Following up on its February budget announcement, the federal
government has tabled proposed amendments to the Telecommunications
Act that would limit the amount that carriers may
charge each other for the provision of roaming services; however,
the amending legislation does not include other proposed changes
that were announced in February.
The amendments are contained in Bill C-31, a daunting
359-page budget implementation bill that amends nearly 40
statutes. The bill was introduced on 28 March 2014.
The proposed amendments would add a new section to the
Telecommunications Act prohibiting a carrier from charging
other carriers amounts for roaming services that exceed the average
amount charged by the carrier to its own subscribers for those
services. There would be separate caps created for wholesale
roaming charges levied for each of:
Domestic wireless voice calls and the domestic portion of
international voice calls
The transmission of wireless data in Canada
The transmission of all domestic wireless text messages and the
domestic portion of all international wireless text messages
The provisions in question provide for a formula for calculating
the amount of the cap for each of these three types of roaming
services: the carrier's total revenues from the preceding year
for the provision of the services in question to its own retail
customers, divided by the number of minutes, megabytes or messages,
respectively, provided for those services in the preceding
year. It is unclear whether the formula is to be calculated
with reference to a calendar year, a fiscal year, or a rolling
As added insurance, carriers would also be explicitly prohibited
from charging other carriers any other amount in relation to the
provision of roaming services, such as a surcharge or similar fee
in addition to the actual roaming charges.
In its original budget announcement, the government
indicated that its planned legislative amendments respecting
domestic wholesale roaming caps were intended as an interim
measure, until the CRTC, which is currently examining the issue, makes a
decision respecting whether regulatory intervention is necessary to
ensure competitiveness in the Canadian wireless market. In
keeping with the announced interim nature of the legislated caps,
the government's amendments include
"self-destruct" provisions that would allow for the
repeal of the new amendments simply by proclaiming other sections
of the law in force.
Interestingly, the recently proposed amendments do not include
other proposed changes that were announced with the publication of the budget
document in February. Notably, Bill C-31 does
not contain amendments that would grant the CRTC and Industry
Canada the power to impose "administrative monetary
penalties" on companies that violate wireless regulatory
requirements imposed pursuant to the Telecommunications
Act and Radiocommunication Act,
respectively. Also missing are announced amendments that
would provide the CRTC with direct authority over non-carriers,
such as resellers.
In this regard, we note that the short title of Bill C- 31 is
"Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1," suggesting that
additional budget implementations bills are still to come.
Stay tuned for "No. 2".
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