Ian Scott to the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology

Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Thank you for inviting us to appear before your Committee.
With me today are my colleagues Philippe Kent, Director of Telecommunications Services Policy, and Anthony McIntyre, General Counsel and Deputy Executive Director.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide an update about the CRTC’s ongoing work to support competition and investment in the marketplace so that Canadians have access to the broadband and wireless services they need.
We understand your concerns about the affordability of these vital services for the Canadian population, and we share those concerns. We have been working to implement a policy that is intended to foster competition among Internet service providers in the marketplace.
Much has been said about the decision we issued in May 2021, which set the final wholesale rates for aggregated high-speed broadband access services. Before I speak about the substance of this decision, I do want to make clear that this was a costing decision. It’s important that we get the rates right.
Now, why did we reverse course? To put it simply, we got the initial decision wrong. We couldn’t move ahead with rates that we knew were erroneous.
While we always strive to get things right, the CRTC is not infallible. Legislators anticipated this, and included provisions in the Telecommunications Act that enable decisions to be reviewed by the Commission, Cabinet and the courts, as a mechanism to ensure that the public interest is protected.
In accordance with these provisions, companies submitted applications asking us to review our 2019 decision, as is their right. We addressed those requests seriously, fairly and in an impartial manner—as we always do in our role as an administrative tribunal. We built a public record and gathered evidence from interested parties. When we analyzed the evidence, we found errors and could no longer justify the associated rates. Ultimately, we chose to reaffirm and make final the interim rates that we set in 2016, with some adjustments.
The Commission’s work to implement its wholesale access policy continues. There are numerous ongoing proceedings that are looking at the regime, our costing methodologies, barriers to the deployment of broadband and more.
While I fully acknowledge that the new final rates are creating challenges for some competitors, I am absolutely confident we have done the responsible thing. I would stress that the 2019 rates were never in effect in the marketplace. Some competitors lowered their retail rates on the basis of that decision, but that was a business decision and a risk that they assumed given the appeals that were being filed at the time.
While greater competition among broadband providers will benefit Canadians, there are far too many areas of the country that still do not have access to adequate or affordable broadband.
That is why the CRTC is working to close Canada’s digital divide. Through our Broadband Fund, the CRTC has committed more than $186 million to date to improve broadband services for about 29,050 households in 160 underserved and unserved communities. This includes a significant number of Indigenous communities.
We continue to evaluate proposals and we will announce new projects as they are approved.
Finally, let me conclude by giving you an update on our mobile wireless decision, which we issued last April. Among other things, our decision created a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) regime for Canada. It opens the door for service providers to access the wireless networks of the big three national carriers—Bell, Rogers and Telus—as well as SaskTel in Saskatchewan. We are currently in the process of establishing the associated terms and conditions of this access.
Doing so will enable wireless providers to expand services into new markets, challenge larger wireless providers and disrupt the status quo.
This is good news for Canadians. Consumers will benefit from a market for mobile wireless services that features more providers, more choice, more affordable options and more investment. In addition, we took action to ensure Canadians can sign up for low-cost and occasional use plans.
I hope my remarks have helped to clarify the work the CRTC is doing to support more competition and investment in the marketplace, ensure Canadians have access to high-quality broadband and wireless services, and regulate in the public interest.
We would be pleased to answer your questions. Before we do, I must qualify my remarks by saying that we are unable to delve into specifics about any files that are currently before the Commission.

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