Andrew Coyne, national affairs columnist with the National Post, doesn’t like the CRTC and he isn’t happy that his viewing and listening options are dictated by a government regulator.  This was the theme of his presentation to the 100 or so guests gathered to hear his speech, The End of the CRTC?, at Toronto’s Spoke Club on September 12. Part of the Fraser Institute’s Behind the Spin series, Coyne took aim at some of the rulings made by the telecommunications and broadcast regulator, questioning their motives and portraying the CRTC as a relic of days gone by.  While Coyne’s criticisms were primarily directed at the CRTC’s broadcast decisions, he did take some jabs at the commission’s handing of the telecommunications. "It’s still trying to rig the competition between the phone companies" he claimed, "even though nobody knows what a phone is anymore."  Recent CRTC decisions regarding VoIP services (NL, Sept. 1/06) could be interpreted as market manipulation, but it’s a far cry from the days when, according to Coyne, "the CRTC oversaw the Bell telephone monopoly; an intricate system of cross-subsidization, using the profits from over-charging long-distance users to underwrite the cost of providing local services." The CRTC does have an important role to play in telecommunications regulation, Coyne conceded, adding that it is still an unnecessary creation of the government when it comes to broadcasting issues. However he seemed to lack the understanding of Canada’s telecommunications industry to pass judgement on the telecommunications and broadcast regulator.  When asked what government department or body would allocate mobile frequencies in the absence of the commission, he could only offer, "You’ve got me there," conceding that a government regulator would be needed to allocate spectrum. In fact, Industry Canada allocates spectrum, not the CRTC.  Coyne proposed that the CRTC move to an auction system, for both broadcast and telecommunications but didn’t offer many specifics of this "solution." While it was entertaining, his speech was more reminiscent of an informed rant than the serious examination of Canada’s telecommunications policy many had expected from one of Canada’s most revered public policy journalists. It’s one thing to highlight problems, it’s quite another to solve them or at least offer concrete solutions to perceived deficiencies. His best musings were reserved for the commission’s involvement in broadcast regulation. "We’ve got satellites in the sky, Internet on the ground, and digital cable channels coming out of our ears, but I still can’t get HBO – the CRTC won’t let me," Coyne lamented.