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Eatrides era at CRTC starting with new framework for internet, “wait and see” approach for wireless

News | 01/20/2023 5:34 pm EST
CRTC chair Vicky Eatrides./ photo courtesy CRTC

The CRTC is starting a fresh chapter with new chair Vicky Eatrides who will be making it her top priority to modernize the commission’s internet framework as it has not produced the desired results for lowering internet bills.

“The big focus right now I would say, on pricing, is for the internet. Looking at that high speed access and wholesale… we need to come up with a better model. And we know that because it’s not having the desired effect. That’s clear,” Eatrides told the Wire Report in a Friday interview, referencing the government’s 2021  annual pricing report which found Canada’s internet prices are among the highest internationally.

Eatrides said consumers can expect a CRTC that will produce tangible results for Canadians specifically regarding competition and pricing, along with a modern, inclusive and timely organization.

“Certainly on the pricing side, Canadians are not always happy with the price of internet services and the wireless services that they have. So there are things that the CRTC can do on price in terms of wholesale access on both sides to try to move things along.”

A Part 1 application brought forward by one of Canada’s largest wholesale-based internet service providers (ISP), TekSavvy Solutions Inc., is the first major file brought forward under Eatrides’ two week-old term.  TekSavvy is making a last ditch appeal to the CRTC to stop certain elements of the pending merger of Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. The company argued that the wholesale arrangements between Rogers and Quebecor Inc.‘s Videotron  constitute an “undue preference” and thus a violation of the Telecommunications Act.  It requests “relief from the underlying causes that enable unduly preferential off-tariff agreements (OTAs)”; a review of all the incumbents’ use of OTAs; and “alternative interim relief” from particular OTAs.

When asked about OTAs, Eatrides said it is still too early to talk about the file.   

On the wireless side Eatrides said she is adopting a wait-and-see approach, “with some pushing forward,” because it’s been only three months since the CRTC released its terms and conditions of service allowing mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) to operate in Canada. 

Asked about facilities-based versus service-based competition, Eatrides said the CRTC has “a framework that’s been put into place. I’m just optimistic we will push things along.”

“This is still new. This is new-new because that came in October. We set the terms and conditions and we’re waiting for these negotiations to take place. So we’ll push that along. I think we need to see how this unfolds in the coming months,” she said.

Eatrides said the CRTC’s consultation on telecom services in the Far North is also top of mind and she will be heading to the Yukon in April. On that file, BCE Inc.’s Northwestel is arguing to the commission that there’s no need to introduce wholesale high-speed access (HSA) services in the North, because of the imminent entry and competitive threat of multiple low earth orbit (LEO) satellite services. A competitor, Iristel Inc.’s Ice Wireless, is calling for aggregated wholesale HSA and for the incumbent to file an updated cost study for Wholesale Connect and to make numerous technical and quality of service enhancements to Wholesale Connect.

– Reporting by Jenna Cocullo at jcocullo@thewirereport.ca and editing by Michael Lee-Murphy at mleemurphy@thewirereport.ca


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