ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing April 25, 2016
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: April 25, 2016
© Copyright Reserved
Attendees and Location
140 Promenade du Portage
- Chairman: Jean-Pierre Blais
- Members: Candice Molnar, Peter Menzies, Linda Vennard, Christopher MacDonald
- Legal Counsel: Emilia de Somma, Amy Hanley
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Managers:
John Macri, Christine Bailey, Sarah O’Brien
--- Upon resuming on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 9:03 a.m.
14091 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre, s'il vous plait. Order, please. Good morning everyone.
14092 Madame la secrétaire.
14093 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. We will now hear the presentation of the National Capital FreeNet. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have five minutes for your presentation.
14094 MS. ROBINSON: Good morning. We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today. I'm getting over the flu, so I’m a little gravelly. My name is Shelley Robinson and I'm the Executive Director of National Capital FreeNet, also known as NCF. With me today are NCF Second Vice-Chair Peter Chapman, and Board Member Peter MacKinnon.
14095 NCF is a local not-for-profit alternative to commercial internet service providers. We are member-owned and governed. As a Bell re-seller, we offer high speed DSL with download speeds from 2 meg up to 50 meg and upload speeds from 0.8 meg to 10 meg, as well as free locally-hosted email, basic web hosting and dial-up service.
14096 We invest in connectivity and offer speed and capacity that is equivalent to that available elsewhere. In addition to our staff support, we also have an award-winning volunteer-driven Help Desk so our members can ask questions about a range of internet and computer-related issues in person, on the phone, or by email.
14097 We also offer workshops, we work with other community organizations to help bridge the digital divide, and we connect our members online and in person so they can share their skills. We are supported by DSL subscription fees, member donations, and project grants.
14098 Fundamentally, we believe that everyone in Canada's National Capital Region should have access to the internet. In our case, that means that we believe they should be able to afford a high-quality connection, they should understand how to use it, and they should feel safe online.
14099 NCF was founded in 1992 and since then, we have served more than 100,000 members. We currently serve about 5,000 members, of whom just over 3,000 are DSL subscribers.
14100 Our in-house membership survey mirrors the findings in the Commission's Let's Talk Broadband report about the main ways our members use the internet, including email, news, health, work and looking for work. And they also suggest how those without regular and reliable internet access might be missing out on the benefits of the digital economy. As such, we concur with previous intervenors who have said that the internet should be considered an essential service for all Canadians.
14101 We have members in every neighborhood across Ottawa, a number in outlying communities like Perth and Winchester, and about 100 members in Gatineau, where we can currently only offer 6-meg service.
14102 So we’re here today to speak to our experience as both a small ISP and a not-for-profit community-based organization, and we’re going to focus on one of the biggest barriers we are told our members and prospective members across the region face in accessing the internet and its benefits, and that’s price.
14103 Many of our members are seniors, new Canadians, people with disabilities, and those living on low incomes. Many of these members have told us they rely on our service, but sometimes struggle to pay for it.
14104 So we began selling the 6-meg DSL service in 2005 at a monthly rate of 29.95 for 322 gigs of capacity. In 2010, that rate went up a dollar a month to 30.95 a month to reflect an increase in our supplier costs.
14105 We started offering fiber to the node service with download speeds from 7 meg up to 50 meg in 2013 and 2014 at rates from 30.95 to 49.95 per month. Our monthly dry line fees were based on Bell's tiered system and we charge between 7.25 and 16.20 per month.
14106 In line with our mandate, we have never required our members to sign contracts, so they are free to cancel at any time.
14107 So given its 8-year head start over the FTTN service, the 6 meg is our most popular, but our fastest growing service is 15/l meg. Monthly use on all our lines varies from less than 10 gigs per month of use to more than 500 gigs.
14108 As stated in our previous submission, we will leave the determination of a minimum broadband speed standard to other intervenors and to the Commission, but we will note that the rise of internet-connected devices is driving demand for more speed within our membership. And that’s not just among younger users, that’s absolutely also coming from the seniors.
14109 As a not-for-profit, we work to keep our prices affordable. Yet, to stay sustainable with rising costs, starting May 1st, so next week, we have had to raise our prices, albeit only for the second time in 11 years. So from two to $5.00 extra per month depending on the speed.
14110 Given the increasing number of our members discontinuing their landline telephone service however, we are also reducing our dry line fees to $7.00 per month. This is particularly helpful for those in less well-served rural areas around Ottawa who were in the higher dry line rate bands, and those who have cancelled their landline as a way to save money.
14111 On a related note, we field multiple questions a week in fact from our members about using VoIP as a way to reduce their monthly costs while keeping a home-based telephone.
14112 To help our most vulnerable members, we are just about to launch a Community Access Fund that will subsidize part of the cost of our service for low-income members. We’re currently working out the details of how the fund will operate.
14113 But with our own contribution and the public donations we can collect, we expect this will help a few hundred members and their families. So it’s a great start. I said “good start”, it’s actually a great start, but we know the need to be much greater, both among our current membership and those who have said they want to use our service but they just can't afford it.
14114 To that end, we support the recommendation of the Affordable Action Coalition for a subsidy for low income users, and feel this would tangibly benefit people across the National Capital Region and throughout Canada.
14115 We also believe that these challenges would be better served by more community-based ISPs, working through not-for-profits like us and Chebucto Community Net in Nova Scotia, or at the municipal level like in Olds, Alberta.
14116 Finally, NCF exists so that everyone in the National Capital Region can benefit from the internet. We look forward to the day this is a reality, and our part in making it so.
14117 Thank you.
14118 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your presentation. I’ll put you in the hands of Vice-chair Menzies.
14119 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good morning.
14120 MS. ROBINSON: Good morning.
14121 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Let me move this closer so you can hear me properly.
14122 To start off, can you -- I noted when you first -- you noted 2005 as when you started services?
14123 MS. ROBINSON: DSL services.
14124 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: DSL services.
14125 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah.
14126 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So can you just give me the Kol’s notes version of your history ---
14127 MS. ROBINSON: Sure.
14128 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- what was your genesis?
14129 MS. ROBINSON: So 1992 we were started in -- at Carleton based on a professor and some interested folks there, and it was based on something in Cleveland called “Cleveland FreeNet”, and it was this idea that literally we were free and that everyone would have access to the internet dial-up through these community portals. And so that’s why we had like an insane growth in membership, I think we had 10,000 members in less than a year and everybody was -- was sort of coalescing around the idea that that's how they would get online and we limited it. So it was 10 minutes per login because it was -- the demand was so high.
14130 So we did dial-up until 2005, so it was -- it peaked -- it actually didn’t peak that much more before 2005, so it got its highest probably around 2002, I was looking at the chart yesterday but I don’t remember the exact year. And then we were probably a little slow on uptake with DSL, by 2005 we started selling the DSL service at the 6 meg.
14131 Does that help? Is there something I missed?
14132 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It does.
14133 MS. ROBINSON: Okay.
14134 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It sounds a little similar, at least its genesis to Chebucto in ---
14135 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah.
14136 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- in that sense, and it’s not something we hear a lot about, but is a very useful conversation I think. I wanted to talk -- I have a few more questions but I'm curious to know about two things. First of all, there's been a lot of talk about digital literacy and you mentioned it in here in terms of working with your members on a number of issues and that’s -- et cetera, can you tell me how that works in terms of -- you’ve talked about for instance people with landlines and ---
14137 MS. ROBINSON: M'hm.
14138 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- working on the VoIP and that -- and that sort of stuff and you have some low-income members as well. So start with the digital literacy and how you pursue that or how that is meeting your member's needs?
14139 MS. ROBINSON: Sure.
14140 So since the beginning we've had a really active online forum discussion group system. So people will go on the forums and they'll say, blankety-blank, I have this question. And then other members will chip in and say, oh, have you tried this or think about this. So that though tends to be for folks who have enough digital literacy that they can in fact get on to the discussion groups.
14141 So we also have, I mentioned, the volunteer driven help desk, that is where it all mostly happens. So it's very informal but it's also super necessary.
14142 So we have a bunch of people who will walk in, sometimes with appointments, sometimes just walking in, and say everything from, you know, like sophisticated questions -- more sophisticated about like how do I bridge my modem, and then we'll have people who say I can't find the URL toolbar anymore. They don't call it a URL toolbar, but it's like their screen resolution has changed and so it's suddenly like not working.
14143 Or they're -- I had a woman who came in last week and she had forgotten her password for her Hotmail, but she didn't also know even how to get into Hotmail because the link from the main page, someone had created a shortcut, it had gone. So she was like my Hotmail is gone. So it's just kind of saying to someone, okay, well, let's show you, and then taking them through the steps.
14144 So that's the informal, and we're doing that on the phone and in person all the time, but then we also have workshops. So we had four workshops in a month last November that were super popular.
14145 So we had one on protecting your computer. That was the most popular. I had to move it out of our office into an empty hair salon downstairs. We had one on basics of social media. We have one coming up on maximizing Wi-Fi, So a lot of people feel like their connection is slow, but in fact it's problems with their wireless, and so it's explaining it to them and then showing them. We had one on email. So the difference between like a mail client and a web-based.
14146 So -- and then we just got a grant that's doing similar work. So it's for seniors specifically and we're going to have a smaller group and it will be more hands on help, so that instead of just sitting back it will be people saying, okay, now click here, and you know, do this, and yeah.
14147 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is -- that's excellent. Is data caps -- managing data caps ---
14148 MS. ROBINSON: So ---
14149 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- part of the issue -- one of the issues?
14150 MS. ROBINSON: No, our data cap is really -- so it was 322 gigs. It was 300 GiB, so that's 322 gig.
14151 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
14152 MS. ROBINSON: That's why it's a weird number.
14153 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, so it wouldn't be an issue for ---
14154 MS. ROBINSON: Most people don't get near it. We have talked about providing increased education around, like, you know, if Netflix defaults to the higher sort of resolution, you know, you can bring it down. We also have a really big free period, so from 2:00 a.m. until noon.
14155 And so it's seniors who mostly come in for a lot of these questions. They tend to be lower users, except when they discover Netflix, and then also -- and yeah. So we're there to tell them when they need it, but most of the time it's not been much of an issue.
14156 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Have you had -- it strikes me that it might be very useful to some of the organizations that were representing, low income people, people in poverty, have you had any interaction with them?
14157 MS. ROBINSON: So ---
14158 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Because I mean your prices are more accessible than others that are available, so that goes some way to meeting need. Your data caps are high.
14159 I was just thinking of a couple of people I spoke to a couple of weeks ago, you know, had overage charges and all that sort of stuff, and then I was reading about you. And I thought, you know, somebody at ACORN should point some of those folks to these folks and some positive outcomes might take place.
14160 MS. ROBINSON: So -- yeah. Two weeks ago, ACORN had a Internet for all panel discussion. So I was there, and so I got to meet and present with some of the folks, actually like Blaine that you guys met, heard from. "You guys" is bad form. Anyway, the Commission met. But there was still a real challenge.
14161 So people came up to me afterwards and were interested and I was telling them about the prices, certainly. But there is still that gap. So it's still too high for some people.
14162 The number one thing that I am proud of, in terms of our service for lower income users, is that we don't have such a small cap. I think having a big cap matters a lot. So that's one of the ways we try -- and we keep our prices down and we want our caps high. Yeah.
14163 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, particularly if you have teenagers.
14164 MS. ROBINSON: Exactly.
14165 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So in terms of the affordability. I was sort of looking at your pricing, right, and we've had a few discussions. You're a not for profit but ---
14166 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah.
14167 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- you're still around –- it's still around $30. I mean -- and I'm trying to get a sense of how much -- when you're dealing with affordability, it's one of those things, because if you ask people do you think Internet costs too much they say yes, but if you ask people if they think almonds cost too much or cauliflower costs too much, they're going to say yes; right? But that doesn't mean they're wrong, it just -- you just need to try to get things in perspective.
14168 So your costs -- you're basically operating on a cost-recovery basis.
14169 MS. ROBINSON: More or less.
14170 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And it's still around $30, right?
14171 MS. ROBINSON: Well, in fact, it's now gone up to 32 for the six-month service as of May 1st, or it will.
14172 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But you've got a compensatory deal on ---
14173 MS. ROBINSON: I should have put in an appendix where I said all our ---
14174 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You're offering to take -- save them $7 someplace else, though, right?
14175 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah, but that's in addition. So the dry-lines.
14176 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
14177 MS. ROBINSON: So that's part of what -- so for instance, for low-income users, a lot of them end up being dry-line users because they have cellphones. And so what that means is if you're on the 6 meg service, which is the cheapest, so it's 32.95 as of May 1st, and now we've normalized the dry loop for everyone, so it would be 7, so that's 39.95 a month.
14178 There's not a lot -- we don't have a lot of wiggle room. I can say we are not cashing out at that level. The reason we had to increase our prices is because our costs go up, and as a reseller, we have some -- we don't have a lot control over...
14179 So as use goes up, which it has dramatically, then we have to respond to that and then our office costs -- yeah. So there's not a lot of wiggle room, so it is -- that's what it costs us more or less, yeah.
14180 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So ---
14181 MS. ROBINSON: And in some cases, we're still not exactly covering everything we need to. We're just hoping that on balance it will cover it.
14182 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So what motivates all your volunteers? What motivates you three?
14183 MS. ROBINSON: Well, I'll let them speak to what motivates them.
14184 MR. CHAPMAN: Yes, well volunteers. It is providing a community service. I mean, we recognize that Internet access has moved from being something that was nice to have and something used by students, to something that's absolutely essential to have for every member of the community.
14185 So we're reaching out and we still meet people, particularly older people, who are intimidated and afraid of getting onto the Internet for all sorts of reasons. And one of the things we pride ourselves on is taking away that fear. Fear of not knowing the questions to ask, not understanding the nomenclature, and also getting surprises on their bill. We pride ourselves on a no surprises offering.
14186 So in terms of volunteers, we see that as something we're providing to the community, particularly for the vulnerable and the, as I said, those who are afraid of something that they know they must have but they don't quite know how to get there.
14187 MR. MacKINNON: Well, my name is Peter MacKinnon. I'll just give a brief comment as well in regard to that question.
14188 Definitely, it's -- I'm involved in -- at the community level as a way of giving back to the community. As you can tell, I'm a little older than a 20 year old. So it's an effort to help out, and I've been involved with the National Capital FreeNet from the very beginning, in actual fact.
14189 And I wanted to add to Shelly's comment that Carleton University has been a partner with National Capital FreeNet from the beginning, in '92, and to this day, our cage where we -- our servers are located is still at Carleton University. So there is a long-standing public/private partnership, if you like, in that regard.
14190 So my comment is this, Peter has said as well, to serve our community and that's my role is helping out. Thank you.
14191 MS. ROBINSON: And then some of the other volunteers on the help desk actually do it as a way to get job experience training. So we had a volunteer -- amazing volunteer from Venezuela -- who came and he worked really dedicatedly for a short while, got a job, and he left, and that's great. Like that's what we're looking for. Yeah.
14192 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks, I understand.
14193 So what specific actions could the CRTC contemplate to make sure there's room within the telecom, digital ecosystem for organizations such as yours?
14194 MS. ROBINSON: Wow, it's such a great question.
14195 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, I have some bad ones later.
14196 MS. ROBINSON: Well, I'll luxuriate in this one.
14197 The ecosystem. So I'm relatively new to this industry, so I'm still sort of getting the handle on the difference between telecom and broadcast for instance, but I think -- so that also frames my experience.
14198 So I would say acknowledging that things are different for not-for-profits. It’s different because we’re a smaller group of not-for-profits who are playing in the telecom and tech side, but I would say if there are ways to accommodate those differences.
14199 And then other than that, obviously we’re saying we support the PIAC, Affordable Action Coalition low income subsidy, if that’s possible, if that’s something the CRTC can have a role in creating and other than that I would like to say I will keep you posted as I think more about it.
14200 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you have a national -- are you I mean -- we mentioned Chebucto earlier and I’m sure there are others, but is there any organisation like that, because I -- when -- frankly it reminds me of community radio; right?
14201 MS. ROBINSON: It reminds me of community radio.
14202 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And I was thinking of you know when I had actually visited Chebucto in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago and it struck me this -- that that’s what this is.
14203 And -- but these people are doing -- folks such as yourselves are serving a lot of the needs that have been presented to us earlier in terms of affordability, in terms of digital literacy, in terms of you know, help -- adoption, you know, dealing with seniors.
14204 Those were three of the social issues presented to us and then here you are, so you seem to have -- you seem to be serving a lot of those issues so that’s what I was getting at in terms of that, is if there are solutions, people offering solutions to problems that are within the system.
14205 Not saying that we can’t contemplate doing things.
14206 MS. ROBINSON: M’hm.
14207 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But one of the most efficient things we might be able to do is look at ways to ensure there’s a place for people like you inside the system.
14208 MS. ROBINSON: I absolutely agree. I would say on the community radio side there exists a special place for community radio to exist that’s kind of separate but alongside the other kinds of broadcasters and that’s not true, at least as far as I know, on the telecom side.
14209 Again I think it’s a smaller -- but I would say it’s important to foster that; right? So sometimes things grow when they have a space to grow into.
14210 So but as far as is there a national organisation, there’s a group called TeleCommunities Canada, so they did write a submission.
14211 So they’re a kind of -- communities of practice is how they refer to themselves. There’s no sort of NCRA, Arc du Canada, but also we’re a member of the Internet Society of -- the Canadian chapter of the Internet Society.
14212 And so we’re hoping to work more with them around these kinds of issues as well.
14213 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I think -- I’m assuming you’re aware of some of discussions that took place last week and presentations such as -- that most recently by Rogers in terms of talking about all sorts of steps that could be taken to work for a more cohesive national digital strategy
14214 Do you see a -- what do you think of that, first of all?
14215 MS. ROBINSON: I am not as familiar as I would like to be. Partly because I have been laid low with sickness, so I’m not quite on top of -- like I don’t want to say something that wouldn’t be as precise as I would like to be.
14216 So can you please ---
14217 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay so here’s the idea without --
14218 MS. ROBINSON: Yes.
14219 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- and a couple of proposals have been made and it followed a statement that the Chair made last Monday on our behalf, that when we look at the history is that there hasn’t been a profound national digital strategy for many years.
14220 And that maybe it’s time people got together and talked about that, so a couple groups, Bell and then Rogers, and others have discussed too --
14221 MS. ROBINSON: M’hm.
14222 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- that those were the bigger -- biggest companies doing it suggested that there be a sort of a national advisory group put together for a couple of years to get all the stakeholders into the room and start coordinating.
14223 So if, you know, provincial governments perhaps to talk about, you know, if internet is a basic need why isn’t it funded through social assistance.
14224 I think Yukon provides some money for telephone service, but we weren’t aware of other provinces doing anything.
14225 If the -- if I said Industry Canada, the Ministry formerly known as Industry Canada has, you know, is $500 million in funding.
14226 What can other groups do to make sure that’s not at cross purposes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and what role can everybody play?
14227 Do you think that’s a great idea or do you think we should just do it?
14228 MS. ROBINSON: Coming from a not-for-profit background, I’m certainly always open to sort of offside stakeholder conversations. I think they’re really important.
14229 I will also note though that smaller not-for-profit less well funded, less well staffed organisations tend to be even through no ill will, marginalized in those conversations.
14230 And so I think it’s important, whatever happens, that the Commission still have a strong role in, you know, obviously making sure that things are sort of fair across the board.
14231 So I would just be worried about being -- about kind of voices being drowned out.
14232 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand that. Everyone needs a hero; right? So ---
14233 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Where do you think as we -- when we -- as we come out of this, where do you think we should prioritize our actions or create our priorities, I guess. Better way of putting it.
