Reading tea leaves is an art. So, too, is reading between the lines of statements from government departments and agencies.
The latest exercise came Thursday when the new head of the country’s telecommunications regulating agency, Jean-Pierre Blais, released his first three-year workplan for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications, (CRTC).
The commission also grouped its responsibilities into three so-called pillars:
--“Connect,” which covers wired and wireless broadband networks;
--“Protect,” which covers CRTC responsibilities such as the upcoming spam reporting centre and punishing those who make unsolicited advertising phone calls; and
--“Create,” which covers the commission’s oversight over Canadian content in broadcasting.
This may be an attempt by the commission to make it clearer to the public what its role is.
The industry is waiting to see where Blais, a former CRTC official, will lead the commission. In 2006 the Harper government directed the regulator to rely on market forces “the maximum extent feasible” to achieve its policy objectives.
But it rudely slapped the commission last year for its usage-based billing decision.
To Mark Goldberg, a Thornhill, Ont., based consultant to carriers and organizations, the new pillars reflects some of the recent trends he’s seen in recent commission news releases.
“This seems to have a consumer focus, as opposed to a balance of interests of consumer, industry and government policy,” he said, referring to the wording of the three pillars.
One says the CRTC aims to ensure Canadians can connect to “quality and innovative” communications services at affordable prices, Goldberg noted. But, he added, the goal isn’t “world-leading” services [although Blais said in a press release announcing the workplan the goal is to foster a "world-class communications system"].
Nor does it suggest the commission will try to ensure there are incentives for carriers to invest in telecom infrastructure.
Reading between the lines, he wondered if the commission is signalling that it will become a consumer watchdog and leave telecom and broadcast policy to the government.
In the telecommunications area, many of the policy reviews planned for the next three years have already been announced – for example, a look into the terms of consumer wireless contracts and whether independent Internet service providers can get more confidential information from major carriers.