CRTC Examining Telecommunications Policies

by Jordan Richardson on February 5, 2010

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is gearing up to hold a policy hearing to examine the issue of rural access to broadband internet services. The hearing is slated for October, but many of Canada’s service providers are already reacting to the news.

The basic core issue for the CRTC is whether Canada’s service providers should be required to supply rural areas and other underserved communities across the country with broadband internet access. Along with the issue of access, there is also a plan for the policy hearing to include talk of equitable access to Canada’s wireless networks.

The policy hearing appears to be reflective of industry concerns over the shift in internet traffic from desktop computers to personalized wireless devices, but that is only part of the issue for Canada’s companies.

Cost is, of course, the biggest roadblock for the Big Three providers.

Michael Hennessy, Telus’s senior vice-president for government and regulatory affairs, is going one step further by suggesting that this October policy hearing could change the entire landscape of the Canadian telecommunications industry. He went on to claim that the CRTC’s mandate to supply access to rural areas would be “prohibitively expensive.”

“You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars if you’re going to extend wire-line, broadband Internet to rural communities,” he said.

By offering subsidies to phone companies to help provide rural communities with basic access to internet and phone services, the CRTC has sought to allow universal access. But wireless internet services don’t follow the same CRTC guidelines and it looks like the Commission is hoping to change that.

The telecommunications industry in Canada has been, to say the least, a little surprised by this revelation from the CRTC. Word around the campfire is that many of the companies have composed letters to the CRTC outlining their feelings on rocking the proverbial boat for the sake of a handful of rural customers.

How this will play out remains to be seen, of course, but the fact that the CRTC is even considering such measures could mean that a large-scale restructuring of Canada’s telecom industry is in the works. And that could mean trouble for the Big Three.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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