Category Archives: crtc

Raising broadband definition would shame Canada’s woeful speed goals


Perhaps eager to make up for its chairman’s recent resoundingly dumb proposal to allow fast lanes on the internet and thereby kill net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with a much smarter and welcome proposition: the redefinition of what broadband actually is.

According to the current definition, high-speed internet access in the United States currently qualifies as any connection having a download speed of four megabits per second or higher, with an upload speed of one or higher. Given that this isn’t enough to even properly watch Netflix, let alone use many modern bandwidth-intensive applications, the regulator is planning to ask the public to comment on whether the thresholds should be modernized and raised to 10 or even 25 megabits down and 2.9 up.

If such a redefinition were to go through, the number of Americans who can be said to subscribe to broadband – currently around 94 per cent of the population – would decrease significantly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in crtc, government, internet


The internet’s fate is being decided right now

"Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!"

“Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!” (Image courtesy Marvel)

There probably isn’t anything more exciting to watch right now for tech nerds than the situation regarding net neutrality that’s unfolding in both the United States and Canada. In the space of a week, it has gone from a fomenting revolt to a full-out war, especially down south.

Following last week’s letter from 150 technology companies, Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler backed down somewhat on his original proposal to allow internet providers to institute so-called paid prioritization of traffic, or the effective creation of a fast lane for online companies willing to pay extra.

Feeling the heat from big tech firms including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, not to mention some of his fellow commissioners, Wheeler instead suggested that the FCC might want to consider reclassifying internet provision so that it qualifies as a telecommunications service, which could then be subject to regulations.

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Young males very concerned with TV rule changes

Canadians are unwilling to pay more for online services such as Netflix to get CanCon. Or are they?

Canadians are unwilling to pay more for online services such as Netflix to get CanCon. Or are they?

The CRTC last week released the results of its ongoing “Let’s Talk TV” consultation, which is soliciting opinions from Canadians in various ways on what the future of television – and its regulation – should be. The results so far show the exercise to be an intriguing experiment in gauging public opinion on a hot subject.

For one thing, the regulator declared its own online “Choicebook” poll – where voluntary participants answered a series of questions ranging from whether TV channels should be sold a-la-carte to whether services such as Netflix should be required to contribute to the production of Canadian content – as “not representative” of Canadian views in general:

Participants do not resemble the population and the tendency for certain types of people to provide feedback through the Choicebook process is reflected in the results. Notably, 70% of all participants are male. Participants are also somewhat younger and with higher levels of income.

A total of 6,727 people started the Choicebook, while 6,068 answered the last question. Why were so many participants young males? “We don’t have a definite answer as to why this happened,” says CRTC spokesman Denis Carmel. “This why the input of the panel – which is more representative of [Canadian] society – was important.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in crtc, television


CRTC’s CanCon porn could get a whole lot stupider

Who's up for a porn parody of The Beachcombers?

Who’s up for a porn parody of The Beachcombers?

If you haven’t heard by now, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission wants more Canadian porn. At least that’s the message it delivered to three Toronto-based erotica channels when it recently hit them with a reprimand for falling short of Canadian content rules.

As per the requirements, Canadian TV channels must air at least 35-per-cent Canadian-made content, which evidently also applies to the sexy stuff too. In their response, AOV Adult Movie Channel, AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxx said they fell only a few minutes short and are confident they can easily correct the mistakes.

Pretty much everyone, including an editorial in The Globe and Mail, has pointed out the absurdity of this. The crazy thing is, it may only be the tip of the absurd iceberg considering what else the CRTC is working on. With the ongoing Let’s Talk TV consultation, the regulator is amassing opinions on how television – and also so-called over-the-top video such as Netflix and YouTube – should be regulated. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in crtc, sex


CRTC’s TV survey is presumptious and alarming

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist had a post the other day on the CRTC’s new Talk TV consultation, a process designed to solicit Canadians’ opinions on how television services are delivered and sold. Geist calls the associated survey “lopsided,” where “the options presented to respondents are limited and skewed toward internet regulation for online video or supporting the status quo for conventional broadcast.”

I decided to take the survey myself to see what he’s talking about and, yup, “lopsided” may be putting it mildly.

