadband services. This includes the $585 million Connect to Innovate program administered through the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Ministry; the $1.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund administered through the Rural Economic Development Ministry; and $2 billion that would be brought in through private investment announced in the 2019 budget. 

The CRTC also announced its own $750M Broadband Fund in late 2016. 

In the 2019 budget, the government pledged to connect 100 per cent of Canadians to broadband internet services by