The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced today that more than 280 rural and remote communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec now have access to broadband Internet services.

Under a plan that was approved by the CRTC in 2010, Bell Canada, MTS Allstream and TELUS spent $422 million collectively on broadband expansion to rural and remote communities.

Bell and MTS completed their broadband expansions in 2014, connecting 112 and 16 communities respectively, and TELUS finalized its expansion in December 2015, connecting 159 communities.

The completion of this work coincides with the CRTC’s review of basic telecommunication services, that began in April of 2015.

At that time, the CRTC launched an extensive process to ensure that Canadians have the telecommunications services, including broadband Internet, they need to fully participate in the digital economy.

The participating companies were not only required to connect rural communities, but also to rebate urban home telephone customers $310.8 million and to invest $35 million in initiatives designed to make telecommunications services more accessible to Canadians living with disabilities.

Canadians who wish to participate in the public hearing on these issues starting on April 11, 2016 in Gatineau, Quebec, can do so by filling out a questionnaire .

Canadians who cannot access the questionnaire online may call 1-877-249-CRTC (2782) to fill it out over the phone with an agent or to request a paper copy. (A prepaid return envelope will be supplied.)

Interested participants may also send a fax to 819-994-0218 to request a copy to complete and send back.

The responses to the questionnaire (online, phone, fax or mail) must be completed and received by the CRTC by February 29, 2016.

Since January 14, 2016, nearly 25,000 people have responded to the CRTC’s questionnaire on broadband Internet services.

“We are pleased that three of Canada’s largest telecommunications providers have finally completed their broadband rollout,” says Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC . “This process began a number of years ago, so it’s gratifying to see its completion. The road to this outcome has not been easy. Our decision has helped ensure that more Canadians living in rural and remote communities now have access to broadband Internet, which enables them to participate actively in the digital economy.”