Larry Boisvert, president and CEO of Telesat Canada, gave the keynote address to the Smart City Summit and 17th Annual CATAAlliance Innovation and Leadership Awards Gala last week, where he highlighted some of the challenges facing Canada in rolling out broadband access. He also pointed out the potential benefits of such a broad reaching communications network. The following is an edited excerpt of his address. There are 6,000 communities in Canada. 4,700 of them - with 22% of the population - do not have full-access communications commercially available — and are unlikely to, given the market realities. In the new knowledge-based economy, no country can afford to leave so much of its population by the way side. With that in mind, I’d like to touch on how satellite technology can affect the three main measures of human development: wealth, health and learning. Wealth More than 60% of Canada’s productivity growth since 1995 has come from the information and communications sector. Broadband services are critical if we are to continue this progress. Broadband links are especially exciting for small and medium-sized enterprises, the sparkplugs of our economy, and for businesses that have operations in remote communities. With wireless links, small businesses can get up and running easier by reaching out to global markets. Health Canadians view universal, accessible, quality health care as a national asset. But current demands on it are great and will grow as the population ages and expectations around health increase. I believe that we’re missing something if we continue to have a national debate about access to health care in Canada without talking more about the opportunities of broadband. Full-access links can go a long way toward effective home care, which is usually more cost-effective than a hospital stay and better for the patient. E-Health also creates an enriched capacity to share information by allowing the coordination of health records, and facilitating the education of both professionals and the public. Learning In the 21st century, we can use broadband networks to learn, teach, study and solve problems. Full-access communications delivers the complex, rich information and fast connection needed to bring learning to all Canadians - no matter where they live. Telesat is a proud partner in the SchoolNet program, which connected all its public schools and libraries to the Internet. Roughly 10 per cent of the schools use satellite to access the Internet today. Now, it’s time to take this achievement to the next level. Imagine a virtual classroom where we all have access to expert-rich content and curriculum; flexibility and convenience; continuous assessment, real-time feedback; multimedia simulations, rich case studies and threaded discussions. Canada’s Challenge As the Broadband Taskforce concluded: "We believe, as a matter of urgency, that all Canadians should have access to broadband network services so that they can live and prosper in any part of the land and have access to high levels of education, health, cultural and economic opportunities." So how do we get there? How do we get to the next level? Business and organizations have to develop and deliver the content, the applications and the technology. Consumers must know more about the services so that we create a demand. The government has to be a model user, promote a positive regulatory and business environment, and take a leadership role in making full-access communications affordable and accessible in places where it may not be commercially viable to extend service. Canada’s strategy for the new economy should be to establish a "virtuous circle" between the generation of health, wealth and learning - a circle that encompasses all Canadians - no matter where they live, and no matter what they earn.