14234 I’ll list some things that’s in front of us.
14235 MS. ROBINSON: M’hm.
14236 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Getting basic access to people in the north and other remote and First Nations communities; that would be one.
14237 And they’re -- for anyone else listening there are other options but for the sake of discussion I’m just listing two or three here.
14238 Filling the gaps; we’ve talked about that, you know, in what I call semi, quasi-rural areas.
14239 MS. ROBINSON: M’hm.
14240 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You know where you just have these -- all of a sudden there’s a street that got left out or there’s 500 metres down the road all of a sudden there’s difficulties.
14241 The needs of the poor, continued investment and build of facilities and improving access.
14242 So where -- if you had to take one thing first, where would you go for?
14243 MS. ROBINSON: Oh, Peter would like to jump in and then ---
14244 MR. CHAPMAN: One of the things that we’ve become aware of is that there is a fundamental need for people either looking for a job or doing some basic service that they need in order to live their daily life, who -- those people don’t actually require a great deal of gigabytes or whatever it is, in terms of capacity, but they do require that access to be available 24/7 and very, very easily available to them.
14245 I think it’s really, really important that everyone in the country has that access, otherwise they are deprived of basic services, as I said, looking for a job and things as basic at that.
14246 However, at the other extreme -- excuse me. There are people who will use the internet service for watching T.V. and I’m told -- I just saw a presentation where the average -- and this is in the Unites States, watches 5 ½ hours of T.V. per day, which obviously if you’re doing that by streaming it on the internet, that’s a great deal of capacity that’s being consumed.
14247 So there has to be a balance between providing, if there is going to be some type of social program or subsidy, between providing the essential service and providing what one would regard as a somewhat superfluous luxury service and I think therein lies the dilemma.
14248 And certainly that we’ve become aware of in offering our services and promoting it to, you know, to the whole community, we see this wide diversification.
14249 And it’s not really easy to say which type of user is going to be a large capacity user, because initially you might think it’s retired people and elderly people, but in fact they can be quite heavy users simply because they do have the time to watch and absorb a lot of information during the day.
14250 And gamers, people -- you know, teenagers, gaming online for many, many hours, tend to be high capacity users.
14251 So to get back to my point is that the dilemma risk, in terms of providing some type of access for essential needs, it’s the challenge is making sure that the essential needs are provided at a very, very acceptable price and affordable level.
14252 And at the same time not providing unnecessary subsidy to the heavy users who may not necessarily warrant such levels of support.
14253 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That -- well that goes to the want and need discussion, I guess? But the -- more specifically, do you think -- I mean I think you’re -- you have a 6 in 1 service, right? Does that meet most people’s basic needs?
14254 MS. ROBINSON: So until May 1st, that one has had no connection fee, installation fee, and so most people have defaulted to that one and have made it fit their needs. My sense is were it not for that price differential most people would like to go a little bit higher, just like I said, because of the growth of internet-connected devices, basically.
14255 So, yes, for people who are doing pretty limited things on the internet, six is fine. Although as a service we have found, anecdotally, that the FTTN service tends to be a better quality line than the entirely Legacy lines. But the speed seems to be okay.
14256 But now that we’ve sort of normalized the installation rate and we’ve offered 10, which we haven’t had before, people are literally flocking to the 10 mg service. And then, like I said, 15.1 was our fastest grower.
14257 So I would hesitate to say that six is enough. Yeah, I would say people are choosing more than that when all things are being equal, yeah.
14258 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So what is driving that demand?
14259 MS. ROBINSON: The demand for higher than six?
14260 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes. And you were talking about in your presentation and previously, you talked about you had to increase your offerings because more and more folks were asking for it -- for more. So why are they asking for more? Is it an issue of multiple devised ---
14261 MS. ROBINSON: Yes.
14262 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- in a household, or is it individual ---
14263 MR. WRIGHT: It’s ---
14264 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- individual increases in usage?
14265 MR. WRIGHT: When they’ve had internet and -- when people have had internet and they’ve tried it, they discover just the potential of it, and that drives the demand.
14266 A typical scenario would be a retired person who gets online because they’ve been told they need email and then their grandson visits and introduces them to Netflix, for example, so ---
14267 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And then they know there's more.
14268 MR. WRIGHT: --- they know -- they discover more, yes.
14269 MS. ROBINSON: But I would generally say -- so folks -- like, if you’re a single person and you’re watching Netflix, you can usually sort of get by with the six. So it’s the multiple device kind of landscape. And I think that’s only because of internetive [sic] things and I think that’s only going to get driven more and more.
14270 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Just one more question, it’s regarding -- you talked a little bit about people letting go of their landlines, ---
14271 MS. ROBINSON: M’hm.
14272 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- in terms of that, and you counsel them through the bereavement process in some way.
14273 MS. ROBINSON: yeah.
14274 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is that -- one of the things we’ve talked about a little bit is, you know, people can use VOIP or they have mobile devices but VOIP. But then the landline has a certain sense of reliability to some folks. So how big is it an issue? Do you -- how big an issue is that, do you think, or is it not?
14275 MS. ROBINSON: So our numbers -- because when I was preparing for the price change, I ran data, data, data, data. And so we now almost exactly match the last finding in the Monitoring and Evaluation Report so 45 percent of members is 45 percent of Canadians don’t have landline service anymore. But it jumped, even within the last six months I think it jumped 5 percent.
14276 So it doesn’t seem to be -- but that’s still less than half. But for those who are -- it’s not the reliability; it’s the ease, that’s what I’m going to say. When people call us about VOIP they don’t necessarily want us to help them to set up their own VOIP, they want to know if we have a VOIP offering because they just want to make it work. They want it to be cheaper and they want a phone on their desk and they want it to work, and they don’t seem to be as concerned with what if there’s a storm or we don’t tend to get those questions so much as just, like, “How easily and how cheaply can you make it available to me?”
14277 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you very much. Thank you for coming and for your presentation. I’ll turn it over to my colleagues now, if they have any questions.
14278 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
14279 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
14280 Good morning.
14281 I wanted to ask you about your community access fund that -- and it says there that you’re working out the details. But how is it you will determine amongst your membership those that are low income?
14282 MS. ROBINSON: That’s a great question and that’s what we’re working out.
14283 So we don’t want to put ourselves in the position of assessing need because we don’t think it’s appropriate. And so we’re looking at trying to establish kind of, for lack of a better term, sort of groups of buckets of people who are sort of preselected by membership in a group.
14284 So, for instance, it could be people who are receiving ODSP or people who are on Ontario Works. Or we had a program funded by the City of Ottawa Tennis years ago and that was for -- it was specifically for single mothers who were receiving some form of assistance.
14285 And so another idea was that if someone is a refugee claimant, then they would -- you know, so it would -- or it could be for -- obviously, our ambitions for the fund are quite big but our starting place is going to be quite small so that’s why we have to sort of limit from the beginning. But eventually it could include people who are on EI, right, so that’s a time when people most need the internet and yet are least able to afford it. And so, you know, there could be a subsidy for the folks who are on EI for the period during which they’re on EI.
14286 Those are the things that we’re thinking of but we haven’t exactly nailed it yet.
14287 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So you have a fund and the fund has been created how?
14288 MS. ROBINSON: So we’re taking $12,000 out of our surplus and then we’re going to -- and then once -- so the Board has established the fund in principle and they’ve agreed that we’re setting aside that money from our reserve, and then we’re going to -- once we determine how it’s going to work -- also ask for public donations.
14289 So it’s not a separate fund right now. Like, maybe in the future it could be a freestanding organization but for right now it’s an internal fund.
14290 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And you’re not concerned about being the choosers of who is in need?
14291 MS. ROBINSON: So that’s why we would use groups who have sort of chosen by virtue of belonging by some other standard.
14292 But, yeah, we’re absolutely concerned. There was a large -- because when people need support, like, you know, the Commission knows this probably better than we do at this point, there’s like so many people -- it’s like when Commissioner Menzies said the list; we don’t want to have to choose one of those, you know, very worthwhile goals. We don’t want to have to choose one group among, you know, very worthwhile groups and deserving groups. But it’s also that we don’t want to do nothing for fear of, you know, not helping everyone.
14293 So it’s where we’re going to start and then we’re hoping we can build and grow on it.
14294 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
14295 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you have charitable status?
14296 MS. ROBINSON: No.
14297 THE CHAIRPERSON: So any contribution you would get from the public would be competing with other people’s charitable donations.
14298 MS. ROBINSON: Correct.
14299 THE CHAIRPERSON: Where they would get a charitable donation.
14300 MS. ROBINSON: Correct.
14301 THE CHAIRPERSON: But not in your case.
14302 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah. So the ideal would be to potentially set up a separate charitable organization in the future so that we could benefit from those rules. But, again, for now we just want to get her started.
14303 THE CHAIRPERSON: Which is laudable, although one could ask how sustainable it would be in the long term because it really relies on the -- your volunteer base, the willingness of your Board, and so forth.
14304 MS. ROBINSON: Well -- so we actually have run on a donation model for a long time so that’s how we make up some up some of the shortfalls when the DSL is not as entirely sustainable as it needs to be. And we have a recommended donation model for those who use our services and so we have money that’s coming in. And so the idea would be the more sustainable the DSL service can be on its own, then the more we can redirect that money that comes in from donations that were currently support operations towards the community access fund.
14305 THE CHAIRPERSON: Some have come to our hearing to say -- while acknowledging that there may be an issue, saying it’s a poverty issue, not a telecom regulatory issue or even a telecom policy issue. And that really it’s -- other than maybe making some sort of recommendation, the Commission should keep out of this.
14306 What’s your view?
14307 MS. ROBINSON: My view is that if internet is an essential service, then the Commission has a role in trying to make sure that every Canadian has access to it.
14308 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
14309 You might want to reflect on that in the future phases -- there’s another phase on the 25th of May, another one on the 13th of June -- to add to the public record on that.
14310 MS. ROBINSON: That’s great.
14311 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it would be good.
14312 MS. ROBINSON: Thank you.
14313 THE CHAIRPERSON: When I look at your model and Commissioner Menzies was asking how transferable it was, and there are other examples, I was wondering if there were commonalities. I mean, this region -- I mean, you talked about having an educational institution as an anchor. There always has been historically a rather important IT sector in the region. We also have a large public sector community here, which means whether they’re retired or still active in the workforce, by that very nature they tend to perhaps be at the higher end of the income, the average income across the country, and better educated and so forth.
14314 So when you look at the transferability -- I’d just point out, maybe there are other reasons why it got off the ground well here. When one looks at the transferability of this model to other communities, what would be the elements, in your view, of success?
14315 Am I off base in my three assessments?
14316 MS. ROBINSON: No, I think that’s a fair assessment. I would also say there were ---
14317 THE CHAIRPERSON: It doesn’t happen everywhere else though, right, to --
14318 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah.
14319 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- have the confluence of those three?
14320 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah, absolutely.
14321 Sorry, Peter had just said we’re one of the few that survived. There were more and a number have gone away.
14322 I -- again, I’m going to come from a sort of community radio access position here which is that similar things can happen in different ways. And so they can draw on different resources in different communities.
14323 So I think it is possible for other communities to do this, although I think there are probably -- we were lucky in that we got a slower start; right? Because I mean, we got a fast start in terms of the uptake from -- but in terms of a 92, the Internet is not -- was not what it is today. And so I think there are probably barriers to entry today, but I also think that that’s something that could be looked at as a way to -- when we talk about, you know, investment and innovation, having small community-based ISPs might be one way that, you know, we can foster kind of innovation at a different level. And so I would say it’s possible because other communities might have advantages that we don’t have here.
14324 So the number one thing I hear working for NCF is oh, you guys are still around. Because everybody knew us and not that many people still know us. And so that’s our biggest challenge. Whereas, in other communities, you know, you might have that full community buy-in. So we have 3,000 subscribers in a city of -- well, in a region that certainly is, you know, a million-ish. And so other communities might have a smaller population, but the per capita buy-in would be much bigger.
14325 So I would say it is possible but it’s -- it wouldn’t be the way we do it maybe but, yeah.
14326 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So the size of the market also -- although where market and your philosophy just don’t jive, I get that, but the size of the population.
14327 MS. ROBINSON: Right. Yeah.
14328 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
14329 MR. CHAPMAN: Can I just add the point that our cost structure is based on a per user cost plus the cost of running the office. And the problem with going to a small community is that overhead of the office --
14330 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
14331 MR. CHAPMAN: -- spread over a much smaller revenue base.
14332 And so one of the challenges in doing that, and I think the model is transferrable incidentally, but one of the challenges is how do you provide the administration, the billing and all of the things associated with the head office to a smaller community. And there are models that would have to work on the basis that a number of small communities could share or some type of billing system or some type of system could then be made available to any other type of service provider that’s based on the same model.
14333 And certainly, our philosophy is we will share anything we’ve learned, of course, very willingly and freely. So I think the model is extendable, but with that somewhat caveat that the cost of the overhead is something that needs to be addressed in establishing that.
14334 THE CHAIRPERSON: How are you seen by for-profit resellers?
14335 MS. ROBINSON: I would like to assume that we are seen. I think we’re so small that we are effectively off the radar. So I went last November to the ISP Summit Conference.
14336 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm. Yes.
14337 MS. ROBINSON: And it was great. I felt like I was there as any other ISP. And there was a for-profit ISP that almost entirely served the Polish community somewhere. So I felt like okay, so we’re just going to interact on that level from our business side; right? And then when we’re meeting with ACORN or other community-based -- so I think we have the benefit of being able to --
14338 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
14339 MS. ROBINSON: -- play both roles.
14340 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you’re not seen as taking business away from?
14341 MS. ROBINSON: I don’t know. I would -- I don’t think so. But if we got more successful, I’m sure that would be the case.
14342 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
14343 MS. ROBINSON: Yeah.
14344 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you very much. As I -- oh, yes, please.
14345 MR. MacKINNON: Yes, thank you. I just wanted to add one other point to answer your question.
14346 Natural Capital Freenet has typically had an executive director that has come from the IT community. And we have done something quite different in the last year. We now have Shelly as our executive director and she’s come from, as you know, the radio community. And we think this is a really good step in reaching out to the community as a whole and not being driven by a techie.
14347 So to answer your question or to give you further insight, I think it’s important who the executive director is in terms of their background.
14348 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So the transferrable recipe needs to think about leadership as well; right? And who it is and what the skillsets are. Okay. Appreciate that.
14349 Thank you very much for your participation. And I eagerly invite you to participate in the next phases.
14350 Madame la secrétaire.
14351 THE SECRETARY: I will now ask Chebucto Community Net Society to come to the presentation table.
14352 Please introduce yourself and you have five minutes.
14353 MR. ROY: Good morning, Mr. Chair, Members of the Committee. My name’s Andrew D. Wright. I'm the Office Manager at the Chebucto Community Net. We're a Canada Revenue Agency registered charitable society and one of the oldest Internet service providers in Canada.
14354 As one of the last surviving community nets or freenets we offer both text-based terminal access as well as standard 56K dialup.
14355 Since 2013, our Manors Project has brought a symmetrical 11 megabits per second wireless access for a $125 per year membership to residents, mostly seniors, living in low-income provincially-owned housing. In other jurisdictions people protest for $10 a month Internet. We're delivering it.
14356 I'm aware this committee is familiar with the importance of Internet access so I’ll just add for that, for those on the edges of our society this access can literally be the only lifeline they have.
14357 In the two decades that I've been front and center in the struggle for fair access to the tools of communication, I've met many people and become the keeper of their stories as well as my own.
14358 Married for 51 years, these high school sweethearts today live in a small apartment in public housing. Their health isn't the best and they have to pick and choose which prescriptions they get filled because money is tight. Luckily, they live where we can provide them high speed service. They get to save 90 percent over the commercial provider rate.
14359 Next. No friends. No family. This person has had multiple heart attacks and is barely able to leave their home. Dependent on social assistance, near penniless, their computer came from one charity and their dialup connection, a major sacrifice even at $125 per year, comes from another, us.
14360 Increasingly, dialup Internet access is problematic. Vulnerable to the slightest flaws in telephone signal and line quality, even when a user gets an excellent connection streaming media is impossible to access. Between programs downloading updates in the background and websites contacting literally dozens of other servers to assemble the page, even plain web browsing is almost unusable for many sites.
14361 I saw an item just today saying that the average web page site has now exceeded the size of the original Doom video game.
14362 We've proven that a group of citizens can offer faster, cheaper and arguably better service than commercial providers with virtually unlimited resources.
14363 We say the answer to Canada's access woes is to empower non-profit community-based groups, such as ourselves, to build high speed infrastructure with a community Internet fund. Internet is relatively expensive to install. The costs are front end loaded. But once in, is cheap to run. Non-profit community groups can prioritize getting connectivity to those left behind by commercial providers.
14364 Phase 1 of our Manors Project was funded by several Chebucto Community Net Board members acting on their own. I used to have a car. Now 309 residents in 2 10-storey buildings have low-cost publicrun access. It was a good trade.
14365 Phase 2. Two (2) more public-housing buildings and access for 261 more residents was funded by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's Community Investment Program.
14366 Phase 3. A large public housing Manor with 217 more residents was funded by the Nova Scotia provincial high speed research and education network, the Atlantic Canada Organization of Research Networks Nova Scotia.
14367 We installed the necessary high speed hardware at a one-time cost of about $110 per resident.
14368 You'll notice no government funding. Bureaucracies like the safety of large corporations. This week, the Nova Scotia provincial announced $6 million for bettering high speed access in the province. Meanwhile, the provincially funded Community Access Program, sole public access in many communities, saw its already meagre funding slashed even further. The provincial government doesn't even talk to Chebucto Community Net, let alone fund anything of ours.
14369 In Nova Scotia, both rural and urban residents are being ill-served by the status quo, a duopoly between the Telco and the CableCo. Fibre and point-to-point wireless are the two delivery methods of choice. Solutions to our problems are available and being used elsewhere.
14370 In Taipei Taiwan 80% of the city has fibre to the home, with the fibre running through the sewers. In urban Halifax, most everyone has sewer already. In Sri Lanka, similarly size to Nova Scotia, Google is using weather balloons with a life expectancy of 100-200 days to provide rural wireless access.
14371 In northern England, farmers and rural residents founded B4RN, Broadband for the Rural North, putting in their own low cost gigabit fibre network where the commercial providers wouldn't or couldn't. Every seven o'clock, they have trenching parties, where they go dig out some more trenches, lay some more fibre. Three years, they've laid some 400 kilometres.
14372 In Halifax our Point-To-Point wireless connections are capable of up to 500 megabits per second with a range of 12 kilometres. And did you know that 1,000 foot of fibre optic cable is around $300 on eBay, and courses teaching how to splice it are free online?
14373 We say that if you provide the funds for citizens to build their own networks, make it easy for them to get, the needed infrastructure will not just be built, it will be run economically and well. We're one example of many doing that just now.
14374 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you very much. Commissioner Molnar will start us off.
14375 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Good morning. I heard the Vice-Chair mention just a minute ago that he'd had an opportunity to visit your organization in Halifax ---
14376 MR. WRIGHT: Yes, the seed for why we're here now.
14377 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- but this is new to me. Pardon?
14378 MR. WRIGHT: The seed for why we are here now.
14379 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, well, I wasn’t aware of your organization and it's very interesting to see. So you're a registered charitable society, and you say you use wireless? What is -- can you tell me a little bit just so I understand better the network you've created?
14380 MR. WRIGHT: Okay. Well, to bring the connectivity to those public housing buildings, we use a point-to-point wireless, so it operates 5 gigahertz frequency, like I said, speed of up to 500 megabits per second, and the range basically line-of-sight to the horizon.
