On June 10, BCE Inc. president and CEO Michael Sabia gave a speech to Contact North/Contact Nord. The following is an edited excerpt of that speech on the importance of broadband access in rural Canada. Communities often find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. Unable to attract the people and jobs they need to rejuvenate themselves. Unable to offer their native-born daughters and sons the same richness of opportunity that other Canadians accept as a given. Yes, there are challenges. But there’s a lot happening, too. The first new medical school in Ontario in more than 30 years. Campuses at Laurentian and Lakehead. Connected with technology to enable shared learning. Contact North/Contact Nord - reaching more than 100 communities. Attracting more than 15,000 course registrations. Growth in the double digits. At Lakehead, the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre with leading-edge research labs and smart classrooms. All signs of a community, a region, committed to renewal, committed to the future. The change occurring in the communications industry will dovetail in a powerful way with your needs. Making sure people in the North no longer have to just "make do". No question, technology is not a cure-all. But communications technologies do have an important role in creating opportunity independent of geography. In enabling communities to build and rebuild themselves. We’re seeing this already. Bell Canada alone has a list of initiatives as long as my arm. Tomorrow, evolving technology will continue to change the landscape of the industry. In many cases the North - not encumbered with outdated networks - will be able to leapfrog directly to the smartest, simplest, most advanced technologies. I’m referring to Internet Protocol, or IP, which is emerging as the communications lingua franca of our generation. IP allows any device to connect to any other device to deliver any information in any format over essentially a single network. Say you own a retail operation here in Sudbury. Today, you have 10 separate communications lines leaving your building: a couple of fax lines, four cash registers, three PBX lines and one for Internet access. In an IP world, all that essentially collapses into a single router and a high-speed modem. A much simpler configuration, but much greater capability, including multimedia Internet capabilities, and productivity savings of up to 40%. Think what IP could do for the quality of life in our northern communities. Enabling children to see their home communities in a new light. As places where they can get the education they crave. Find the diversity of jobs they need. Stay to raise families.In fact, not having IP in the future will be like not having telephone service today. IP is that transformative. IP is that powerful. But there are a couple of issues. IP is creating a single, competitive marketplace. Telephone companies, cable companies, Internet service providers, satellite companies, fixed wireless providers, even electrical utilities are able to offer similar services. It enhances choice and transfers power to the consumer where it should be. Yet the regulator is seriously considering applying the old telecom rules to this radically new reality. It’s just not going to work because it risks slowing down a sector that has accounted for 60% of the productivity growth in our economy in the last decade. Now is the time to fit the policy framework to the new reality of the telecom industry, which is one of Canada’s success stories. For policy makers, this must be a top priority. The second brake on the potential of IP is access - or lack thereof, particularly for those who call the North home. The IP world runs on broadband, on high-speed Internet access. Clearly, then, if we do not provide high-speed access to every community in the country, we are not delivering on the total promise of IP. For our part, we continue to invest in our commitment to the north. For example, for the last two years, Northwestel has worked closely with the Yukon government to extend the broadband footprint. Today, using a combination of technologies including fixed wireless, we’ve extended high-speed Internet access to pass more than 90% of the homes in Yukon - among the highest penetration rates of anywhere in Canada. We are also the prime contractor on the government of Alberta’s SuperNet project which will connect all 422 communities in that province over an optical network. But even at that, there will still be upwards of 1,700 communities across Canada without access to broadband at the end of next year. That’s too many communities on the dark side of the digital divide. We believe even more can be done, and faster, because the IP world is emerging at high speed. About a month from now, Telesat, another BCE company, will launch a satellite - Anik F2 - to provide high-speed, state-of-the-art Internet access across the country - from coast to coast to coast. It’s designed especially to reach those areas that will not otherwise be adequately served by land-based technology. Allowing time for testing, we expect commercial and consumer services to be available in the October timeframe. These are exciting developments. But they’re only part of the picture. To fill in the blanks, we need stronger private and public sector partnerships. Coordinated and focused.For that is what builds communities. Partnerships that engage the full range of expertise and energy - civic leaders, senior levels of government, local activists, the private sector. I think right here in this room we have the makings of just such a partnership. That’s why today I am asking one of Bell’s most experienced senior Bell executives, Terry Mosey, to help bring to fruition an important idea from Contact North/Contact Nord. The job: organize a Northern Communities National Conference to address the technology access issue from every conceivable perspective.And do it fast. What a great way to develop a clear set of priorities . . . of actions . . . for the North to present to our government, and quickly . . . by the first quarter of 2005. Terry is the chairman of both Northwestel and Northern Tel. He knows the north. He knows telecom. The job will get done.