Final Evaluation of the Community Access Program
4.0 Findings and Analysis
This section of the report presents the findings and analysis stemming from the methodology applied and the various lines of evidence relied on for this evaluation. It has been presented according to the three primary issues under review: 1) continued need and relevance; 2) Success and progress toward the achievement of objectives; and 3) cost-effectiveness.
4.1 Continued Need/Relevance
This section of the report addresses issues and indicators pertaining to the continued need and relevance of the program to the extent possible. The renewed Policy on Evaluation includes a directive to assess the linkages between program objectives and (i) federal government priorities; and (ii) departmental strategic outcomes. Original funding approvals for CAP identified the need to bring the Information Highway (i.e. internet access) to rural and remote communities through public access points in schools and libraries. At that time, more than 13 million Canadians lived in an estimated 5,000 communities of populations between 400 and 50,000 people.5 Access to the internet in urban areas was added as a component of the program in 1998.6 The program's core objective has been to provide affordable public internet access, skills training and access to related services.
The Community Access Program was created prior to the formation of current notions of the 'digital divide'. As highlighted later in Section 4.1.1, the digital divide pertains to both access to and use of the internet by specific demographic segments of the population whose access and use is also determined by other factors beyond the development of internet infrastructure to communities. While training has long been a part of the program's delivery, addressing access and use issues that are, in part, determined by low levels of income, low levels of literacy or language barriers, for example, has been beyond the scope of the program's core objectives and activities.top of page
4.1.1 Is there a continued need for a program such as CAP?
Access to and use of the internet in Canada has increased considerably since CAP was created.
Ninety-four percent (94%) of Canadians now live in a community where broadband access is available for purchase, although only fifty-two percent (52%) of all Canadian homes have a broadband internet connection. Virtually all urban households and seventy-eight percent (78%) of rural households had access to broadband service by the end of 2008.7 According to 2006 census data available from Statistics Canada, eighty percent (80%) or 23.9 million Canadians lived in urban areas versus twenty percent (20%) or 6.09 million Canadians in rural areas.8
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has reported that only sixteen percent (16%) of Canadian households used the internet in 1997.9 By 2008, approximately seventy-four percent (74%) of Canadian households subscribed to internet service.10 The 2009 Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Monitoring Report also reports that sixty-nine (69%) of Canadian households subscribed to high-speed internet access service while services above 5 megabits per second (Mbps) were taken by forty-one (41%) of households11
Table 2 shows the comparison between 2004 and 2008 in the residential internet access technology mix in Canada. Between those years, the residential use of cable internet access increased substantially from forty percent (40%) to fifty-one (51%) of residences, while dial-up internet access fell from twenty-seven percent (27%) to seven percent (7%).12
|Technology||Percent in 2004||Percent in 2008|
|Source: CRTC Monitoring Report, 2009.
* DSL refers to 'digital subscriber line' that provides digital data transmission over the wires of a telephone network, providing download speeds ranging from 386 kbps to 20 mbps. (Return to Table Reference 2)
Internet use increased from almost all locations between 1999 and 2007.
According to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union, eighty-five percent (85%) of Canadians now use the internet on a regular basis, up from sixty-five (65%) in 2005.13 As shown in Table 3 below, internet use from almost all locations has continued to increase over time, suggesting an increase in both supply and demand. Internet use from home has more than doubled, from just under twenty-nine percent (29%) to over sixty-eight percent (68%), and has consistently remained the primary location of access. Internet use from work and school has fluctuated. Internet use from a public library has grown steadily while use from other locations has also grown more significantly.
|Source: Statistics Canada, Household Internet survey (HIUS) for 1999–2003 (survey of households); Canadian Internet use survey (CIUS) for 2005–2007 (survey of individuals). Only adults aged 18 years and over were surveyed.