14381 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So you're not reliant on any of the commercial ISPs within Halifax to ---
14382 MR. WRIGHT: No, they wouldn't have anything to do with us.
14383 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right, and you say you've been at this for two decades?
14384 MR. WRIGHT: Yes. Chebucto Community Net was originally founded over the winter of 1993, and formally, I guess, the spring of 1994.
14385 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm. We were talking to a group last week and I mentioned that it's my sense that often, addressing some of the sort of the needs of communities and residents that maybe don’t fit into the traditional business plans of the established ISP, often requires a champion. And would you say you are the champion of Chebucto Community Net?
14386 MR. WRIGHT: I would say I've got a well-developed sense of masochism, yes.
14387 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, I'm not sure that everybody's willing to sell their car for the betterment of their community, so ---
14388 MR. WRIGHT: It needed to be done. It wasn’t getting done. Talking about it for years didn’t do a thing. We figured if we gave an example that people could actually look at, that people could see, yes, this is actually doable, that they would follow. And well, the Canada Internet Registration Authority and ACORN Nova Scotia, the research group, they saw that and they helped support it. So I mean, we've basically supplied access to something like two to three percent of the needed -- the low-income population of the metro region.
14389 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So I have a number of questions, and just following that, where you say the low-income residents in your population, I know that you talk about the Manors Project in dealing with the low-income housing institutions.
14390 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah, that was because they were basically an easy target. A lot of the sort of people we wanted to serve all in one place; we could get a connection to them. So they were the easy low-hanging fruit, if you will. Other areas, you know, other manors, there's some 40 of them in the metro-Halifax region, public -- owned by the province, run by the city. And you know, we were supplying access to, well, 5 of them.
14391 You know, others, they're not places we can get a signal to, so you know, we'd have to do something like tap into ACORN Nova Scotia Fibre or something to get connectivity to those guys.
14392 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So low-income housing, there has been a pre-determination as to means testing to serve that community. One of the challenges with any kind of means testing program, programs to serve low income, is to identify who is low income.
14393 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm. I'd argue that, you know, everybody in Nova Scotia is being underserved and could, you know, stand for a public-run network, and not just, you know, seniors living in public housing.
14394 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm. Your price is remarkable, $125, so ---
14395 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
14396 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- 10 ---
14397 MR. WRIGHT: No extra fees.
14398 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- essentially $10 a month?
14399 MR. WRIGHT: Ten dollars forty-two cents ($10.42) or 35 cents a day. And yeah, we're running this thing at pretty much cost. Like I said, we sort of eat the investment of putting it in in the first place, all volunteer labour and you know, two of the phases were funded publicly, one we funded ourselves. But it seems like once you get that original installation out of the way, it's a free ride, you know, especially if you're, you know, peering with all sorts of other networks so you're getting free bandwidth from them as well.
14400 You know, your costs to run a network are ridiculously low. A good chunk of the Canadian infrastructure that has been built has already been paid for, and there's no reason why that shouldn't be running for free.
14401 In Danbury, Connecticut, they're putting in 20 megabits per second fibre for $15 a month. After five years, they plan on dropping that price to $5. after 10, they're planning to drop it to zero.
14402 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: The group before you was talking about help desk.
14403 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm.
14404 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So that's you?
14405 MR. WRIGHT: That's me.
14406 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You are the full volunteer support?
14407 MR. WRIGHT: Well, there's a bunch of volunteers who handle a user-held mailing list similar to what National Capital FreeNet has, so that's sort of like a training ground for volunteers, if you will. They can see what answers are provided to questions, learn, start answering their own. That's actually how I got started with this.
14408 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So are you also install and repair?
14409 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah. That fibre network -- or sorry, fibre -- that wireless network was put in by me and a fellow named Dave Johnson from a group called Fresh Group Atlantic, who also volunteered his labour. Yeah, we do it all.
14410 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm. And you are a registered charity, so how were you able to achieve that designation?
14411 MR. WRIGHT: That was something ---
14412 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That was you as well?
14413 MR. WRIGHT: --- Telecommunities Canada did at the end of the 1990s. They got community nets listed as an educational resource, and so a number of community nets became charitable at that time. Some of them lost their standards since for various reasons, but you know, we've kept ours.
14414 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You have mentioned a couple of programs that you've been able to receive funding through. You mentioned Sierra as one.
14415 MR. WRIGHT: Oh, I'd have to call them saviours of networking in Nova Scotia. Sierra's community investment program funded two buildings for our Manors Project. It's funded the Halifax Internet Exchange, which is a peering hub in Halifax where networks too have gone to. They're funding with -- so the Community Access Program, A Tablet for Seniors Program, where seniors are being taught in -- you know, seniors who don’t use internet at all are being taught to access it, you know, using tablets, for your simplest forum to teach people.
14416 So Sierra is basically doing everything that, well, the Nova Scotia government, the Halifax municipality, and the federal government aren't doing.
14417 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I'm looking at this and wondering if there are -- you know, the role of the Commission and the role -- clearly, there are organizations such as Sierra and community organizations such as yourself that are actively pursing ---
14418 MR. WRIGHT: With next to no resources, yes.
14419 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. So is there a way, absent funding -- are there other roles that the Commission could take that would perhaps help you coordinate things; discoverability of sources of funding, for example? Like, Sierra has come up -- I'm not sure how you made that relationship?
14420 MR. WRIGHT: Twitter. They saw us on Twitter.
14421 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: They saw you on Twitter? Would you see that there is a way to increase your visibility so that commercial organizations or organizations, such as this could find you ---
14422 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah, well ---
14423 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- at the source of (inaudible)?
14424 MR. WRIGHT: --- I had a conversation at a hotel restaurant last night with some people from openmedia.org. Now, these are presumably people informed about, you know, network access across the country, and I was kind of surprised at the fact that they really didn't have any idea of what was going on in Nova Scotia. Well, I guess we're like somewhere out in the sticks for you guys.
14425 But if the informed people don't -- I've got to think like, you know, well people in power have even less knowledge of us, and the situation, and you know, we've basically stepped in because nobody else was. And sort of saying, well, you know, gee guys, you're doing a great job, keep it up. That's not really a help.
14426 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: The vice chair asked the last panel about priorities.
14427 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm.
14428 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: If there was one priority for this commission that would help you, what would you see that to be?
14429 MR. WRIGHT: I'd say that we're living in an age where we're essentially building the nervous system for the planet. I'd be arguing that what we should be doing is going on, you know, essentially a moonshot-style prioritizing of this. That we should be bringing the highest possible speed uploads and downloads to every part of the country, just slamming that stuff down.
14430 Interest rates right now are like the lowest in history. So is like the time to be doing that kind of investment. It literally could not be more perfect.
14431 We are basically punishing regions of the country because they are, you know, considered out of reach, inconvenient. The North, you know, the coast areas with a low population. What we should be doing is slamming that stuff in the same way as we slammed power lines at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
14432 Because when you have like a system with, you know, slow upload speeds and, you know, relatively slow download speeds, you're seriously crimping the economic development of that region. There is like people who have to leave Nova Scotia because they're working on video files, or what have you, and they literally cannot upload the stuff fast enough.
14433 I watch people like doing sneakernet with portable hard drives all the time for large datasets. You know, this is nuts.
14434 We should be slamming in fibre everywhere; we should be making this a priority. Like that's where you guys could be coming in. I mean, there should be public owned, public run, low cost fibre access, you know, it would recover its costs within a decade, we'd be running it for the next century.
14435 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
14436 Those are my questions.
14437 THE CHAIRPERSON: Vice-Chair Menzies?
14438 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Just a comment and a question you don't have to answer.
14439 Did you take the train?
14440 MR. WRIGHT: Yes.
14441 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
14442 MR. WRIGHT: You can tell.
14443 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No, no.
14444 --- . LAUGHTER/RIRES)
14445 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I saw it somewhere. I just wanted to thank you for accepting the invitation to come and giving a very eloquent presentation. Thanks.
14446 MR. WRIGHT: Thank you.
14447 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner MacDonald?
14448 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good morning.
14449 Congratulations on what you're doing in Halifax.
14450 You have had some success in getting some funding to build out some of these buildings, and I'm wondering how you came to receive that funding? Is it a grant process that you're currently looking at different organizations and submitting proposals? How were you able to obtain that funding?
14451 MR. WRIGHT: Well, we've had very, very poor luck with grants. In fact, we've pretty much given up on ever doing on ever again a couple of years back just because they were so futile. There was always monstrous amounts of paperwork and months and months of wait to hear that no you didn't get it. So we're basically, okay, nuts to that noise.
14452 So a few years ago, like I said, we started posting things on Twitter, which started attracting a bit of attention. All of a sudden, some of the local politicians knew who we were; the local news media knew who we were.
14453 And we got basically an invitation from CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, to apply for their community development program. They had seen the sort of stuff we were up to. They had seen -- well, our Phase 1 of the Manors Project, basically.
14454 So that funding was pretty much a one shot deal. Like yes, we've got enough to do two buildings, but it's not like we can keep going back to CIRA every year.
14455 With the local high-speed research network, again, they wanted to do some community support, and again, that was a one shot, so you know, we can't go back to that pool either. And as I said, the province and you know, the city, they like talking to corporations. So if they have millions to give somebody, that'll go to a corporation.
14456 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And on that topic, I mean, you're providing service to constituents of municipal politicians and local MLAs, you're providing service to individuals that are receiving social assistance.
14457 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm.
14458 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Have any of those organizations provided any concrete rationale as to why they don't want to have more in-depth conversations with you or ---
14459 MR. WRIGHT: You're going to love this.
14460 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- provide some support?
14461 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah, well in the manors, the basic thing is that these manors are the low-income public housing. They're owned by the Province of Nova Scotia, they're run by the city.
14462 Now, the way they get around doing anything extra is when you talk to the city they say, oh no, that's provincial, we don't have that -- you know, we can't give money to anything provincial; and when you talk to the province, they say, oh no, that's the city running that. So they basically both wash their hands of it.
14463 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just one final, just so I can get an idea on the return on investment.
14464 Approximately what would it cost to bring one more building online with your service?
14465 MR. WRIGHT: Okay ---
14466 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I know that may vary depending on the number of different variables and the size of the building.
14467 MR. WRIGHT: Call it a 10 storey building, like that's the pretty much the average height of the various manors that we have done. We buy top of the line wireless equipment. Like that's the first decision we made is not to cheap out on the hardware because, you know, we want the thing to run reliably and for years.
14468 You know, part of the whole deal in the first place is you do it right the first time you don't have to worry about it afterwards. So that's the big thing.
14469 So basically, well point to point wireless is about $1,200 for the two wireless bridges, the access points are around 650 a piece, and we generally put two every second floor through the building. So you know, by the time we get all the bits and bobs and wires, and yada yada, something on the order of $10,000 to do a 10 storey building with just the hardware and us volunteering the labour.
14470 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So about 10 grand to service about 300 residents?
14471 MR. WRIGHT: Yeah, like I said in the presentation. It was about $110 per unit to put it in. They spend more than that on locks.
14472 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14473 Good, thank you very much.
14474 THE CHAIRPERSON: Speaking of paperwork. How hard was you to get a charitable status and to maintain it?
14475 MR. WRIGHT: Very, very easy. Maintaining is simply a matter of well doing things honestly and filing your taxes on time.
14476 THE CHAIRPERSON: And has it been beneficial to your operations?
14477 MR. WRIGHT: Well, yeah. I mean, donations are -- I don't have the exact percentage off the top of my head -- but something like 10 percent of our income.
14478 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, which is not insignificant.
14479 And earlier, I asked a question -- I think you were in the room -- about what might be the winning combinations for community-based solutions to emerge. Do you have a view on that?
14480 MR. WRIGHT: I'm not sure about the question.
14481 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'd referred to the fact that maybe in Ottawa the fact that there was an educational institution as an anchor that started off the operations of the previous -- the National Capital FreeNet -- was part of the -- might have been the solution that -- why that emerged and continues. The fact that we have an IT sector in the area, the fact that because of the public sector, the socioeconomic profile, the region is a little bit stronger, and of course, local and dedicated leadership, like yourself, is also very helpful.
14482 Do you have a view on that as to ---?
14483 MR. WRIGHT: Well, similar things (inaudible). Basically, at one time there were community nets all over Canada. Now, I believe there is seven surviving. We're the only ones east of Ottawa.
14484 We are partnered up with Dalhousie University, specifically, their Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who have provided us a home since 1994. It gives us great physical access to the high-speed network, which is literally about 30 feet outside my door.
14485 We use the Dalhousie fibre network, you know, for our own uses, where, for example, the buildings that we're using the feed the connections to the manors are Dalhousie buildings, where we put something -- a bridge on their roof and broadcast as a connection to another place. We buy our bandwidth from Dalhousie, which is nice because, of course, they bulk buy from larger commercial providers.
14486 The reason we're able to offer the symmetrical service of 11 megabytes per second is because we've got that solid connection. If we were trying to buy off ATELCO, we would be getting one of these ridiculous huge download/small upload things.
14487 As far as usage too, like we found -- we were very surprised by how much video the seniors used. Our heavy users are pulling back something like 350 360 gigabytes a day, which is, you know, somebody -- well, the local cable co's monthly data cap is 250. So you know, some of our users blast through that in a day, and then some.
14488 I'm -- I'd be thinking our 11 megabytes per second is actually a little on the slow side. We could probably increase that a little and -- to meet demand. Again, we were kind of surprised, we figured seniors would be sort of low users, but it turns out no, not so much. It’s a smaller percentage of seniors using it, but the ones that are are quite active.
14489 A lot of things are things like high definition video for people’s homelands. So you know, users from China or whatever are watching video from China, users from India are watching videos from India, that kind of thing where they’ve got a link to their own homes now that they didn’t use to have.
14490 I guess I'm kind of rambling here but you got to get the point.
14491 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, so -- yeah, so that’s a fair point. We sometimes come with unarticulated assumptions about how older Canadians consume content which might not actually be correct. Having to introduce my own 87-year old mother this weekend to the benefits of online streaming to a -- to Two.tv, which is a French language -- we shall see what comes to that, but early reports are quite encouraging that she’s enjoying it.
14492 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’ll see what happens to the internet bill after that. But it’s -- it’s -- once you understand it, it’s not that difficult and we shouldn’t perhaps assume that they are unable to do so.
14493 So -- and volunteers of course are important to the formula, I would think; right?
14494 MR. WRIGHT: M'hm.
14495 THE CHAIRPERSON: What motivates your volunteers?
14496 MR. WRIGHT: Well, I think it’s kind of once you're in with the volunteering then you realize, hey, hundreds of people not depend upon you, you can't quit. So that’s a big part of it. Ideally a community net operates as like a pool, you know, people with no education or whatever can volunteer, learn skills and then apply those skills elsewhere. We’ve acted as a training ground for quite a few people who’ve come along, you know, learned how to manage machines and stuff then moved on to the commercial sector with that skills.
14497 So if you're doing it right, you're getting a steady stream of people interested in what you're doing and -- well, going for self-improvement as well as helping out the community.
14498 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you very much for you answering the questions. Actually I should be fair to my mother, she’s not quite 87.
14499 THE CHAIRPERSON: I might hear about that, so she’s -- soon, but not yet. So thank you very much for participating in the hearing.
14500 Madame la secrétaire.
14501 LA SECRÉTAIRE: J’inviterais maintenant l’organisme de Gestion de l’inforoute régionale de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue à s’approcher.
14502 LA SECRÉTAIRE: S’il vous plait vous présenter et vous avez 10 minutes pour votre présentation.
14503 LE PRÉSIDENT: Pesez le petit bouton pis comme ça on va bien vous entendre, le micro va s’allumer.
14504 M. BÉDARD: O.k. comme ça?
14505 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, c'est parfait.
14506 M. BÉDARD: Merci.
14507 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci.
14508 M. BÉDARD: Patrick Bédard, je suis le Vice-président du GIRAT, les Gestions d’inforoute régionale Abitibi-Témiscamingue, et monsieur Marc Buteau qui est le Directeur général du GIRAT.
14509 M. BUTEAU: Bonjour, messieurs, dames.
14510 C'est en 1982 que le Gouvernement du Québec a permis aux organismes municipaux et aux commissions scolaires du Québec de se connecter à un réseau large bande. Pour ce faire, l'article 282 de la Loi 106 votée et sanctionnée le 14 juin 2002, donne aux commissions scolaires et aux municipalités le pouvoir d'agir dans le domaine des télécommunications.
14511 Ces mesures permettent aux organismes municipaux et aux commissions scolaires de participer à l'implantation, à l'exploitation ou à l'utilisation d'un réseau de télécommunications large bande passante reliant leurs sites. C’est dans ce cadre, en collaboration avec un partenaire télécommunicateur, que la région de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue s’est dotée d’un réseau large bande.
14512 Forte d’une expérience d’une dizaine d’années, la Corporation de l’inforoute régionale de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, le GIRAT, gère un réseau large bande passante visant à desservir l’ensemble du son territoire. Dans la phase de planification, le GIRAT a identifié les besoins et l’engagement de la collectivité à soutenir la mise en place de cette infrastructure large bande. Il a géré le processus de demande -- de demande de propositions pour sélectionner un partenaire télécommunicateur approprié à la collectivité, et il s’est assuré du financement nécessaire à la mise en place de son réseau.
14513 Justement de cette dernière phase, le GIRAT a géré le projet afin de s’assurer premièrement, que le réseau soit déployé par le partenaire télécommunicateur selon les plans établis. Deuxièmement, que le financement soit fourni par les organismes membres du réseau et acheminé vers le partenaire télécommunicateur. Et enfin, que le maintien, la conformité et l’évolution du réseau, l’acquisition des services de groupe, la gestion des clients à vocation publique, le remplacement des équipements et la formation des usagers soient dispensés selon les paramètres du réseau.
14514 Le GIRAT est maître d’œuvre communautaire sans but lucratif pour la région d’Abitibi-Témiscamingue concernant les technologies de l’information et de la communication. Le GIRAT a mis en place une infrastructure large bande -- large bande de haute qualité déployée dans la collectivité.
14515 Le coût du projet en 2005 était de 24 millions pour un déploiement de 1,400 kilomètres de fibre. Notre partenaire télécommunicateur était Télébec. Et pour branchement de 300 bâtiments de 100 mégabits à un gig pour certains, pour des possibilités de plus ou moins 15 000 ordinateurs dans la région.
14516 Ainsi donc, le GIRAT dessert plus de 27 organismes dont les MRC; les municipalités de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue et de la Baie James; les bibliothèques -- les bibliothèques du Réseau BIBLIO ATNQ; les sept communautés de la nation Algonquine réparties sur notre territoire; les commissions scolaires tant francophones qu’anglophones; ainsi que les différents campus de l’Université du Québec et du Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue de la région, sans oublier quelques OBNL.
14517 Dans notre vaste territoire, 26,000 kilomètres, il n’est pas toujours évident de desservir l’entièreté des résidences et des entreprises pour qu’ils tirent profit des technologies de l’information et des communications internet haute vitesse. Malgré l’investissement réalisé dans la phase I, certains secteurs plus isolés ou éloignés du cœur des villages se trouvent privés du service pourtant jugé essentiel.
14518 Par son projet de construction de tours, l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue passe aujourd'hui suite à une concertation régionale et sous l’incitation du GIRAT, à la phase II de son projet visant la couverture maximale de son territoire avec des services de télécommunications fiables, efficaces et évolutifs.
14519 Au cours des prochaines années le GIRAT désire déployer 34 tours de transmission. Et ce, afin d’offrir aux populations non desservies de la région l’accès à l’internet sans fil et au cellulaire. Cette infrastructure appartiendra au GIRAT et permettra aux télécommunicateurs d’y installer leurs équipements.
