Michael Geist sez,
Canada's telecom regulator hearing into usage based billing concluded yesterday with a final decision expected some time in the fall. This long post focuses on the shift in CRTC thinking on the state of broadband competition in Canada but wonders whether it comes too late to make a difference. For many years, the CRTC has steadfastly maintained that the Canadian ISP market is competitive. The view that the Canadian Internet services market is competitive has shaped virtually every recent important CRTC decision on broadband regulation. Given its longstanding view that the market was competitive, the frustration felt by independent ISPs, businesses, and consumers simply didn't resonate with the commission.
Yet despite this track record, the recent hearing provided glimpses of a change. On Monday, CRTC Vice-Chair Len Katz posed a question that started from the following premise:
"I guess I come from the position that we, the Commission, have already recognized there is a need to create competition, more competition in order to protect Canadians, and facilities-based competition is not yet here. So it's our job to find a vehicle to create that competition and, in the simplest terms, it is to create an environment where broadband would be made available to a third party through a lease arrangement."
That the CRTC Commissioners may have at long last recognized the need to prioritize competition above all other considerations is the good news. The bad news is that it may be too late. The Commission has already set much of the wholesale framework and has been unwilling to grapple with the retail one.