Mark Goldberg


A telecom platform

As we move closer to the official start of election season, many political parties are trying to curry favour among the electorate by bashing telecom service providers.

Such positioning may be good politics, but not necessarily good policy.

We should look for greater balance. In the 2019 Policy Direction to the CRTC, there was an important balance of interests, between “competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation.”

  1. the Commission should consider how its decisions can promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation, in particular the extent to which they
    1. encourage all forms of competition and investment,
    2. foster affordability and lower prices, particularly when telecommunications service providers exercise market power,
    3. ensure that affordable access to high quality telecommunications services is available in all regions of Canada including rural areas,
    4. enhance and protect the rights of consumers in their relationships with telecommunications service providers, including rights related to accessibility,
    5. reduce barriers to entry and barriers to competition for new, regional or smaller telecommunications service providers,
    6. enable innovation in telecommunications services, including new technologies and differentiated service offerings, and
    7. stimulate investment in research and development and in other intangible assets that support the offer and provision of telecommunications services; and
  2. the Commission, in its decisions, should demonstrate its compliance with this Order and should specify how those decisions can, as applicable, promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation.

It is particularly telling to examine how the text of the Policy Direction changed from its preliminary version to the final Order. These changes, which added the word “investment” in section (a)(i) and strengthened the concept of investment in high quality services “in all regions of Canada including rural areas”, are found in my June blog post.

As I wrote a few months ago, “most government programs continue to focus on increasing ‘supply’, extending access to broadband. We need to ensure there are strategies to drive ‘demand’: increasing adoption rates among groups that could subscribe, but have not. That is a problem across all geographies, and is perhaps more pronounced in urban markets.”

The demand side of the equation is often overlooked when governments deal with universal broadband adoption. That isn’t just a matter of price, but understanding all the barriers.

It is easy to call for measures that lower prices. It is more responsible to set out a policy platform that understands the balance between competition, affordability, consumer interests, investment and innovation.

Ask candidates how their platforms meaningfully ensure that all Canadians, those in urban and rural areas, will have access to high quality, innovative services.

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