14520 M. BÉDARD: Le projet de développement d’une infrastructure de tours, destiné à offrir un service internet sans fil, est né du constat que la couverture cellulaire n’est pas continue, notamment dans les zones rurales occupées, vivantes, mais à faible densité de population. Pour ces secteurs, l’internet mobile n'est pas un souhait, mais bien un besoin réel.
14521 Il est évident que dans les régions à faible densité de population l’absence d’investissements des réseaux commerciaux ont une incidence sur l’offre de couverture. Les clients établis sur ces territoires dépendent de la planification des télécommunicateurs et des opportunités d’affaires afin de leur offrir des services d’internet sans fil fiables. Les télécommunicateurs du territoire ont investi dans leurs réseaux pour aller rejoindre les plus importants bassins de population, c’est-à-dire là où la pénétration des services pourrait être plus importante.
14522 De plus, le risque associé à leur modèle d’affaires est élevé en regard aux coûts à investir, ce qui rend les projets non rentables, bien que le service s’avère essentiel pour toute collectivité. Cette réalité a un impact majeur et direct au niveau de la couverture, et donc du développement de la région.
14523 En se dotant d’un réseau d’infrastructures de tours adapté à ses besoins et à l’immensité de son territoire, la région se positionnerait de manière stratégique au niveau socioéconomique. De plus, les entreprises, les organismes et les collectivités des territoires mal desservis auraient accès à des services équitables dans les domaines du commerce électronique, de la sécurité publique, de la télé communautaire, du téléapprentissage, du télétravail et de bien d’autres, ce qui favoriseraient assurément leur développement.
14524 En résumé, il serait illusoire de compter seulement sur l’entreprise privée dont la prestation de services est directement tributaire d’une certaine rentabilité pour pallier au manque de desserte sur notre territoire.
14525 Déjà les instances régionales dont les choix et priorisations se doivent d’être stratégiques, compte tenu l’importance des besoins par rapport à leurs moyens, ont rapidement adhéré à ce projet. Avec l’appui des différentes instances gouvernementales et de la région, la concrétisation d’un tel projet est tout à fait réalisable. L’établissement de différents télécommunicateurs tenant compte de la réglementation sur l’itinérance du CRTC créera la concurrence nécessaire à l’établissement d’une grille tarifaire viable.
14527 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Merci bien, messieurs. Et si je comprends bien, on dit -- on prononce le T, c'est GIRAT et non pas ---
14528 M. BÉDARD: GIRAT.
14529 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- et non pas GIRAT.
14530 M. BÉDARD: Oui.
14531 LE PRÉSIDENT: Puis sinon on oublierait une partie de votre région?
14532 M. BÉDARD: Une partie de la région, oui, une partie importante de la région.
14533 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., d’accord. Quand je me préparais, j’étais pas tout à fait certain.
14534 Vous faites mention à l’article 282 de la Loi 106. Quelle était la genèse de cette modification?
14535 Qui demandait cette modification législative qui a permis la création de groupes? Est-ce que vous étiez à l’origine?
14536 M. BÉDARD: Non, nous on n’était pas à l’origine. Monsieur Buteau est là depuis quelques mois. Moi, je suis là depuis à peu près deux ans au GIRAT. Le GIRAT a été créé dans le début des années 2000 et c'était vraiment pour faire en sorte que le réseau -- qu’il y ait un réseau de large bande de déployé en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
14537 M. BÉDARD: Est-ce que vous avez connaissance de d’autres municipalités ou organismes municipaux ou commissions scolaires qui se sont organisés au Québec de la même façon que vous?
14538 M. BÉDARD: Comme nous, non. On est un projet pas mal unique au Québec.
14539 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et pour quelle raison à votre avis que les autres n’ont pas pris l’opportunité prévue par la législation?
14540 M. BÉDARD: Sérieusement, j’ai pas -- j’ai pas d’idée pourquoi ç'a pas été fait.
14541 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce qu’y avait des champions dans votre région qui ont agi d’une façon ---
14542 M. BÉDARD: Y a eu des gens qui ont été opportunistes je crois quand ç’a été proposé au Canada -- au niveau du « Canada branché », projet « Canada branché » qui était développé à ce moment-là.
14543 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Votre partenaire de télécommunication était et est encore Télébec.
14544 M. BÉDARD: Oui.
14545 LE PRÉSIDENT: Si vous aviez à décrire la relation, comment feriez-vous ça? Est-ce que c'est une bonne relation? Est-ce qu’elle est constructive?
14546 Parce que parfois dans nos audiences, on entend le son de cloche de certains opérateurs où on nous dit bien, c'est extrêmement difficile. Plus tôt dans nos audiences, y a même quelqu’un qui a dit on est pris avec des contrats à long terme d’exclusivité qui nous empêchent, qui nous enlèvent de la flexibilité pour l’avenir.
14547 Est-ce que c'est votre expérience?
14548 M. BÉDARD: Au niveau du contrat comme tel avec Télébec, le contrat c'est sûr que c'est un contrat à long terme. Le télécommunicateur a eu à faire -- d’une façon, y a dû investir dans le projet. Comme telle, la relation est assez bonne. Le service fonctionne. On a un service fonctionnel.
14549 C'est sûr que du côté compétition, on peut pas nécessairement -- ça ouvre pas la porte à la compétition le réseau qu’on a actuellement parce que c'est un réseau fermé de fibre qui a été déployé pour, oui, connecter les municipalités, tout ce qui est MRC, commissions scolaires, universités, cégep, mais fait en sorte que le réseau qui a été déployé est utilisé aussi par Télébec pour le secteur commercial.
14550 Fait que nous on a un 50 pour cent de la bande passante qui est disponible sur la fibre qui est déployée en région.
14551 LE PRÉSIDENT: En tout temps ou pendant certaines périodes de la journée?
14552 M. BÉDARD: En tout temps.
14553 LE PRÉSIDENT: En tout temps. Puis vous me mentionnez que c'est un arrangement, un contrat à long terme. Ça pourrait prendre fin quand?
14554 M. BÉDARD: C'est un contrat de 20 ans.
14555 M. BUTEAU: De 20 ans qui finit en 2025.
14556 M. BÉDARD: Deux milles vingt-cinq (2025).
14557 LE PRÉSIDENT: Jusqu’à 2025. Mais d’ici là, y a des contraintes d’exclusivité.
14558 M. BÉDARD: Oui.
14559 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais vous êtes capable de gérer quand même le déploiement nonobstant cette exclusivité?
14560 M. BÉDARD: Oui, de ce côté-là, c'est pas -- y a pas de problème de ce côté-là pour -- si on a des ajouts à faire, si on a des nouveaux mandants qui veulent utiliser le service, on ajoute -- y a des clauses au contrat qui font en sorte qu’on est capable d’en rajouter sans problème.
14561 LE PRÉSIDENT: Un des enjeux ici dans l’audience c'est le déploiement évidemment de la large bande mais c'est plus qu’un concept. Faut définir ce qu’on veut dire par large bande.
14562 M. BÉDARD: Oui.
14563 LE PRÉSIDENT: À votre avis, c'est quoi un service à large bande au début du 21ème siècle au Canada?
14564 M. BÉDARD: Service à large bande, c'est sûr qu’on parle de communications, débit d'internet élevé. Présentement, on est en train de -- on offre -- on a de l’internet en Abitibi alentour de -- on vient avec -- à avoir des communications autour de 10 gigs qu’on est capable d’avoir en Abitibi.
14565 C'est sûr qu’on est dépendant de -- la distance fait en sorte que c'est difficile d’avoir de la redondance. Le réseau s’en vient à être disponible là avec -- on a des alliances avec le risque aussi, le réseau du risque qui nous permet d’avoir une redondance entre les deux -- entre le communicateur, oui Télébec, mais Bell Canada qui nous permet d’avoir justement une redondance avec l’Ontario et le Québec.
14566 LE PRÉSIDENT: Avez-vous des recommandations précises pour nous parce que certains intervenants préconisent qu’on devrait établir certaines normes par rapport à la vitesse puis d’autres caractéristiques?
14567 M. BÉDARD: Nous c'est sûr que dans le projet qu’on veut -- qu’on avait déposé dans le cas du Canada 150, c'était de mettre de l’avant, oui, l’internet, branché les gens, mais de façon mobile. Nous on voit que l’avenir est pas mal plus au niveau du cellulaire que de l’internet branché filaire dans les maisons.
14568 C'est sûr que c'est un service qui est nécessaire d’avoir l’internet dans les maisons mais les gens utilisent beaucoup plus leur cellulaire. On se promène sur le territoire comme tel en Abitibi entre autres puis même on se promène, on vient à Montréal, on vient à Gatineau, Ottawa, et y a des zones de non couverture.
14569 Côté sécurité, on a besoin d’avoir un service cellulaire haute performance qui doit couvrir le territoire de l’ensemble du Canada. Puis c'était dans cette optique-là qu’on voulait la construction de tours. Ce n’était pas pour -- nécessairement pour l’internet dans les maisons mais couvrir le territoire pour la sécurité du public.
14570 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc l’objectif dans votre cas pour le déploiement du cellulaire mobile est surtout un enjeu de sécurité publique?
14571 M. BÉDARD: Pour nous, oui. En Abitibi actuellement sur le territoire, on a beaucoup de zones de couverture. On a eu encore -- ça arrive régulièrement qu’il y a des gens qui font -- tu peux avoir un accident sur le -- on a un accident sur le bord de la route. Y a pas de couverture cellulaire. Pas capable d’appeler les services d’urgence. C'est assez majeur là comme problématique.
14572 LE PRÉSIDENT: Seriez-vous d’accord avec l’affirmation que le service mobile sans fil n'est pas, en raison des contraintes techniques et des coûts, un modèle idéal pour fournir la large bande?
14573 M. BÉDARD: Que ce n'est pas un -- pouvez-vous ---
14574 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est pas un modèle idéal pour les larges bandes parce qu’il y a des contraintes techniques. On ne peut pas faire de large bande aussi facilement mais surtout que y a un coût associé à faire de large bande.
14575 M. BÉDARD: C'est sûr que le coût est élevé mais de là à dire que c'est pas une possibilité, je suis pas convaincu là.
14576 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais si je vous comprends bien, c'est surtout pour des raisons de sécurité publique. Vous voulez voir plus de déploiement du mobile.
14577 M. BÉDARD: Effectivement.
14578 LE PRÉSIDENT: Comme vous savez, c'est pas tout à fait le cœur de notre compétence. Y a un autre régulateur sur la patinoire, notamment le nouveau ministère de -- ben c'est pas un nouveau ministère mais un ministère avec un nouveau nom, le ministère de l’Innovation.
14579 Qu’en est-il de vos conversations avec ce ministère-là pour assurer un plus grand déploiement du sans fil dans votre région?
14580 M. BÉDARD: Vous avez dit quel ministère?
14581 LE PRÉSIDENT: L’ancien Industrie Canada, Monsieur Bains.
14582 M. BÉDARD: Oui. Ben on a eu des discussions avec le bureau du ministre Bains et au niveau de la présentation de notre projet, c'est sûr que le projet a pas été retenu. Ça été le projet de Xplornet qui a été retenu pour l’Abitibi. Encore là, c'est que le coût justement de l’internet au résidentiel est plus abordable que le coût du cellulaire. C'est comme vous avez dit.
14583 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais vous votre préoccupation n’était pas de large bande. Vous, vous voulez le déploiement du service sans fil ---
14584 M. BÉDARD: L’internet mobile.
14585 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mobile pour des raisons de sécurité.
14586 M. BÉDARD: Ben on a de la sécurité, oui, mais aussi pour quand on parle d’accueillir les -- les gens qui viennent s’établir en région ont besoin d’internet, ont besoin de communications. Les gens sont branchés, ont besoin d'avoir des communications et sans l’apport du cellulaire, sans l’apport de l’internet mobile, les gens qui ont à se déplacer en région ont pas de service. Donc y a un besoin de ce côté-là aussi.
14587 Oui, sécurité, mais au besoin d’attraction des gens pour venir -- puis des gens et des compagnies de venir s’établir en région. Quand y a pas d'internet, quand on n'est pas capable d’avoir l’internet mobile, pour nous ça fait -- ça met des contraintes supplémentaires.
14588 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais au-delà des programmes de subventions, je comprends là mieux que c'est Xplornet qui ont le succès dans le programme de subventions créé par le ministère.
14589 M. BÉDARD: Oui.
14590 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais le ministère est aussi responsable et c'est pas le CRTC. C'est contraire à -- je pense c'est dans tous les pays du G7, le Canada est le seul où l’équivalent du CRTC ne gère pas le spectre. Ici c'est Industrie -- l’ancien Industrie Canada, maintenant Innovation Canada. Donc c'est eux qui ont octroyé les licences. C'est eux qui ont des conditions pour assurer le déploiement des réseaux sans fil.
14591 Quelle était la nature des conversations que vous avez eues soit avec les bureaux de ministres mais plus particulièrement avec les fonctionnaires pour assurer le déploiement des réseaux sans fil dans votre région?
14592 M. BUTEAU: De ce côté-là ---
14593 LE PRÉSIDENT: Ce ne sont pas nos licences.
14594 M. BUTEAU: Effectivement.
14595 Bien on est présentement à travailler sur un projet. On va représenter un projet -- on va moduler le projet qui avait été présenté à prime abord(phon.), puis on va présenter ça aux gens du Ministère, qui eux nous orienterons là vers les bonnes portes à prendre pour ---
14596 LE PRÉSIDENT: Sauf que ce n’est pas une question de subvention nécessairement, je ne crois pas, en termes de connectivité de large bande.
14597 Encore une fois, si je vous comprends bien, c’est une question de sécurité et donc qui ne se case pas assez bien dans les modalités --
14598 M. BUTEAU: Mais quand on parle du ---
14599 LE PRÉSIDENT: -- d’un programme qui est là pour de la large bande surtout.
14600 M. BUTEAU: Mais quand on parle du spec. on parle de télécommunicateur. À ce moment-là ce qu’on prépare présentement, le projet qu’on dépose, c’est un projet de tours.
14601 So la qualité des communicateurs vont devenir nos espèces de locataires sur les tours. Ils vont venir s’installer et le problème de bande passante et de spec. bien ça va être le problème des télécommunicateurs et pas le problème du GIRAT comme tel.
14602 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
14603 Et le projet-là pour la construction de déployer 34 tours et 6 antennes, c’est un projet de quelle envergure sur le plan ---
14604 M. BUTEAU: Vingt-deux (22) million.
14605 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vingt-deux (22) million?
14606 Sur plusieurs années évidemment?
14607 M. BUTEAU: C’était sur cinq ans.
14608 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est ça sur cinq ans.
14609 M. BUTEAU: En ce qui a trait à notre audience ici, votre -- notre présence comme CRTC, l’instance que nous avons devant nous et les enjeux que nous avons devant nous, quelle est votre recommandation pour CRTC?
14610 M. BUTEAU: Notre recommandation bien c’est de faire en sorte, justement, qu’on puisse rendre que le -- qu’il y ait une enlignement de données justement vers Industrie Canada et faire en sorte que la collaboration entre les télécommunicateurs soit optimisée, parce qu’actuellement c’est sûr qu’il y a au niveau des recommandations par le CRTC, au niveau du partage des infrastructures par les télécommunicateurs, ce qui est -- ce qui ressort c’est que oui les télécommunicateurs peuvent -- ont le mandat de partager leur infrastructure, mais sans avoir nécessairement de restriction au niveau des tarifs de partage.
14611 Fait que les télécommunicateurs peuvent mettre facilement des bâtons dans les roues au -- à leur -- à la compétition, faire en sorte que justement les services ne soient pas nécessairement partagés. Les infrastructures ne soient pas partagées. Ne soient pas partageables.
14612 LE PRÉSIDENT: Au-delà de ce qu’on a dit dans notre décision du sans-fil l’an dernier?
14613 M. BUTEAU: Oui.
14614 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce que vous trouvez qu’on a d’autre -- un autre rôle à jouer que d’assurer l’accès équitable aux infrastructures de télécommunications?
14615 M. BUTEAU: Selon moi, non. Ça reste pas mal à ce niveau-là qu’il y a un rôle important à s’assurer justement du respect de la ---
14616 LE PRÉSIDENT: Du cadre qu’on a ---
14617 M. BUTEAU: Du cadre que vous avez fixé.
14618 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., d’accord. Bien c’est très bien.
14619 Ce sont mes questions. Je vais me tourner vers mes collègues. Ni le -- alors merci beaucoup pour vos présentations.
14620 M. BUTEAU: Merci, merci.
14621 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est fort utile. Merci Beaucoup.
14622 M. BUTEAU: Merci.
14623 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je crois qu’on va prendre une courte pause jusqu’à 10h50. So we’re on break until 10:50.
--- Upon recessing at 10:35 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:50 p.m.
14624 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s’il vous plait. Order, please. Madame la secrétaire?
14625 LA SECRÉTAIRE: We will now hear the presentation of Saskatchewan Telecommunications, SaskTel, please introduce yourself and your colleagues.
14626 MR. MELDRUM: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and I am SaskTel’s Vice-President, corporate counsel and regulatory affairs. Before you proceed with our submission I would like to ask the Commission’s to introduce a one page exhibit, representing the increased coverage in Saskatchewan, once certain connecting Canadians projects are complete.
14627 LE PRÉSIDENT: Okay. Let’s do that. I think we’re up to number 6 for this -- it’s just a map. It’s not any additional data points? It’s just to help conversation I take it?
14628 MR. MELDRUM: Yes.
14629 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Good. Number 6; thanks.
14630 MR. MELDRUM: Thank you.
14631 I am pleased to introduce our panel today. To my immediate left, Katrine White, Vice President, Consumer Sales and Solutions; to Katrine’s left, Ron Styles, our President and CEO; to Ron’s left, Daryl Godfrey, SaskTel’s Chief Technology Officer.
14632 In the second row, directly behind Ron is Bill Beckman our Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs. To Bill’s right is Andrew McKay, Regulatory Affairs Manager, and to his right is Jamie Patterson, Associate Corporate Counsel.
14633 I will now turn you over to Ron Styles.
14634 MR. STYLES: Good morning.
14635 Good morning. We’d like to start by commending the Commission on the decision it made in 2011 to continue the local voice access regime and introduce an aspirational broadband regime.
14636 This framework has allowed Canadians to continue to use affordable voice service to meet their commitments -- their communication needs, while at the same time enabling a combination of market forces, technological advancements and targeted funding programs to bring Canada to the point where the aspirational broadband targets are largely met.
14637 I’d like to tell you about a few of the achievements SaskTel has made under the CRTC’s aspirational regime.
14638 Over the past 5 Years, we have spent over 1.5 Billion dollars in capital. Much of this has gone toward bandwidth improvements.
14639 We have built out our fibre-to-the-home network so that it now allows over 30 percent of Saskatchewan’s households to have access to download speeds of up to 260 megs and upload speeds of up to 60 megs.
14640 We have upgraded over 30 communities, rural communities, to 5 megs and 235 communities to 10 megs.
14641 We have brought 5 megs service to 19 First Nations and 1.5 megs to 34 First Nation communities; six (6) of which will soon be enhanced to 5 megs service.
14642 With support from Indigenous and Aboriginal -- and Northern Affairs Canada, we are working to provide 89 on-reserve schools with dedicated 10 megs connections.
14643 In partnership with Health Canada, we are working to provide 79 First Nations health facilities and treatment centres with dedicated 10 megs connections.
14644 With support from the Connecting Canadians program, we will be bringing 5/1 broadband service to 26 remote northern communities, including 3 that had no previous service, by the end of this year.
