The Canadian Community Access Model

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michael gurstein

In an environment of scarce public resources, what would be an appropriate model for using public funds to enable the development of sustainable Internet access and use at the community level.


The Canadian Government through its Community Access Program was the first national effort to make Internet access generally available within communities.


Beginning with a rural program which had as its objective to create Community Access centres in 5000 rural (defined as under 50,000 population) communities. This was largely achieved within the 5 year life of the program. A similar effort to create a parallel program in urban communities in Canada has not been as successful. Serious issues are now arising with respect to the long term sustainablility of the both the rural and the urban centres, though particularly the rural centres.

Overall, although the numerical objectives with respect to the establishment of "centres" and the expenditure of funds in creating access, have been largely met, there is some question as to whether broader social objectives (never articulated as part of the Program, it should be noted) have been or are being achieved. The Program had certain strengths but also certain significant limitations and any other public authority looking to follow the "Canadian Model" should be aware of these.


Recommendations for an appropriate public initiative to support universal community access including the issue of sustainability and achieving maximum social and economic benefits will be presented based on the Canadian experience.

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