** Other Locations for 1999–2003 include relatives' home, friends' or neighbours' home, community access program, internet café and other. Other Locations for 2005–2007 include relatives' home, friends' or neighbours' home, government office, department of kiosk (including CAP site), internet or cyber café or similar, voluntary organization, during travel (including hotel, airport, other office), through a mobile telephone or another wireless personal digital assitant, or other. (Return to Table Reference 3)
Statistics Canada has also reported that cost has been a factor in the use and adoption of home computers and the internet.14 In contrast, the 2007 Canada Online survey found that affordability was not commonly cited as the reason for not using the internet, suggesting that cost is less of an issue than it once was. This appears to be consistent with the results of the 2003 survey of CAP users which found that only five percent (5%) of users cited cost as the main barrier to owning a computer.15 Based on a recent report on poverty using Statistics Canada data, however, there appears to be a distinction between households with contrasting levels of income and spending on internet use as shown in Table 4. While eighty-nine percent (89%) of households in the highest income quintile reported home internet expenditures, only thirty-four percent (34%) of households in the lowest income quintile reported home internet expenditures.
|Spending Category||Lowest 20%||Second 20%||Middle 20%||Fourth 20%||Highest 20%|
|Source: The Affordability Gap: Spending Differences Between Canada's Rich and Poor, 2009, page 10.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Based on data from Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending, 2007.
|Childcare Outside Home||$1,380||$1,837||$1,914||$2,901||$4,105|
|% of Households||2%||6%||9%||13%||15%|
|Cell Phones, Hand-holds||$491||$568||$717||$816||$1,058|
|% of Households||40%||60%||73%||77%||85%|
|% of Households||31%||44%||50%||58%||62%|
|% of Households||34%||58%||75%||84%||89%|
Despite increases in access to and use of the internet, the digital divide continues to persist in Canada.
In spite of increased access to and use of the internet in Canada since CAP's inception, Statistics Canada and other studies have found that elements of the digital divide as measured in terms of access to and use of the internet continues to persist in Canada among the following demographic groups16:
- Canadians in rural and remote communities;
- Low income earners;
- Those with low levels of literacy and education;
- Francophones over 50 years of age;
- Recent immigrants;
- Aboriginal persons; and
- Persons with disabilities.
Statistics on the differences in internet use between the above demographic groups and the general population abound. Statistics Canada has reported that significantly fewer Canadians living in rural areas use the internet than urban Canadians. The 2007 Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) found that just over seventy-five percent (75.6%) of urban Canadians used the internet from any location compared to sixty-five percent (65.2%) of rural Canadians. 17 In terms of income level, the 2007 CIUS reported that internet use from any location of the lowest income quartile stood at just over sixty-eight percent (68.8%) while internet use from any location by the highest income quartile stood at almost eighty-eight percent (87.9%), a difference of almost twenty percent percentage points. The CIUS also reported that just over forty-three percent (43.2%) of individuals with less than high school education reported using the internet while just over ninety-two percent (92.5%) of individuals with university education reported using the internet, a more pronounced difference of almost fifty percent percentage points.18 Finally, Canada Online 2007> reports that "In [Quebec] communities with populations less than 5,000, only forty-nine percent (49%) of Quebecers are current Internet users, compared to seventy percent (70%) in the rest of Canada."19
Almost all key informant interviewees felt there is a continued need for a program such as CAP to increase awareness regarding the usefulness of the internet and the skill level of Canadians to use it effectively. A majority of interviewees, representing external stakeholders and Industry Canada staff, indicated that the need for increasing awareness and skill levels is greater among some groups of Canadians including low income earners, seniors, new Canadians (recent immigrants) and First Nations. A few interviewees further noted that there is an on-going need for training because of the growing divide between those who are basic users of the internet (i.e. have basic skills) and those who are advanced users. They suggested that there is a need to ensure that basic users' abilities keep up with evolving technologies. One of the ICT experts interviewed referred to this as the "Second Digital Divide." These views are corroborated in part, by a March, 2007 Ipsos Reid study which reported that thirty-five percent (35%) of Canadians consider the internet a part of their daily routine, the percentage of Canadians who view themselves as expert or very skilled with the internet has increased only marginally to 32%, from 27%, since 2001.20
Twelve percent (12%) of Canadians have never used the internet.
