Leader of independent ISPs urges big reform of internet pricing

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OTTAWA – A leading member of Canada’s independent internet industry says it’s time to reform a regulatory system that is delaying the introduction of more competitive pricing.

The comments were directed at the CRTC and federal government at an annual event organized by the Competitive Network Operators of Canada.

CNOC’s members are currently locked in a protracted battle over the wholesale prices that are charged by Canada’s regional phone and cable companies.

Bell, Rogers, and other incumbent carriers are using multiple appeals to protest a CRTC decision that would slash many of the wholesale rates charged to independent ISPs.

But CNOC chairman Matt Stein said such delays lock in higher rates that prevent independent ISPs from lowering their retail prices for consumers and small business.

Stein suggested that an extreme solution would be to prevent the wholesale sellers from having retail divisions that compete with the independent ISPs.

But he said Canadian consumers could also get better prices and more choice if the CRTC was able to set and enforce fair wholesale prices without years of delays

“The incumbents have every incentive to drag out regulatory proceedings and make things take as long as possible,” he said. “They have the resources and, yes, the rules even allow it.”

Later in the ISP Summit, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said that the cabinet is worried that the CRTC rates announced last year could have a negative effect on some investments.

But Bains stressed that cabinet decided to allow the CRTC to complete its rate-setting process, which includes review of its own pricing decisions that’s currently underway..

— By David Paddon in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2020