Federal funding earmarked for rural broadband
In its 2016 budget, the Government of Canada committed $500 million over five years to “extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities.”188 Further details on program parameters will be announced in the coming months.
The federal government’s 2016 budget also provides $255 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to the First Nations Infrastructure Fund. It will be used to support investments in a range of complementary infrastructure projects, including broadband connectivity, “in order to help communities as they develop and grow."189
CRTC Review of Basic Telecommunications Services (Telecom Notice of Consultation (CRTC 2015-134)
In April 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) concluded the hearing portion of their “Review of basic telecommunications services.” Academics, public interest groups, individuals, municipalities, and telecom companies appeared before the commission to comment on the feasibility of including high speed internet as a “basic telecommunications service,” or whether broadband internet is a basic service, akin to landline telephone services, to which all Canadians require access.
The hearing centred around three major questions: Is broadband an essential service? What essential activities are Canadians taking part in online, and what service level is required to support those? And how do we pay for it? The CRTC is expected to release a decision in the coming year.
CRTC Review of wholesale wireline services and associated policies (Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326)
CRTC decision 2015-326 mandates that large incumbent carriers provide disaggregated wholesale access to their fibre networks for access and transport facilities. Large DSL and cable providers have been required to share their copper and coaxial cable networks through wholesale and Third Party ISP Access (TPIA) arrangements since the 1990s. Incumbents will now be required to do the same with fibre optic access networks. Bell Canada appealed the decision with the federal cabinet,190 but the petition was rejected by the Minister responsible for Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.191
The decision will be implemented provincially beginning with Ontario and Quebec. As per paragraph 152 of the decision, when a competitor requests disaggregated wholesale high speed access from the incumbent in Alberta, the new rule can be triggered here.
First, since the demand for wholesale HSA services is currently focused within certain geographic markets, disaggregated wholesale HSA services should be implemented in phases, starting with Ontario and Quebec. Other phases targeting the implementation of disaggregated HSA services in other geographic markets will be identified at a later stage. Implementation of the disaggregated wholesale HSA service in the designated geographic markets will be triggered by competitor requests for the service at specific central office and head-end locations. Incumbent carriers are to consult with their wholesale HSA service customers to identify the specific central office and head-end locations where a disaggregated wholesale HSA service will be in demand.192
CRTC Examination of differential pricing practices related to Internet data plans (CRTC 2016-192)
In May 2016, the CRTC initiated a “proceeding to examine the policy issues surrounding the use of differential pricing practices by Canadian internet service providers related to the provision of internet data plans.”193 The proceeding stemmed from applications by several parties concerning Videotron’s practice of offering an unlimited music service to its mobile wireless customers. In this example, the music service is a zero-rated service, which means that the music service does not count toward a plan’s data-cap, whereas any other traffic does apply. So far, interventions by interested parties have addressed net neutrality and differential pricing practices in the form of zero-rating, sponsored data pricing mechanisms, and data caps.
Differential pricing by internet service providers is a growing global practice, and regulators in other jurisdictions have examined or are currently examining this issue. It is the aim of the CRTC to generate “a clear and transparent regulatory policy regarding differential pricing practices for internet data plans”194 as a result of this proceeding. The hearing will take place in October 2016.
Industry Canada & Tower Siting
In 2008, during the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) auction, Industry Canada mandated antenna tower and site sharing.195 Tower and site sharing will become increasingly important as the provision of wireless access networks grows, particularly in rural Alberta.
In 2013, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities launched a joint Antenna System Siting Protocol Template — a tool for municipalities to use to develop antenna siting protocols or improve existing ones. Industry Canada also offers advice for local governments in creating processes in its Guide to Assist Land-use Authorities in Developing Antenna Siting Protocols.
188. Government of Canada. Budget 2016 - Chapter 2 - Growth for the Middle Class, 22 March 2016. Accessed 27 June 2016.
189. Government of Canada. Budget 2016 - Chapter 3 - A Better Future for Indigenous Peoples, 22 March 2016. Accessed 27 June, 2016.
190. CBC. Bell appeals CRTC ruling forcing company to sell fibre internet access to small ISPs, 7 December 2015. Accessed 27 July 2016.
191. CBC. Cheaper internet may be coming after cabinet rejects Bell appeal, 11 May 2016. Accessed 27July 2016.
192. CRTC. Telecom Regulatory Policy 2015-326, para. 152, 22 July 2015. Accessed 27 July 2016.
193. CRTC. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2016-192, 18 May 2016. Accessed 8 July 2016.
194. CRTC. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2016-192, 18 May 2016. Accessed 8 July 2016.
195. Industry Canada. CPC-2-0-17 — Conditions of Licence for Mandatory Roaming and Antenna Tower and Site Sharing and to Prohibit Exclusive Site Arrangements. Accessed 17 May, 2016.