CRTC “Analysis”

The CRTC and the regulation of telecom market has generated an enormous amount of interest in recent weeks with the Telecom Policy Review and CRTC decisions on local forebearance and regulation of mobile television. The coverage from the mainstream media has become entirely predictable – supplemented by supportive quotes from Bell and/or Telus, the message invariably is that regulation is bad (forget that the telecom review panel called for stronger regulatory powers), the so-called free market is good (never mind the woeful lack of competition in many sectors and regions), and the CRTC either doesn’t get it (local forebearance) or can’t do anything about it (mobile television).

While I certainly don’t think the CRTC is immune from error – I was critical of its VoIP decision and its reluctance to engage on the net neutrality issue – the corporate-speak that has typified the coverage rarely serves the public interest by informing Canadians about the complexities of the issues at hand.  Instead, it leaves the mistaken impression that the CRTC is populated by clueless bureaucrats who need only to get out of the way in order to ensure that Canadians enjoy great choice and competition.  I suspect the experience of most Canadian consumers who have minimal choice in broadband provider, are less than thrilled with a wireless market that has moved as slowly as possible on number portability, and invariably use a major telco for their local phone service runs counter to this perspective.  Further, it is good to see CRTC Commissioner Charles Dalfen speaking out on some of the recent decisions with a bit more analysis in this interview with Lis Angus.  The CRTC isn’t perfect, but I’m glad that someone views the market through the prism of consumers rather than shareholders.

One Comment

  1. David Akin says:

    “Mainstream Media” 🙂
    Regulation is bad when it exists to perpetuate a goal that has no social value. It is one of the oddities of the Canadian telecommunications market that increased competition is that kind of goal. Lower prices and better service are the desired outcomes that result from a regulator gaming a system to hobble one group of companies in order to favour another group of companies.
    But, as even some of the CRTC’s own studies have concluded, Canadian consumers have among the lowest telecommunications costs in the world and their service footprint, even in expensive-to-serve remote and rural areas is, according to the CRTC’s own metrics, excellent and highly reliable.
    So here we have a conundrum. Regulators ought to encourage competition to further consumer goals of lower prices and better service. But as we have lower prices and better service than, for example, the highly competitive and fractured U.S. market, why, for this unique Canadian set of circumstances, is competition a good thing?
    Do we have lower prices and excellent telecommunication services because of or despite the CRTC?