The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) says it will not go forward with large telecom incumbents’ request to appeal their case against the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) mandated wholesale rate correction from nearly two years ago.
Reaction to the news has been swift.
“We are pleased with the SCC’s decision, which brings an end to this avenue of the incumbents’ delay tactics,” Matt Stein, chair of Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) and chief executive officer of Distributel, noted in a Feb. 25 news release after the SCC’s decision.
Why the Federal Court dismissed the incumbents’ CRTC internet rates appeal
Internet access tops the list of many Canadians’ household expenses, and for many, it’s simply not affordable. Yet Canadians need the internet now more than ever to work, learn, and connect with loved ones. The SCC’s decision puts the country one step closer to finally being able to make internet access affordable for Canadians across the country, indicated Stein.
In Telecom Order 2019-288, which the CRTC released in August 2019 after several years of research and consultation, the Commission set final rates for aggregated wholesale high-speed access (HSA) services. The ruling ordered the incumbent cable carriers to correct the rates they charge to independent carriers for wholesale access to their network, and pay back the independents for years of over-charging, to the tune of $325 million – an effort to make internet access more affordable for all Canadians.
Unsurprisingly, the incumbents challenged the new rates, with many of them submitting petitions to the Cabinet calling for the rates to be reversed. Bell, Bragg Communications, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, Cablesystems and Videotron appealed to the Federal Court, arguing that the CRTC committed jurisdictional errors. Following their appeal, the Court stayed the new rates on Sept. 28, 2020.
However, all the efforts made by the big telcos in this matter have been unsuccessful. Last summer, the Federal Court unanimously dismissed their appeal, deciding not to overturn or change the CRTC’s original ruling, and today’s SCC decision is a clear signal that the issue is moving in the right direction, says Stein.
“This is a good day for Canada, for choice, for fairness, and for the affordability of essential internet services for all Canadians,” he said.