The Canadian government announced a 100 million (Canadian dollar; US $82M) initiative to support extension of Internet services to rural areas of the country in the 2018 budget. Home country favorite Telesat likes the idea.
Finance Minister Bill Morneua gave a shoutout to low earth orbit (LEO) satellites in the Canadian budget document, noting they have the potential to provide citizens living in rural and remote access with "significantly improved" access to Internet and cellular services "at more affordable prices." The 100 million dollars is to be spread out over the next 5 years, with Canada spending the money on projects directly related to LEO satellites and rural broadband.
In a press statement,Telesat Canada (Telesat) "welcomes the Government of Canada’s commitment in Budget 2018 to support investment in new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations for rural broadband communications."
Telesat plans to have an initial constellation of 120 LEO satellites up by 2021 and is looking at options to add more satellites beyond that. Its first pathfinder was launched earlier this year and is currently testing out technologies and operations.
A large LEO satellite network offers two advantages over a geosynchronous (GEO) communications satellite for Canada's landmass. Low latency means LEO satellites can act as a fiber-like extension to cellular sites without the need to deploy fiber across underserved and unserviced distances. For northern latitudes, LEO satellites don't need larger dishes and elaborate infrastructure a GEO satellite connection requires, with GEO connections become increasingly more difficult the the further north one goes.