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Let’s put your Internet installation horror stories on the record

Help us upgrade the CRTC’s system to ensure indie Internet service providers get a fair deal.

ATTN: All supporters of independent Internet service providers (ISPs) and a competitive telecommunications market

Think indie ISPs are great? And that the telecom market could use a healthy injection of fair competition? Then we need you and your stories!

Have you ever dealt with anaggravating missed installation appointment? Had a technician change repair times on you with no notice? Or maybe you’ve faced service disruptions that your ISP couldn’t fix, because the problem was in another ISP’s hands?

If so, we have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it.

The Lowdown

When it comes to improving the quality of Internet access available in Canada, one major barrier has been how hard it can be to switch Internet service providers (ISPs), even for those in the know. Another major problem has to do with how well indie ISPs, like Teksavvy and Primus, can compete with large incumbent providers like Bell, TELUS, and Rogers, given the current market structure.

The harder it is to switch from a dominant to indie ISP, the harder it is for independent ISPs to compete on a level playing field. Every obstacle from a new modem requirement to a long installation wait may prevent indie ISPs with better service and lower prices from getting more customers, thus holding back all of us in the long run.

It also means that Canada’s telecommunications landscape remains tilted towards those who already control the market. As a result,usersbecome more vulnerable to excessively high prices, unreasonably low data caps, and subpar customer service. The lack of affordable choice and genuine competition means that users can’t just walk away.

To make matters worse, independent ISPs don’t yet have full autonomy over their own networks. They partly depend on the networks and services of incumbent providers, due to fair open access rules that increase choice and competition in the market. This sets up a conflict-of-interest dynamic that gives incumbent ISPs control over the service quality their competitors can offer.

To combat this risk of anti-competitive behaviour, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) set up a system known as the Competitor Quality of Service (CQoS) Regime. The system requires that incumbent providers, who sell wholesale Internet access services to indie providers, treat all competitors fairly and provide sufficiently high quality of service to enable independent ISPs to truly compete. Incumbents who fail to meet this service quality level must pay rebate fees to the impacted competitor.

The CQoS regime has been helpful, but it is painfully out of date, and that’s why we’re calling on you to help us get it up to speed.

The Target

The CRTC is currently reviewing the CQoS regime in a public consultation, for the first time in about a decade. This is our big chance to give Canada’s Internet services a serious upgrade.  

A telecommunications system for the 21st century requires three major changes to the current CQoS regime:

1)Expand the system to hold cable companies to the same standard of service quality. Right now, only former telephone companies like Bell and TELUS are held to account if they fail to maintain quality of service for the indie ISPs who buy wholesale services from them. The Commission should also ensure that those of us who subscribe to indie ISPs are equally protected if the incumbent provider is a cable company like Rogers, Shaw, Videotron, or Cogeco.       

2)Expand the system to ensure quality of service for high-speed fibre broadband Internet access. This is the Internet technology of today and tomorrow, such as the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) service that we won fair open access rules for in 2015 (and again in 2016). There is little point in ensuring quality of service only for fading services such as DSL; Canada’s telecommunications system must be future-proof and forward-looking, and this means ensuring competitor quality of service for next generation networks as well.  


3)Expand the system to ensure quality of service for mobile wireless services. For many people, cell phones and mobile wireless data plans are the only means they have of staying connected. Indie wireless service providers — or MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) — still have a truly uphill battle towards making it in Canada. Once they get there, though, we want to ensure that the CQoS regime will also protect them and thus all of us mobile plan subscribers from any unfair disadvantage when it comes to ensuring quality of service in mobile wireless plans.

The Mission

OpenMedia is intervening in this CRTC consultation, and we want to make sure the Commission hears your voices! If you have a story or experience to share like the ones seen in this post, then submit your story to the CRTC here or comment below, by Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Let’s make it clear to the Commission that indie ISPs need fair and comprehensive quality of service rules to compete.

We will be compiling the comments below, and those you send us through this Google form, and submitting them as part of OpenMedia’s formal intervention to the CRTC. This means the information you submit will be on the public record, and available on the CRTC’s website. We will also share highlights with our community, so your work will not go unnoticed!

Submit Your Comments to the CRTC:

What do you think about fair quality of service rules for indie ISPs?

Cynthia Khoo is Toronto-based lawyer currently acting as external counsel to OpenMedia in the abovementioned CRTC proceeding.

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