Equality At Any Cost

BHolt — September 1, 2010

The People’s Commissariat for Post and Telegraph CRTC is at it again. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) has taken it upon itself to make sure that No Rural Canadian is Left Behind in terms of internet access. Under the plan, $442 million will be given to telecoms to connect remote communities to the internet. The CRTC has decided that high speed internet is a basic right, and therefore must be offered to every Canadian.

The best part?

“The money came from the CRTC’s deferral account, which collected about $1.6-billion in excess revenue from high prices mandated to subsidize competition.”

In other words, Canadians have been overcharged for internet service, and the CRTC is hoarding the booty. No wonder I don’t have the money to pay the HST on leftover Olympics merchandise!

There’s more, though. Not only has the CRTC snuck in what can only be called an internet tax, they have dictated that the telcoms must proved wired internet access to remote communities. When Bell proposed building a wireless network, the regulator said “the service’s download capacity, speed and price were not equal to those Bell provides in urban areas, and were thus unacceptable.”

By this logic, BC ferries is discriminatory because they use smaller, slower ferries between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island than they do on the busy Victoria-Vancouver route, and they run fewer sailings. BC Ferries should add a surcharge on the busy route to pay for mega-ships for the rest of their destinations. Maybe the CRTC should station some it’s officers in Prince George, just to be fair.

It is worth noting that the rest of the money collected by the CRTC will be returned to consumers. Nonetheless, this decision by the Commission is an excellent illustration of what ails the Canadian telecommunications industry. The government body that regulates telecoms is funneling $442 million to existing companies, and telling them to build an outdated network. If a new company wanted to offer an innovative service to remote communities (i.e. wireless), they would be up against a behemoth like Bell, endowed with half a billion dollars worth of free money. And they say their goal is to create competition and innovation? Oh yeah, these are the same guys that are fighting tooth and nail to prevent foreign companies from offering cell phone service to Canadians.

The CRTC is probably not the worst branch of the Canadian Government, it just tends to demonstrate its incompetence and naiveté in a more outrageous way than its peers. Put differently, the CRTC is not the only group in government that believes it can create magical equality among all Canadians, it’s just better at making it obvious how stupid an idea that is.

Comments

CodeSlinger says

Dave:

The whole problem with the CRTC is that it exists.

No such body is required, because only one regulation is needed to keep the business of providing telecommunications honest, profitable and nimble: no single entity may serve more than one tenth of one percent of the market. That’s a regulation so simple, even a Canadian Member of Parliament can understand it, without having to consult a specialized regulatory body of so-called industry experts.

So I say, replace all current telecommunications legislation with that one simple law and disband the CRTC. Then none of the evils the CRTC is supposed to guard against could exist. And neither could any of the evils committed by the CRTC.

And, for the first time ever, we would see a free market in action.

— September 2, 2010

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