One home’s subsidy is another home’s cost

As we prepare for the CRTC’s Review of basic telecommunications services, it is remarkable to see the number of communities that are scheduled to speak. Ninety different groups will be heard over 14 hearing days, from April 11-28.

A couple months ago, I wrote “Should broadband be part of basic service” that tries to summarize the core issues being reviewed. As I wrote at that time:

As my frequent readers know, I am not a fan of subsidies based on geography rather than financial need. I have stated before that the CRTC should have started by looking at “who” doesn’t subscribe to broadband, not perpetuating and potentially extending the system of telecommunications subsidies based on “where” you are located, regardless of your ability to pay.

Many of the parties are from rural and remote communities, seeking subsidies for broadband infrastructure expansion within their territories. But, I have also written that “Affordable broadband isn’t just a rural issue.”

When last produced, Statistics Canada showed that more than a quarter of households in Montreal had no internet use from home; the same was true for 1 in six households in Toronto and Vancouver; 1 in 5 in Regina.

Providing subsidies to rural and remote communities will require funding through increased telecommunications costs for other users. What evidence do we have that Canadians will be willing to pay more in order to subsidize others?

A subsidy for some homes has to come from other rate payers. Will the groups that come to the CRTC with their hands out provide evidence of how big a “broadband tax” Canadians are willing to pay?

When so many Canadians are looking for lower communications services prices, how will they respond to a regulatory imposed price increase?

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