I. Building Canada's Information Society
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The successful transition to an information society requires an advanced ICT infrastructure. Building such an infrastructure cannot be accomplished by one sector alone. Rather, it requires the concerted effort of all sectors of society. Recognizing this, the Government of Canada focussed on what it could do best: establishing a modern domestic policy and regulatory framework that respond to the issues of the networked economy. Acting on IHAC's recommendations, the government modernized framework legislation, promoted competition, encouraged wireless and satellite services, and auctioned radio frequencies.
The private sector, in turn, built the infrastructure and created the software, and much of the content and services, that underpin the new economy. During this process, Canadian companies competed to be the best in the world. This competition drove prices down, increased consumer choice and sped up the introduction of new services. It stimulated productivity, innovation and investment. Today, Canada has one of the best communications infrastructures in the world, and is a leader in cable and telecommunications service, quality, market development and rates.
Ensuring Access in Rural and Remote Areas
New advanced applications such as telehealth, distance learning, the delivery of government services and e-business require broadband, or high-capacity, Internet access. These applications have the potential to greatly enhance the lives of citizens, whether through more learning opportunities, better access to health care or improved business opportunities. The Government of Canada believes it is important that all citizens have the opportunity to access these services and reap the benefits of the networked economy.
The Broadband for Rural and Northern Development Pilot Program was launched in September 2001 as the first step toward meeting the Government's commitment to ensuring broadband access for all Canadian communities, in partnership with local communities, the provinces, territories and the private sector.
Through a competitive process, applicants to the program receive funding to develop sustainable business plans outlining how they would deploy broadband to local communities. Additional funds are provided to implement the plans. Through this program, approximately $44 million has been invested in the development of broadband infrastructure to date.
The Broadband for Rural and Northern Development Pilot Program complements the National Satellite Initiative. This initiative will lower the cost of broadband for some 400 communities in the mid-North and Far North, as well as for other remote communities where satellite is the only practical means of providing broadband access.
Service providers will compete to gain access to the satellite connectivity, and in turn provide satellite service to their local communities. The broadband access will not be free for communities, but the rates are expected to be comparable to those charged to customers in other Canadian cities.
This unique satellite solution will help provide access to essential services in areas such as health care and education, using tools such as videoconferencing and tele-surgery. It will also bring economic opportunities. The National Satellite Initiative is another step toward meeting the Government of Canada's commitment to ensure that broadband access is available to all Canadian communities.
The Government of Canada also supports research into advanced ICT applications through its own research facilities, including the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) and the National Research Council Canada (NRC), which has a multi-site Institute of Information Technology.
As with the building of the Information Highway, much of the federal investment in ICT hardware, software and applications is made through partnerships and collaborations, such as CANARIE Inc. CANARIE's members include universities, businesses, industry associations and government research facilities, drawn from all regions of Canada. The organization funds many advanced Internet application projects. Since its inception in 1993, CANARIE has succeeded in increasing the speed of Canadian research and development (R&D) networks by a factor of almost one million. The most recent advances have come through the development of the broadband research network, CA*net 4.
TETRA — Technology Plus People
Memorial University of Newfoundland began working with telemedicine in 1975. Today, its Telehealth and Educational Technology Resource Agency (TETRA) is one of the most successful and mature telemedicine centres in the world.
With the Government of Canada's ambitious goal to bring broadband to remote and rural communities, TETRA is poised to provide telemedicine and distance education initiatives throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
Communities will take advantage of global experts and resources. Citizens will access continuing education programs and information sessions. Local business will tap global markets. Health care professionals will communicate with specialists in the world's most advanced health care facilities.
After a quarter of a century of pioneering work in telehealth and distance education, TETRA has concluded that the simplest, least expensive technologies can often be used to meet the need — old technologies still have their place. Telemedicine and distance education is more than technology; a people network is just as important as a technology network.
CA*net 4: Canada's National Research and Innovation Network
A supercomputer that is available to anyone linked to a network, CA*net 4 joins both high performance computers and personal computers across Canada into a vast network. Users can set up and manage their own private gigabyte networks using parts of the total capacity. Canada was the first country to adopt this networking methodology, and now the network's dedicated lightpaths are driving the evolution of grid computing.
The fourth generation of Canada's ultra high-bandwidth network, CA*net 4 has become an essential tool for collaboration in research and education. It is connected to virtually all research networks around the world.