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Emerging from the pandemic

On May 9th, 2022, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued an official declaration terminating the municipal emergency for the city first declared on March 23, 2020¹. This important milestone for Canada’s largest city reflects the general optimism that we’re moving into a new normalcy.

Over the last two years, Canadians had been tested in ways we had never imagined possible. We were inspired by and are thankful for the efforts and determination of front-line workers that saw us through such a tough time. All levels of government responded admirably in helping to keep Canadians safe and supported.

The Canadian telecom industry also played its part, by helping take some pressure off those who were most impacted, offering free services, customer support, deferring payments, and maintaining networks to keep us all connected.

In those early days, as we shifted almost everything online, our telecom networks saw home internet traffic increase by as much as 48.7% for download and 69.2% for upload². As Robert Ghiz of the CWTA (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association) in a recent speech noted, “Faced with a year’s-worth of traffic growth in just a few weeks, Canada’s digital networks rose to the occasion³”.

Canadian network speeds remained among the fastest among our peer countries – 10% faster for fixed broadband and 78% faster for mobile data speeds⁴. Our networks proved resilient and were able to provide the high-quality connectivity that is vital to our health, safety, and to sustaining economic and social activity.

According to analysis by Accenture⁵, GDP contribution and jobs supported by the telecommunications industry and increased connectivity across other industries were up to $70.7 billion and up to 596,000 jobs, respectively, in 2020.

To help those communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, telecom companies worked in partnership with organizations who were already working with communities in need. Service providers donated millions of dollars to support a broad range of initiatives, including:⁶ foodbanks, shelters, helplines, healthcare services, youth groups, education initiatives, as well as installing emergency internet access points.

In addition to COVID-specific support measures, many industry players also expanded voluntary programs, which provide eligible low-income families with home Internet services for $10 per month.

Rogers expanded eligibility and introduced subsidized speed tiers for its own high-speed, low-cost Internet program called Connected for Success as well as introducing affordable TV and broadband bundles.

Rogers, along with other industry players, also supported the growth of the Federal Government’s Connected Families program in August 2021 when the government expanded the eligibility criteria⁷. The industry encouraged public dialogue about mental health and racism, and continued to invest in annual grants, funds, and scholarships.

Meanwhile, the industry continued to invest in Canada’s digital future. According to analysis by Accenture, the industry spent more than $11 billion in infrastructure and innovation in 2020 alone⁸. Service providers accelerated investments to expand 5G networks, increase network performance, and bring connectivity to rural and remote communities.   

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the lives of Canadians in profound ways. It changed the way we live and work, but it also highlighted how resilient we can be. Rogers is incredibly proud to be part of an industry that helped Canadians to continue working, learning and connecting with friends and loved ones throughout the pandemic.

As we continue to emerge from the pandemic and look to the future, continuing to invest in digital infrastructure is more important than ever if we are to create new jobs, diversify our economy, strengthen our innovation sector, and enable Canada to lead in the global digital economy.

Charit Katoch, Director, Public Policy

⁴ PWC COVID-19’s impact on connectivity, March 2021