Guide: Federal Funding for Indigenous Broadband
April 29, 2016
This guide provides an overview of active and historical broadband funding mechanisms provided by government departments and funding agencies at the federal level. We are presenting this information to support the accessibility of these funds for community-based organizations, and specifically for Indigenous organizations. Many of these funds are also available to private-sector entities. While telecommunications companies have an important role to play in broadband initiatives, the FMCC advocates for community-based Indigenous organizations to take a lead role in the decision-making leading to the administration of these funds, to support economic and community development in their member communities. To this end, this review is also intended to provide an overview of current and historical federal funding programs for broadband to support coordination efforts among funding agencies and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Suggested Reference to the guide:
Blake, S., McMahon, R. Williams, D. (2016). A Guide to Federal Funding for Indigenous Broadband in Canada. First Mile Connectivity Consortium. April. 44 pages.
Key findings from the main report:
Our review illustrates the complexity of funding supports for Indigenous community-based organizations involved in delivering broadband infrastructure and services, as well as the multifaceted nature of existing funding in this area. Key findings include:
- Funding for Indigenous broadband infrastructure, ongoing operating expenses, connectivity/bandwidth, public access, education/training, and research is currently spread across a range of federal government programs.
- Overall, federal funding for Indigenous broadband encompasses a broad and complex range of large and small programs with complementary mandates across multiple departments addressing various needs and requirements.
- While some programs are well-publicized and broadband-specific, others include broadband as one aspect of a broad program, or may fund ICT development as helping to achieve other program objectives, such as socio-economic development or delivery of health applications.
- Broadband funding programs are also diffused across different points in time. Some end or change abruptly as funding priorities shift or governments change – sometimes despite positive evaluations from government funders, as was the case with the Community Access Program and First Nations SchoolNet (when administered by ISED).
- Institutional memories within funding bodies are in constant flux. As employees with historical knowledge of a particular program transition into different jobs, newer recruits do not always learn the historical context of their programs. Therefore, as an Appendix we include an overview of past (inactive) federal funding programs, as well as links to funding programs administered by provincial and territorial governments.
These complex characteristics make up a funding landscape for broadband in Indigenous territories that is in flux and inadequate. The nature of the project-based funding landscape makes it difficult for Indigenous community-based organizations to engage in long-term strategic planning, thereby threatening the long-term sustainability of the services and infrastructures they manage and operate. To this end, during its interventions in the Review of basic telecommunications services (CRTC 2015-134), the FMCC is advocating the CRTC to play a coordinating role in this area. The FMCC proposes that the CRTC establish a new Northern Services and Infrastructure Fund (NISF) to support the ongoing work of community-based Indigenous providers and complement other existing federal funding initiatives. The FMCC suggests that the CRTC, as an administrative tribunal with technical expertise and insight into the Canadian communications environment unavailable elsewhere in government, could play a leadership role in this area.
This guide does not discuss funding made available for development in Indigenous regions by the CRTC’s deferral accounts or national contribution fund. This is because only incumbent telecom companies can access this funding at this time. The FMCC’s proposal for the NISF aims to help address this discrepancy by making funding available to community-based Indigenous providers, and by providing residents of these regions of Canada more voice in the decision-making with regards to the administration of such funds.