Jean-Pierre Blais, the CRTC Chair, delivered a major address yesterday in which he sketched out his vision of the Commission in 2017. He envisions a CRTC that is trusted by Canadians a defender of their interests and that places Canadians at the centre of policy making. Blais acknowledged public skepticism about the CRTC and pledged “to earn their trust, every day, in every action and in every decision.”
Blais provided a vision that hits on many issues that should form part of Canada’s long missing digital economy strategy. CRTC activity includes:
- the creation of a Chief Consumer Officer to ensure the CRTC “examine all the issues before us through a consumer-focused lens.”
- the creation of wireless code of conduct
- ensuring Canadians have maximum choice of providers and platforms
- transparency in costing data of wholesale services
- accessibility for all Canadians
- broadband availability of downloads of 5 Mbps and uploads for 1 Mbps for all Canadians by 2015
- enforcing do-not-call and anti-spam legislation
- a broad definition of creators to include anyone that creates, distributes or promotes content
- protection against cellphone theft
On top of this list, Blais reiterated the importance of consumer choice for television packages, stating:
In our decision, we noted that consumers increasingly expect to be in control of what they watch. It makes sense that consumers and the distributors who serve them should have more flexibility in packaging choices. While we acknowledged the value of predictable revenues to the programming services, we decided that the days of guaranteed wholesale rates are over. Programming services cannot expect to remain completely insulated from the growing demand for greater choice by Canadians.
Blais added that the CRTC “won’t hesitate to intervene when there’s market failure or a need to protect Canadians” and made it clear that he welcomes greater public participation in the policy process:
We also have to ensure that Canadians become more involved in our decision-making process.
A few weeks ago I appeared before a Parliamentary committee. I told them that we cannot serve the public interest unless the public takes part in our work. We’re going to be more welcoming in our public proceedings and public hearings.
I don’t think our proceedings should be attended only by people who are paid to be there in their official capacity. Let’s level the playing field. Next month we’ll be holding a licence renewal hearing for CBC/Radio-Canada, and we’ve offered evening sessions to make it easier for Canadians to come and share their views. The sessions will be set up in a less formal way in order to encourage a more open dialogue.
At those hearings, we’ll also use audio-visual technologies to allow people to take part from other locations, including official language minority communities. By the way, these minority communities deserve to get the best possible programming services in their own language. That is a matter of citizenship. We continue to engage the public in online consultations on our website. This will facilitate a broader nationwide discussion. It enriches our public record and helps us make more informed decisions.
While there remain skeptics about the CRTC shift, it is hard to see what else the Commission could say to convince the public of a change in perspective and approach. Blais has set out an ambitious agenda for the coming five years with the goal of reshaping the public view of the CRTC and its role in crafting communication policy.