New Crtc head says ‘Christ­mas presents’ from ot­tawa will keep telco reg­u­la­tor busy

North Bay Nugget - - BUSINESS - Emily Jack­son

ot­tawa — two months into his role as chair of the fed­eral reg­u­la­tor that over­sees Canada’s $66.6-bil­lion tele­com and broad­cast in­dus­tries, Ian scott hasn’t come up with a “grand vi­sion” or an agenda of his own.

rather, scott used his first speech to in­dus­try as head of the Cana­dian ra­dio-tele­vi­sion and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion to em­pha­size his plans to reg­u­late as best as pos­si­ble in the pub­lic in­ter­est, care­ful to de­fine pub­lic in­ter­est as views of both in­dus­try and con­sumers.

“I ex­pect many of you will lis­ten to this speech closely and parse its con­tents care­fully for some in­di­ca­tion of which way my fel­low com­mis­sion­ers and I in­tend to steer this or­ga­ni­za­tion in the years to come,” scott said at the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Canada con­fer­ence in ot­tawa on tues­day.

“you are per­haps look­ing for a grand vi­sion state­ment, a tip of the cap that we are pro this or op­posed to that. I’m sorry to dis­ap­point you.”

scott has ex­pe­ri­ence on both sides of the reg­u­la­tory ta­ble, start­ing his ca­reer at the Com­pe­ti­tion bureau be­fore be­com­ing a tele­com ex­ec­u­tive, once at telus Corp. and most re­cently at te­le­sat Canada. In­dus­try watch­ers have been look­ing for clues to see if he’ll lean in their favour, and in­deed, his speech did note the $11.6 bil­lion spent on net­work up­grades last year and said it’s “en­tirely fair” to ex­pect re­turns on those in­vest­ments. yet it also noted Cana­di­ans’ de­sire for fast, af­ford­able and re­li­able In­ter­net and more com­pe­ti­tion.

but in an in­ter­view with the Fi­nan­cial Post, scott said he could just as eas­ily be la­belled a “govern­ment in­sider” based on his ex­pe­ri­ence. ei­ther way, he said it would be “lousy” de­ci­sion-mak­ing if he did any­thing but make de­ci­sions based on all the ev­i­dence on the pub­lic record.

“I’m fo­cused on bal­anced de­ci­sions in the pub­lic in­ter­est,” he said.

he is adamant that his top goal and his vi­sion for the role is to be a world-class reg­u­la­tor that does its job well and makes de­ci­sions af­ter col­lect­ing ex­ten­sive ev­i­dence. While that might not make ex­cit­ing head­lines, he said, “I think that’s ex­actly what peo­ple need to hear.”

scott, who of­fi­ci­ates alpine ski rac­ing in his spare time, isn’t vy­ing for the spot­light. When re­fer­ring to Crtc de­ci­sions, he cor­rected him­self when he said “I”, switch­ing in­stead to “our” or “we” to re­flect the other com­mis­sion­ers. he de­scribed his style as “less for­mal, more col­le­gial,” and said he’d rather staff call him Ian than mr. scott.

his “door is open,” he said, and he has al­ready met with stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing the Pub­lic In­ter­est ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre and shaw Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. he will not dis­cuss mat­ters be­fore the com­mis­sion, but he said he wants to hear from a wide range of peo­ple to hear about big pic­ture de­vel­op­ments.”

his is a dras­tic de­par­ture in tone from his pre­de­ces­sor Jean-pierre blais. When blais first ad­dressed the in­dus­try at the IIC in 2012, he said his goal was to re­new the fo­cus on con­sumers to earn the trust of Cana­di­ans. blais out­lined his pol­icy di­rec­tion, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a wire­less code, and said he wouldn’t hes­i­tate to in­ter­vene if needed to pro­tect con­sumers. “(Com­pa­nies) ig­nore the wishes of Cana­di­ans at their own peril,” blais said.

scott said he does not have any ideas brew­ing for projects of his own, in­stead plan­ning to deal with is­sues as they ar­rive. For the next six or seven months, he said the Crtc will be busy work­ing on files sent back from the govern­ment, call­ing them “our Christ­mas presents from the min­is­ters.”

this in­cludes Cana­dian her­itage min­is­ter mélanie Joly’s re­quest for a re­port on fu­ture con­tent dis­tri­bu­tion mod­els to sup­port her re­view of Cana­dian con­tent in a dig­i­tal era, and her re­quest that the Crtc re­view its de­ci­sion to de­crease spend­ing floors for Cana­dian pro­gram­ming when it re­newed broad­cast li­cences.

the Crtc is also field­ing In­no­va­tion, sci­ence and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter navdeep bains’ re­quest that it re­visit its de­ci­sion not to man­date whole­sale ac­cess to wire­less net­works.

on top of the govern­ment files, the Crtc must set up the $750-mil­lion fund to sup­port broad­band in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas. the fund was an­nounced last de­cem­ber but the fund was an­nounced last de­cem­ber but the de­tails have yet to be sorted. the reg­u­la­tor is also re­view­ing which chan­nels get manda­tory dis­tri­bu­tion. ejack­son@post­

Ian Scott

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