Rogers Communications Inc. told a House of Commons committee that home internet usage is up more than 50 per cent, in a May 14, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Rogers Communications Inc. told a House of Commons committee that home internet usage is up more than 50 per cent, in a May 14, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian telecom companies says COVID-19 causing surge in demand for services

Connectivity important to Canadians

Canadian telecom companies say demand for their services has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic and will change business once the lockdown ends.

Rogers Communications Inc. told a House of Commons committee that home internet usage is up more than 50 per cent, voice call usage on its wireless network is up 40 per cent, and 1-800 toll-free calls are up more than 300 per cent.

The Toronto-based company said its customers are making more than 50 million wireless voice calls per day while use of toll-free lines has augmented to access federal support programs.

Dean Prevost, president of Rogers for Business, said its technicians “are frontline heroes.”

He said they’ve supported health-care providers by deploying temporary cell sites on wheels, increased capacity to hospitals, run fibre in parking lots and fields and extended fixed wireless to create new COVID-19 testing centres. They have also provided more Wi-Fi for hospitals, seniors homes and homeless shelters.

Rogers said it has helped customers by lifting usage caps for home internet plans, eliminating overage charges, waiving Canadian long-distance calling fees for homes and small businesses, and waiving international roaming fees.

Prevost said he expects business, including its own, will change dramatically as employees return to work.

“We need to think about how we do that and that will lead to a very different way in which we deploy our forces across the country, a different way in which we use our real estate and as we do that it leads to a different thinking in terms of the tech and capabilities we have,” he said in virtual testimony to the industry committee.

Liberal committee member Lloyd Longfield said the country is at a “pivot point.”

“Business is going to change in terms of what they’re going to ask from networks and I wonder about the capacity for us to deal with those questions both from industry and from government regulations.”

Vancouver-based Telus Corp. said it is consistently experiencing four times the network traffic of its busiest day pre-COVID. It plans to reveal a report next week that shows Canada has the fastest wireless speeds in the world.

“COVID-19 has exposed how important connectivity is to all Canadians,” said vice-president Tony Geheran.

Between March 18 and 31, Telus has moved virtually all its call agents to work from home and facilitated more than 30,000 doctor appointments since launching its virtual visit platform in April.

Like others, the company has committed not to disconnect customers. It has waived fees for low-income families and students in need.

Geheran said the crisis has accentuated the need for better internet access for rural Canadians, which Telus has invested heavily in. Of $5 billion put into infrastructure over the past six years, $1 billion has gone to connect 40 per cent of all rural Canadian homes to Telus services.

But he said companies need support from federal and provincial governments. In particular, he said the country needs a new approach to spectrum policy.

Cogeco Communications Inc. said that since the beginning of the crisis, there has been 60 per cent greater use of internet service during the day, a 40 per cent boost in traffic for video on demand, a 20 to 40 per cent growth in video streaming services, including Netflix, and added use of telephony services.

The company said it has been able to meet the increased demands by having invested to ensure there’s reliable infrastructure. It committed to invest more than $1 billion more over the next four years but said it needs a stable regulatory regime.

“The current crisis has revealed how vital our role is. However, everyday we see Canadians still have needs to be connected or to receive higher internet speeds,” said Leonard Eichel.

Xplornet Communications Inc., the largest rural-focused internet provider, said it has seen a 30 to 40 per cent increase in daytime use and has suspended overage fees to the end of June.

“The pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of expanding access to rural broadband,” C.J. Prudham, executive vice-president and general counsel, said in a virtual presentation to MPs.

“Spectrum is the oxygen that our network needs to breathe,” she said, noting that Canada has not consistently pursued a balanced spectrum policy that meets both urban and rural needs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020.

BusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

A 36-year-old Eckville pedophile  was sentenced to 18 years in prison and given a 10-year-long-term supervision order for abusing nearly a dozen children over a decade.
Black Press file photo
Updated: Central Alberta pedophile sentenced to 18 years in prison and declared long-term offender

Eckville man abused nearly a dozen children as young as two over nearly a decade

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

The newly built Parkland Regional Library Services. (Photo Submitted)
Parkland Regional Library system moves into new offices in Lacombe

“Someone with a Parkland Library card can borrow from 350 libraries in Alberta,” Ron Sheppard

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Most Read