Regulator raises questions about future Internet services as 'dark cloud' looms

OTTAWA -- A "cloud of uncertainty" hangs over public consultations launched Thursday on whether Canadians are getting the Internet services they need and want, says an advocate for better online access.

See Full Article

The latest in a series of telecommunications consultations by the CRTC asks consumers what telecom services they consider necessary, what they rely on most and whether the cost of those services should be the same everywhere.

A survey that's part of the consultations also asks whose responsibility it should be to ensure a minimum standard of Internet service, particularly in rural and remote areas -- market forces, government, the CRTC or a combination of the three.

The consultations take place while a major Internet service provider, Bell Canada, is appealing a 2015 CRTC ruling that would force the telecom giant to share its high-speed infrastructure with other carriers on a wholesale basis.

Bell's appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet is casting a shadow over the outcome of public hearings set for April that will wrap up the consultation process, says Josh Tabish of OpenMedia.

"It's tricky to make arguments about the types of services Canadians have and will have available to them while Bell is trying to restrict the range of services that will be made available and reshape the marketplace in their favour as this consultation is going on," Tabish said.

"Bell's appeal has placed a kind of dark cloud of uncertainty over the hearing that makes it much more difficult for the commission to decide what options will and won't be available to Canadians."

Aiming to foster a more competitive market, the CRTC announced policy measures last July that would force Bell and other telecom giants to give independent Internet providers access to their fibre-optic infrastructure on a wholesale basis.

The policy was similar to the approach used for gaining access to slower DSL broadband connections that helped small, independent Internet service providers (ISPs) to compete with the bigger players.

Bell has asked the new Liberal government to overrule the decision, warning that the policy could force it to stop investing in state-of-the-art technology, thereby slowing innovation.

Canada needs an Internet policy focused on growth and investment, a Bell spokeswoman said.

"It's network providers like Bell that invest the billions of dollars in advanced networks that have made Canada a global leader in broadband communications," Jacqueline Michelis said Thursday in an email statement.

"It's long been federal policy to encourage investment and we don't agree that companies that plan to invest little or nothing should simply be allowed to ride on the networks we and other committed companies have built."

Some large business groups and technology companies with strong ties to Bell, such as Cisco and BlackBerry, support the appeal.

But consumer groups, independent Internet service providers, some cable providers and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are lining up behind the telecom regulator.

The appeal has also seen some big cities pitted against each other. Toronto and Ottawa have submitted letters in support of Bell, while the mayor of Calgary has opposed it.

For CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, it's full steam ahead toward modernizing the rules governing Internet access, regardless of the appeal.

And he urged Internet end-users and those who didn't take part in the hearings that led to the July decision to speak up now about the online services they want.

"I must admit that I was surprised that some of the people that filed positions in the petition to cabinet had not even bothered participating in our very open process," Blais told The Canadian Press.

"Right now, (Bell) has filed it, but it doesn't make it that they've won ... so I'm quite serene and confident that we made the right decision. And we will move forward."



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Waymo accuses Uber of self-driving car theft

    Economic CBC News
    A self-driving car company founded by Google is colliding with ride-haling service Uber in a court battle revolving around allegations of betrayal, high-tech espionage and greed. The brewing showdown emerged late Thursday in a lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court by Waymo, a once-secretive self-driving company hatched by Google eight years ago. Source
  • Ottawa's deficit hits $14 billion nine months into 2016-17 fiscal year

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The federal government ran a budgetary shortfall of $14 billion over the first nine months of the fiscal year, compared with a $3.2-billion surplus over the same period a year earlier. The Finance Department's monthly fiscal monitor says federal program expenses between April and December rose $16.7 billion, or 8.8 per cent, compared with the same stretch a year ago. Source
  • Auto parts giant Magna raises concerns about protectionist trade measures

    Economic CTV News
    AURORA, Ont. - Canadian auto parts giant Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG) raised concerns Friday about protectionist trade measures as it reported its latest quarterly results. The Aurora, Ont.-based company says the auto industry is dependent on open borders and the free movement of goods, services, people and capital, particularly in Europe and North America. Source
  • OMERS retirement fund improves investment return in 2016 to 10.3 per cent

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- The OMERS pension fund for nearly half a million public sector workers in Ontario says it achieved a 10.3 per cent net investment return in 2016 -- the highest in several years. The Toronto-based fund manager says its net assets rose by $8.1 billion to $85.2 billion at the end of 2016, making OMERS one of Canada's largest retirement funds. Source
  • 20% higher gas prices push up cost of living to 2.1% pace in January

    Economic CBC News
    The cost of living in Canada rose by 2.1 per cent in the year up to January, a sharp increase from the pace in December. Statistics Canada reported Friday that the annual inflation rate rose to 2.1 per cent last month, from 1.5 per cent. Source
  • Inflation rate in January fuelled by gas prices

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A surge in gasoline prices helped push Canada's annual inflation rate well beyond expectations in January to 2.1 per cent -- an increase that coincided with the implementation of new carbon-pricing policies in Ontario and Alberta. Source
  • London takes title of world's most innovative city

    Economic CTV News
    A new ranking has named London the world's most innovative city, after analyzing cities on their potential for creation and implementation of new ideas. In the 10th edition of Melbourne-based outfit 2thinknow's "Innovation Cities Index 2016-2017," the British capital outperformed 500 cities on the list for the second year in a row. Source
  • Toronto makes top 10 list of world's most innovative cities

    Economic CTV News
    Canada’s most populous city has been named one of the top 10 most innovative cities in the world, in a global ranking released on Friday. Toronto placed eighth out of 500 cities for in the 10th annual “Innovation Cities Index” by the Melbourne-based consultancy company 2thinknow. Source
  • Doubts grow over stock market's Trump-inspired surge

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- How much more can the "Trump Bump" lift the stock market? U.S. stocks have screamed to records since Election Day because investors are expecting Donald Trump's White House to cut taxes for business, make regulations easier for them and goose more growth out of the economy. Source
  • Royal Bank's 1st-quarter profit jumps 24% to $3.03B

    Economic CBC News
    Royal Bank of Canada said Friday its first-quarter net income rose 24 per cent to $3.03 billion. That's compared to the $2.45 billion of net income that RBC reported during the first quarter of last year. Source