In the telecommunications and broadcasting sector, a number
of significant developments recently occurred, including
several important decisions by the Canadian Radio-television
and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the announcement of
hearings on new media and traffic-shaping, and the introduction
of new rules on essential services and telemarketing.
New Regulatory Framework For Wholesale Telecom
The CRTC articulated new rules for the regulation and
pricing of wholesale telecom services provided by incumbent
telecom carriers in Telecom Decision CRTC 2008-17. The
rules apply mainly to the services and facilities provided by
incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), such as Bell Canada
and Telus, to competitive service providers including
alternative local and long distance carriers, resellers and
Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
CRTC Allows Foreign Investors To Acquire Large Stakes In
Canadian Broadcasting Companies
The CRTC issued two important decisions involving the
transfer of effective control of prominent Canadian
broadcasting companies Alliance Atlantis and BCE. In each case,
foreign investors acquired sizeable stakes despite the Canadian
ownership and control rules.
In Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2007-429, the CRTC
approved the transfer of effective control of Alliance Atlantis
Broadcasting Inc. and its 13 broadcasting properties to an
acquisition company jointly owned by a subsidiary of CanWest
Global Communications and investment funds controlled by
In Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-69, the CRTC
gave conditional approval to the transfer of effective control
of BCE Inc. to a group of private equity investors, both
Canadian and non-Canadian. The transaction, valued at $51.7
billion, was the largest Canadian corporate acquisition to
date, and one of the largest-ever private equity deals
AWS Spectrum Auction
Canada's Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) Spectrum
Auction has concluded, with 15 companies bidding almost $4.3
billion for licences. Ninety MHz of AWS spectrum was auctioned
off in six paired frequency blocks (three of 20 MHz; three of
10 MHz). Three of the paired frequency blocks were reserved for
new-entrant applicants, while the other three paired blocks
were open to all bidders.
New Media Proceeding
The CRTC has announced that it will conduct a hearing in
2009 to examine broadcasting delivered and accessed over the
Internet and over mobile devices. A highly controversial issue
will be whether ISPs should contribute to the creation and
presentation of Canadian programming, just as Canadian cable
and satellite distribution undertakings currently do under the
Traffic Shaping Debate: CAIP v. Bell
The CRTC has initiated a public process to examine Bell
Canada's traffic-shaping of wholesale Internet access,
following a complaint by the Canadian Association of Internet
Providers (CAIP), a group of independent ISPs. Bell had
recently begun applying traffic management tools to its Gateway
Access Service (GAS). GAS is a CRTC-mandated wholesale service,
subject to CRTC-approved tariffs, used by ISPs to provide
Internet access to customers in areas where the ISP has no
CAIP sought an interim and final order requiring Bell to
cease and desist from shaping its wholesale ADSL services, and
asking the CRTC to find that Bell's traffic-shaping
infringes upon CRTC regulations and the Telecommunications
Act. While the CRTC denied CAIP's application for
interim relief, it initiated a proceeding to consider the
matter more fully. The ensuing decision may provide some policy
guidance on issues of network neutrality.
Competition Policy Review Panel Report
The Competition Policy Review Panel recently released
Compete to Win, its highly anticipated report on
recommended policy changes to enhance Canada's
competitiveness. The report criticizes the current restrictions
on foreign ownership in the Canadian telecommunications and
broadcasting sector, and makes recommendations for liberalizing
Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules And The National Do
Not Call List
Canada will soon have a National Do Not Call List (National
DNCL). Back in December 2007, the CRTC awarded a five-year
contract to Bell Canada to operate the National DNCL. This
contract implements a key aspect of Telecom Decision CRTC
2007-48, which establishes a comprehensive framework for
unsolicited telemarketing calls and other unsolicited
telecommunications received by consumers. The framework
includes rules for a National DNCL registry, as well as rules
regarding telemarketing and automatic dialling-answering
devices. The CRTC expects the National DNCL to be launched by
September 30, 2008.
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