Fair Play and the CRTC

If you live in Canada you’ve likely heard of the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).  The CRTC controls the litigation of what gets put on television, radio, internet, as well as litigating the sale and distribution of telecommunications services in Canada.  Now let’s break things down a bit.

There are currently 10 members that comprise the CRTC.  They include a chairman, vice-chairman and 8 commissioners.  The Chairman of the CRTC is Korad Von Finckenstein.  Mr. Finckenstein has worked for the likes of The Department of Justice,  he was the chief legal advisor to Simon Reisman during the negotiations that led to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement .  He was also head of the competition bureau and in 2007 appointed chair of the CRTC.

Most members in the CRTC have had some affiliation with telecommunications and Radio-Television throughout their careers.  A lot of these members have worked for and still with  telecommunications companies such as Bell, Rogers and Telus.  Bell, Rogers and Telus are often referred to as “The Big Three”, they are the three largest telecom distributors in Canada.  The current way the CRTC is managed is a conflict of interest and has constituted consumers in Canada being gouged for years with monthly subscriptions to entertainment, and communications in this country.  The average annual cost of cellphone service in Canada is the highest in the world.

In 2008 the CRTC opened new entrants to the spectrum auction allowing competition in the market place.  A spectrum is required for any cell phone service provider to be able to support service.  In order to be able to bid on a spectrum a service provider must be invited to bid on the auction by the CRTC.  This requirement has allowed “The Big Three” to bank spectrums over the years, without them being used.  This in turn drives down competition and drives up revenue at the expense of the consumer.   Bell and Rogers over the past 3 years have also purchased various Radio and Television companies around Canada.  Buying most mass media outlets in this country, they have now moved on to buying retail companies, as well as entertainment centres and teams including their recent majority acquisition of Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment.

Putting all of this into relativity essentially means that “The Big Three” own all channels of their respective markets and are also the litigating body behind their companies and everything they can or can’t do.  This in turn creates a monopolization in the market place, which is a violation of fair-play in our democracy.   It would be like a single person owning a chain of grocery stores.  They would also own the distribution company for the stores as well as producing all the products for the grocery store.  This grocery store owner would be in charge of the regulations of all three companies and those respective industries as well.  The monopolization of such large industries, conglomerating them together and being in charge of all the provisional standards has lead to corruption and making consumers pay more than they should.

In an open democracy privatization is required.  Major corporations should not be allowed to control every avenue of what they own and they shouldn’t be allowed to own everything either.  In 2012 the 700 MHz and 2500 MHz spectrums will be placed for auction by the CRTC.  I truly hope that the CRTC makes a step forward by opening this auction to private companies other than “The Big Three”,  making the playing field a little more fair and  potentially allowing even more competition in wireless telecommunications.

– Yoshi

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