14645 In rural areas we have introduced a fixed wireless technology that provides 5/1 service to rural residents in in the coverage area and we hope to increase that to 10/1 later this year.
14646 We also look forward to further understanding the Government of Canada’s recently announced plans to spend up to $500 Million over 5 years, to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote areas, and $255 Million over 2 years on a First Nations Infrastructure Fund, which will support investments in a range of complementary infrastructure including broadband connectivity.
14647 Our past successes and these recent announcements support our position that the Commission does not need to introduce prescriptive measures, which would set specific immediate targets with rewards for achieving them and penalties should they be missed.
14648 The best way forward on broadband is to set new aspirational targets and then rely on the market, technology and targeted government programs to achieve them.
14649 It is not that we think that broadband evolution has reached an endpoint at 5 megabits per second. We do however believe that 5 megs is sufficient for customers to access the digital economy today and that the Commission does not have to introduce prescriptive regulations to further ensure this access.
14650 The Commission’s Exhibit 1, which was filed earlier, confirms this, but we do aspire to deliver far more.
14651 We believe that more and more bandwidth will be important to our customers and we intend to do everything we can to build it for them.
14652 As you know, SaskTel is a provincial crown corporation. Our mandate is to connect the people of Saskatchewan with the best communications services possible and not simply to generate profit.
14653 This means that in some cases we undertake investments that are only marginally profitable. However, we must always be careful stewards of the Province’s investment and remain cognizant of cost and the need for a reasonable return.
14654 Having said that, whether or not you set new aspirational targets, we will continue to build and enhance our network.
14655 We will build because the market is driving us to; we will build because technology will advance and allow us to; and we will build because we have been successful in pursuing funding from government sources, businesses and communities, which allows us to make investments in communities which would otherwise be unserved.
14656 And if the Commission does institute an industry-funded regime, which we do not believe is necessary, we’ll chase moneys from that too.
14657 Although 5/1 allows Canadians to participate in the digital economy, the Commission needs to set a higher aspirational target. Five-one (5/1) is largely reached.
14658 Further progress means you need a higher target to review future progress against it.
14659 And, as the Government of Saskatchewan -- or Government of Canada, pardon me, refines its plans to spend hundreds of Millions of dollars improving broadband service, they need a target to base funding awards on as well.
14660 SaskTel believes 10/1 appropriately reflects today’s technological and societal reality of the future.
14661 We also urge you not to forget about those Canadians who have not yet transitioned to the digital economy.
14662 SaskTel envisages a time when the Commission will no longer have to enforce a basic service objective for traditional voice.
14663 However, the evidence clearly shows that that time is not yet here. While some consumers are cutting the cord, many others continue to value this service. We believe no significant change in the voice framework is required.
14664 MS. WHITE: As Ron mentioned, part of SaskTel’s mandate as a Crown corporation is to connect the people of Saskatchewan with broadband service. Today we serve over 88 percent of Saskatchewan households with at least 5 megs service and by the end of 2017 there will be as few as 30,000 underserved households mostly due to not reaching 1 meg upload speed.
14665 SaskTel is very proud that we have to date been able to place fibre-to-the-home facilities past 140,000 homes. We have deployed fibre in the most competitive communities across the province and areas with the greatest market potential. However, we also continue to expand our 5 and 10 megs service to rural communities. Just this month we rolled out 5 meg service to the village of Craven and 10 meg in Alvena and Riverhurst. According to the 2011 census these communities have 111, 36, and 105 homes respectively.
14666 SaskTel’s wireline broadband service is different than many of our competitors. We do not have contracts; we do not charge for equipment; usage is unlimited with no throttling or overage charges; we do not charge termination fees; and our customers benefit from bundle savings when they purchase other services like TV, long distance, or mobile.
14667 The uptake of our fibre network is growing and we are noticing an interesting trend. In communities with a fibre network, although we offer download speeds of up to 260 megs, most customers are taking speeds less than that.
14668 Here is an example. SaskTel is working toward making the City of Moose Jaw the first fully fibre-fed community in Saskatchewan and we have passed most of the homes in that city. Customers who convert to fibre are offered our 100 meg service at a promotional rate, but after the promotion ends we find that our most popular speed is an 8 meg service, the second lowest of six available options. A small percentage of our customers stay on the 100-meg option after the promotional period, and a very few upgrade to the highest speed available.
14669 Similarly, in those DSL communities where customers can purchase a maximum of 25 megs or 10 megs, a majority subscribe to speeds of 5 megs or lower.
14670 It’s likely that demand for higher speeds will grow over time, and we have invested a great deal of money based on this assumption. But the time when most customers are willing to pay for exceptionally higher speeds is not yet here.
14671 Even at 5 megs most consumers can do everything they want to do on the internet. At this speed, a customer can choose to browse a website, retrieve information related to a government service, shop, access social media, or watch an educational video online.
14672 The evidence in this proceeding has shown that the most critical components of the digital economy can be accessed using the current aspirational broadband targets and that the true drivers for increased bandwidth demands are entertainment services like video and gaming.
14673 Submissions in this proceeding list video applications and the desire for multiple devices to be online at the same time as the drivers of the perceived need for additional bandwidth.
14674 SaskTel agrees that higher bandwidth video and multiple concurrent users drive demand for faster broadband. We’re happy to respond to customer demand for such bandwidth where we can do so on a cost-effective basis, but neither video entertainment nor multiple users at one household should lead the Commission to introduce a prescriptive regulatory intervention.
14675 Our next important observation is that the market is not asking for higher upload speeds. That is why SaskTel has no service options that offer the same download and upload speeds.
14676 As an access provider in a competitive environment, we understand our need to meet market demands for higher broadband access speeds and even for higher upload speeds, if a customer asks for them in the future. The current aspirational regime, with increased download target speeds, is the most effective way to ensure that the industry continues to adapt to demands of consumers. However, a prescriptive regulatory intervention is not required.
14677 MR. GODFREY: As Chief Technology Officer, I have seen great changes in networks over the years. The capabilities of various technologies have expanded beyond limits which had been commonly accepted and the clear lines between wired telecom, cable TV, satellite, and wireless services have become blurred. The pace of network change is ever-increasing. Technologies are introduced, they are the best thing we have ever seen, and five years later they are approaching obsolescence.
14678 As these technologies develop, network architectures which were once seen as the best solution to a problem become superseded by other architectures.
14679 When dial-up was prevalent, the only way to get access to the internet without your teenagers monopolizing your voice line for hours at a time was to install a second copper loop. Then DSL was developed, voice and data were available on the same network access, and many second loops became redundant. As DSL standards progressed, speeds increased.
14680 In order to achieve these speeds, we had to place serving equipment in nodes so that the copper loop was short enough to provide those higher speeds. Originally nodes were placed so that copper loops were no more than four kilometres, which allowed us to deliver 1.5 megabits per second using ADSL electronics.
14681 With the introduction of ADSL2+ and further advances in DSL, we can now deliver 5 meg over this same distance. Newer builds require copper loops not longer than 2.2 kilometres for 10 megabits per second and 900 metres for 25 megabits for second. With fibre-to-the-prem, we are now choosing to overbuild the entire copper portion of many communities.
14682 Fixed wireless technology has also progressed. We have some very small communities in Saskatchewan, along with highly dispersed farms and rural dwellings. Previously, the only way for SaskTel to provide 5 meg broadband service to many of these areas would have been using a direct fibre connection because they are too dispersed for a node-based solution to make sense. Because the regime was aspirational, we were able to wait and we can now deploy our Fusion fixed wireless service, offering customers 5 meg down and 1 meg up. We will soon launch the ability to access 10/1 speeds on this technology. And we are hopeful that even greater speeds can be reached with technological advancements that are already in the pipeline.
14683 As a facilities-based service provider, we have to deal with this evolving technological environment. We have to look at what our existing facilities can do, what we could deliver given various network builds, what potential future changes in electronics may allow us to do, and the cost and timing of all of these options.
14684 And we have to compare that to what we think our customers will demand and what we think our competition will be offering. We also must consider any regulatory obligations that might force us to resell our network to our competitors at prices that are unreasonable. Deciding on a network build in light of all of this is a significant decision for us. But it is our decision.
14685 Each service provider must face these choices and make their own decisions based on their perceptions of the various options. This introduces competitive diversity which is a sign of a healthy market. The fact that different service providers will make different choices also increases the likelihood that there will be an option in the market to meet the needs of each consumer.
14686 As service providers these are the risks we face with any network deployment. As a regulator, the Commission should avoid forcing network deployment choices in order to meet a prescriptive target.
14687 One of the choices an aspirational regime has allowed us to make is to focus our energy and limited capital dollars on projects focused primarily at improving download speeds rather than on projects focused primarily on upload speeds. Focusing on upload speeds would benefit fewer customers, not just because the market demand is not there, but also because the cost per customer is higher and therefore less network can be deployed with the same capital.
14688 The reason for this is copper loop length. Because DSL services have been traditionally designed by suppliers to be asymmetric, achieving 1 megabit per second upload in areas where copper loops are currently greater than 1,200 metres requires us to install more nodes and fibre in those nodes to shorten the copper. On new builds, for a given amount of capital, we can provide more total consumer benefit with 10 down and 800 kilobits per second service up on a 2,200 metre build than by building to 1,200 metres just to get that upload number to 1 megabit per second.
14689 Our choice to focus on providing enhanced download rather than upload is reflected in the map you released showing broadband coverage in Canada. You have commented on what appears to be a stark divide between Alberta and Saskatchewan.
14690 In response, we note that many Saskatchewan communities are classified as unserved solely due to the upload component of the current target. These communities have 640 or 800K upload speeds rather than 1 megabit per second. However, the majority of them have download speeds of 5 or even 10 megabits per second. Your own monitoring report shows that 88 percent of the Saskatchewan population can access download speeds of 5 megabits per second or more.
14691 Secondly, this map is as of the end of 2014, so it does not show any of the improvements made in 2015, including Saskatchewan deployments supported through the Connected Canadians program.
14692 We have introduced, as an exhibit, the map of Saskatchewan prepared by ISED which shows improvements in coverage after the completion of approved programs in the province. As you can see, it gets much better. At the end of this program, based on our understanding of what will be delivered by our program and that of YourLink, the Saskatchewan coverage map will look much more like our neighbours.
14693 MR. MELDRUM: The voice regime has been around in pretty much its current form since 2002 and continues to serve Canadians well.
14694 Under this regime, Canadians in rural and high-cost areas as well as Canadians in urban areas are able to access reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality, as is required in the Act.
14695 Some parties have argued for the elimination of the wireline voice subsidy or the re-direction of wireline voice subsidy funds into some form of broadband subsidy. We urge the Commission to reject those arguments.
14696 Saskatchewan people continue to rely on wireline voice. Our latest data shows us that nearly 65 percent of all Saskatchewan 9-1-1 calls in 2015 originated from wireline telephones despite there being more wireless than wireline phones in the province.
14697 Despite the “cord-cutting” of some Canadians, the most recent Communications Monitoring Report showed that nearly 80 percent still had landline voice services. In addition to affordability, reliability, and the near ubiquitous availability of wireline voice service, a number of Canadians simply do not wish to transition to alternative technologies at this time.
14698 For those customers in high-cost serving areas, including First Nations customers, that continue to rely on wireline voice, proposals to eliminate the local voice subsidy regime would substantially decrease affordability. For band E customers in Saskatchewan, rates would rise by over 50 percent, while band F customers would see increases of close to 33 percent. I mention First Nations customers because 59 of Saskatchewan’s 70 First Nations are located in these two Bands, and 100 percent are located in high-cost serving areas.
14699 Forcing increases like this on customers, or forcing ILECs to provide service below cost would not be in keeping with the Act.
14700 A time may come in which there are only a few technological hold-outs who must be confronted in some manner and the Commission must begin a process to address this. That time is not now, however.
14701 And the beauty of this is that if we are wrong and cord-cutting suddenly sweeps the nation, the local voice fund will be self-eliminating. In any event, the fund is important enough to Canadians that now is not the time to eliminate it.
14702 Even before the time comes that Canadians do not require the voice regime, SaskTel is pursuing methods of providing the voice service over alternative technologies in order to operate more efficiently. To that end, we have supported the proposal of others in this proceeding to remove the requirements to provide access to alternate long distance providers and to provide access to dial-up internet from the basic service objective.
14703 MR. STYLES: Commissioners, we have listened carefully to your desire to help shape a national broadband strategy and to understand the role of various players and we have the following recommendations.
14704 Voice and broadband should continue to be treated as separate regulatory items with the current voice regime staying largely or completely intact.
14705 The broadband regime should remain aspirational with the Commission setting a new target of 10/1, which provides a measure that you can reasonably expect to be achievable in the next five years. Progress toward this target will be largely achieved by reliance on market forces. Programs to address any remaining coverage gaps should be led by ISED, with targeted government funding programs addressing those few areas where market forces and developments in technology do not. ISED’s Connecting Canadians program is an example of how effective this can be, and we would be happy to further discuss this with you.
14706 Gaps in affordability are best addressed by government agencies tasked with addressing social issues. Gaps in adoption unrelated to affordability can be partially addressed through digital literacy programs and are, in any event, best addressed by government agencies.
14707 With that I’ll close, and await your questions.
14708 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for your presentation.
14709 And a special welcome to you, Mr. Styles. When the Commission signals that it’s undergoing a very important proceeding on the future of telecommunications in this country it’s always good to see that the CEOs show up for the conversation. So we appreciate it, thank you.
14710 I’ll put you in the hands of Commissioner MacDonald to start us off.
14711 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon. Just before we get into my questions I just wanted to make sure that I’m accurately understanding the exhibit that you’re putting in with us today.
14712 So the expanded high-speed access, the area that you have identified in green, is that totally a result of the Connecting Canadians funding that’s been provided?
14713 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, that’s right.
14714 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And the areas shaded in green, will all residents in that area have access to the current target of 5 down and 1 up, or will there still be some individuals that have smaller upload speeds than 1 meg?
14715 MR. MELDRUM: Yes, so we will have some customers that have less than 1 up. And there will be some people in far-flung places that will not be covered by the fixed wireless that gets you that kind of coverage.
14716 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. But within that coverage area will everyone have the option of 5 down, 1 up?
14717 MR. MELDRUM: That’s our understanding. Now, the reason I hesitate a little bit is that a company called YourLink was successful with the Connecting Canadians application so it’s in their hands to implement it. But according to Industry Canada, if they implement what they agreed to under the Connecting Canadians Program that’s the coverage that will be there.
14718 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Perfect, thank you for that.
14719 MR. MELDRUM: I think Daryl has something to add.
14720 MR. GODFREY: So I think it’s important to note that those coverage areas are wireless technologies. So while it looks like it’s full coverage, there certainly are people that live in valleys and things like that that may not, you know, get full coverage. But anybody who is addressable will get 5/1.
14721 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I notice, in reviewing your original submission of July of last year and some of your comments today, there seems to be a softening in tone on some of the statements that were made almost a year ago so I’m going to change my questions a little bit.
14722 But I noted in your original intervention on page 6 you made the statement that many Canadians continue not to feel the need for broadband service, and that’s a viewpoint that quite frankly I don’t think we’ve heard over the last couple of weeks of this hearing.
14723 Can you explain that to me and how you came to that belief, or if your position has changed slightly what the reasons are?
14724 MR. MELDRUM: Well, I think we’re just acknowledging that there are some people that definitely have chosen not to become internet savvy. They do tend to be older folks as well as those that are economically challenged. But certainly the intention wasn’t to downplay the importance of internet in today’s society. Not at all.
14725 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: With respect to your own customers, is it often that an end customer will purchase your service but elect not to buy either your internet or the internet of another service provider?
14726 MS. WHITE: When a customer takes our internet service; is that your question?
14727 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah.
14728 MS. WHITE: Yeah. They tend to take our service and our other services as well, right, in terms of voice or TV. I’m not sure if that answers your question.
14729 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well, if you’re making the point that many Canadians choose not to avail themselves of internet service either for financial reasons or because they don’t know how to use it. I’m trying to figure out how large a cross-section of the population that actually is. So if you have, you know, if you have a 100 customers in a given community do five percent elect not to purchase internet; do 25 percent elect not to purchase internet?
14730 MS. WHITE: I don’t know that we have an exact number. You know, we’d have to take that one back. I’m not sure if anyone else can answer that one.
14731 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah, if you want to take that offline and perhaps provide some clarity around that point for May the 5th that would be appreciated.
14732 MR. MELDRUM: We can do that.
14734 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you. I'm looking at your website and I notice that you have a wide range of bandwidth options, and you note that many Canadians, or at least some of your customers, elect to purchase a service option below the 5-1 target. And I'm wondering, can you speak to how frequently that happens, how often a customer decides to choose a smaller package versus a package that meets the target, and what the rationale is for them making that decision?
14735 MS. WHITE: Right, so I'll start with the purchasing process. So when a customer is coming in to purchase an internet package from us we assess what package makes sense for them, based on their needs. You know, are they someone who is a light user and is looking to use their service for email and web browsing. Or are they someone who is looking to do a lot more streaming of movies? Are they a gamer, those types of things. So we sell the package based on the customer's needs. And from -- at that point, if a customer decides to upgrade or downgrade, it's based on their needs go forward and affordability.
14736 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Do you have any demographic information around the people that choose to make that decision? Is it -- do they tend to skew older versus younger, do they tend to skew more towards lower-income individuals?
14737 MS. WHITE: Okay, so the individuals who purchase our lower-end packages typically tend to be in that more mature market segment and the individuals who are 65 or older or potentially are -- have less means; however, we do find that the majority of our customers take a package that is 5 megs or lower.
14738 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And is that number decreasing over time? The reason I spent six years on the board of directors for a nursing home, and I was always impressed by how, year over year, older people get more and more tech savvy, perhaps because that was the only way they could get a hold of their grandchildren. So I'm just wondering, do you see that changing over time?
14739 MS. WHITE: Absolutely, absolutely. There is definitely an increasing desire for, I think, everybody to participate in the digital economy, and that can translate into a desire for higher bandwidth, yeah, and higher packages.
14740 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. In your original submission you suggested removing the aspirational target of 1 meg up, and I'm just wondering, can you explain your thought process there? Is that a -- is that based on the technology you're using or based on the needs of your clients?
14741 MR. MELDRUM: I think at that stage we were fairly concerned about the 1 meg up issue because we do have a lot of customers that are just getting 800 or less than that, so that's why we sort of zeroed in on it. It will take a considerable investment for us to upgrade the 800 to even just the 1 meg upload, so that was why we were quite concerned about it.
14742 Interesting that I said under Connecting Canadians won't actually fund you to increase from 800 to a faster upload speed, and that makes sense, when you think about it. They're trying to ration their money and they're focusing on the download. So that was really -- I think the thrust of our submission was focusing on the download. That's what our customers look for when they're buying.
14743 There's certainly the exceptions of some small businesses if you're doing online publishing or that sort of thing where the upload is important, but the vast majority of our customers, it's the download that's the important piece.
14744 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you did note that you have made significant investments in your network to deliver faster speeds and you note your roll out of fibre to service your customers. Given that you have taken that plunge to build fibre into at least some of the larger communities, you are also maintaining that people perhaps don’t need the speeds that fibre offers. Was that decision more because the market was forcing you into it versus your belief in the requirements of the end users?
14745 MS. WHITE: So our desire to roll out a fibre network is multi-pronged. First off, it is to ensure that we are competitive with the other providers that are out there, that are offering higher speeds, because there are certain segments of the market who are interested in it, and we want to ensure that we are meeting their demands.
14746 Putting in a fibre network also helps us from a cost perspective, as we look to retire some of the older technologies, as Gerald alluded to.
