Innovation, Science and Economic Development Min. Navdeep Bains is proposing a new direction for the CRTC that puts the Canadian consumer first.
Bains’ proposed policy directive would require the CRTC to consider competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation in its telecommunications decisions and demonstrate to Canadians that it has done so.
A press release says the proposed order aims to improve the affordability of internet and cellphone services for Canadians. It comes less than a week after the release of the commission’s heavily-criticized report on misleading and aggressive sales practices in the telecommunications industry. Since the appointment of Ian Scott – a former Telus and Telesat lobbyist – as CRTC chair, there has been a mounting chorus suggesting the tone of some decisions are those of a captured regulator more concerned with safeguarding the interests of industry stakeholders than addressing the concerns of consumer groups and promoting competition.
“Our government is focused on improving the quality, coverage and, most importantly, the price of telecommunications services for Canadians—no matter where they live. We are giving clear direction to the CRTC that Canadian consumers must be at the forefront of all future decisions. We are ensuring that telecommunications policy will be made through a consumer-first lens to ensure Canadians have access to quality services at more affordable prices,” said Bains.
The release says competition is the best way to bring down prices of telecommunications services, including cellphone plans. Citing data from the 2018 Price Comparison Study of Telecommunications Service in Canada and Select Foreign jurisdictions, ISED says in regions with strong competition, wireless data plans are up to 32 per cent cheaper than the national average.
The proposed policy shift is a departure from the most recent 2006 Harper government directive to the commission “to rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible under the Telecommunications Act and regulate – where there is still a need to do so – in a manner that interferes with market forces to the minimum extent necessary.”
Comments on the order are due within 30 days.
Consumer advocates reacted to the proposed order with praise, with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), among others, saying the policy shift will ultimately benefit consumers.
— PIAC (@CanadaPIAC) February 26, 2019
🚨 BREAKING 🚨 Big WIN: ISED listened to our voices and requests #CRTC to put customers first.
Thank you for listening, @NavdeepSBains !
— OpenMedia (@OpenMediaOrg) February 26, 2019
This bears repeating: Policy Direction is a powerful tool that this government had not used yet. You may feel cynical about whether gov institutions will listen to consumers, but a new Policy Direction is a *strong* message to the #CRTC, one that can make a real difference. pic.twitter.com/S0AYEvDbXZ
— Andy Kaplan-Myrth (@kaplanmyrth) February 26, 2019
ISED has issued a new policy direction for the #CRTC, sending a strong signal that it’s time to start putting customers first — NOT Big Telecom.
Thank you for listening to the calls of the @OpenMediaOrg community @NavdeepSBains! https://t.co/hh6tkUPtMt
— Laura Tribe (@ltribe) February 26, 2019