The first phase of the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel was completed yesterday with 102 submissions being received from consumers, community organizations, businesses, industry associations and telecom providers. All the submissions are available on-line (click here to view the list). Keewaytinook Okimakanak's highlighted the need for unite policies and programs that address the special needs of remote and rural communities. Click here to read Keewaytinook Okimakanak's submission.
The second phase of the Review Panel is now set up to begin accepting comments and arguements concerning the submissions received up to August 15. It is interesting to read some of the submissions from the groups in the cities that make statements such as "4.8 With respect to broadband for very remote and isolated rural areas across Canada, Industry Canada’s BRAND program appears to have been quite effective, but for rural areas close to metropolitan influence zones BRAND has been of no benefit at all. (OCRI, Page7)". There is going to be a lot of effort required to help the folks living their comfortable lives in the cities and near cities to understand the realities of living in remote and rural communities.
Everyone is now encouraged to write to the Panel and let them know that a two-way satellite connection that supports an internet connection (sometimes) is not really broadband. Remote and rural communities need broadband infrastructure that will carry video conferencing with quality of service that will support real interactive telehealth sessions with physicians!
The Telecom Review Panel was established by the Minister of Industry on April 11, 2005, to conduct a review of Canada’s telecommunications policy and regulatory framework. The Minister has appointed Dr. Gerri Sinclair, Hank Intven and André Tremblay as the members of the Panel. The panel is asked to make recommendations on how to move Canada toward a modern telecommunications framework in a manner that benefits Canadian industry and consumers.
... The government must move to bridge this Canadian digital divide. Where cable and telephone providers are unwilling to offer commercial broadband services, federal, provincial and local governments should fill the void to ensure that all Canadians enjoy access to e-commerce, distance education opportunities, tele-health, and e-government services."
Some of the country's top telephone companies are calling on the government to switch to a regulatory framework that leans more on market forces to guide competition, according to submissions addressed to a panel currently conducting a sweeping review of the telecommunications sector.
The three-member panel is charged with identifying the pressing issues surrounding telecom policy by the end of the year. Interested parties had to hand in their proposals yesterday.
From the submissions, it is clear cable and telephone companies remain on opposite sides of the regulatory fence.
According to BCE Inc. and Telus Corp., current regulation is better suited to long-gone days when they were monopolies. The two companies insist competition will increase if there is greater reliance on market forces, saying regulation could be used when market power is abused.
"There's no reason to treat telecommunications differently . . ." Lawson Hunter, executive vice-president of regulatory affairs at Montreal-based BCE, said yesterday in an interview. "In other sectors of the economy you don't see anywhere near the degree of government oversight that you see in telecommunications."
Of course new rivals, such as Rogers Communications Inc., see it differently. Toronto-based Rogers, which introduced local phone service last month, said current regulatory policies are adequately equipped to encourage competition.
"We've got solid competition in the wireless market, long distance market, Internet market -- quite frankly every market except the local telephone market," David Watt, vice-president of business economics at Rogers, said in an interview.
"We encourage the policy makers to stay the course, and hopefully competition will emerge in the local telephone market," he said.
The telecom panel is examining a wide range of issues, from how the industry is regulated to the adoption of information and communications technologies services or ICT.
BCE stressed the importance of ICT, saying greater adoption will help narrow the productivity gap with the United States.
Among BCE's proposals is to provide incentives to encourage businesses to invest in ICT. It also wants the government to act as a role model, using ICT in areas such as health care and education.
"ICT investments pay dividends in terms of business operations and the bottom line, yet Canadian companies, small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, have not embraced ICT to the extent they could and should," BCE said in a release.
The review comes amid a sea change in the telecom industry. Internet protocol standards let companies like Rogers sell phone services over their cable systems, ushering in what could be the biggest competitive threat the phone firms have ever faced.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has opted to regulate the major carriers' new Internet-based calling products as it does their local phone services, a ruling the telcos are appealing.
The CRTC, the federal communications regulator, embarked on a process earlier this year that will set the criteria for the eventual deregulation of the local phone market. But that's not fast enough for some.
"Telus proposed that the government establish a panel to consider which telecommunications services should be deregulated immediately . . . ," the Vancouver-based company said yesterday in a release.
The Institute on Governance produced a Summary Report about the Regional Information Sharing sessions that were organized by INAC as part of their program review process. The report along with all the material distributed at the meetings is available on-line at the Chiefs of Ontario web site (click here to view the list of material).
As part of its approval of the Long Term Capital Plan of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Treasury Board of Canada asked the department to undertake a comprehensive review of the Capital Facilities and Maintenance (CFM) Program. Such a review would also be an important element in the department’s seeking new authorities from the Board for this program. ...
This report is the ‘National Summary’ mentioned above. Its purpose is to present the principal highlights of the regional workshops that departmental officials organized in March and April of 2005 as part of Phase II. These workshops, which were held in every region in Canada, had two main purposes. The first was to share the results of the Phase One analysis with First Nation experts; and the second, to develop some options for achieving better, more sustainable outcomes for further discussions with First Nation leaders.
From the conclusion ...
.... many participants expressed scepticism - in their evaluation forms as well as verbally at the end of the sessions - that anything positive would result from the workshops."