Internet prices in Canada are notorious for being among the highest in the world, and the new head of the country’s telecoms regulator wants to see if they can change that.
“I’m very focused on competition. I’m focused on pricing,” said Vicky Eetrides, who began a five-year term at the helm of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on January 5th.
It’s only been two weeks, but she’s planning to move quickly.
She told Eatrides The Star in an interview on Friday that she intends to come up with a fix for the beleaguered online wholesale market in the near future: “What I would say is ‘stay tuned’.”
The CRTC requires large telecom operators like Rogers and Bell to sell access to their networks to smaller players at regulated rates. The independent service providers then sell the Internet and television service to their own retail customers.
The system aims to create more consumer choice and encourage more competitive pricing practices, but in recent years a series of CRTC rulings have favored large operators. Now, independent internet providers say they are Struggling to stay in business And some sold their companies to players like Bell And Quebecor.
Eatrides takes over the position of CRTC chief from Ian Scott, who has become deeply unpopular with consumer advocates and small telecom operators in part for appearing to favor large corporations in some of those crucial decisions.
“We’ve seen that the high-speed access framework doesn’t have the positive intended impact that we want it to have,” Eatrides told the Star, referring to the wholesale internet market. She added that in “the months — not years, soon — we plan to come up with something to revisit this model, because we know we need a better model.”
“When you look at prices, even internationally…they’re not good,” Ietrides said, referring to the findings of a report prepared by Wall Communications Inc. for the federal government. “Internet prices — and wireless, quite frankly, although wireless might come down a little bit — we’re kind of in the top three of the highest prices in the world.”
the The latest report of the wall It found that between 2019 and 2021, Average home Internet prices have increased across the country in every basket but onea class of relatively low-speed plans.
Canadian internet prices in 2021 were also either higher than international comparisons or close to the most expensive in several speed tiers of the study, which compared domestic prices to those in other G7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US). In addition to Australia.
On the wireless front, the CRTC came out with new rules last year for a system that requires large cellular carriers to sell network access to certain small connections. Eatrides said it wants to make sure the system works as it should.
“I would like to know where the top suppliers are in terms of negotiations with regional suppliers,” she said.
Earlier this week, independent internet provider TekSavvy filed a motion alleging that an agreement between Rogers and Videotron (a side deal for Rogers’ $26 billion acquisition of Shaw) violates CRTC rules. Eatrides said it’s too early to comment on the fate of this app, which could throw another clue into the timing of the proposed transactions.
On Tuesday, the Federal Court of Appeals will hear the Competition Bureau’s appeal of a court ruling last month that refused to block the merger. The companies still hope to close the deal by the end of January.
Aside from that (TekSavvy app), we’re watching closely, obviously, the Rogers-Shaw merger in general. “I want people to be able to say, ‘What did CRTC do for me?’” And then get good answers. So, whether it’s lower prices or more options and (network) flexibility and more access to Canadian content. ”
She added that she recognizes the need to balance those priorities with policies that encourage companies to invest in building networks and spend money on innovation.
The CRTC is also expected to face scrutiny this year because two government bills — one on forcing internet giants to pay for news and one on new streaming rules for streaming platforms — could give the regulator new powers.
“Parliament will give us what they give us and then we will carry it out,” Itrides said of how she plans to handle the new laws and responsibilities. “In some ways, I think it’s a little early to say that.”
Eatrides has a long background in competition law and policy, having spent more than a decade in increasingly senior roles with the Competition Bureau before recently assuming a Deputy Minister position in Canada’s Federal Administration for Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Earlier in her career, she practiced law in the regulatory group at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Ottawa and taught courses in competition law at Queen’s University.
Eatrides is the second woman to head the CRTC after Françoise Bertrand, executive director of Quebec Broadcasting, assumed the role in the late 1990s.
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