The following question is a good example. It asks respondents if they want access to more American and international channels – and who doesn’t, really? The follow-up, however, asks if they’d want that if it meant paying more or if it meant that some Canadian-made shows – and therefore jobs – would be lost in the process:

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in crtc, television


Roam Mobility wants to redefine wireless service

Part of T-Mobile's resurgence is due to wholesale carriers, says Roam Mobility CEO

Part of T-Mobile’s resurgence is due to wholesale carriers, says Roam Mobility CEO

“Roaming has always been a sore spot, especially for Canadians,” says Emir Aboulhosn, chief executive of Roam Mobility. Given the recent war between the federal government and the industry over the prices Canadians pay for wireless service, that’s something of an understatement.

In my previous post, I wrote about my experiences with Vancouver-based Roam’s service, which aims to provide an affordable U.S. roaming alternative to the big carriers. In a nutshell, I found it to be a great option for travelers, both for its ease of use and its significant cost savings.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder what the long-term prospects are for Roam and companies like it. The big Canadian providers are certainly feeling the pressure from regulators and government on their roaming fees. The feds are moving to cap domestic roaming, or the fees that carriers charge each others’ customers to use their networks within Canada, while the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is looking at the same issue internationally. Carriers have naturally reacted by lowering their roaming rates and it’s a fair bet that they’ll go lower still.

With that likelihood on the horizon, how much room will be left for alternative providers that base their entire business models on the existence of high rates? Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in crtc, mobile


Why Conservatives aren’t winning in telecom

winningIf there was one takeaway from this week’s International Institute of Communications’ annual conference in Ottawa, it was the strong after-taste of winning. It doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Sheen, but rather explains the Conservative government’s problems with the telecommunications industry. Simply put, one of them is winning and the other is not. It’s pretty clear to anyone watching which is which.

The point was driven home at IIC again and again. In my own facts-versus-myths panel, Scotia Capital and Genuity analysts Jeff Fan and Dvai Ghose respectively noted the failures of the government’s policy objectives from the 2008 wireless spectrum auction. With Public Mobile sold to Telus, Mobilicity on the brink of failure and Wind, well, twisting in the wind, it’s obvious that the government’s biggest attempt to inject more wireless competition into Canada hasn’t worked out very well. Or at least, it worked temporarily, but it’s increasingly looking like it’s going to sputter out.

Fan also pointed to how the CRTC’s move to effectively ban three-year wireless contracts has caused monthly prices to go up. That was actually a no-brainer that was easy to see coming – several observers (myself included) predicted big price increases just as soon as the regulator announced its plan back in June.

Bell Media president Kevin Crull spent a good portion of his IIC address talking about how the government’s current desire to implement pick-and-pay TV channels may not necessarily lower costs for consumers. “As we move forward in responding to consumers, we need to be clear that there is an inherent risk. When buying less, the unit cost is going to be higher and overall savings, if any, may be small,” he said.

The best summary of all of this was a conversation I had at the conference with Celia Sankar, head of the non-profit Diversity Canada Foundation. Sankar told me all about the class-action lawsuit she has launched against Bell over its prepaid wireless plans. She’s arguing that prepaid balances shouldn’t expire in Ontario because they qualify as gift cards. (It’s illegal for gift cards to have expiry dates in the province.)

Given how these things go, I asked her if she was prepared for the eventuality that, should Bell lose the case and be forced to sack the expiration, the company might simply jack up prepaid rates in return. Tellingly, she didn’t really have an answer for that.

When critics attack the government for rightly trying to lower consumers’ telecom bills, there’s an almost contemptuous undercurrent to their comments. When they gleefully point out that the Conservatives’ efforts to lower bills haven’t worked, there’s also a sub-text that suggests they never will. The kicker is, such observers are right because they understand Sheen-ian winning.

Telecom companies have certain revenue streams that they’re used to. In fact, they have a responsibility to shareholders to continually grow them. So, a scatter-shot approach by the government that takes aim at one issue at a time – whether it’s three-year contracts, roaming, pick-and-pay channels – isn’t going to work in the long run, because the companies will inevitably just recoup the lost revenue in other ways. Nail them here and they’ll get you back there.

Without some sort of dramatic, large-scale action – the complete removal of foreign-ownership restrictions, structural separation or even the formation of a crown corporation are just a few options – the companies are going to keep on winning. The government, despite its best intentions, is destined to keep on losing.


Posted by on November 22, 2013 in bell, crtc, government, telecommunications