The Role of CRTC in The Digital Economy

The CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Corporation) is taking steps to make wireless data-only plans available to consumers and low-income families across Canada whilst lobbying with major companies to try and get more Canadian content onto the web amongst other things.
In this post, we wanted to take a closer look at what the CRTC’s role is in the digital economy and why they have been getting involved in the whole wireless space, since after all, as their name suggests they should only have to do with radio and television right? Wrong. Since the internet has taken over our lives, the CRTC wants to regulate content on the web and ensure that Canada’s digital economy moves in the right direction. In recent press releases, spokesmen for the Corporation have mentioned that they have been lobbying with streaming services like Netflix and Spotify to try and influence them into sponsoring Canadian content multiple times, whilst also lobbying with broadband service providers to get them to improve their services. More consumers are accessing content online and the Corporation is imposing a code of conduct for service providers which has come as a bit of a shock to the industry.

It’s of vital importance to remember that the reason that most of these service providers are still in business is due to the fact that most of the content consumed by Canadians online is video, therefore it’s only fair to impose a code of conduct to ensure that best practices are in place and in favor of the Canadian consumer and also safeguarding the future of such content and the way it’s produced . Due to the fact that customer complaints have been soaring it’s only fair to say that a code was needed in order to make sure that Canadian content is produced, consumed and also discovered in the future as the former Chairman of the CRTC previously stated.

CRTC former Chairman Jean Pierre Blais says he has achieved what he has set out to do

Jean Pierre Blais, the former CRTC chairman has stated in a news conference that he feels that he has achieved what he set out to do since he was appointed Chairman of the corporation in 2012. In his 5 year tenure, Blais believes that the CRTC is finally an institution that is trusted by Canadians due to the fact that he didn’t shy away from putting the consumer first and sticking to his guns when faced with hard decisions relative to imposing regulation on wireless providers and corporations.
In his vision, Blais recognized that the forms of Broadcast changed and hence legislation needed to change accordingly. Before Blais, 2 Million or around 18% of Canadian homes did not have access to high-speed internet. With tying ISP’s down to paying into a fund which he hoped would eventually grow up to $750 Blais made it his mission to get high-speed Broadband into the most rural parts of the country.

On top of this, the CRTC has made it the rule that all providers must offer a basic skinny TV package to its users for no more than $25 a month which should include a pick and pay option where users can pick the channels they’re the most interested in and removing the ones they never watch, which is pretty neat. Way back in 2015 TV packages could set you back over a $100 a month, not a skinny deal at all. The CRTC recognizes that Canadians view TV as a very vital way to stay connected above and beyond entertainment. Blais has made all this possible and tv service providers, like Rogers are now offering packages at $24.99 for a buffet type deal while others like Beanfield have even slashed their basic package to $20 a month.

Blais did not re-apply for his position when his term came to an end as he felt he has achieved the plan of action he set out to achieve way back in 2012 when he was appointed chairman. Taking over the reins from Blais is now new chairman Ian Scott, an industry Veteran, by all means, having held a director position of regulatory affairs at Telesat Holdings Inc., a satellite communications provider and interim director roles at both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau. This all prior to his full appointment by the federal government. Scott also has significant experience in the private sector and has held the position of vice-president of government relations for Telus Corp, a major wireless provider in Canada. Scott started his term in September 2017.

Ian Scott speaks about the future and the modernization

Scott’s new challenge is now that of regulating in favor of the consumer. As he said in a statement issued upon being appointed Chairman, the CRTC’s role is to identify and execute the regulatory rules and policies that will provide Canadians with the technology, content, and services they need whilst also protecting them against unwanted communications and extra costs.

He further iterated that the communications industry is in a state of constant transformation and hence the important work of the CRTC is now to adapt to the industry’s needs. The CRTC has since phased out its local phone subsidy in favor of broadband spending, a decision that was made to reflect the fact that in this digital era internet access provides a far superior connection than a landline ever will.

The Skinny TV Option

As mentioned earlier the CRTC, soon after announcing that broadband internet is a basic necessity for every Canadian household, has also made it a point to impose a Skinny TV option that should be available from providers as a build your own channels type deal and should not cost more than $25. This sounds like a great deal but at a closer glance, it seems that the major providers are still after their profits and Skinny TV is not that Skinny after all. One needs to read the fine print. Installation and activation fees on top of hardware rental fees were initially put in place by these providers who seemed like they had found themselves a loophole to be able to still charge what they wanted in the end and only got a slap on the wrist for hiding these costs. Do you want PVR (private video recording) for watching shows later? In that case, you can say goodbye to your $25 and get ready to pay double.

In reality, these are still some of the challenges that the CRTC faces and is working to rectify with the regulations being put into place.