Rogers has provided some answers to the many questions about its massive outage last month that affected millions of Canadians. Yet there is still considerable uncertainty about what the government and CRTC are prepared to do to address ongoing concerns in the telecom sector. John Lawford is the Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC, the Public Industry Advocacy Centre, which has been a leading consumer voice for decades in Canada. PIAC was the first to file a request with the CRTC seeking an inquiry into the outage. John and I were both participants at the Industry committee hearing into the outage and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss what we learned and what more can be done from a regulatory, legal, and policy perspective.
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 138: John Lawford on the Legal, Regulatory and Policy Responses to the Rogers Outage
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 97: John Lawford on Why the CRTC Should Take Action on Inadequate Low-Cost Wireless Plans
The CRTC’s wireless decision earlier this year dubbed the “MVN-no” decision given its very limited opening to mobile virtual network operators in Canada sparked widespread frustration with the Commission. That decision included one less discussed element, however, namely the expectation that the major wireless carriers would introduce low-cost plans to ensure connectivity for low-income Canadians. Those plans were recently introduced, but John Lawford, the Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, wasn’t impressed. He wrote to the CRTC asking the Commission to take action over plans that aren’t even offered under the main carrier brands. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about that issue, the ongoing concerns with the wireless affordability in Canada, and the deepening frustration with the CRTC.
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:
Boycott: What If The CRTC Launched a Consumer Internet Code and Consumer Groups Refused to Participate in its Development?
Last month, the CRTC announced plans to create an Internet Code of Conduct. The CRTC promised that the code would establish “consumer friendly business practices, provide consumers with easy-to-understand contracts, ensure consumers have tools to avoid bill shock, and make it easier for consumers to switch providers.” The code attracted some initial criticism due to the wide range of exclusions – everything from net neutrality to privacy to broadband speeds falls outside its scope – but in recent days an even bigger concern has emerged with several leading Canadian consumer groups actively boycotting the proceeding.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has issued a report that concludes that Canadian ISPs need to provide better disclosure about Internet speed and performance claims.