Joseph F. Turcotte, PhD

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Regulatory Rust at the CRTC

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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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8 Comments

  1. JJ says:

    Listening to CRTC chair’s answers definitely proves the old model and mandate are working for current new world.

  2. Paul says:

    After watching Konrad von Finckenstein struggling to grasp the difference between a Megabyte and Gigabyte, claiming IPTV didn’t use the internet and forgetting whether a major decision happened 6 months ago or just a week ago was painful to watch.

    Personally I do not believe the CRTC is equipped to deal with internet related issues and perhaps another, separate regulatory body should be formed, one which specifically deals with internet related issues staffed by professionals who actually understand the issues at hand.

    I usually don’t get involved in politics, however this has piqued my interest to the point where I might actually vote for the first time. I’m willing to bet this issue has had the same effect on many younger Canadians.

  3. Shin says:

    I am all for regulatory bodies that work to keep government in check but i am also for the opposite. If the regulatory body (CRTC) proves to be completely incompetent and out of touch with not just the reality of Canada and the wants and needs of its citizens but also with the simple reality and trends of the world, then the government has absolute right and responsibility to step in and correct it. There is no way the government should sit back and watch as this incompetence sets Canada back on the global market by a decade. Access to online resources and its use as basis for innovation (services such as OnLive cloud gaming platform) is in increase demand in the world and the CRTC wants to cut off the entire Canadian population from the possibilities these new innovations and trends offer consumers in favor of a handful of large telcom. company. This will not be tolerated by the Canadian population. My message to the CRTC: sugarcoat what’s happening here all you want. Tell lies through your teeth that this only affects some 30,000 Canadians. Fib about how this doesn’t affect Canada’s economy and future. turn users against other users to turn attention away from the blatant greed of a few corporations. attempt to charge 2000-5000% markups on the costs of bandwidth. try it… we won’t stand for it. YOU WILL BACK DOWN!

  4. The problems at the CRTC are endemic throughout Ottawa. Almost no one in the bureaucracy, government, or opposition understands the technology they are legislating, and those who do, have only a limited knowledge.

    Under that sort of situation, mistakes will be made. I have no doubt that von Finckenstein thought that IPTV doesn’t use the Internet. He was probably told this, and without the skills to evaluate the answer on his own, he made a simple mistake.

    The real problem is that people without the skills keep getting appointed. That’s the problem that needs to be addressed.

    Wayne

  5. Gavin says:

    The CRTC have been in the dark ages since it’s inception. Canada is far behind the US when it comes to technology and communication advances and is more concerned with BLOCKING that which they don’t understand rather than embracing the new culture.

    This has become more a global society than ever before – yet services available in the US are impossible for Canadians to enjoy.

    We have the infrastructure and technology to be on the forefront.

    So somebody PLEASE shut down the CRTC, and let Canadian citizens take part in, makenuse of and enjoy what our US neighbors take for granted.

    Premium services, realistic cost, and being on the forefront of a new world.

  6. Corey says:

    Here’s hoping the government realizes that telecommunications is a utility, just as important as electricity or gas. They need to nationalize the infrastructure that Canadian taxpayers paid for so every company can have fair access.

  7. Mark says:

    I, for one, would like to see my internet bill based on how much bandwidth I use. Caps seem to be a totally ridiculous notion. Perhaps Ma Bell and the other big telcos can make more money this way. Selling bandwidth that never gets used.
    I agree with another poster who proposed an internet regulator that is separate from the CRTC.
    We need more competition for internet and cell phone providers. That would tune them up andf bring prices down.

  8. Corey says:

    Bandwidth costs next to nothing, its more an on or off kind of service. Most of the IPS’s cost is in delivering speed. But that pricing model wasn’t paying a 2000% markup over cost as rate based billing is.

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