New CRTC policy direction on telecom lacks teeth
Competition and affordability promises aren’t backed up by binding commitments
MAY 26, 2022 — Today Cabinet issued a new policy direction to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on telecom services, replacing its 2006, 2019, and 2020 instructions which were widely seen as having created contradictory expectations. As part of today’s announcement, Cabinet made clear they would not be reversing the CRTC’s 2021 Internet wholesale rates decision, a ruling which made it more expensive for small ISPs to purchase network access and led to more expensive home Internet prices across Canada.
“Today our government agreed the CRTC is failing Canadians — yet did nothing immediate to fix it,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “With global inflation devastating household budgets, returning to the 2019 wholesale Internet rates until the CRTC calculates new ones would have been an obvious affordability win. Instead of giving Canadians help with cheaper Internet today, Minister Champagne’s policy direction sticks to general instructions that the CRTC must do more to prioritize competition and affordability, and make its decisions promptly. This kind of talk is unfortunately cheap. What people in Canada need is for our Internet prices to fall in line with the rest of the developed world — and that can only begin when the absurdly high 2016 interim wholesale rates are dead and gone.”
“The good news in today’s announcement is that the CRTC we have today is clearly out of step with the government’s new objectives,” continued Hatfield. “Under current chair Ian Scott, the CRTC seems to have lost interest in supporting viable telecom competition to Bell, Telus and Rogers. Cabinet appears to be losing patience with his CRTC’s tardy and disinterested approach. Fortunately, Mr. Scott’s term is now almost up, providing a chance to make a more substantial change to get the CRTC back on track. If Minister Champagne is serious about the new policy direction’s goals for healthy telecom competition, affordability and choice, he must appoint a public interest champion in Scott’s place with clear experience prioritizing these goals.”
In their 2021 wholesale rates decision that overturned their 2019 rates, the CRTC refused to recalculate their own figures, instead reverting to 2016 interim rates for wholesale Internet that were intentionally set excessively high. Despite Cabinet choosing not to undo the CRTC’s 2021 Internet price hike in today’s decision, the new policy direction now requires the CRTC to perform these calculations, as part of prioritizing the continued health of the existing wholesale Internet regime.
Earlier this week, OpenMedia delivered the voices of over 50,000 members of our community to Cabinet, demanding a reversal of the 2021 wholesale rate price hikes. Over 10,000 community members have signed an open OpenMedia petition calling on the government to appoint a public interest CRTC chair who will prioritize affordability when current chair Ian Scott’s term expires this year. The job posting for CRTC Chairperson is currently open and closes in early June. The federal government is accepting comments on the new CRTC policy direction until July 19.
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.
Campaigns Director, OpenMedia
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