The Federal Budget released on 11 Feb 14 had a few sections affecting
telecommunications. The full budget and related information can be found
starting at the
budget home page. Information about telecommunications
can be found in Chapter 3.4 pages 177 to 180.
In the cellular arena, the budget calls for amending the Telecommunications
Act by introducing a cap on “wholesale domestic roaming rates to prevent wireless
providers from charging other companies more than they charge their own customers
for voice, data and text services.” This action is obviously being introduced
to help the new entrants –, Mobilicity, Vidéotron and Wind – who rely on the
incumbent carriers for network access (roaming) outside their home area. There should be little direct impact on the average
consumer unless they are a new entrant customer and the companies decide to
pass the potential savings on to their customers. On the other hand, there is
the chance the incumbents could adjust their rates to make-up for any loss
The Telecommunications Act will also be amended to give
Industry Canada and the CRTC “the power to impose administrative monetary
penalties on companies that violate established rules.” Some of the target
infractions relate to the Wireless Code, spectrum deployment timelines, service
to rural areas and tower sharing.
There are also a number of areas that the government feels
need addressing including such as:
information sharing amongst the CRTC, Industry Canada and the Competition
the elements of the spectrum auction rules; and
the prohibition on jamming devices.
There is an additional one that I do
not quite understand so I will quote it in full:
“Provide the CRTC with the authority to impose conditions
pertaining to social requirements on telecommunications service providers that
are not carriers (i.e. “re-sellers” of services) to help ensure that all
consumers can benefit, no matter which provider they choose.”
On the broadband (high speed) Internet
side of the house, the budget identified the sum of $304 million over five
years “to extend and enhance access” broadband access networks. The body of the
document also mentions “enhancing and extending access.” This is a subtle change
to previous funding programs which could not be used to enhance or improve
One has to question the targeted
speed of 5 Mbps. While this may be considered barely adequate today, I suspect
that by the time implementation actually takes place it will be borderline acceptable.
Also, the budget does not address
the issue of the fiscal digital divide. The fact remains that many people
cannot afford the hardware and recurring charges associated with getting Internet
service in their homes.
The telecommunications section ends
with a short discussion of the use of spectrum to deliver broadband in rural
areas. It reinforces the previously espoused principle of “use it or lose it” where
licensees are given a specific time period to implement the service roll-out or
lose the license.
It is a fact that while cellular broadband
and data is the fastest growing segment of the market and in the rural areas
the cheapest for the vendors to install, it is also the most expensive for the end
user on a monthly billing basis unless a special tariff is created.
The section ends with this statement:
“…an additional 280,000 Canadian households, which represents near universal
access. The Government will announce further details about the new program in
the coming months.”
One can only hope that they learned from their previous efforts and the new program shows a vast improvement.
Stay tuned for additional news.