Last Thursday the CRTC came out with a decision on the whether the ownership structure of Globalive, who are in the process of building Wind Mobile, fill the requirement on Canadian foreign ownership restrictions. They aren’t doing themselves any favours.
I wrote earlier about how I thought that the CRTC was hampered in their decision by the Canwest – Alliance Atlantis merger decision from a couple years ago. The CRTC decided in this case that foreign money from Goldman Sachs as the debt and equity holder and controlling owner was preferable than having Egyptian owners, in the form of Orescom. (I’ve heard from CRTC people that national security is part of their decision process – so one wonders whether there was a bit of that here.)
Whether the CRTC was wrong or right in this decision, the CRTC hasn’t been coming off these days as the fearless supporter of the powerless Canadian citizen. Their recent decisions have generally been ones favoured by the lobbyists of the big telecom companies in Canada. A few weeks ago they decided, for the most part, to support the major carriers in a decision which put the burden of responsibility on the consumer to prove the carriers wrong in issues of network neutrality (and we how much know your average consumer knows about internet packet throttling). This week they supported the powerful lobbies of the carriers in the Globalive decision.
By an extension of their own logic, if the CRTC is not supporting and protecting consumers in providing them choice (or assuming that there is enough choice in the market for our consumers) then they have already come to the conclusion (aided by lobbyists) that the Canadian market for telecommunications services is highly competitive – that innovation and new product is high, barriers to entry are low, and prices are dropping and competitive. We, of course, know this isn’t true.
There is an undercurrent going on the techno-telecom crowd in Canada supporting a movement to disolve the CRTC. They better watch out, because it is getting very hard for average Canadians (not the super digerati or highly informed telecom geeks, but those that keep an eye on telecom) to understand the role of the Commission. To those watching from the sidelines, it looks like the CRTC is simply an extra arm of the major carriers to keep the barriers to entry high, competition low, and their cabal tight.