Friday, February 17, 2006

The CRTC is getting uppity

The Conservatives have talked for years about reforming or doing away with the CRTC, and here's one place Stephen Harper and his Heritage Minister, Bev Oda, may want to start.

I certainly don't like what I see here. Basically, the CRTC is unilaterally funneling $625.7 million that should be refunded to Canadian telephone customers toward expansion of broadband Internet services to remote communities because the unelected poobahs of the CRTC think that's a better use of the money. The money came from a CRTC mandated overbilling of Canadians to facilitate greater competition in the industry.

Expanding broadband Internet access to rural communities is important, and as I recall it was one of Brian Tobin's pet projects as Industry Minister, but when did it become the CRTC's mandate to set innovation and infrastructure policy, not to mention allocate hundreds of millions in funding? If I'm not mistaken, that's still Parliament's job.

If the government wants to fund rural broadband Internet expansion it should include it in its next budget, and the telcos should write a cheque to their customers to refund the over billing. The CRTC falls under the Heritage Minister, who, I'm pretty sure, can overrule this decision.

So Bev, whadya say?

CRTC decision sparks outrage
No refunds for consumers overbilled by $652 million

By: Rosie Lombardi
IT World Canada (17 Feb 2006)

Consumer advocacy groups are outraged at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) decision, announced yesterday, to funnel $652.7 million resulting from deliberate overbillings of telephone customers to expansion of broadband services instead of refunding the money.


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Simon Pole said...

I have to agree this absolutely outrageous. The only question is, will there be enough of a backlash for the money to be returned to consumers?

audacious said...

sounds like it defeats the purpose of the CRTC, ... diverting funds ... .

Emerson Links said...

I think it is a brilliant idea.

This kind of creative thinking will help Canada continue to be a world leader in this area - and is truly respectful of our unique Northern and large landscape.

Controversial? Perhaps.

But kudos to the CRTC for making one decision that will change and open up Canada's north for generations.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with EL above. If that helps rural communities, why not.

That is the sort of B.S. that happened in Bush's country. Supposedly progressive individuals go crazy over supposedly mismanagement of those institutions that protect our democracy (perhaps minus a few mishaps). Pretty soon, everybody is clamoring for the dismantling of those institutions ... Bottom line, we have been conned into doing the neocons dirty work. And, boy, are they laughing!

A BCer in Toronto said...

I think rural broadband access is a great idea too. But it's not the CRTC's job to spend $625 million. It's Parliament's. I'm not saying dismantle the CRTC. They have a role. But this isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Telecoms have always been allowed to charge more in return for providing phone services to rural and less-profitable areas.

This is the same thing, except using it for internet access for these people.

Sure, it was taken from TelCo fees rather than Broadband Fees - but they're all really the same company, and they'll be the ones providing the service later.

Either way - this is about the CRTC deciding to be a force for good, rather than one of administration. Connecting Canada is worth ruffling a few feathers.