Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Regulatory Rust at the CRTC

With one mid-night Tweet Industry Minister Tony Clement has answered a question that’s been nagging at me– and much of Canada’s online community– for the past little while.

Will the Government of Canada step-in and overturn the CRTC’s usage based billing decision?

In a response to a question from the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, Minister Clement has said that Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator must rethink it’s decision about allowing large ISPs to charge smaller providers on a usage-based basis.

This decision, if it comes to fruition, is good news for everyone that has been concerned about this issue and for the team at OpenMedia who worked to organize a campaign against the move.

However, as Maclean’s Andrew Coyne seems to be pointing out–again via Twitter— this (seemingly forthcoming) move, coupled with the recent Globalive/Wind Mobile reversal now calls into question the CRTC’s relevancy as a regulatory body.

If the CRTC makes a decision– based on its readings of a case– that the Government of Canada doesn’t agree with and subsequently overturns, why have the regulatory body at all?

The CRTC has cautiously– and yet clumsily– waded into the new world of Canadian telecommunications regulations. The UBB and Globalive cases demonstrate that the Commission might not have the tools necessary for the current times. We must give the CRTC credit and believe that it is doing its best to regulate an increasingly complex telecommunications and broadcasting sector. A sector that is becoming increasingly important to Canada’s future of innovation, culture and economic stability.

The Commission’s rulings in these two cases are inline with the regulator’s historic role and mandate in Canadian society. It is acting according to its interpretations of precedent as they relate to emerging cases. Overturning the CRTC, as the Government has done (and seems poised to do), calls the legitimacy of the Commission into question. If the CRTC doesn’t have the tools and authority to make the decisions it deems to be the interest of Canada, perhaps it’s time that it is given them.

Rather than reacting on cases on an ad hoc basis, it is necessary for the Government of Canada to create a legitimate and legislative structure that outlines how these industries will operate in Canada in the ever-changing digital world. This is necessary for the continued relevance of the CRTC as well as the needs of the Canadian people and economy. Without such a digital strategy– which, admittedly the Government is working on— these cases will continue to arise.

UBB and foreign ownership requirements in telecommunications highlight the urgent need for the updating of Canada’s regulatory apparatuses.

Let’s hope that the momentum created by this recent uproar is carried forward so that a balanced and responsible digital economy strategy can put our country at the forefront of the ‘digital revolution’.

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