14747 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And when you roll out fibre to a specific city or a specific community, do you shut down your old -- your older technology, your older network, or does the copper stay up there on the poles or in the trenches?
14748 MR. GODFREY: My neighbour here and I have lots of debates about that. We would love to retire our copper network as quickly as possible. Our current program -- we install fibre and we convert all of our customers that have broadband or television services, but anybody that just has a telephone service only, we don’t actually convert them.
14749 So at some point in the future, we certainly will, you know, make that plunge and convert the rest of them, but it's a fairly expensive thing to do, to convert a customer that's, you know, that's paying just for telephone service, but it will happen over time.
14750 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So that would be with respect to your existing customers. What about new customers? What about a new subdivision that's built in a community that has fibre access? Do you still run copper facilities or is it all fibre now?
14751 MR. GODFREY: It's complete fibre in the new subdivisions. Any greenfield build is 100 percent fibre.
14752 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. In 2001, the National Broadband Task Force submitted a proposal to government and 15 years ago they were calling for one and a half meg up, one and a half meg down symmetrical service, and expecting that over time, that would grow to between 4 and 6 megs, based on the needs of Canadian. And one of the individuals on that task force and that signed the report was your own president and CEO at the time. You are advocating slower upload speeds than even your CEO was 15 years ago. Why the change? Have you just not seen the needs grow as they originally anticipated?
14753 MR. STYLES: This is really all about customers and what they're looking for. I think it's probably apparent to most people that the largest amount of the volume that companies such as (inaudible) these days is something from Netflix, for instance, YouTubes, these type of video organizations, video companies, and therefore, it's primarily a download that they're looking for.
14754 So to me, it's just a part of the evolution of what's happened in the market and the kind of services that are available today versus what was being -- I guess being forecast a number of years ago.
14755 I think this is the same challenge we face looking five years out. While we believe we can see that far, I think it's very tough to understand the kind of new applications, new services, that could be coming to the market, and really, you need to plan your networks with a lot of flexibility in mind. You will have to adjust in the future. Potentially, maybe it's faster download, maybe it's faster upload, but again, you need some flexibility in there.
14756 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that. More and more Canadians are working from home now or running home-based businesses. How do you see their needs for speed changing in relation to the residential customer, and do you have any specialized products targeting that SoHo market?
14757 MR. STYLES: So the business side is very diverse. You know, we separate our business sector into really the top 10,000 companies that are in Saskatchewan. They're more what you'd think of for traditional businesses. They're a little larger in their size. Their demands are again quite different from what a small business might be.
14758 Those that are small businesses. Our experience to date has been they take mainly a consumer product, so if you're talking about a local barbershop, a hair salon, et cetera, consumer products seem to satisfy most of their needs.
14759 It's when you get to the larger companies, and with those larger companies they're looking for more and more bandwidth access and in some cases they're looking for something that is symmetrical. And so you need a different suite of products to be able to deal with those companies.
14760 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So understanding that some customers, large enterprise, the MUSH sector, for example, probably do need symmetrical service. Do you differentiate between your residential services and your small business packages? If I, Chris MacDonald, am running a home business, am I prohibited from buying a residential consumer package or am I forced to a more expensive business bundle?
14761 MR. STYLES: No, you're not. If your small business, you're working from home or, again, small business in a commercial building, you're welcome to take our consumer products as well.
14762 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You recommend that whatever speed target comes out of this proceeding that it be an aspirational one. Do you think an aspirational target is as effective in getting to the end stages as a target that would be more firmly regulated?
14763 MR. STYLES: In setting targets, the effectiveness of reaching the targets is largely dependent upon the policy options that you're going to choose. When it comes to broadband, it seems to me the government has already chosen -- the government proper has already chosen to use direct spending programs.
14764 We're down that path, in effective, and it's worked out quite well for the first 5/1 aspirational target. We see no reason to change or move away from that particular policy decision going forward. Again, it's worked well to date, let's continue on that exact same path.
14765 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So with respect to government funding or your own investment, where do you think the focus should be? Because we've heard some proposals that range from building fibre everywhere, to increasing the capacity of transport networks, to know before we do that, we need to focus on filling in the gaps to service those unserviced and underserviced Canadians.
14766 Those are all important projects, but if you had to choose one, where does the focus need to be?
14767 MR. STYLES: I think it's important that there be an overarching approach or an overarching strategy that considers an entire nation, an entire province and all of the different individuals that are there. And to be able to accomplish that, you need usually a variety of different approaches. You know, each location, each geography is quite a bit different.
14768 And as an example of that, in Northern Saskatchewan, we're just in the process right now of completing a $30 million fibre build that is taking fibre from La Ronge all the way up to another location, Points North in Collins Bay. In that particular build, it was built around a partnership between three different companies, Cameco, SaskTel and SaskPower.
14769 We've been able to complete that as a way to service the mines. That was the benefit that was coming from Cameco. As part of it, we also invited the Connecting Canadians program to join us in that particular endeavour and allow us to use that very large fibre build to also service some 30 other communities that are in the northern part of Saskatchewan.
14770 And so what you have is, again, private sector funding, you have some additional provincial funding, provincial assets being drawn into it from SaskPower Corporation, and then you have federal funding that is being, you know, added to the mix as well to be able to accomplish this.
14771 So you know, I tend to believe it's not a simple here is the simple policy approach or policy instrument that you want to use, but rather you need to look at a variety of different instruments to be able to accomplish the things that are important to meeting the objectives.
14772 So I would say again, it's a variety of different policy mechanisms that allow you to be successful.
14773 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We heard from Xplornet a couple of weeks ago, and they're launching new services, I believe, by the end of next year that are going to allow them to provide 25 meg down, 1 meg up to residents from coast to coast to coast via their technology.
14774 If we're on the cusp of being able to realize those speeds, do we need to continue to focus on government funding, or once that solution is in place does that fix the problem once and for all?
14775 MR. STYLES: Xplornet is a -- Xplornet services are ones that are another part of the solution, we believe. They've effectively been able to service some areas in Saskatchewan that, for reasons of cost, we would not be able to service, and so we believe that they have a role.
14776 There are challenges with satellite services, however, that for some customers, both business and residential, they find to be unacceptable. Data caps, throttling of speeds, weather conditions hamper the service, and latency has proven to be a big challenge for anybody who's trying to run a business, to run some sort of a situation where latency is problematic.
14777 So you know, they have a role in all of this, and like all the other pieces, you know, they're important, I think, to achieving our objectives, but I don't believe they are the solution for rural areas in their entirety. They have limitations.
14778 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You mentioned in your original intervention that what was Industry Canada, when they were handing out funding targeted towards the North that they provided funding to support a target below the 5/1 that's currently in place. And you've suggested here earlier today that perhaps solutions other than 1 meg up may be appropriate in some areas of your service territory.
14779 So with that in mind, should there be one target across the country that we try and get everyone to, or do we need to look at targets that are more specific to the region in question?
14780 MR. STYLES: So maybe I'll answer the very first part of that and then I'm going to ask our CTO maybe just to talk about the technology platform and network design aspects of it.
14781 But you know, I think it's good to have one aspirational target for the entire nation. To me, that seems to be good public policy. But I also think that in setting a target you also need to be careful to understand that there are technologies that have limitations, and getting close to the target can be as effective or maybe more effective from a cost perspective than actually reaching the target.
14782 And with that, maybe Daryl can just talk a little bit about the DSL technology platform and its limitations.
14783 MR. GODFREY: Sure, I mean we use the same technology as all of the -- pretty much all of the telco's in Canada. So again, as I mentioned in my piece of the speech, was the loop lengths are what, you know, what matters in download and upload speeds.
14784 So the download speeds, because it uses the vast majority of the spectrum available, is less affected by the loop lengths than upload. But upload, in order to get that 1 meg, you have to get down to, you know, 1.2 kilometre loops.
14785 So in some small towns, we would basically be, you know, adding in three or four additional cabinets at $70,000 a piece plus fibre costs purely to get to that 1 meg number, when the reality is we can provide 5 or 10 meg down with, you know, those longer loop lengths. So that basically is the challenge, is just a lot more money with that technology to increase your upload speeds.
14786 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Your neighbours from Alberta were in last week, and I'm thinking of Axia, and they were speaking about the supernet in Alberta. And one of their proposals was that we should adopt a similar type of strategy as to what they have. Focus on building fibre between communities, having an access point where a last mile provider can connect in to get the transport that they need.
14787 And they were of the belief that market forces would prevail. If the transport was in place, there would be private industry or community networks or other groups that would be interested and willing to step up to provide the service to that individual community.
14788 Can you comment on whether you think market forces in rural areas would be strong enough to make such a proposal viable?
14789 MR. STYLES: So I -- one of the discussions and debates that I've seen at other hearings has always been what's rural. And what, for instance, the Province of Ontario would call rural, we would call that our larger cities. And so the same, I think, applies when you're talking about rural in Saskatchewan versus rural in Alberta.
14790 You know, rural Alberta is much more densely populated than in Saskatchewan. Rural Alberta has, it did have, and I think it still has it, a much more vibrant business sector, non agricultural. And so you'll find things like processing potato plants, for instance, okay, that chip the potatoes, things like that, and the particular meat packing plants. You don't find that in Saskatchewan.
14791 So the economic sort of background to rural communities in Saskatchewan is a little different than it would be in Alberta. And so in Alberta, something like supernet does seem to work quite well for them, but the individual communities have a corporate sector that can respond and can help fund that last mile solution.
14792 In Saskatchewan, if you were to look at the same thing, there was very few communities that can do –- communities -- for instance, the three that were just talked about a little earlier in our speech, their households are a hundred households or less. Those kind of communities don't have that economic power, they do not have the wealth necessary probably to put a last mile solution in place.
14793 We’ve taken on a little different approach to this and so we’ve developed something called a Community Participation Program. And where there’s a community that’s looking for service, maybe it’s a 5/1, maybe it’s a 10/1, doesn’t have it today, we’re willing to sit down with the community and look at the business case. And what we would expect from the community, for instance, is to fill in the gap, the economic gap.
14794 It’s proven to be quite successful. We’ve built -- recently turned up four towers in the far north. Wolliston Lake, Black Lake, Stony Rapids and Fond-du-lac. And now these are communities that are pretty close to the Northwest Territories border. The Athabasca Basin Development Authority participated in this and provided funding, together with one of our vendors. And so we were able to make those towers work there.
14795 In the south we’ve done something similar in a number of different circumstances. A Rawlan condo just outside of Regina that we actually put copper into, they came back to us, weren’t happy with speeds, et cetera. And so they completely funded a -- almost completely funded a fibre deployment.
14796 And so again, you know, I think you need -- again, one solution doesn’t fit all in our country. You need many different solutions I think to be able to sole a variety of problems. But again, having one objective I believe is the correct thing to do.
14797 But you just need some flexibility to be able to make it work. And you need partnerships, many different types of partnerships with communities, with companies, other government agencies.
14798 We swap fibre, for instance, with SaskPower in Saskatchewan. And so between the two of us, we swapped fibre that has deferred capital expenditures of over $48 million. And again, it’s a great solution. We swapped some fibre. We both saved money. It also gives us a much cheaper source of backhaul that allows us to meet the needs of communities throughout the province.
14799 So again, I never believe that one solution fits everything. I think you need different solutions. And while I understand what happened in Alberta, I don’t believe it’s a model that necessarily would work well in Saskatchewan.
14800 MR. MELDRUM: I think as well, if you zeroed in on the Axia proposal, it looks like there’d be a lot of duplication of facilities. And in our province, we’ve spent a lot of money taking fibre to some very, very small communities. So I just don’t quite understand how you could take the SuperNet model and overlay it on an existing model with existing facilities unless nationalization is part of that proposal.
14801 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: You’ve structured some of these partnerships, as you just said, with smaller communities where they would fund a component of your business plan to make it viable. Why are some communities eager to make that investment and make that decision, in your mind, while others are not? Because we’ve heard from both groups so far. Communities that have taken up the torch and invested in delivering broadband and we’ve heard other communities that, despite being unserved, have not even considered the idea.
14802 MR. STYLES: I would suggest it’s tied to leadership. You know, does the community leadership have a vision? Do they see increased bandwidth having some degree of importance for their children, for their immediate community?
14803 Without naming the two, Rawlan Condo Associations, the one that was just outside of Regina, had a very strong set of leaders that mobilized all of the residents that were in that particular community. They approached the local RM. They got the RM to borrow the money. It’s been put onto their tax bill and they’re going to manage it over a period of time.
14804 A similar Rawlan condo up in -- just outside of Saskatoon we’ve kind of gone through this twice with them. They seem to get to the edge. They see there’s a cost to it. And they decide to pull back from it. And so they’ve gone to I believe a local fixed wireless provider in the area that is providing a much more limited product than what the group in -- outside of Regina was looking for.
14805 So again, I think it’s leadership. It might be the age of the individuals that are in the community. The one just outside of Regina was a very young group of families. And so they were very concerned that their children had much higher Internet access speeds plus, you know, potentially you’re going to have multiple users in those households where in a more mature development, you know, you might only have one or two people actually trying to use the Internet access.
14806 So to me, it’s a combination of those things. But again, it comes back to leadership in those particular areas or particular communities.
14807 We built a tower in partnership with a First Nation just outside of south end Saskatchewan, which is quite a ways north. Into that was the local health authority. I believe CAMICO contributed some dollars to it, a couple of other companies that were in the far north. And between that and ourselves, we were able to put up a tower for them and provide them for the first time wireless mobile service.
14808 And so again, each situation is a little different. You know, and again, I just think it’s that local leadership.
14809 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: When I was looking at your website I noticed -- and I believe it might actually apply to all of your Internet packages that you offer unlimited usage. And I’m wondering, can you explain to me the rationale for why you decided to go with unlimited usage?
14810 MS. WHITE: Unlimited usage gives us a different jitter within the marketplace.
14811 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay. Because that’s something we’ve also heard, you know, we talk a lot about in this hearing, you know, about, you know, about the speed but it doesn’t matter, you know, how big the pipe is if you blow through your data allowances in the first few days, then it’s not as valuable to the customer. Should we be looking at mandating, I won’t say unlimited usage, but at least minimal data allowances to ensure that customers can actually use the Internet for the full month?
14812 MR. MELDRUM: So it’s interesting that under the Connecting Canadians program, when you’re successful, you have to agree that you won’t have anything less than a 45 gigabit cap and you have to agree that you’ll -- that that’ll last for 5 years. So I said at least in these gaps, sort of the rural areas, has come to the conclusion that 45 is the right number.
14813 It’s hard to -- hard from our perspective to envisage where to go when we’ve got basically the unlimited. Certainly in terms of future flexibility, that might present a problem. Because certainly there’s a cost to having an unlimited packages.
14814 MR. STYLES: I mean, I would throw it back to it’s a marketplace. And what you want is you want many different types of plans. And you want to see many different prices in the marketplace so that different individuals, depending upon their needs, can select what makes best sense to them. We’ve made that decision to go with unlimited and we’ve also made the decision not to throttle our landline Internet. Our competitors do in Saskatchewan, but I would tell you, you know, that’s been our decision. We think it gives us a competitive advantage. Obviously, my competition has a different view of that and believes they can make a better dollar by both throttling and by capping effectively.
14815 So to me, it’s a market issue and you should let the market dictate, you know, what’s put in. And those that get a higher return obviously do better. They’ll continue to provide what the market demands or what the customers demand out there.
14816 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Without getting into specifics about your own network architecture, can you speak to what challenges in the terms of the backend infrastructure or capacity are created and need to be addressed when unlimited packages are put forward if ---
14817 MR. GODFREY: Yes, I can. So we have a -- what we call our rural Ethernet or regional Ethernet transport network that traverses around Saskatchewan. That was put in a number of years ago with, you know, a previous version of technology. Typically you could do about a gigabit per second per fibre and then you can, you know, use course wave division multiplexing and have a, you know, a number of those. We’re finding that’s filling up now. So there is a -- there certainly is a cost when you’re offering unlimited or just high speed Internet in general to a broad cross-section.
14818 Also, all of our mobile services are now carried on the IP network. You know, if you went back to CDMA that was not on the Ethernet network, it was, you know, mostly voice and it was on a TDM network. But so now we’re in the process of upgrading our regional Ethernet transport network with dense wave division multiplexing which will give you a 10 gig on a, you know, initially 10 gig on a fibre. You can do up to, you know, multiple 10 gigs on a fibre. So that’s what we’re having to go to now to carry all of that IP-based traffic around the province. It is costing us tens of millions of dollars to upgrade that.
14819 So it’s a challenge to find the capital to do that, but when that IP traffic continues to grow at that quick rate, we need to make that investment to support those services.
14820 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Even though your packages are unlimited, do you monitor how much people actually use? Okay, yeah, it’s an unlimited package but you’re actually only using 100 gigs.
14821 MR. STYLES: On the wireline side we don’t.
14822 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14823 MR. STYLES: On the wireless side we do. We have done some testing from time to time on the wireline side and we know the numbers are very, very large.
14824 I could maybe use as an example we put out a fixed wireless system into rural Saskatchewan about two years ago now. We were interested to understand what that might look like in terms of usage. Average usage today by customers that are on that particular network is up to 68 gigs per month. We have customers on that network now that are into 100 and some gigs per month.
14825 And it tells you the difference between a broadband system or a broadband platform that is providing broadband as sort of a full service to somebody in their home versus broadband that you’re talking about on a mobile system. So on a mobile system I think our data right now we’re about 3 gigs a month, okay, for an average user.
14826 And so if you compare that between, you know, the mobile and the fixed there’s no comparison. On the fixed side or even on the landline side the numbers you’re talking about are very, very large in terms of the amount of data. And again, that to some extent explains a little bit about the type of services that they’re accessing. A lot of it is video which, again, eats up huge amounts of data.
14827 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Just to move on to another topic.
14828 Can you describe for me the day in the life of one of your frontline customer care reps? What are they hearing if someone is calling in for a complaint; what are people complaining about right now?
14829 MS. WHITE: So what I will say is we do monitor our complaints and review them on a weekly basis. I’m happy to share what those complaints are with you in an undertaking.
14830 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, if you could do. Just, like the top three would be perfect.
14831 MS. WHITE: Yeah.
14833 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I note that you don’t make your customers sign contracts for residential internet services; is that correct?
14834 MS. WHITE: Correct.
14835 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is there anything in the way of fair-use policy or terms and conditions or service levels that you set out at the time they subscribe to the service?
14836 MR. MELDRUM: There are fair-use policies that are available in what we call our sort of our non-tariffs schedule. But they don’t come into play to any agree at all these days in terms of dealing with customers.
14837 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is that recorded somewhere? Like, do you have that in writing that you can also file with us as an undertaking?
14838 MR. MELDRUM: Yes. The Saskatchewan Telecommunications Act actually has a provision in it that talks about this document, and it is a public document so it’s available in all of our businesses offices. It is some of the same provisions that were around the tariff part but this includes forborne services. So yes, it is public and we can provide you the link to it.
14840 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Perfect.
14841 A lot of people -- and we talked about speed, we talked about data usage. A lot of people are complaining that, you know, due to quality of service issues be it latency, be it jitter, what have you, that they’re not able to access the applications that they would like to. So are those quality characteristics that we should be monitoring across the country?
14842 MS. WHITE: In terms of the service obligation we don’t believe that those should be included.
14843 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And does that include everything from latency and jitter to mean time to repair anything with respect to the quality of the service that the customer enjoys or doesn’t enjoy as the case may be?
14844 MR. MELDRUM: Well, I think in terms of monitoring, understanding the issues, because certainly if something becomes a major problem I think the Commission will want to be on top of that and may have to take action. So yeah, I guess I would see it more of a monitoring aspect.
