If you’ve been following the wholesale internet access rate story in the news, you have probably heard that on Thursday, May 27, 2021, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (or CRTC) opted to reverse its own 2019 regulatory decision to implement lower internet access rates in Canada.
So, what does that mean?
First, a bit of context for those who may be unfamiliar with the story:
Following an investigation that spanned years, the CRTC determined that the rates internet providers like Start.ca pay to access internet infrastructure in Canada were way too high.
New lower rates were decided upon by the CRTC (yay!)
The big telco providers appealed the decision... a few times (boo!)
These appeals continued to prevent the lower rates from being implemented, resulting in many providers having to raise prices, us included.
At the beginning of 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would be throwing out the final appeal issued by the big telco providers.
We quietly celebrated this update as we thought that meant good news was on the horizon.
Cut to today – the CRTC has now backtracked on its own 2019 decision, stating that not only will rates NOT be decreasing, but that the rates will revert back to the highest they’ve ever been.
This ruling arrived as a stunning and disappointing flip-flop from the CRTC’s previous stance that internet access rates in Canada were far too high.
A win for telco giants, a loss for the average Canadian
This ruling is the largest regulatory win for the corporate telco giants in recent history. As a direct result of this outcome, these companies will see their already billions in profits continue to increase, while internet prices for the average consumer continue to rise. Canadians already pay some of the highest prices for internet services in the world, and this ruling will only exacerbate the situation. Despite promises from politicians, it seems our system of checks-and-balances continues to disregard the best interests of Canadian consumers.
This decision, if carried out, will ultimately mean Canadians can expect to see their internet bills go up.
Why did the CRTC reverse its own decision?
The CRTC’s purpose as it pertains to the internet services industry is to “facilitate greater competition between Internet service providers and to promote innovative broadband services and affordable prices.” From our perspective, this ruling is an abject failure by the CRTC to fulfill its mandate.
The original 2019 decision to lower rates was backed by substantial data and years of objective investigative work. It established rates that were designed to benefit Canadian consumers by encouraging competition and promoting innovation within the telecommunications industry. The 2019 ruling was widely celebrated by consumer advocacy groups as a huge step in the right direction towards making internet services more affordable in Canada. So, why flip-flop?
Following years of intense government lobbying, regulatory abuse, and lengthy court delays, it appears the CRTC simply caved to the big telco carriers. The CRTC did not provide any clear justification for this decision, so now, like you, we’re pretty much all left scratching our heads.
How we’re fighting it
Start.ca is currently working alongside other independent internet operators to launch a formal appeal to the Government of Canada, demanding that they step-in and fulfill their promise to support regulatory actions that support fairer internet prices in Canada.