2023 Reports 1 to 4 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of CanadaProgress on access to high-speed Internet and mobile cellular services lags behind for rural and remote communities and First Nations reserves
Ottawa, 27 March 2023—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons found that the federal government’s 2019 connectivity strategy had yet to deliver equal access to high-speed Internet and mobile cellular services for many rural and remote communities and First Nations reserves across the country, compared with services available in urban areas.
The audit found that overall, access to Internet and mobile cellular services had improved across the country since 2019. By 2021, the overall Internet connectivity of households across the country was 90.9%, but connectivity in rural and remote communities lagged at 59.5%, and at 42.9% in First Nations reserves. The strategy does not provide targets or timelines for connectivity to mobile cellular services.
The audit also found that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada tracked only some dimensions of Internet and mobile cellular service quality and affordability in assessing improvements in connectivity across the country. When services are of poor quality or are unaffordable, people are effectively excluded from participating equally in the digital economy; accessing online education, medical care, and government services; or working remotely. This is especially concerning given that rural and remote communities and First Nations reserves are underserved or not connected at all. The strategy had affordability as an objective for connectivity initiatives, but it did not consider income as an element in evaluating whether affordability is being achieved. This was despite the fact that rural and remote communities identified affordability as a barrier to economic development.
“These findings emphasize the persistent digital divide for people living on First Nations reserves and in rural and remote communities, compared to people who live in urban areas,” said Ms. Hogan. “The government needs to take action so that there is affordable, high-speed connectivity coverage for Canadians in all areas of the country.”
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The 2023 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 2—Connectivity in Rural and Remote Areas, is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.
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