14845 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Should that be reported upon by the Commission as well?
14846 MR. MELDRUM: I think you’d have to see where things are at today. I don’t have a sense that there’s a lot of concern about the quality of service with respect to broadband, certainly in our marketplace. When Katrine does the undertaking of the top things we’re hearing from our customers, the quality of the internet doesn’t appear at all.
14847 MS. WHITE: Yeah, that’s not within the top three. And I think it’s important to note that over the last three years SaskTel has won highest in customer satisfaction for internet in the west. And they monitor five different components, and performance and quality are the top two.
14848 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, thank you.
14849 We heard from a number of groups, AAC, we’ve heard from ACORN, and various low-income individuals around costs and affordability issues. And I’m just wondering, what does your company do to ensure the affordability of your products that service some of the lowest income Canadians? Do you have a special package or anything of that nature?
14850 MS. WHITE: So the service options that we have for those who would be disadvantaged from an affordability perspective fall in line a little bit more on the wireless side. So we do have packages that are as low as $18 for individuals that potentially would be hearing impaired. We’ve got data packages that start as low as $20. We have a special package for individuals who are paraplegic. We provide them with free access and 150 minutes on the wireless side. And on the wireline side for internet, the packages that we have available are the ones that you would see on our website and they are offered on an unlimited basis.
14851 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And when your sales reps are going through that sales process and sales conversation with an individual, do they take time to educate the customer about what they can expect between these different services so they can identify whether it’s actually a light user, medium user, heavy user?
14852 MS. WHITE: Yes.
14853 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Rogers recently announced that they’re expanding their Connected for Success Program, and when TELUS was in presenting to us later on they also indicated that they were moving down a similar route and were having conversations with various governments about providing their own package targeted towards low-income individuals. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is that an indicator that market forces are actually working to address the social need out there, and is there anything in the works from SaskTel’s perspective with respect to similar initiatives?
14854 MR. MELDRUM: So we’re certainly interested in the programs that others have underway. It is not something that we currently have today. You know, as part of the provincial government, it’s not really within our mandate to deal with that kind of social policy issue and albeit trying to tackle poverty.
14855 I know Ron has a perspective from his days at Saskatchewan Housing Corporation in terms of whether the owners of the facilities really want to limit their tenants to one provider or not, so it’s always a hurdle to get over. But it is something that we might consider but it is at that line between sort of being the phone company and leaving the social policy aspects up to Sask Housing and the Department of Social Services.
14856 MR. STYLES: Yeah, I’d probably be mainly repetitive of what John has just said. When you talk about low-income individuals, Rogers has targeted it to organizations that take care of the determination of somebody being in need. Those kind of relationships are ones, you know, I think we’d be quite happy to have a look at.
14857 More broadly it’s difficult to do because really we’re not an organization that’s in a position to try to target. We don’t have the information about an actual individual, what their income is. You know, it’s income and wealth as well. You’ve got to be able to look at both of those criteria.
14858 But, you know, we’re always working with the community. We try to find unique ways to make sure that we’re able to provide our services, okay, to different groups of disadvantaged individuals that are out there. So we would always have a look at it.
14859 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Do you currently do anything today to help service that market, provide complementary services into a community access centre that is frequented by low income or disadvantaged Canadians? Do you have any other programs sort of in that vein that you’d like to make us aware of?
14860 MR. STYLES: We do some things around a program -- it’s been renamed, so I have to apologize for it, “Computers for Schools”, and so it’s got a different name now too. It’s been broadened out and I understand it’s not just going to be schools, but new immigrants to Canada as well are going to be involved in it, so we’ve been involved in those types of programs over a period of time. You know, we do work with agencies in the inner city areas in Regina as an example. North Central Community Association, we support them, provide them with a certain level of support and service okay, to assist in that particular area which is very low income.
14861 So we have, you know, a variety of -- if I can use the phrase “one-off community programs”, but you know, they're more about sponsorships than they are what I would call a rate line.
14862 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14863 MR. MELDRUM: If I could just add something, because the cognitively disabled tend to be fairly forgotten at public hearings because they don’t tend to be represented. We had a much smaller amount in our deferral account, and one of the things that the Commission approved for us was to work with Inclusion Regina to develop a program for cognitively disabled people to be able to learn how to use an iPad. It was extremely successful in terms of what it did for those people in terms of opening up their -- their world and their lines of communication.
14864 We’re not funding it anymore, although we still sponsor Inclusion Regina, and are looking for volunteers within the corporation to assist with that program. But it was a huge success and it was great that the Commission approved our deferral accounts going to a group that -- that I think does get forgotten unfortunately.
14865 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: To the best of your knowledge, and you may not have an answer to this question, but does the -- does the province of Saskatchewan do anything with respect to providing communication services or offsetting the costs of communication services for low income people living in the province? Does it form part of the calculation of cost of living?
14866 MR. STYLES: So there's -- there's two different programs that are available to lower income individuals. There's a set of means’ test to go with them obviously. The first is that telephone service is included in -- in the welfare calculations. And so that was decided, if I remember correctly, early part of the ‘90s, and so that is, you know, distinctly there. There's also a portion of the financial allocation each month, okay, this open up for the individual to use as they believe appropriate, so there's some discretion that are in there.
14867 In addition, the province launched a program I believe about 18 months, two years ago that has provided in fact -- and this is my phrase, please, I'm not sure if this is how they describe it -- but almost has provided a pension in a sense for individuals that are disadvantaged, in the past may have been on welfare but are unable to work. And so the province has taken a much different approach. I think it’s very innovative here in Canada. So instead of having individuals that again that can't work that are the most disadvantaged maybe in our society and talking about them being on welfare, it's no longer the case, they're now on a different type of program.
14868 And again, it’s similar to a pension, they're provided with funds on an ongoing basis, okay, to be able to live -- to be able to live in a -- in a manner that represents their disability. They do receive special funding as well, depending on their disability to try to account for cost that may be associated with that particular type of disability.
14869 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Cogeco was here last week and one of the suggestions that they put forward was similar to the food stamp program down in the United States, that the government would come forward with a telecom stamps -- for want of a better term -- program, whereby low income individuals could use their stamps to offset their communications cost. Would you care to comment on that proposal or where the positives and negatives may lie with it?
14870 MR. STYLES: So I’m going to probably more comment from my past history working with the provincial government as involved in housing of Deputy Minister of Finance, et cetera, so I spent a fair bit of time around programs that are designed to redistribute the income and to support those that are less in need.
14871 I would tell you -- or at least my suggestion would be that it’s not a very effective way to create individual separate programs, okay, for each aspect of a person’s affordability needs, that rather you need to be able to group them together, examine where there's overlaps between the programs, et cetera, okay, and treat individuals in a more comprehensive manner.
14872 The province of Saskatchewan and I think other provinces have gotten away from individual programs that focus on individual aspects of what an individual’s needs are.
14873 So I would tell you I don’t think that’s a good way to go myself. My experience is that, you know, all you do is you create redundant programs, okay, with a lot of backend costs. The more times you have to collect information on a person’s wealth and income, the more duplication you’ve got going on. You're better to share that means’ test in some way, shape or form, share the input process, share the case management for lower income families, and make sure that you're addressing all of their needs in a more comprehensive manner.
14874 While we -- you know, as individuals we look at all the different components and we talk about them all being important, okay, or whatever phrase you’d like to use, the reality is when people get these resources in a low income family, they priorize (sic) based upon their needs as well. You can try to break that down to a certain extent, but you know, you simply create a black market for whatever they don’t want that they might want to shift to somebody else to get cash or whatever their -- their needs are. Housing, food, things like that become much more important than sort of other needs that might -- might come to the table.
14875 So I would definitely tell you from my experience that’s not -- not a very good route to go.
14876 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And continuing to draw on your experience -- and your answer may be the same as the one you just gave -- but would you like to comment on the Affordability Access Coalition and PIAC’s proposal of a fund being created ultimately paid for by the service providers and -- and their end customers on their bills to offset or provide a subsidy to low income Canadians, would you care to comment on that?
14877 MR. STYLES: You know, we’ve -- we’ve watched with interest all the ideas that have come out over the past couple of weeks and you know, I think there's two different levels of affordability that are being talked about, they're quite separate. One is a level of affordability for your population, providing a product, a service that, you know, is affordable in a very general sense to all people in your population, and I believe that’s what we’ve done on the voice side. Because let me tell you, there are people in those high cost serving areas that probably don’t need the subsidy. They are -- may be large farmers, there may be very large industries that are there and the people that are close to the industries, but they still get the subsidy, okay.
14878 So again, what you're trying to do is I think balance the level of cost, okay, between, you know, all areas in your jurisdiction, and that’s a -- that’s the type of affordability that you're referring to and I think that’s a very justifiable approach to it, it’s a certain policy approach. When you talk about affordability for an individual, I think it’s -- it’s quite different, okay. You’ve got to be very careful that you can target your dollars. If you have a limited pool of dollars, and everybody’s got limitations in this day and age, you want to make sure that the people that are getting the subsidy and the benefit, okay, are people that need it.
14879 And so I think when you start to get to that level of affordability, you know, my belief is again you need to come back to some type of integrated approach. Separating your approach out for different types of products and services that individuals may need, okay, is not a very effective way to go about it.
14880 There's a couple of measures that economists are taught, vertical and horizontal target efficiency. It refers to what percentage your revenue is -- pardon me, what percentage of the dollars are actually reaching those in need, or what percentage of those in need are actually receiving dollars. And if you look at those two measures, okay, when you start to separate programs into little pieces, you start to degrade the efficiency of the programs. So I definitely would tell you I don’t think that the right approach.
14881 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Your support for wireline phone services is clear, and you believe that the funding provided for high-cost serving areas should continue, but we’re also in a day and age where governments are forcing more and more individuals to self-service and obtain services over a broadband connection, and governments are receiving financial savings because of that. You know, even we heard from an individual I believe in Halifax with ACORN earlier in the proceeding that they couldn’t even apply for a job unless they had access to broadband because a restaurant, or Tim Hortons, or what have you won’t even take a paper copy of a résumé anymore.
14882 So given that fundamental shift, is it still fair to say that all critical services that people can need can still be accessed over a telephone?
14883 MR. STYLES: You know, I think we’re in a transition right now between, you know, an age where telephone and appearing at a, you know, company’s door a business door was essential in a time probably where most everything might be on the internet and that will be the preferred approach to it.
14884 But today I don’t believe we’re there. I believe today that there is a variety of different program options, alternatives that are available to individuals to fill in some of those gaps. It’s probably not perfect. But I can, as an example -- Northern and Aboriginal Affairs -- hopefully I got the right name there -- they have provided us with funding for instance to bring fibre to medical facilities, okay, that are on reserve, treatment facilities that are on reserve, schools that are on reserve. We hope shortly we’ll be doing the same with band offices. And that starts to create locations where individuals can access the internet.
14885 If you move, you know, to major cities, there is a lot of locations in major cities right now where you can go access the internet or you can access Wi-Fi. So there are options, there are alternatives that are available to people that, you know, I think still provides them with an opportunity to interface without necessarily having to go onto broadband. But it is becoming more important over time, and governments are going to have to continue to respond to that.
14886 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just one final point before I move on to another area.
14887 We heard from an individual last week, he was visually impaired. And he expressed frustration with both the packages that he’s able to receive -- and thank you, you noted some of the additional services you offer for people with disabilities. Can you speak to how your staff are trained when it comes to dealing with visually impaired, cognitively impaired, or various other disability groups? Is there a centre of excellence for managing those customers within the company?
14888 MS. WHITE: Yeah. So we do maintain a list of employees who have special skills from a language perspective, including ASL, and we engage those individuals as required as it relates to specific customers.
14889 We also have a Special Needs Manager on staff as well who is able to support our customer service reps in any interactions with customers with special needs.
14890 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Moving on to funding. You’ve mentioned various different funding from different departments or provincial and federal governments over the years. SaskTel has received some of this funding; is that correct?
14891 MR. STYLES: Yes.
14892 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Would you be able to, as an undertaking, file a list of all of the programs that you’ve been able to access? What the amounts are, and how those funds have been directed and to where?
14893 MR. STYLES: Certainly. Starting all the way back to 2001?
14894 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: That would be perfect.
14896 So since you do have experience with these various funding mechanisms, are there any best practices that you would take away from those programs? Because we see from the federal government there’s another $500 million in the budget. What are the dos and don’ts with respect to some of these programs?
14897 MR. MELDRUM: Yeah, that’s a good question. We haven’t always been successful with our applications. Certainly it starts with communication to fully understand the program and what they’re looking for.
14898 With the most recent one, they begin with maps that show the unserved and underserved people. And we did a lot of work, and it’s actually within our regulatory department, trying to understand the maps and the sources of their information. So that’s sort of -- I think a best practice is to understand sort of the lay of the land as the funding body sees it, and then you can go from there. If you have an agreed upon current state then you can get your application to match sort of what it is that the funder is looking for.
14899 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And should that all be done with a neutral approach to the technology being used? Okay, the government has identified who is unserved or underserved?
14900 MR. MELDRUM: That’s certainly how we’ve approached it. I think that’s how they look at it as well. There’s probably a bias for wireline facilities just because wireline facilities seem to have the greatest future capabilities, you know, with additional investments. They tend to be reasonably future proof.
14901 I don’t know, Daryl, if you want to add anything?
14902 MR. GODFREY: No, I think that’s correct where wireline -- certainly seems to be better, wireless. They both continue to improve over time and the capacities of both increase, but wireline continues to maintain that lead and seems to have, you know, much more unlimited capacity at the end of the day.
14903 MR. MELDRUM: I’m just checking to see if -- Bill Beckman is in our regulatory group; he has been working closely with Connecting Canadians. And in fact, we’re going to be seeing them later on this afternoon to update them on our program and to discuss the additional monies that have been allocated to them as well at what’s unspent if we gather from the past.
14904 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14905 If a service provider does receive funding through one of these government programs it’s public money. So I ask, should that provider that benefited from the funding have an obligation to serve every resident of that funding geography?
14906 MR. MELDRUM: I think that’s certainly ISED’s expectation. I guess the issue is that, if you think about the fixed wireless, there will be people because of where they are that just are not able to get the signal properly, whether they’re on the fringe or in an area that the line of sight doesn’t work because fixed wireless is really looking for a line of sight.
14907 So I don’t know how you balance that in a wireless component. But certainly when we’re getting money to provide internet service in northern Saskatchewan for the three communities that have never had it before, their expectation is that we will be providing service to everybody within that certain area. Now again, if you’re living on the outskirts of that small village or hamlet, well, then you start to run into technological limitations.
14908 Daryl, you wanted to add?
14909 MR. GODFREY: You might add to that too there’s capacity limitations as well. So with our, you know, our fixed wireless service, in order to make sure that the people are getting what they, you know, what we’ve committed to, the 5/1 service, we limit the number of customers on any given tower. Because if we had, you know, unlimited number of people on that tower then they wouldn’t get 5/1 anymore because it’s a shared resource, right?
14910 So, you know, once it fills up then we have to make another decision on what do we do about it. Is there another tower nearby we can use to offload that one or, you know, is there more spectrum available? But, you know, typically there’s not more spectrum available so that’s one of the challenges with a fixed wireless service.
14911 So the proposal itself does get at that, right? Because it has to describe how it is that we’re going to turn this from an unserved or underserved area into a served area and they then assess it.
14912 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So if that is with respect to the service to the homes that are currently in a geography that you’ve been provided funding for what happens in the future when someone builds a house, you know, five kilometres further down the road from the last house where there wouldn’t have been any service? Perhaps they built knowing that there was no service in that area. Should the obligation to serve be extended to that new residence or just a snapshot in time when the funding was provided?
14913 MR. MELDRUM: I’d say it’s a snapshot in time.
14914 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14915 MR. MELDRUM: And the extent to which they’re outside of the economic reach of the facilities then there’s still satellite. Satellite certainly has a role in dealing with those people that are on the fringes.
14916 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
14917 Just a couple more questions before I hand you back over to my colleagues. You’ve suggested that there should be a separate framework and separate funding mechanism put in place for -- definitely maintain the funding mechanism for delivery of voice services in high-cost serving areas, but then there should be a separate regime, separate framework put in place if we do go down the road of funding broadband.
14918 Can you explain to me why those two should be separate when we’re in a day and age where both voice and broadband can be delivered over the same connection?
14919 MR. MELDRUM: Well, if you think of broadband, there are many different providers of the service with many different technologies. So to throw that into the mix, today on the voice side, just about all of the high-cost serving areas are served by the incumbent phone companies so it’s very clear who qualifies, whether or not they’ve met the BSO. But the broadband is a whole -- another kettle of fish in terms of many different providers and many different technologies, so we think that if there is to be a fund around broadband that it should be separate; that to just build on the voice, in our opinion, doesn’t make a lot of sense because of those reasons.
14920 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just one final, and you spoke earlier about working with various different government bodies and funding sources to deliver broadband in northern Saskatchewan, I believe it was the $35 million fibre build that you’re doing. So you have some experience in trying to bring these organizations together and leverage investments from both in a spirit of cooperation to get the job done and deliver service.
14921 So given that we don’t really have a broadband strategy in this country, how do we get people to the table and who should be at the table to develop such a strategy to ensure that we’re not doubling up on investment; that we are investing in the right technologies, that we are taking in a holistic approach to delivering service to Canadians?
14922 MR. STYLES: For it to be a national strategy, it’s -- obviously you’re going to need the federal government, first and foremost, at the table. I think they have to provide that leadership, if I can use that phrase, to look at it nationally. You’re going to need the telcos, the cable companies; you’re going to need the providers there as well. You know, how deep you go with that; there’s a lot of providers in Canada, and again, the larger you make the group that’s involved, sometimes the more difficult it is to actually arrive at conclusions, consensus, and all the rest of it.
14923 But you obviously need the industry there as well. I think there’s potentially some sort of role for the provinces as well. You know, what that would look like and who we would interface with, haven’t given that much thought. But I think there’s a bit of a role there for the provinces as well. Some of the provinces fund some of these projects to a certain extent. I’ve seen recently where both Newfoundland and I think it’s B.C. have provided funding directly and have some, you know, sort of direct involvement in it.
14924 Saskatchewan is a little different. The provincial government’s involvement is obviously through us and I think we can probably represent both.
14925 You know, there’s probably some stakeholder groups that are out there as well that I think would provide a little different perspective, balance off needs, et cetera, okay? I’m sure you’d find that First Nations would probably want a seat at the table as well. First Nations are probably the locations where there is the most underserved population in Canada so I think you’d probably want to bring them to the table.
14926 I don’t think you’d have trouble getting people to join and to look at and discuss it, et cetera. You know, some of the challenges, I think, would be around the mechanisms, the policies and the programs that you’re -- you know, that you’re looking at trying to put into place. There would be many, many different views as you’re probably experiencing here.
14927 But I don’t think it would take much to bring people to the table and to talk about it and to try to serve something that is in the best interests of Canada. My experience in the industry is that most of the companies, all the companies, okay, you know, really understand that they’re a major contributor to Canada’s growth, both from an economic perspective, okay, and in terms of the quality of life in Canada. And I think they take a lot of pride in that and I think they’d be quite happy to work with whoever from the -- whoever was putting that together.
14928 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that, and those are my questions.
14929 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
14930 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
14931 Just a couple quick questions.
14932 I want to just ask about transport. There’s been some discussion about how discoverable the transport network across the nation is, and some discussion as to whether or not the Commission could play a role in making information about that network more available to folks who want to connect.
14933 Do you have any concerns with making information related to the transport network available; publicly available or otherwise?
