Telecommunications carriers and Internet providers will slug out their differences over wholesale billing publicly this summer when the federal telecommunications regulator holds another public hearing into the controversial issue.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has set July 11 as the start of the hearing, where ordinary Canadians, interest groups and the telecom industry will have their say. The commission will also accept online submissions.
Details of where the hearing will take place will be announced shortly.
But in a letter to carriers, ISPs
and public interest groups suggests the commission will start all over again to determine a fair framework carriers can use to charge providers for access yet keep control of their networks.
The CRTC said any proposal has to accept the commission’s principle “that ordinary consumers served by small Internet service providers should not have to fund the bandwidth used by the heaviest retail Internet service consumers.”
At the same time, it added, all billing options are on the table.
The decision – which comes after weeks of public protest over the CRTC’s supposedly final ruling approving usage-based billing (UBB) -- will likely mean the hearing will be a repeat of 2009 and 2010 sessions when carriers and ISPs insisted their futures are at stake.
The difference is that this year Industry Minister Tony Clement has said repeatedly the Harper government – which can overturn CRTC decisions – will not allow carriers to impose a billing scheme for subscribers on independent service providers. They can have usage-based billing for their own customers, but not extend it to wholesale buyers.
Clement’s statement doesn’t have the force of law, so one question is whether the carriers will take the hint and come up with new billing proposals.
Another is whether the CRTC will take then hint or stick to its decision.
That’s unlikely, says telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg. “I don’t think anybody expects that,” he said in an interview. That is pushing the minister to overturn it.”
In announcing the hearing’s parameters Friday, the CRTC set the stage for what could be a lengthy session.
Not only will it deal with the commission’s previous UBB decision, the hearing will also look into