Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Recent CRTC Rulings of Interest

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has recently made two important rulings.   First the phone companies in Canada must pay back about $310 million to urban customers who were overcharged between 2002 and 2006.  This will result in rebates between $25 and $90 per customer.  Second the CRTC approved expanding broadband internet to 287 rural and remote communities.  This will take place over the next four years at a cost $421 million.  Doesn't this all sound rosy for Canadian consumers?  It does until you start digging into things.

In 2002, the CRTC ruled that phone companies could charge extra to allow new competitors entering the home phone market to undercut them.  These extra charges were put into deferral accounts that at one time amounted to $1.6 billion.  Since phone companies were allowed to draw on the accounts to reduce whole sale rates charged to competitors the funds had decreased to $650 million by 2008 when the CRTC ruled the phone companies spend $350 million of that on expanding rural broadband and improving services for disabled persons with the remaining $300 million being returned to urban customers who had originally been overcharged.  However, phone companies and consumer groups objected to the original splitting of the deferral accounts so a battle has been raging and went as far as the Supreme Court in 2009 which supported the CRTC's ruling.   The current amount in the deferral accounts is $770 million.  The CRTC further rejected Bell's suggestion to use HSPA wireless technology  for the rural broadband expansion by saying they must use DSL wired connections.  DSL wired connections will give rural customers the same usage as urban subscribers.

How does this decision affect us as Canadians living in rural Ontario?  It doesn't.  First our little rural community is not on the list of 112 communities in Ontario where DSL broadband will be expanded to.  Despite the fact that Bell was given a grant to provide high speed internet service to our area, it remains a problem area that according to Bell they just can't fix so apparently we are out of luck.  We can get satellite internet but thanks to the CRTC's ruling satellite providers can continue throttling service under the Fair Access Policy (FAP) and satellite providers while promising certain speeds really only have to provide 40% of that even though we pay full price at the 100% speed rate.  The second problem with satellite internet is if a mosquito so much as flies through the beam our internet service goes down.  It is very unpredictable at best even though we pay through the nose for it and thanks to Dalton McGuinty's HST we get to pay an additional 8% for the crappy service! In case you are wondering the only alternative to satellite internet service here is dial-up.

The second problem is anyone who lived in a urban location between 2002 and the passing of the CRTC ruling that moved from that urban location to another urban or rural one is likely out of luck for any type of a rebate even though they were over charged.  The CRTC has not said how this problem.  One would assume the phone companies would make some type of effort to get the refunds to those who deserve them but from experience that likely is not going to happen.  So there will be a number of individuals entitled to a rebate that end up with nothing. 

Once again kudos to the CRTC for doing a job half-way!


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