Many Canadians follow telecommunications and broadcast issues at the CRTC from a distance – the cost of wireless services, the speed of their Internet access, the availability of broadcasting choice. Others engage more closely on issues such as net neutrality, Cancon regulation, or Netflix taxes. But there is one Canadian who doesn’t just follow the CRTC. She watches it through the use of access to information laws that present a perspective on the CRTC that would otherwise remain hidden from view. Monica Auer, the Executive Director of the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, joins the podcast this week to talk about insider access, slow reimbursement of costs for public interest groups, the number of CRTC meetings, and the Commission’s seeming indifference to commissioning original research. The interview is interspersed with comments from current CRTC Ian Scott taken from one of his first public speeches after being named chair in 2017.
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The CRTC released four cost awards yesterday arising from the Bell coalition’s proposal for a site blocking system. The Commission rejected the proposal last year on jurisdictional grounds and has now followed up with significant cost awards to public interest groups that participated in the process. The FairPlay coalition challenged the cost awards to OpenMedia and CIPPIC, arguing that its citizen engagement was “deliberately misleading and cannot represent responsible participation in the proceeding.” It also argued that the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s participation was “irresponsible in nature” since it included arguments questioning the harm of piracy, which FairPlay maintained encouraged the Commission “to disregard the basic tenets of the Copyright Act.”
The CRTC soundly rejected these arguments, ordering the FairPlay coalition to pay over $130,000 in costs as part of four applications (OpenMedia/CIPPIC, PIAC, FRPC, UDC). The Commission’s analysis on the value of the OpenMedia/CIPPIC public campaign is particularly noteworthy given efforts by some commentators to question it: