by Marie Aspiazu
Back in August, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) significantly lowered the fees small Internet providers were required to pay Big Telecom for access to their networks.
As a result, a handful of small Internet providers like Teksavvy, Start.ca, Oricom and Distributel passed the lower wholesale rates on to their customers in the form of lower Internet bills and faster speeds, and reaffirmed their commitment to invest in rural broadband.
The CRTC’s decision also ruled that the final wholesale rates would be applied retroactively to 2016, when the interim rates were set. This meant smaller providers would receive a three-year refund for being grossly overcharged by Big Telecom for access to their network. As you can imagine, Big Telecom is not happy and is doing everything in its power to hike Canada’s Internet prices by reversing this landmark CRTC decision.
Following the CRTC’s decision in August, Bell announced it would cut its investment in rural communities by 20 percent as a result of lower wholesale rates. This move would leave up to 20,000 homes without an Internet connection.
But their greed didn’t stop there. Big Telecom immediately filed to overturn the CRTC’s decision at the Federal Court of appeal. Most recently, they went a step further and asked the newly minted cabinet to reverse this decision. Their efforts reek of desperation, and if successful, our Internet prices will go back up and small providers will struggle to compete.
This was not the first time Big Telecom used these kind of antics and took advantage of a “relatively seldom-exercised governmental appeal procedure”. They did something very similar back in 2015, right after the Liberals were elected. In an attempt to monopolize fibre Internet infrastructure, Big Telecom went to the new cabinet to reverse a CRTC decision that granted small providers access to their fibre network. But Big Telecom’s tantrum didn’t work thanks to widespread public opposition. Over 80,000 signed OpenMedia’s petition to reject Big Telecom’s price gouging scheme — and the people won.
This historical victory strongly signals that we can win again, particularly given that the Liberals (and all other major parties) pledged to lower Internet prices during the election. To hold the government to that pledge, the first step is to insist that cabinet sends Big Telecom’s proposal straight to the garbage bin where it belongs.
Lower wholesale rates mean small providers can compete with Big Telecom on a more level playing field and make better offerings to their customers, as we saw immediately after the CRTC’s decision in August. This will also force big providers, like Bell to lower their prices in order to stay competitive. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
We cannot let Big Telecom get its way and strip away our hard won lower Internet prices. We must do everything in our power to make sure the CRTC decision from August is upheld. Sign OpenMedia’s petition demanding that cabinet rejects Big Telecom’s price gouging scheme, and share it widely!
Marie Aspiazu is a Campaigner and Communications Specialist at OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. For more information on digital policy issues, including free expression, access to the Internet, and online privacy, Visit openmedia.org