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Telecoms | “Prices are high, that’s for sure”



New CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides to review controversial May 2021 decision on wholesale internet rates

Barely in office, the new president of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Vicky Eatrides, is not beating around the bush: the most controversial decision of her predecessor Ian Scott, who largely canceled the drop in wholesale Internet prices in May 2021, will be revised.

“For the internet, it is clear that our policy does not have the effect we were looking for on prices, slice Mme Eatrides, in office since January 5, in an interview with The Press. We are examining the policy, we will come back to this soon. »


Vicky Eatrides, new president of the CRTC

International comparisons don’t lie, and the CRTC president takes note: year after year, Canada ranks among the three countries with the highest Internet and wireless service costs in the world, along with Japan and the United States. The May 2021 decision hit independent internet providers hard, of which at least three of the largest, EBOX, VMedia and Distributel, have since been acquired by Bell and Videotron.

Negotiations followed

If the observation on the high prices is clear for the Internet, the wireless requires a little more analysis, estimates Mme Eatrides. Last October, the CRTC forced the big providers to start negotiations to give access to their networks to smaller companies, the “mobile virtual network operators”. The federal body has not set the prices for this access, but has clearly announced that it wants increased competition.

“We will ask for updates on the negotiations, specifies the president. We will continue to ask questions. We’ll see. »

A lawyer by training, originally from Ottawa and bilingual – the interview took place in French – Vicky Eatrides began her career with the firm Stikeman Elliott in 2000. She then worked for the Competition Bureau for 14 years and then in 2019 became Assistant Deputy Minister at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

“I spent half my career at the Competition Bureau,” she sums up.

I like to work in areas where I can promote competition, work for results for Canadians, like lower prices.

Vicky Eatrides, new president of the CRTC

Search for balance

Since at least 2007, according to the orientations of the Conservatives and then the Liberals, the CRTC has been trying to navigate between two poles: deregulation supposed to allow more profits and encourage investment, and competition which reduces prices for consumers. With her professional background, should we assume that Eatrides will promote the second trend?

His answer is not categorical. “The CRTC is an administrative tribunal. We need a balance between competition and reinvestment […] This is a key moment in the history of the CRTC, we are in a phase of transformation.

I really look forward to working with my fellow Commissioners and the organization to promote competition, accessibility and Canadian culture.

Vicky Eatrides, new president of the CRTC

It is rather unusual for an administrative body like the CRTC to regularly make the news. Its future responsibilities under Bills C-11 and C-18, which essentially aim to regulate digital platforms and force revenue sharing with Canadian media, should increase its visibility. Does the CRTC have the means and skills to fulfill its ambitions? After all, ex-president Ian Scott himself pointed to “enough miscalculations” made by his own body to justify his May 2019 decision.

“We are almost 550 employees, answers Mme Eatrides. We will see if we need resources, tools. If we need it, I’ll ask for it. »

Historically, the principle of alternating Anglophones and Francophones at the head of the CRTC has generally been respected. At the end of December, the Bloc Québécois denounced the appointment of Mme Eatrides which is not “of French-speaking origin”, after the five years of mandate of Ian Scott, unilingual English-speaking.

The main interested party does not seem to be too offended. “I recognize that Francophone and Anglophone cultures are different. Markets are different, preferences are different. I look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders to support our cultural sector. »

Her first visit outside of Ottawa will take place in Quebec “in the coming weeks,” she announced.

Learn more

  • 77.3 million
    Planned spending for the CRTC for fiscal year 2022-23, up 11% from 2019-20. The organization also has revenues of 60.1 million.

    departmental plan for the CRTC 2022-2023

    Number of public decisions rendered by the CRTC in 2022

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