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The Universal Broadband Fund: A Dash to Put Remote Canadian Areas on the Grid

The ISP Business is Just Getting Started

Nowadays, high-speed internet access has become to us what water is to a fish.

 

Well, maybe after air, water and food, but there is no denying that our personal and professional lives now heavily depend on online connectivity.

 

News, daily communications, shopping, everyday business, all sorts of entertainment, worldwide trade and so on can hardly exist without the internet.

 

That is why ISP and WISP businesses are booming, and both the public and the private sector are scrambling to strengthen their presence in this field.

 

The competition, though, is getting fierce, and businesses need to up their game in order to stay profitable.

ISPs are reliable, lucrative businesses.

You ask why?

 

  • Increasing demand for high-speed internet;
  • Recurring revenues and ROIs;
  • Independence from third-party ISPs;
  • Guaranteed online privacy; and,
  • Future business scalability and development.

How is the Competition Doing?

The internet's informatic and technologic nature easily translates into a vast and rapidly evolving field. Businesses in this field are continuously changing and adapting, especially in the past decade as wireline and wireless connectivity has become a worldwide everyday necessity.


Large wholesale telecommunications companies are gradually increasing their footprint around the world and, at the same time, offering novel services and capabilities, which in turn brings about newer opportunities for other businesses.


Also, smaller enterprises, such as VoIP or surveillance service providers, are expanding their operations by becoming new ISPs, gaining control over their own internet needs and offering internet access as a part of their services.


More importantly, in recent years, the advances made in space exploration together with the development of online communication facilities have given birth to a whole new generation of internet connectivity, at the helm of which is SpaceX.


Elon Musk, besides tweeting and Dogecoin hodling, is quickly developing his global Starlink broadband internet system, and the SpaceX project that was once deemed too ambitious a plan is now turning into a reality.

Starlink will not replace every single cell tower nor will it make all ground infrastructure obsolete. Nevertheless, with its global coverage and evolving technology, Starlink is bound to change the game and influence the way we access the internet and transfer data.


Staying in the game and maintaining a profitable ISP business in the near future calls for innovative plans to adapt with the anticipated changes.


Amidst all this progress, the public sector, too, is on the march, and it appears Canada's government is quite resolute in enhancing its nationwide high-speed internet coverage. The possibilities for ISP businesses steadily grows.

Internet in Remote Canadian Areas: What is the Government Doing?

Given the crucial nature of internet, it comes as a surprise that, according to the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), only 41% of rural households in Canada have access to 50/10 Mbps internet. This figure plummets by ten percent and stands at 31% for the First Nation Canadian population who live on reserves.

50/10 Mbps internet access in rural and remote areas of Canada

according to the CRTC

Canadian Rural Households 41%
Canadian First Nation Population on Reserves 31%

These numbers comprise a significant portion of Canadians, and that is the main reason the government of Canada has introduced the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF).

Ever Heard of UBF?

The Universal Broadband Fund or UBF - as part of the government's High-Speed Access for All strategy - is a developmental initiative by the Canadian government and specifically the ISED (Innovation, Sciences and Economic Development Canada).

 

It is a $1.75 billion fund that was introduced back in November 2020. The aim of this plan is to expand 50/10 Mbps internet services to rural and remote areas.

 

According to the ISED, besides providing support for a range of different high-speed internet projects, there is:

 

  • “up to $50 million available to support mobile Internet projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples, including projects along highways and roads where mobile connectivity is lacking;

  • up to $750 million available for large impact projects;

  • up to $150 million available as part of our Rapid Response Stream (RRS).” (ISED, 2021)

Applications to the UBF are currently closed.

If you are interested to prepare your infrastructure as an ISP
and lay the groundwork for future opportunities, continue reading.

Interested in UBF? Read about RRS...

As mentioned above, UBF’s Rapid Response Stream (RRS) comprises $150 million of the entire funding project. As suggested by its title, the RRS program aims to achieve short-term goals with notable outcomes. The purpose of this program is to establish “immediate connectivity improvements” (ISED, 2021), and the first deadline for an RRS milestone is November 15, 2021.

RRS Eligibility Criteria:

 

The selection criteria for project proposals included the following:

 

  • addressing any 250m road segment identified on the National Broadband Internet Availability Map that does not enjoy a 50/10 Mbps coverage;
  • having results and a scope that are both transformative;
  • addressing the demands of a large number of households (roughly 200 households by the first deadline);
  • noticeably enhance the services currently offered (e.g., from 5/1 to 50/10 Mbps); and,
  • having a business plan that has a palpable potential to involve a partner such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The National Broadband Internet Availability Map, accessible on ISED's website, shows the condition of internet coverage in Canada.


The image below shows different coverage percentages of 50/10 Mbps internet in the rural regions between Toronto (bottom left corner) and Ottawa (top right corner). As it can be seen, there are large rural areas with little access to high-speed internet, which equal a great deal of untapped business potential.

> 75-100

> 50-75

> 25-50

> 0-25

What Can You Expect?

The successful delivery of infrastructure projects in remote Canadian communities can be quite challenging.

 

Geographic and logistic issues that can create construction and maintenance difficulties include:

 

  • varying ground elevations;

  • uneven population distribution;

  • typically dense Canadian vegetation; and, 

  • harsh weather patterns.

 

In addition, compared to urban areas, rural and remote communities face inadequate infrastructure and technologies. This overall lack can:

 

  • prolong installation as infrastructure may need to be developed from scratch;
  • weaken connectivity as access points have long distances in between; and, in turn, 
  • decrease cost-efficiency by a significant portion.

How Can Netwire Help You?

Since the introduction of UBF, we at Netwire Inc. have reviewed various project plans and proposals eligible for this fund, going so far as making multiple site visits to high-value areas and devising draft applications.

If you applied and have been successfully chosen as a recipient of the UBF:

 

You could benefit from the insights of our experts regarding the necessary infrastructure and hardware for different remote areas of Canada.

 

Our experts, some of whom are locals of different remote areas, can help you solve the geo-logistic challenges you might face.

 

We are also able to offer novel connectivity solutions that can enhance your project by establishing reliable connectivity and provide greater user satisfaction.

 

Netwire Inc. works in partnership with Wireless Netware Technology Ltd., the MikroTik Coordinator, Consultant, and Value-Added Master Distributor in Ontario, Canada.

If you didn't apply but are keen on trying your hand at upcoming (W)ISP projects:


You will need to prepare or optimize your infrastructure and business capacity to apply for similar projects and deliver the required internet services.


Netwire Inc. specializes in creating ISPs and WISPs. So far, we have helped establish 17 ISPs and have provided consultancy to numerous other businesses.


Our wholesale partnerships with Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, and Cogent Communications mean we can help you become a high-speed fiber optic (W)ISP.


We will be with you all the way, from the installation of fundamental infrastructure to hardware configuration, online monitoring, support, and the delivery of online services.