Telecom Policy Review Panel

In April 2005, in response to lobbying from Canada's large telephone companies, the federal government created a panel of three industry experts to review the way telephone service and telecommunications should be regulated. The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (TPRP) issued a consultation paper in June, and received submissions from numerous interested parties in August and September. CIPPIC filed a submission, together with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Consumers' Association of Canada, and the National Anti-Poverty Organization. See below for links to our submissions.

This review covers a wide range of issues in telecom policy, including the implications of new technologies for telecommunications policy, appropriate policy objectives, the appropriate extent and form of regulation (economic, technical, and social) for telecommunications, the roles of various regulatory institutions in Canada, the status of and appropriate approach to Canada's "connectivity agenda", and obstacles to the adoption of new communications technologies by Canadians. CIPPIC and its partners focused on issues of concern to ordinary Canadians:

  1. Ensuring (through effective competition or effective regulation) the delivery of high quality telecom services at reasonable and affordable prices to all Canadians;
  2. Ensuring the availability of a wide range of telecom services and applications;
  3. Protecting individual privacy and ensuring network security;
  4. Preventing telecommunications fraud and deceptive business practices, and ensuring that consumers are not held responsible for telecommunications fraud that they cannot control; and
  5. Providing telecommunications consumers with clear rights and effective redress mechanisms in respect of unfair business practices in the telecommunications market.

CIPPIC et al submissions:

August 15, 2005

September 15, 2005:

To no-one's surprise, big industry players have dominated this process, in one case alone filing over 1300 pages of submissions. Large telecom providers are calling for radical deregulation and the removal of telecom-specific consumer protection measures such as customer privacy, quality of service monitoring, and rules against unjust discrimination and unreasonable rates. They want to reduce the role of the regulator, so that companies are free to offer what telecommunications services they want, where they want, at the price they want, and under the conditions they want.

In response, consumer and public interest groups have pointed out numerous ways in which market forces fail to provide Canadians with adequate telecommunications services, and in which government intervention is needed in order to ensure that people have decent telecom service available to them at affordable prices and under fair terms of service.

In a study conducted in the summer of 2005 by Decima Research, over 90% of Canadians expressed the view that each of the telecommunications policy objectives of (i) reasonable price, (ii) good quality (iii) privacy (iv) disabled access and (v) rural access were important responsibilities of the federal government. Affordable access for low income Canadians was viewed as important by 86% of Canadians.

In keeping with the views of Canadians, we are calling for a renewed commitment to important social and economic goals of telecommunications policy, stronger consumer protections and more effective enforcement and redress mechanisms, and a focus on end results rather than the means of achieving them.

Subsequent Developments

The panel issued its report on March 22, 2006. On June 13, 2006, the Minister of Industry issued a proposed policy direction to the CRTC, calling for greater reliance on market forces, in keeping with the Panel’s recommendations. A number of organizations submitted comments on the proposed policy direction. In October 2006, a group of public interest researchers and advocates called on the government to preserve important social policy goals and principles underlying telecommunications regulation in Canada, and and emphasized the need for continued regulatory oversight and government intervention in order to achieve certain goals such as universally available broadband service and network neutrality.