By Greg O’Brien
THE REACTION TO THE CRTC’s decision to quash usage-based Internet billing in favour of a couple of other options (complete with set rates) has been all over the map, with several hailing it as a win for consumers while others predict broadband rates will only rise because of it. Then again, there are also some in the middle taking a wait and see approach.
Dennis Beland, senior director regulatory affairs, Quebecor:
“The decision is a victory for artificial competition. We’ve always been defenders of facilities-based competition and if you take a step back and look at the context in which this decision has been made, we’ve got telcos and cablecos both spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year pushing fibre further and further into their networks. In each major centre in Canada you’ve got at least three LTE networks either launched or being built, you’ve got more spectrum auctions on the way with spectrum highly tuned to wireline-like broadband offerings, you’ve got Xplornet that just launched this satellite with massive capacity and then in the middle of this comes a CRTC decision which, in our opinion, makes a bunch of arbitrary costing rulings in order to create arbitrage opportunities for people who access other people’s networks and we don’t see the necessity for that in the current Canadian context.
“Even worse, we wonder what this does for the incentive for network investment by the people who actually do build networks for a living... What the CRTC has handed them today is a wonderful arbitrage opportunity and that’s what they will base their business plans on and take advantage of.”
Ken Engelhart, SVP, regulatory affairs, Rogers Communications:
“The thing I’m hung up on is that the Rogers numbers seem lower than everyone else’s numbers. Which seems bizarre. We have lower rates than Bell, lower rates that Cogeco, lower rates than Videotron. And in some cases, substantially lower rates, so I’m having a lot of trouble trying to understand that because in the case of the other cable companies, we know that our networks are pretty similar, we know that the costing models we filed were fairly similar – so why did we end up with lower rates?
“I think what the CRTC is saying is ‘cable companies, you were building fibre before the phone companies, so we’re going to penalize you.’ So, that’s kind of weird since we all have fibre-based networks.”
Chris Peirce, chief corporate officer, MTS Allstream:
"We are pleased the CRTC has adopted a wholesale model that allows competitors to offer real choice in the market while providing MTS Allstream with the ability to manage our network capacity. The choice of models shows that the CRTC understands that wholesale access drives competition in the market and that competition not only provides choice for consumers and businesses but is also the engine of investment and innovation. The decision will result in small cost savings for our Allstream business and has no material impact on our MTS business. We are however, reviewing the decision to ensure that prices approved fully reflect the principles established."
Marc Gaudrault, CEO, Teksavvy:
While saying he was pleased with the structure set out by the CRTC decision, Gaudrault labelled it “a step back for consumers. The rates approved by the Commission today will make it much harder for independent ISPs to compete. This is an unfortunate development for telecommunications competition in Canada.”
Mel Cohen, president, Distributel:
This independent ISP, on the other hand, was somewhat happier with the decision and said it remained committed to its unlimited high speed Internet packages. " We're happy to see that the Commission opted to endorse a capacity-based billing model. We appreciate the flexibility that this model offers but are concerned about the rates that have been approved. In short, this decision, which allows independent ISPs like us to provide unlimited use Internet plans, represents a small step forward both for consumers and small businesses."
John Lawford, counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC):
“The CRTC clearly heard the voice of consumers who wanted real competition in broadband Internet, lower prices and no usage caps. This decision creates a competitive framework for Canada’s retail internet pricing to finally deliver real value to consumers.”
Steve Anderson, executive director, OpenMedia:
OpenMedia’s press release called the decision a step forward and its leader said: “It is truly rare for people to outmanoeuver Big Telecom’s army of lobbyists, but together Canadians did it. Now that we’ve prevented big phone and cable companies from taking full control, it’s time to fix our broken telecom market for good. A first step is for Canadians to move to independent providers, then we need to shift policy so everyone has affordable choices for Internet access. Our future depends on it.”
Christian Paradis, Federal Minister of Industry:
"We will study the CRTC's decision carefully to ensure that it meets our objectives of encouraging competition and network investment and enabling consumer choice. Canadians have been very clear in expressing their concerns about earlier UBB decisions. Let me be clear: our government's policy will always be to encourage competition, ensure consumer choice and minimize regulation."
Mirko Bibic, SVP of regulatory and government affairs for Bell Canada
We’ll leave the last word to Bell Canada, the company which this decision most affects and which led the narrative of what was UBB. “While we would have preferred the CRTC to accept our proposal, its decision does at least ensure that we can now charge our ISP customers for the network capacity they consume. At the same time, independent ISPs have full flexibility to manage their businesses and set their retail prices as they choose. Independent ISPs have also received significant discounts to the monthly rates they pay us for access to our network.
“There is still much in the decision that we will have to study.”
- Greg O’Brien