Earlier this year, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains sent shockwaves through the Canadian telecom industry by unveiling a proposed new policy direction to the CRTC based on competition, affordability, consumer interests, and innovation (my original post on the proposed direction here, podcast with Teksavvy’s Andy-Kaplan Myrth here). The big three telecom providers unsurprisingly objected to the government’s shift away from facilities-based competition toward a broader approach that welcomed all forms of competition. That shift signalled support for entry of new competitors such as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), a signal that the CRTC understood with its new-found support for them.
The proposed policy direction was subject to a public consultation, garnering criticism from the big three providers. Yet the government largely stuck with their position in the final policy direction that was released earlier today. The final version features several changes that ensures that the CRTC account for the policy in all decision (not just regulatory hearings), emphasizes accessibility and rural coverage, and accounts for new forms of competition and investment. In doing so, it recognizes that the investment means more than just facilities-based, hardware based investments. Rather, it includes software and other mechanisms to bring new competition into the market.
The policy direction will take immediate effect and have a significant impact on Canadian telecom policy. Just six months ago, the telecom giants were urging the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Review Panel to emphasize facilities-based competition in their report on the future of Canadian broadcast and telecom policy. Bains and the government have jumped ahead of that report (which is still awaiting an initial interim report on submissions – some of which remain secret – much less the report with recommendations due in 2020) with a policy direction that will set the course for new forms of telecom competition in Canada in the years ahead.