While twelve percent (12%) of Canadians have never used the internet, the Canadian Internet Project has also reported that two in five of non-users, (i.e. those who have not used the internet in three months or more) planned to use the internet in the future. Reasons for not using the internet have included lack of interest, the sense that the internet is not useful, not having a computer or internet access, confusion about technology and being too busy. 21 This suggests there may always be a portion of the population who will simply not use the internet. Table 5, again using data from the Canadian Internet Project, shows the main reasons that non-users do not use the internet.
|Reason for Not Using the Internet||All Non-Users||Internet Ex-Users||Never-Users|
|Source: Canada Online 2007, Canadian Internet Project, 2007, n=639.|
|No Interest, not useful||32%||30%||35%|
|No computer or internet connection||26%||25%||27%|
(confused, do not know how to use)
|No time or too busy||10%||17%||5%|
|Cost, too expensive||9%||10%||8%|
|Privacy or security issue||5%||4%||5%|
|Age, too old||4%||2%||6%|
4.1.2 Is CAP aligned with Government of Canada and Industry Canada Priorities?
A program such as the CAP is less aligned with the current priorities of the Government of Canada than it once was.
While the GOC views broadband access, set at a minimum rate of 1.5 Mbps, as essential infrastructure for participation in the economy by enabling citizens to access information, services and opportunities, it is now emphasizing private sector development and access by households, rather than public access. This emphasis on the private sector as a means to achieve policy objectives is also evident in the Governor-in-Council directive to the CRTC in 2006.22 Budget 2009 saw the Government of Canada dedicate over $225 million to Industry Canada over three years to extend broadband service to unserved and underserved communities through the private development of broadband infrastructure. It states the following:
Canada was one of the first countries to implement a connectivity agenda geared toward facilitating Internet access to all of its citizens. To this day, Canada remains one of the most connected nations in the world, with the highest broadband connection rate among the G7 countries. However, gaps in access to broadband remain, particularly in rural and remote communities. The Government is committed to closing the broadband gap in Canada by encouraging the private development of rural broadband infrastructure.
Budget 2009 provides $225 million over three years to Industry Canada to develop and implement a strategy on extending broadband coverage to all currently unserved communities beginning in 2009–10.23
In concert with this initiative, Industry Canada recently completed a broadband mapping exercise intended to understand the extent to which Canadians remain unserved or underserved.
These latest initiatives are consistent with the statutory requirements of the Telecommunications Act. Section 7 (b) of the Act states that one of the objectives of the Canadian Telecommunications Policy is "to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada." Section 7 (h) of the Act states the need "to respond to the economic and social requirements of users of telecommunications services." The Act broadly defines telecommunications as "the emission, transmission or reception of intelligence by any wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or by any similar technical system."24 The CRTC uses the objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages issues the CRTC's Departmental Performance Report that, in part, reports on the achievement of policy objectives set out in the Telecommunications Act.25 Section 47 (a) of the Act charges the Commission with the responsibility to implement the Canadian Telecommunications Policy.26
Key informants offered differing views regarding the alignment of CAP with current GOC priorities. Overall, most key informant interviewees agreed that CAP fits well with the priorities of the Federal Government. There was agreement among these interviewees that the program aligns with the priorities of key aspects of the Economic Action Plan, given that the Plan represents the priorities of the current government. They include 'Supporting Families and Communities' and 'Stimulating the Economy'. In contrast, a few interviewees felt that CAP does not support Federal Government priorities, noting the program is too vague and broad to align with any of the Federal priorities of the Economic Action Plan.
Budget reductions and shorter renewals suggest CAP is less of priority than it once was.
As shown in Figure 1 below, CAP originally experienced significant increases to its budget during its first four-year funding cycle, from $3 million in 1995–1996 to a high of $64 million in 1999–2000. (Figures do not include CAP-YI funding). While funding between 2000–2001 and 2005–2006 fluctuated from a high of $59 million to a low of $25 million, CAP's budget increased to $45 million just prior to the reduction of CAP sites in the 2003–2005 period. Since 2006–2007, CAP's budget has remained relatively static, never rising above $20 million. The level of funding could be viewed as an indication of the priority placed upon CAP programming by the government of the day, with higher funding levels representing increased priority and lower funding levels representing reduced priority.
Figure 1: CAP Funding By Year, 1995–2010
Source: CAP Administrative Data.
Note: Excludes CAP-YI funding through HRSDC.
The length of funding approvals for the program is of significance as well. The program's first funding cycle covered five years, from 1995–1996 to 1999–2000 with supplemental and additional funding approved in 1997. Between 2000–2001 and 2005–2006, funding was renewed for two-year terms. However, by 2006–2007, funding approvals for CAP became one-year extensions, with the current extension to the end of the 2009–2010 fiscal year. The length of funding cycles could also be viewed as an indication of the priority placed upon CAP programming by the government of the day, with longer funding cycles representing increased priority and shorter funding cycles representing the converse.
