Reviewing the Policy Direction

The release of the Government’s proposed new Policy Direction late last month started a statutory consultation period, formally announced with the publication in the Canada Gazette. The consultation has generally proven to be a meaningful exercise, often with substantive changes reflected in the final version, as we saw in 2019, the last time Canada introduced a Policy Direction.

The proposed policy direction outlines key policy goals for Canada’s telecommunications networks, to be able to support the latest innovative applications, available to all Canadians regardless of where they live or work, and at affordable prices. These are consistent with the themes of quality, coverage and affordability, which have been the focus for the past 5 years.

The notice in the Canada Gazette includes a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, providing some good background information.

Other relevant documents for those participating in the consultation can be found at:

I can envision a few areas of the proposed Direction that may attract some fine tuning.

For example, I wonder if sections 10 and 11 might contain a level of technological specificity that could inhibit network evolution, contrary to the stated policy goals. Keep in mind that the Policy Direction becomes a legislative instrument that can remain in force for a long time (the proposed Direction will rescind a Policy Direction that has been in place for 16 years, since 2006).

  1. In order to foster fixed Internet competition, the Commission must
    • a) maintain a regulatory framework mandating access to wholesale services for fixed Internet;
    • b) monitor the effectiveness of the framework; and
    • c) adjust the framework as necessary and in a timely manner, including by making proactive adjustments.
  2. The Commission must mandate the provision of an aggregated wholesale high-speed access service until it determines that broad, sustainable and meaningful competition will persist if the service is no longer mandated.
  3. The Commission must mandate the provision of wholesale high-speed access services with a variety of speeds, including low-cost options in all regions, and should not allow the discontinuance of such services if this would eliminate affordable options for consumers.

At the very least, shouldn’t we consider the appropriateness of Section 10’s lack of technology neutrality?

Perhaps the Policy Direction could achieve the same purpose by including sections 10 and 11 as subsections of Section 9, following 9a) with something along the lines of “mandate the provision of appropriate wholesale high-speed access services, with a variety of speeds, including low-cost options in all regions”; renumber b) and c) as c) and d); and, add a subsection 9e) along the lines of “not allow the discontinuance of such services if this would eliminate affordable options for consumers.”

Thoughts?

As set out in the Telecom Act:

  1. The Governor in Council may, by order, issue to the Commission directions of general application on broad policy matters with respect to the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives.
  1. (1) The Minister shall have an order proposed to be made under section 8 published in the Canada Gazette and laid before each House of Parliament, and a reasonable opportunity shall be given to interested persons to make representations to the Minister with respect to the proposed order.

The “reasonable opportunity” for “interested persons to make representations to the Minister” runs until July 19. Comments are to cite the title of the policy direction (“Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on a Renewed Approach to Telecommunications Policy”) and can be sent by email to telecomsubmission-soumissiontelecom@ised-isde.gc.ca.

Comments are expected to be posted on the Spectrum Management website.

You can submit your official comments on the proposed Policy Direction by clicking here.

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