Image for Experts, advocates, and 50,000+ Canadians build the definitive case for Cabinet to reject Bell Canada’s price-gouging scheme
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Experts, advocates, and 50,000+ Canadians build the definitive case for Cabinet to reject Bell Canada’s price-gouging scheme

OpenMedia’s comments were submitted for a crucial December 21 filing deadline for comments to Cabinet, and outline in detail the concerns of over 50,000 Internet users who have spoken out against Bell’s appeal through OpenMedia’s Internet Emergency campaign.

Today your OpenMedia team has released its full, detailed submission (PDF here) to Cabinet, asking decision-makers in the Trudeau government to reject Bell Canada’s appeal of a landmark Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications (CRTC) rulingwe won back in July.

Our arguments were submitted for yesterday’s crucial filing deadline for comments to Cabinet, and outline the concerns of over 52,000 Internet users who have spoken out against Bell’s appeal through our Internet Emergency campaign.

See: Comments of OpenMedia on the Petition by Bell Canada to Governor in Council Concerning Telecom Policy Decision CRTC 2015-326 (PDF here).

What’s At Risk?

The ruling in question set out fair open access rules for smaller Internet providers to sell services on high-speed fibre networks, a decision that will help ensure that more Canadians would have access to affordable, next-generation fibre Internet services supplied by providers outside of Canada’s Big Telecom cartel.

However, within 48 hours of the 2015 federal election, Bell quietly filed its request to overturn the ruling. Why? Put simply: Bell knows that the future of the Internet is fibre – and if it can prevent smaller, affordable players from gaining fair access, it can kill these alternatives and force them out of the market.

Bell’s appeal to the federal government amounts to little more than playing politics with the Internet bills of everyday Canadians. The telecom giant is trying to undercut rules clearly designed to increase choice and affordability for Canadian Internet users.

This is why our team here at OpenMedia launched the Internet Emergency campaign. And since its launch, we’ve seen over 52,000 Canadians sign on, asking the Trudeau government to reject Bell’s price-gouging scheme.

But the big question still remains: Will the Trudeau government, and, in particular, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, listen to Big Telecom giants like Bell? Or with they listen to the 52,000+ Canadians, and a broad network of experts, arguing for fair rules that will help increase choice and affordability in our Internet market?

Truly a Team Effort

Over the past few weeks a broad network experts, advocates, and everyday Internet users have been working together to put pressure on the government to listen to Canadians and reject Bell’s appeal.

Put together, the whole of these efforts are greater than the sum of their parts. Our good friends at The Public Interest Advocacy Center (representing a broad-based coalition of diverse organizations, called the “Consumer Choice Coalition”), Cybera, Vaxination Informatique, Dr. Reza Rajabiun and Dr. Catherine Middleton of Ryerson University, and many many others, all submitted expert, detailed comments on why Bell’s appeal is bad news for present and future Canadian Internet users.

Together, our organizations have built the definitive case to reject Bell’s appeal by debunking myths about investment, drawing attention to Canada’s slipping position on key metrics of broadband success, and skewering Bell’s attempts to mislead everyday Canadians and policymakers. We all owe a great debt to these hard-working, talented experts who put their blood, sweat, and tears into these detailed submissions.

And, of course, all of this would be much more difficult if it weren’t for everyday Internet users speaking out in huge numbers. Whether you are one of the 25,000+ individual Canadians who spoke out in the CRTC’s original consultation process through OpenMedia’s Ditch The Deadweight campaign, or one of the 52,000+ people now asking the government to reject Bell’s appeal, we could have never done this without you.

Meanwhile, at OpenMedia Headquarters...

For OpenMedia’s part, our 65-page submission demonstrates how open access rules play a critical role in driving innovation, investment, and growth in Canada’s telecommunications sector. Key arguments in our submission include:

  • Bell’s claims that open access rules will lead reduce investment are contradicted by Telus, Rogers, and Bell’s own announcements of new fibre projects after the ruling.

  • The Royal Bank of Canada, Bell’s largest institutional investor, released a report saying CRTC policy is unlikely to harm investment following the ruling.

  • Given the Trudeau government’s commitment to policies that “...increase high-speed broadband coverage and work to support competition, choice and availability of services,” OpenMedia believes Cabinet cannot responsibly overturn this CRTC ruling.

  • Bell’s efforts, if successful, will mean the death of affordable high-speed Internet access for Canadian households and businesses outside the telecom incumbents.

And, finally, despite Bell’s claims, Canada is not a world broadband leader. International data on affordability, speeds, and access to fibre show that we are falling behind our international counterparts. As community member Ralph Broekhuizen mentioned on Facebook recently:

“...Canada is way behind with the data and fiber optics and we pay much more for their profit. It’s like everyone else can go wherever they want to go, accept YOUR car can only go 200km, and then it stops. You wouldn't go out the door much.. this has nothing to do with discipline or responsibility, This is about providers squeezing more money out of us because they can get away with it.”

Our submission is complemented by a letter sent earlier this month from OpenMedia to Minister  Navdeep Bains, outlining our concerns with Bell's actions. Unfortunately, we’ve received no word back from the Minister, but we hope to meet with him in the new year to discuss the concerns of Canadian Internet users, and ensure your priorities for our dysfunctional telecom market are front and center going forward.

So What’s Next?

As we said above, back in July, 2015, the CRTC announced new rules that would require Big Telecom to provide indie access to all fibre internet, similar to what already exists for cable and DSL broadband.

However, within 48 hours of the federal election, Bell filed its request to overturn the ruling. The official 30-day period for public comments on the telecom giant’s petition was initiated upon publication of Bell’s request in the Canada Gazette, and ended December 21, 2015.

Cabinet now has one year to respond from the decision being challenged – so stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, your small OpenMedia team will continue to keep the pressure on Minister Navdeep Bains, and his counterparts in Cabinet. We’ve got lots planned for the New Year, and we look forward to sharing it with you soon.