CAP is less aligned with Industry Canada Priorities than it once was.
A review of the Industry Canada's Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPP), a public reporting of Department's priorities, finds prominence placed on the Connecting Canadians agenda in the early 2000's, but by 2006–2007, references to this agenda were no longer mentioned. The same is true of specific references to 'skills development'. For example, the 2005–2006 RPP noted that the Department, in part, "promotes economic development by ensuring Canadians, communities and businesses have access to reliable modern ICT infrastructure and the skills needed to fully participate in the digital economy." By 2008–2009, 'skills development' is no longer mentioned as an aspect of participation in the digital economy. In fact, it was only referenced as it pertains to enhancing Canada's research and innovation capacity.27
Industry Canada staff interviewed for the evaluation had differing views on whether CAP aligned with the priorities of the Department. Slightly more interviewees felt the program aligns well with the priorities of Industry Canada through the 'Innovative and Knowledge-based Economy' priority. The program provides Canadians with the knowledge necessary to take advantage of the knowledge-based economy. A few interviewees also noted that by providing Canadians with the skills necessary to work with computers, they would be able to find better jobs as a result of acquiring these skills. In contrast, a minority of Industry Canada interviewees felt CAP does not align well with the priorities of the department at all. These interviewees suggested the program would be a better fit within another department (e.g. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), HRSDC or Service Canada).
Aspects of Industry Canada's legislation and mandate partially support the objectives of increased access to and use of the internet.
The Department of Industry Act provides the Minister with powers to, among other things strengthen the economy; increase international competiveness; encourage the development and use of science and technology; and promote the establishment, development and efficiency of Canadian communications systems.28 One of CAP's key objectives has been to enhance community access to the internet, clearly a "communications system".
Part II of the Act, Regional Economic Development in Ontario, more closely aligns with CAP in that it provides the Minister of Industry with the authority to engage in activities intended to promote long-term economic development, sustainable employment, income creation and entrepreneurship, in so far as extending access to the internet to communities is considered a part of such activity. Moreover, Industry Canada's mandate includes support for participation in the digital economy. Program Activity 3.3 of the department's Program Activity Architecture, for example, includes the goal of promoting access to the internet and ICTs, and the skills to use them, in order to increase the capacity of individuals and communities across Canada to participate in the knowledge-based economy.29 In the main, however, Industry Canada's current priorities tend to emphasize household access through the development of broadband infrastructure, rather than public access at the community level.
8 http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/demo62a-eng.htm September 23, 2009. (Return to Reference 8).
16 See Canadian Internet Use Survey, Statistics Canada, 2008, Canada Online 2007, Canadian Internet Project, 2008 and Off-Reserve Aboriginal Internet Users, Susan Crompton (Statistics Canada), 2004. (Return to Reference 16).
22 The CRTC Departmental Performance Report 2007–2008 notes the following on page 11: In December 2006, the Governor-in-Council issued a policy direction to the CRTC that directed the Commission to rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible as the means of achieving the policy objectives set out in the Telecommunications Act. At that time, the Commission estimated that 30% of telecommunications revenues were subject to economic regulation. By March 31, 2008, approximately 71% of residential lines and 64% of business lines were free from economic regulation. Overall, approximately 90% of total telecommunications revenues come from unregulated services. (Return to Reference 22).
26 In a 2002 decision, the CRTC established a deferral account representing the difference between the rates actually charged by carriers and those set by the CRTC. By 2006, this fund had grown to $650 million. The CRTC has made a number of decisions regarding the use of the fund, including customer rebates, expansion of service to persons with disabilities and expansion of broadband service to rural and remote communities. The Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed the CRTC's legislated mandate to establish the fund and determine its uses in a September 18, 2009 decision. The Commission has indicated that approximately $350 million will be used to fund broadband projects. See Supreme Court of Canada, Bell Canada v. Bell Aliant Regional Communications, 2009 SCC 40, September 18, 2009 and http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2006/dt2006-9.htm September 30, 2009. (Return to Reference 26).
- Date modified: