OTTAWA - Canada's telecom regulator is asking Internet users whether they're getting enough speed — and enough bang for their buck.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has launched a major fact-finding process to assess whether Canada has the right telecommunications to be a world-class player in the digital economy.
It wants to know what services Canadians need to be digitally competitive, what kind of upload and download speeds are needed, whether there should be funding tools in place for upgrading telecom equipment and how the industry players should be regulated.
The CRTC says it will gather information before holding public hearings on the issue a year from now.
The regulator says it also wants to find out what areas of the country are being under-served by digital technology.
Under current CRTC policies, Canadians in every region are expected to have access to a low-speed Internet connection, at a minimum.
But as more government and public services are moved online, the regulator said it's concerned that not everyone will benefit from such things as digital banking, health and other services.
"As our habits change in this digital age, our telecommunications services must keep pace," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.
"Canadians are looking to the future, and the CRTC wants to ensure that the technology they depend on does so as well," he said.
The CRTC also expressed concerns about the pressure being placed on existing services from new emerging technologies, such as so-called smart meters used by municipal and provincial utilities to measure energy, water or natural gas consumption.
Those meters, like so many other things, require broadband access.
The consultations were announced in tandem with the release of a report on the Canadian satellite services market.
The report, prepared by CRTC commissioner Candice Molnar, found that communities dependent on satellites for Internet access rely almost exclusively on Telesat's satellite network.
The CRTC said it will hold a separate public consultation to review Telesat's current price ceiling, based on Molnar's recommendations, to determine whether the ceiling is "still appropriate in light of current market conditions and future projections."
Industry Minister James Moore was also expected to announce changes Friday to the licensing and equipment certification regime for radio, wireless and satellite companies.
It's expected the new fee structure would save the telecommunications industry about $9 million annually by cutting down on red tape, according to a government source who did not want to be identified.
The changes are part of a government plan designed to help small Canadian telecom companies invest in new technology.
It's not clear, however, whether the new fees structure would result in lower costs for consumers.