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Universal Broadband Fund

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The Universal Broadband Fund program is now closed for applications

With the proposed Budget 2021, the now $2.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund will support high-speed Internet projects across the country. Budget 2021 proposes to provide an additional $1 billion over six years, starting in 2021-22, to the Universal Broadband Fund to support a more rapid rollout of broadband projects. The Universal Broadband Fund has been designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that will bring high-speed Internet at 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to rural and remote communities. In addition to funding a diversity of high-speed Internet projects to connect Canadians, 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.

The Universal Broadband Fund is part of the Government of Canada's coordinated plan to connect all Canadians: High Speed Access for all: Canada's Connectivity Strategy.

It is also consistent with the Government's roadmap for supporting strong and resilient rural communities.

Why is it important?

Today, high-speed Internet access is essential for all Canadians, no matter where they live. It is necessary to telework, to access on-line medicine, for distance learning and more. It helps businesses thrive, no matter where they are located, and it ensures that rural Canadians can transition smoothly to the digital economy. But there is a connectivity gap — Canadians living in rural and remote areas have less access to high-speed Internet than those living in urban areas.

That is why the Government of Canada launched the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to meet the needs of those living in rural and remote communities.

Applications to the Universal Broadband Fund are no longer being accepted.

Rapid Response Stream

The Universal Broadband Fund includes a Rapid Response Stream to which $150 million is dedicated for projects that can be started and completed quickly.

These projects will provide immediate connectivity improvements and will be completed by November 15, 2021.

Applications to the Rapid Response Stream of the Universal Broadband Fund are no longer accepted

Additional information and resources for Universal Broadband Fund applicants and potential applicants can be found on our Universal Broadband Fund applicant page.

National Broadband Internet Service Availability Map

Our National Broadband Internet Service Availability Map provides comprehensive and precise mapping data detailing retail broadband Internet services and wholesale backbone infrastructure in Canada. You can use it to find what projects are happening in your area, what speeds are available and which Internet service providers are in your area.

Our map also includes new, more granular mapping data so that you can find Internet coverage at the level of 250m road segments. Zoom in close to your area and click the Rural Roads coverage on the Layer Selector bar on the left to see this detailed coverage in your area.

It is also the basis of our new Eligibility Mapping Tool, which helped applicants design their projects using the most accurate coverage information available.

Stay current

Subscribe to our e-blast to learn more about the Universal Broadband Fund. Contact us if interested.

Other federal broadband programs

The Government of Canada has several programs supporting high-speed Internet access for all Canadians, especially in rural and remote communities. A list is available via the High Speed Internet for All of Canada page. If you can't find what you are looking for, we would be pleased to help you. Contact us for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Universal Broadband Fund?

With the proposed Budget 2021, the now $2.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund will provide funding to support a diversity of high-speed Internet projects across the country. It has been designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that will bring high-speed Internet at 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps), with a focus on rural and remote communities. The funding supports connecting Canadians via several streams: $750 million to fund large, high-impact projects; up to $50 million for mobile projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples; and, up to $150 million through our Rapid Response Stream for projects that can be completed in 2021.

Q2. When we talk about high-speed Internet, what do we mean?

The Government's goal is for all Canadians to have access to high-speed Internet of at least 50 Megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload speeds.

Q3. How has COVID-19 affected plans for rural broadband delivery? What is the Rapid Response Stream?

COVID-19 has highlighted how much we all rely on digital connections now and in the future. It has reinforced the importance of access to high-speed Internet as, now more than ever, Canadians are working, learning and communicating with friends and family from home.

With the increased investment in the Universal Broadband Fund, we will be able to connect at least 90% of Canadians by 2021 and 98% of Canadians by 2026. This is faster than anticipated in High Speed Access for All — Canada's Connectivity Strategy, which estimated only 95% of Canadians would have access by 2026.

To help achieve this, we included a Rapid Response Stream for the Universal Broadband Fund, for which $150 million is dedicated for projects that can get started now to connect rural Canadians as soon as possible. Further information can be found on the Rapid Response Stream website.

Q4. Which areas are currently underserved?

There remain significant rural and remote areas of Canada that do not have access to high-speed Internet. According to the latest CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, only 41% of rural households and 31% of First Nations households on reserves have access to 50/10 Mbps service, compared to 98% access in urban households.

Programs like the Universal Broadband Fund are part of the government's strategy to close this gap, along with additional funding from the CRTC, Infrastructure Canada, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and Indigenous Services Canada. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology will also play an important role in connecting all Canadians.

Q5. Who could have applied and what projects were eligible?

The Universal Broadband Fund allowed almost any Canadian entity to submit an application; however, individuals and federal entities were excluded from applying to the program. Eligible applicants were required to have the ability to design, build and run broadband infrastructure and needed to identify who would build, own and operate the broadband network.

Any 250m road segment identified on the National Broadband Internet Availability Map that does not show as having 50/10 Mbps coverage was eligible.

Q6. How will projects be selected?

Projects will be selected using a three-stage assessment process that will ensure that applications from a wide variety of applicants across Canada can be considered. Ultimately, the projects that best meet the objectives of the program will be selected.

Stage one will involve meeting basic eligibility requirements. Stage two will evaluate essential criteria such as managerial capacity, technical feasibility and sustainability, and stage three involves comparing projects in the same geographic area against each other, focusing on relative technical and financial merits, as well as community benefits, such as commitment to local employment.

Q7. Were mobile projects eligible?

Under the Universal Broadband Fund, up to $50 million was set aside to fund mobile projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples. These mobile projects are expected to extend 4G LTE coverage or better mobile services to unserved areas. Projects must target Indigenous communities, roads within or leading to Indigenous communities, or highways and roads where the deployment of mobile network coverage would benefit Indigenous peoples. Unserved sections of roads that would be deemed strategic for the socio-economic development or public safety of Indigenous peoples could also be eligible.

This will complement a number of Government initiatives, which have previously been in place to support mobile projects, such as Connect to Innovate; the CRTC's $750 million Broadband Fund; Investing in Canada Infrastructure program's Rural and Northern Infrastructure Stream (mobile projects that can be completed by September 30, 2021 are currently eligible); and programs administered by provincial and territorial governments.

Q8. What are large scale, high-impact projects?

Large scale, high-impact projects must be transformative in terms of results and scope. They should target a large number of households, a large geographic area that leaves no household underserved, greatly improve the speeds offered (e.g. from 5/1 to 50/10) and have a business case that makes sense to involve a partner like the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is available to offer low-cost loans for broadband projects.

Q9. Did the Government consult on the Universal Broadband Fund to ensure it meets the needs of all Canadians?

We engaged partners, stakeholders and Canadians to ensure that the Universal Broadband Fund responds to the needs of rural communities.

In developing the program, we met with Internet service providers, municipal organizations, Indigenous organizations, and provinces and territories to ensure that the Universal Broadband Fund responds to needs identified by all partners and stakeholders.

Q10. Are you on track to reach your goal of connecting all Canadians to high-speed Internet, defined as speeds of at least 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) download / 10 Mbps upload, by 2030?

In High-Speed Access for All: Canada's Connectivity Strategy, the government committed to getting 95% of Canadians connected by 2026 and 100% by 2030. Now, the government is on track to get 98% of Canadians connected by 2026. By leveraging funding from all levels of government, Indigenous and private sector partners, the government is on track to achieving its objective of full 50/10 Mbps broadband coverage in Canada by 2030.

Contact us

Connect with us to answer your questions and schedule meetings or teleconferences.

Telephone: 1-800-328-6189

Email: get-connected@canada.ca

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