Canada Access Internet Choice & Affordability

Today’s CRTC ruling on wholesale Internet rates most anti-consumer decision on record

CRTC sides firmly with Big Telecom, undermining any chance for choice, affordability, and the success of small providers

May 27, 2021 — Today the CRTC released its final decision on the wholesale rates that smaller providers pay to access Internet services from incumbent service providers like Bell, Telus and Rogers. In the decision, the CRTC rejected its own 2019 decision to lower the rates, which would have seen smaller providers reimbursed hundreds of millions of dollars they had been over charged. Instead, the CRTC has opted to return to the outdated 2016 rates, in a move that will inevitably see Internet prices rise, and small providers struggle to survive. 

The decision comes after Big Telecom appealed the 2019 decision to each of the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA), Cabinet, and the CRTC. While the FCA rejected the appeal, Cabinet sent the decision back to the CRTC with instructions to find ‘balance’ between investment and affordability. The move was widely criticized at the time as asking for higher Internet rates – something most certainly confirmed in today’s decision. 

OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe had this to say in response:

“It’s appalling to see that the CRTC has once again sided with Big Telecom. It’s clear they couldn’t care less about consumers, affordability, or small providers. This is the most anti-customer decision I’ve ever seen from the Commission. They effectively decided it would be too much work to get the rates right, so they’re just giving up – on their own work, on small internet providers, and Canadians. And if that wasn’t enough, they continue to double-down on their dogmatic faith in ‘facilities-based competition’ – the same model that for decades has failed to lower prices, or deliver sufficient speeds to those in rural and remote areas.

The Liberal government campaigned on a platform of Internet affordability, but their pick for CRTC Chair has undermined this pledge at every turn. In his time as Chair, Ian Scott has overseen the rollback of nearly every gain we’ve made for Canadians. What’s worse, Cabinet actually set the stage for today’s disastrous decision, as their August 2020 Order in Council amounted to asking the CRTC to raise the rates. Our community won’t let this betrayal stand, and we can guarantee Canadians will remember it and hold them accountable next time they go to the polls.”

Over 57,000 members of OpenMedia’s community have spoken out to Cabinet in defence of the 2019 wholesale rates.

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