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Salt Lake City: impressions after several months
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Review: My First Day With Vonage, Excellent!
Review: My First Day With Vonage, Excellent!



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You need some common sense.



Vonage Customer Review: One month with Vonage, and...
Vonage Customer Review: One month with Vonage, and...




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To Stay Relevant, CRTC Must Move Decisively In 2005


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To Stay Relevant, CRTC Must Move Decisively In 2005

December 30, 2005

By Mark Evans

There's a role for regulators but duties are evolving
As Canada's telecommunications regulator heads into 2005, it faces a litany of challenges at a time when the $32-billion industry is poised to go through extraordinary change.

Among the most pressing issues the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission must address are whether/how to regulate Internet telephony; finding a replacement for David Colville, who retired recently as vice-chair, telecom; dealing with a heavy backlog of regulatory decisions and applications; and the start of a the next price-cap regime.

At the same time, the CRTC is being pressured to implement a comprehensive regulatory review. BCE Inc. has been leading the charge for more than a year, and assembled a small regulatory army to push CEO Michael Sabia's agenda.

Obviously, there is a lot of urgency abound but it would be a surprise to see the CRTC change its current ways. Under the helm of chairman Charles Dalfen, the CRTC has become a methodical, pragmatic and some would say slow-moving body. Rather than move quickly, the CRTC tends to take its time to make sure the right decisions are made.

This approach frustrates the carriers because the telecom industry is experiencing tremendous change. The Internet has made it possible for companies to offer a wide variety of telecom services to residential and business consumers. Using high-speed networks, competitive services can be offered from anywhere in the world.

This has dramatically changed the competitive landscape because you do not need your own network to do business. All you really need is a compelling service and savvy marketing. A good example is Vonage Holdings Corp., which has attracted more than 300,000 Internet telephony customers in in North America with relatively simple technology.

In many respects, some parts of the telecom service market have become a free-for-all. How does the CRTC or the U.S. Federal Communications Commission regulate a company offering service to North American consumers over the Internet from Thailand or Romania? It raises the notion of whether telecom regulators are becoming less relevant or effective. There is a legitimate role for regulators but their responsibilities and mandates are evolving.

For the CRTC, Internet telephony will be an important and defining regulatory landmark. The CRTC's preliminary view is incumbent carriers such as Bell Canada and Telus should be regulated while competitors such as Vonage and Rogers Cable Inc. should be free to set their own prices. Bell and Telus argue this approach will hobble them in a fast-growing market, and the industry and consumers will be better served by having a level competitive playing field.

If the CRTC follows its original thesis, this suggests it will try to regulate Internet-based services. This will be a major policy reversal given a 1999 decision concerning New Media suggested the CRTC would not try to regulate the Internet. How the CRTC intends to regulate Internet-based services will be fascinating to consumers and regulators around the world.

The CRTC's telecom bench strength will be tested with the departure of Mr. Colville, who played a key role in defining Canada's telecom policy over the past 14 years.

Who replaces him is important because the telecom industry needs a vice-chair who has a strong grasp of the regulatory and technical realms. Mr. Colville's successor will no doubt play an instrumental role in defining how Canada adopts and operates in a Internet-based world
While the CRTC needs to look forward, it must also tackle a regulatory backlog. There are decisions to be made involving fundamental issues such as Competitor Digital Network Access that have been in the system for more than a year. This is inexcusable because incumbent and competitive carriers need regulatory certainty more than ever.

Without a doubt, 2005 is going to be a big year for the CRTC and Mr. Dalfen, whose five-year term as chairman expires at the end of next year. For the CRTC to stay relevant, it needs to move decisively and dramatically this year. Anything less will hobble the industry, which has provided Canadians with world-class service at bargain-basement prices.



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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