UPDATE 2-Canada launches plan to improve Internet in remote areas

Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:54pm EDT
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(Adds Telus' response to criticism in paragraph 8)

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, July 22 (Reuters) - The Canadian government on Tuesday invited remote communities across the country that lack high-speed Internet access to make a claim on some of the C$305 million ($284 million) it plans to spend over the next three years to upgrade access.

But consumer group OpenMedia.ca was skeptical of the move, skewering both the Conservative government and Canada's telecom companies for failing to finish earlier projects on time or to the scale required.

The government's Connecting Canadians plan aims to deliver high-speed Internet - judged to be speeds faster than 5 megabits per second (5 Mbps) - to 280,000 households that it says sit below that line.

Critics say, however, that the government's minimum "high-speeds" are not fast enough for users to participate in a number of data-intensive activities, including video conference calls.

The plan "will still leave many Canadians struggling to catch up with our global counterparts when it comes to broadband access, reliability, and speed," said Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia.ca.

The country's telecom regulator wrote to BCE Inc, Telus Corp, and Manitoba Telecom Services last month, concerned they would miss an end-August deadline to complete remote access projects already underway.