Last week, I mentioned the PIAC report that concluded that consumers have not benefited from nearly 20 years of telecom competition in Canada.
The document seems to be somewhat disparaging at the ineffectiveness of consumer stakeholder representation in communications tribunals:
The gaps in the demand and the ability of the public interest to be adequately represented in telecommunications issues and proceedings are substantial. The bridging of such gaps will likely require a separate study. This report will touch upon this issue again in the recommendations.
PIAC says that the solution will require a separate study, but this strikes me as the core issue. As I mentioned last week, consumer groups have been active lobbyists with politicians, regulators and policy makers in every proceeding.
The CRTC revised the funding formulae for cost awards just before the holidays with its Telecom Regulatory Policy 2010-963. But does not achieve the same result as that recommended by the Telecom Policy Review Panel. In its final report, the TPRP observed the need for improved policy research capabilities.
Industry Canada should make a multi-year commitment to fund ongoing policy research to support improved policy making and regulation in the telecommunications and information and communications technology sectors. Research grants should be awarded by a qualified, independent panel, and the research results should be made publicly available in a timely manner.
I agree. I also agree with the recommendation of the Panel in respect of long term funding for the participation of public interest groups:
The government should review the issue of public interest group participation in telecommunications regulatory proceedings. Funding for such participation should come from a multi-year commitment by government to subsidize such participation, rather than costs awards imposed by the CRTC on individual telecommunications service providers.
The entire industry – consumers and service providers – will benefit from an enhanced quality of representation of diverse perspectives made possible by an improved funding formula.