Federal Court of Appeal Hearings: Distributel Continues to Advocate for Affordability, Fair Access and Choice for Canadian Consumers

Large telcos and cable companies seek to overturn CRTC decision that would lower high speed internet rates for Canadians and strengthen industry competition

TORONTO – June 26, 2020: As part of its ongoing efforts to stand up for Canadian consumers, Distributel is supporting the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) in its appearance this week before the Federal Court of Appeal as the Court looks to rule on an issue that has significant implications for Canadians.

In 2019, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) made a decision on wholesale internet rates that would lower costs for consumers while increasing competition and choice – a decision the large telcos and cable companies are seeking to overturn. As an industry association representing independent service providers, CNOC appeared before the Court this week to make clear the benefits of the CRTC’s ruling for consumers, which enable independent service providers such as Distributel to compete fairly in the broader market and bring advanced communications services and innovation to rural and remote communities across Canada including to the Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee and to the municipalities of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region in Northern Quebec.

“Everyone at Distributel works hard to stand up for Canadians, and that commitment is on display this week as we support a competitive and fair marketplace that puts Canadian consumers first,” said Matt Stein, CEO of Distributel. “Last year’s CRTC ruling came after an exhaustive and in-depth four year review, and while it is frustrating to see challenges to a decision that gives Canadians more choice and better value, we will continue to champion a competitive marketplace and the consumer benefits that come with it.”

The hearings come after a landmark study was released last Fall titled Broken Connection: Canadian Consumers’ Views on Large Telecommunications Providers, which revealed unprecedented levels of consumer dissatisfaction at the lack of affordability, fairness and choice that is seen as creating an anti-consumer telecommunications environment in Canada. Some of the survey findings included:

  • Canadians are frustrated they are paying some of the highest prices in the world for home Internet: Nearly all (90%) Canadians who have home internet are frustrated they are paying much higher internet fees than consumers in other countries.
  • While almost all Canadians have internet in their home, the majority are customers of the big telecommunications companies: Nearly all (97%) of Canadians have internet service in their home. Almost eight-in-ten (79%) are customers of one of the big telecommunications providers, while only 3% are customers of smaller independent companies.
  • Canadians feel trapped by their current provider: 40% would like to change companies but feel trapped by their current internet service provider.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms feel they have limited choice when it comes to changing companies: 65% of Canadians who have home internet from a large telecom company feel there is no point in changing telecommunications companies as they are all pretty much the same.
  • Lack of competition has led Canadians to falsely believe there are no alternatives to the big telecommunications firms: Nearly half (45%) believe there are no alternatives to the large internet service providers.
  • An anti-consumer environment has been nurtured and is thriving across Canada: Almost half (49%) of Canadians feel that it is too difficult to change internet service providers.

“As the onset of COVID-19 made abundantly clear, it is critical for Canadians to have access to high-speed internet for work, education and connection with family and friends,” said Mr. Stein. “While we are frustrated with the delay tactics being used, we are more committed than ever to ensuring Canadians benefit from a vibrant, open and fair marketplace that supports competition and innovation for Canadian consumers and businesses.”

Ensuring a fair and competitive market: A history of delay tactics

As part of the CRTC’s August 2019 decision, the large internet service providers and cable companies were instructed to correct years of overcharges and pay back what they owed, and independent service providers quickly moved to pass those benefits on to their customers. The CRTC’s decision took real steps to promote innovation and competition in this sector, and as Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC explained: “As the demand for faster broadband speeds grows, we are putting measures in place to ensure Canada’s Internet market remains dynamic.”

However, by September 2019 six of Canada’s largest internet service providers asked the Federal Court of Appeal to overrule the decision and the Court issued a temporary stay of the CRTC decision, further delaying the intended benefits to Canadian consumers. And once again, last month those companies pushed to delay the hearings, arguing that it was critical they be held in person which would have delayed the decision for the foreseeable future. A federal Justice disagreed and dismissed their argument that the issue was too complicated to be discussed via video conference, and as a result, the hearings went ahead virtually this week.

About Distributel

Established in 1988, Distributel is a leading national, independent telecommunications provider offering a wide range of business and residential communications services. 100% Canadian-owned, with offices across the country and a national network, Distributel continues to forge new partnerships and bring innovative solutions to market directly and through a thriving wholesale division. ThinkTel, the Business Services Division of Distributel, is a provider of advanced voice and data services for the SMB and Enterprise markets throughout Canada. TV services provided through TOTALTV, an IPTV service provider that operates in Ontario and Quebec. As a top Microsoft Solutions Partner and a Cisco PMP, the Business Services division is focused on driving industry innovation. For more information, visit: www.distributel.ca.

For further information:
Aby Bueno
Broad Reach Communications
T: 416-858-3135
E: abueno@BRPR.ca