Ottawa presents internet goals, roaming clampdown

9 Apr 2014

Canada’s Industry Minister James Moore last Friday presented a federal plan to complete the rollout of high speed internet access to all rural and remote regions of the country by 2017 under a CAD305 million (USD278.5 million) budget, as part of a wider package of measures covering digital communications and commerce, including CAD200 million to help smaller businesses adopt digital technologies and CAD300 million for venture capital to be invested in digital startups, Reuters reports. Other measures include those aimed at protecting online privacy, improving cybersecurity and promoting Canadian digital media content. Some are already law, others do not require legislation, while the government is expected to successfully push through the remainder due to its majority. The report presented on Friday was the result of consultations which began four years ago.

In other recent legislative events, on 28 March 2014 Ottawa tabled proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act to limit the amount that Canadian mobile network operators may charge each other for the provision of roaming services. Contained in Bill C-31, the draft amendment adds a new section to the Telecommunications Act limiting maximum wholesale roaming charges to the average level which a Canadian network operator charges its own retail subscribers for using roaming services, according to law firm Stikeman Elliott in an article on legal/financial online resource Mondaq. The average charges are calculated via formulas based on the preceding year. There would be three separate categories of wholesale roaming caps for: domestic mobile voice calls (including ‘the domestic portion of international voice calls’); domestic mobile data usage; and domestic text messaging (including ‘the domestic portion of international text messages’).

Stikeman Elliott adds that carriers would also be explicitly prohibited from charging other carriers any other amount in relation to the provision of roaming services, such as a surcharge or similar fee in addition to the actual roaming charges. The article also notes that in its budget announcement in February, the government indicated that its planned legislative amendments on wholesale roaming caps were intended as an interim measure, until the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) reaches a decision on whether regulatory intervention is necessary to ensure competitiveness in the Canadian wireless market. Furthermore, the law firm points out that Bill C-31 did not contain other proposed amendments touted in the budget speech, such as granting the CRTC authority to impose greater penalties on operators violating telecoms laws, or measures giving the CRTC more direct powers over non-facilities based telecoms service providers including resellers.