14934 MR. MELDRUM: I think if you’re talking about service between two locations, we don’t have an issue with that. If you’re talking about maps and laying out facilities in a public way, we wouldn’t -- I don’t think we’d be very happy with that, just given the world we live in today. I’m not thinking about competitors but those that might want to sabotage something.
14935 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm.
14936 MR. MELDRUM: But to say that we have facilities between Tisdale and Melford, we don’t have a problem with that.
14937 And in terms of our marketplace, we’ve never heard that as an issue; that people wouldn’t know to get a hold of us and deal with our carrier services group to find out what’s available.
14938 In fact, just looking at our Web site you could probably figure out where we have fibre to, just based upon what it is that we’re offering service there.
14939 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Well, fair enough. I think folks would know pretty well that you have the backbone. I mean, it began with community net and it’s built and now it sounds like there’s some sharing with Sask Power and so on. But not in Saskatchewan particularly was it brought up but there has been discussion about competitive ISPs or new players seeking to find access to transport. So no problems as long as we don’t -- yeah.
14940 And I understand clearly your issue. I mean, we don’t want to lay out for the world where all our critical infrastructure is.
14941 So the other issue I wanted to discuss with you because you dealt with many issues with Commissioner MacDonald, you dealt with affordability, availability, but you didn’t talk about literacy, and I was a little bit surprised about the position that you took on literacy which was, “It’s best left to others.”
14942 So maybe could you explain to me why your positon is that it is best left to others to -- or other government agencies to address literacy, given the important role of an ISP as it relates to use of the internet?
14943 MR. STYLES: You know what, I think we do things that are comparable to most other companies; we offer training courses, for instance -- training sessions, for instance, in our stores and so if somebody buying our product wants to come in and work with our staff to understand how to use a cell phone, et cetera, you know, we provide that.
14944 We reach out to schools, we have partner schools in Regina, Saskatoon, places like that, and we work with them. We also work with some of the technical institutes, okay? And, again, you know, it’s about working together. We worked with one in Yorkton, for example. So we do a fair bit of that.
14945 But in the end, digital literacy, I believe, is necessary in this day and age for almost our entire population, you know. They need to learn about it, especially young people that are coming up, because there’s a generational change going on, as I believe Commissioner MacDonald had mentioned.
14946 You know, to that extent it’s the educational facilities. It’s the schools, primary, high school; it’s the universities, the Polytechnic in Saskatchewan. They’re the ones who are best positioned, I think, to hit the broadest audience possible. We work with them. I know Darrell here to my left, okay, works with the engineering faculties in Regina and Saskatoon both, and we participate with them and provide them with assistance. We recently worked with one of our vendors to put a -- it’s called a lamp site -- a lamp site architecture in place at the University of Regina, and it was done in conjunction with the engineering faculty there and my staff have worked with that faculty on the management and monitoring of that particular equipment.
14947 And so you know, I think we have a role in it but, again, you know, a telco’s reach is basically to our customer base. A pretty limited number of individuals, in the big scheme of things, in a province like Saskatchewan. I think you want organizations and groups that have a much broader reach to be the primary providers of it and probably provide it in a way that isn’t biased towards SaskTel, okay? That rather gives them what they need to be able to survive in society as it is today.
14948 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So I understand what you said, but I'm going to challenge you like I challenged TELUS. As we look at all the issues related to broadband, it's become clear that without strong champions, all areas of this, be it availability, be it affordability, be it adoption, they need strong champions.
14949 And if there's one area where the commercial ISPs have sort of a benefit, they could benefit as well as do their corporate social responsibility, it would appear to be on literacy. And you put out some great examples within the educational system, but there's seniors and there's other groups that have neither adopted or not -- potentially, even if they have adopted, perhaps haven't become literate as to the issues around security, privacy, and proper use, if you will.
14950 And it seems to me that if there is a place where, as I said, you know, commercial ISPs can play a strong leadership role, perhaps it is in literacy, as if nothing else, a corporate social responsibility. So I'd just like your sense on would it make sense in this whole thing, if we're looking for champions, that perhaps that is something, in fact, that the ISPs could step up to?
14951 MR. STYLES: I think the idea of being a champion is the right idea, okay? I mean, I think we have a leadership obligation, if I can use that phrase, you know, to champion these kind of issues, to be able to communicate them in many different ways, you know, not just to meeting with particular groups to train them, okay. but you know, in terms of broad mass communication, you know, radio, TV, things like that. And we do a fair bit of that; we try to make sure the public is aware of a variety of issues. We do PSAs, for instance, okay, when there are phishing attacks going on in Saskatchewan, okay, and so we try to educate people about phishing attacks.
14952 So we do a lot of that. It's just, I believe, that our reach is relatively limited. Working with others, especially where we're owned by the Province of Saskatchewan, the Government of Saskatchewan, working with others that are Saskatchewan Government institutions I think makes us a lot more effective.
14953 And so for instance, if we were to do something for seniors in seniors' social housing in Saskatchewan -- and there's a lot of units in Saskatchewan -- you know, I think our tendency, we'd be -- try to work with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, partner with them, and have our staff work with theirs to go into seniors' buildings, okay, to explain to them using landline services, landline broadline -- broadband, pardon me, and landlines.
14954 So yeah, I mean, I think we do have a responsibility. I think it's more in the execution. Again, I think if you work with others and partner, I think you can have a much broader impact than if you do it on your own.
14955 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes, thanks, and I wasn’t suggesting that you execute everything on your own. I was just looking for where might be those champions.
14956 MR. STYLES: Yeah.
14957 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you, that was my question.
14958 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just a few quick final questions. I've asked this of others who've gone through recent provincial elections, and of course, we can't listen to every broadcast and radio broadcast in this country, so I was wondering to what extent was broadband, whether from a deployment perspective or other perspective, an issue in your recent provincial election?
14959 MR. STYLES: It essentially was a non-issue in the election. I think it came up on two occasions, based on what -- you know, I was following it quite carefully. It came up on a couple of occasions. We've had a small congestion problem up in the -- along the Manitoba border, and that's one of the things we're going to solve with our fibre build up there, and then we're going to rebuild our radio network.
14960 So it came up in a debate between some of the candidates there, and in one of the agricultural debates. You know, farmers are looking for more coverage and so it came up in that particular debate as well. But other than that, it basically didn’t sort of raise its head.
14961 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Now, earlier you talked about the work you've been doing with people with cognitive disability. Is that the Inclusion Regina group?
14962 MR. STYLES: Yes.
14963 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you -- and I've heard good -- and you repeated here that it did great work. Now, that was funded through the deferral account?
14964 MR. STYLES: That's right.
14965 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is SaskTel intending to continue to support that initiative?
14966 MR. MELDRUM: So we're not providing direct financial support to the initiative that's called "Let's Connect", but we do sponsor Inclusion Regina, and it is continuing.
14967 THE CHAIRPERSON: Even though the deferral account may have been depleted?
14968 MR. MELDRUM: Yes. I think they saw the value in it and whether they're -- between our sponsorship and other government funding, they're able to keep it going. I'm just not quite fully aware of the situation. And we are looking for volunteers to assist them with the program.
14969 THE CHAIRPERSON: Of course. That's good, thank you.
14970 Earlier when we were talking -- Commissioner MacDonald was asking a question about speeds, particularly upload speed, I seemed to hear you say that, you know, the ISED target made sense because it was rationalized by the amount of money available. I was a bit taken aback by that answer, because if that sort of approach flowed normally in any government program, we'd choose to put less asphalt down on roads to cover the front of more people's -- voters’ residences. In other words, we don’t build substandard to cover more people; we find the correct standard and then we find the money.
14971 MR. MELDRUM: So it was in the context of the fact that they would not fund a program just simply to increase upload speed. So as we work to them to understand what they would fund in the province of Saskatchewan, we had the locations that just had the 800 or less upload speed. And while their target is 5-1, they wouldn't fund us to take a community from 800 kilobits up to 1 meg.
14972 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
14973 MR. MELDRUM: And the reason I said that made sense is because download is so much more important. They only had a certain size of -- bucket of money ---
14974 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, that's precisely ---
14975 MR. MELDRUM: --- so they're focusing on download first.
14976 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's precisely my point. If we, in this conversation that's been quite extensive, come to the conclusion that the standard ought to cover both upload and download, we're not a government program in the same sense; we would create the standard regardless and so I was surprised that your answer was, "We may."
14977 Although uploads -- although downloads may be more important to upload, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn't be concerned about the right standards. For instance, the agricultural community in your province might actually need higher upload speeds, or the creative community may need higher upload speeds because of the capacity required. So why would you not be concerned about the right upload speeds?
14978 MR. MELDRUM: Well, certainly aspirationally, we agree with the 1, and in terms of when we built the things we are building under the Connecting Canadians Program is being built to 1, but it's really in the context of ---
14979 THE CHAIRPERSON: But why not above 1 for the upload?
14980 MR. MELDRUM: Well, for us it's a pile of money, so I guess if a pile of money comes with ---
14981 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not talking about you necessarily. I'm talking what the right standard is. I mean, if you -- we should be assessing first and foremost what the requirements are for a digital economy and participation from a democratic, cultural, social, and economic perspective. We shouldn't be just saying, "There's not enough money; therefore, we won't do it." We should actually be first defining what the needs are, shouldn't we?
14982 MR. MELDRUM: And there are some needs for upload, but if we look at our customers and what they're buying and what they're using, the predominant issue is not upload. Now, aspirationally, we agree with 10-1, but I don’t think we're suggesting that the 1 should go higher. I don’t ---
14983 THE CHAIRPERSON: Even aspirationally? An aspiration doesn’t cost money, does it, and others who've participated in this hearing have actually said that we have to think about upload as being equally important in the dialogue that these networks provide.
14984 MR. STYLES: So maybe I'd take a little different approach to this, okay? I think the point we were trying to get across is that the program itself valued bringing somebody who was completely unserved to some level of service, 5-1 being the standard, okay, more than it valued bringing somebody from 800 kilobytes up to 1 megabit per second.
14985 Not that they shouldn't come up to 1 megabit per second, but it's just when they valued those alternative uses of the available funds, they valued bringing somebody who had no service, okay, or maybe 1.5 megabits per second, all the way to 5 to 1, rather than bringing somebody who has 5 down and 800 kilobytes up to 5 and 1. And I think that was the point we were trying to get across, okay?
14986 And to me, that's just a prioritization of funding. The standards, we agree with the standards wholeheartedly, but it was the prioritization of the funding. You've got limited resources, more projects than you have money, so which projects do you, you know, do you allocate that to?
14987 I do want to comment on one thing you said right at the very start, because I really believe wholeheartedly in it. One of the things I think has been a challenge with the government programs that I've seen. So I've got a limited window. I haven't been with SaskTel for as long as some of the others here at the table, okay.
14988 But one of my observations is when they look at the standard they only look at the standard. My view would be when they are selecting proposals and technologies; they should be looking at those proposals and technologies with respect to future path for growth, because if you put in a technology that'll only get you to 5/1 and won't get you beyond that, boy it's got a limited shelf life.
14989 You should have to demonstrate that that technology has a growth path. It can go to 10/1, you know, 20/23. It should have a growth path, and if it doesn't, I'm not sure it's a great place to be allocating money and I think that has been a mistake in the past, okay.
14990 THE CHAIRPERSON: And would you be of the view that the growth path includes upload speeds?
14991 MR. STYLES: Sure, both upload and download.
14992 THE CHAIRPERSON: What is your -- with the deployment of VRS later this fall, are you concerned at all, as some have come to this hearing to raise, that perhaps that the VRS speed -- upload speed may not be sufficient, the 5 -- the 1, actually, would not be sufficient to meet the VRS requirements?
14993 MR. MELDRUM: So our position is that it will be sufficient. We understand that they talk about a 5 in 1.3, I believe, to get ultra -- sorry, the best resolution on that service, but we do believe, as Mr. Daniels from Bell said last week, that 5/1 or less has been working in the States for a number of years and it will continue to work and that 5/1 will be sufficient for VRS.
14994 THE CHAIRPERSON: When your colleagues from Manitoba -- thank you. When your colleagues from Manitoba appeared, I asked them some questions about the EKOS table, number 2.1.2, and this is a table in the study that deals with rates of dissatisfaction.
14995 Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I think the sample size means that you're bundled up with Manitoba, and you'll see that, from that table, that in terms of this is wired dissatisfaction is the first case. In that category, whilst the reliability assessment is that there's 16 percent dissatisfied nationally, for the combined provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the dissatisfaction is 19. With respect to speed, the national dissatisfaction is 19, but in the combined territories of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it's 23.
14996 Do you have any views on that? Is it all Manitoba's fault?
14997 MR. MELDRUM: I was going to suggest you probably hear that from everybody, that they're not pulling down the results.
14998 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, actually, Manitoba said that they can do better.
14999 MR. MELDRUM: So we don't think we're pulling down the results but Katrine can expand on that.
15000 MS. WHITE: Yeah, I think I've already mentioned, we do monitor our customer satisfaction with the Internet very closely, and the results that we -- that you refer to in terms of reliability and speed we don't believe that were representative in that survey.
15001 So whether it's -- Manitoba is skewing it or there's -- they're talking to customers with other providers, just based on what we're hearing from our customers and the fact that, I mentioned before, in terms -- yeah, I don't think we'd be winning J. D. Powers three years in a row if our reliability was poor and our speed was poor or performance.
15002 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, with respect to price, you -- that -- those two territories have matched up with the national dissatisfaction of 48 percent. Do you find that a surprising result? That's nearly half the people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are unhappy in this representative sample. This is not the open sample. The representative sample ---
15003 MS. WHITE: M'hm.
15004 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- with the price of wired Internet.
15005 MS. WHITE: I think you can look at it two different ways. I think that if we look at it strictly from a factual perspective in terms of what options are out there for customers and the price points that -- their price points and how we compare, I think that we line up very well and very closely. So from a competitive perspective, I think there's a non issue there.
15006 But in terms of would customers like to pay less for the service from us, I anticipate that most folks would indicate that they would like to pay less for a service.
15007 THE CHAIRPERSON: One could argue that it's actually quite surprising in view of the fact that you offer an unlimited offering -- and we know that unlimited has more to do with price these days than network management -- that you would, nevertheless, on average, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, be lockstep with the national average. Where the rest of the country, and certainly important parts of the country have caps that create a bit of consumer frustration.
15008 MS. WHITE: M'hm. Well, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Yeah, I think that the unlimited provides a lot more value and it's surprising that that wouldn't come out within the survey.
15009 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not an expert in engineering, telecommunications, so could you help me understand when you deploy wireless solutions, whether fixed or mobile, to what extent when you decide, for instance, to deploy some mobile wireless, to what extent that that -- does that flow back on your decision to deploy or not a fixed wireless in a given area?
15010 MR. GODFREY: So they're kind of independent decisions, I guess, right. So our mobile network, we work very closely with our marketing department. They define to us where, you know, where they would like to have coverage. We then do a business case to figure out if it's economically viable to do it, and we will expand, you know, coverage where it makes sense economically.
15011 From the fixed side, we did a project a number of years ago to provide the original fixed wireless product, and then when it ran out of gas and was obsolete and we had to replace it, we chose a newer technology to replace it with. And we now basically will choose to expand that again where it becomes economically viable.
15012 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, but it's almost an independent analysis? They don't cross -- not cross upside, but they don't cross inform to each other?
15013 MR. GODFREY: Not particularly, I don't believe.
15014 THE CHAIRPERSON: All right.
15015 MR. GODFREY: No.
15016 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough.
15017 I believe those are all our questions. Yes, it appears so. So thank you very much.
15018 And we will adjourn until 1:45. Thank you.
15019 --- Upon recessing at 12:45 p.m./La séance est suspendue à 12h45
15020 --- Upon resuming at 1:47 p.m./La séance est reprise à 13h45
15021 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l'ordre s'il vous plaît.
15022 Order please.
15023 Madame la Secrétaire.
15024 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
15025 We will now hear the presentation of Mr. Michel Gammon. You may begin your presentation. You have five minutes.
15026 MR. GAMMON: Thank you, and thank you for this opportunity to speak.
15027 My name is Michel Gammon, and I am a retired IT analyst. I used to work in healthcare IT. I live in lac Rond, Quebec, so a rural area in Quebec.
15028 When I received confirmation that I could participate in these hearings, I was told I could present my submission by Skype. The irony wasn't lost on me. In fact, I cannot reliably use Skype because of frequent interruptions and lost connections on account of the Xplornet service that I have, largely due to the latency no doubt.
15029 You might think from these comments that I live in some faraway backwater in the high Arctic, but the reality is I live less than 100 kilometres, as the crow flies, from Montreal, a city of three million. I also live about 30 kilometres from Granby, a city of 62,000; and 10 kilometres from Cowansville, a city of 12,000; and 20 kilometres from the U.S. Border. It's hardly a backwater, but I'm what is known as last mile Internet.
15030 It is extremely frustrating to live 10 kilometres from true high speed Internet. We live on a dirt road that is also a high through truck route. The road is 2.3 kilometres long and there are six homes on that road, five of which are occupied year round by families.
15031 For the record, we moved to the area in 1987, well before Internet was widely available to the public. It's now become essential for work, education, and entertainment. And over the years, we've attempted, using dialup, first generation of Xplornet satellite through a local fixed wireless provider, a Bell cellular modem, and now we're back in the latest generation of Xplornet satellite.
15032 Nominally, I'm paying $107 per month to get 10 down and 1 up with a 50 gigabyte absolute data cap. The reality is on peak times I'm seeing 22 percent of the download and only 50 percent of the upload speeds on average. It's a bit better at off-peak times. I'm seeing 92 percent and still less than 50 percent up for an advertised speed of 10.
15033 I have never seen the advertised upload speed and at peak periods the download speed can be as low as eight percent of advertised. That’s only one order of magnitude faster than dial-up.
15034 This would suggest to me that the satellite is oversold and cannot meet peak demand. Latency times are long. We’re talking almost a second so 700 to 800 milliseconds.
15035 And moreover, Xplornet’s Fair Access Policy throttles internet back to dial-up speeds when it senses what is considered excessive usage based on some nebulous and unfathomable formula that we just don’t know. To be fair, at least now the service is fairly reliable. There are a few dropped connections and those that occur tend to be brief.
15036 But getting back, 10 kilometres away, basically the same speed as I’m getting now nominally, 10 kilometres away is less than half the price. And to get the speed, the best speed 10 kilometres away is 120 down 10 up, and 300 gigabytes data cap is still less expensive that I’m paying now at 98.82, so for the same price 10 times the speed and six times the bandwidth, or for roughly half the price the same nominal capacity.
15037 The impact of this is knowledge workers cannot reliably work from home. I’m retired now though I do some part-time work as a translator, and I use many online tools for my work and working in peak hours is difficult. My wife is a family physician, who uses the internet for continuing education, which is also difficult during peak hours. And I sing in a church choir and we use YouTube for educational purposes. So we see what our masters are doing and we try and emulate them, and it’s very difficult to watch a YouTube video without interruptions.
15038 I fear that property values will be affected, making a move to an area with better internet costly.
15039 THE CHAIRPERSON: Since you’re a translator you’ll appreciate that the interpreters have to follow. So just slow down a little bit.
15040 MR. GAMMON: Sure.
15041 THE CHAIRPERSON: If it takes a minute or two more that’s just fine, but we’ll be able to hear you. Thanks.
15042 MR. GAMMON: No problem.
15043 So the difficulty in telecommuting has meant that I’ve elected to retire rather than continue commuting to Montreal. Because I’m unable to do video conferences, I had a lot of problems with VPN connections. Large downloads are difficult to do in a timely manner. I had to do a lot of large downloads during the night.
15044 In the forties and fifties the county where I live was electrified. Phone service has been around for a very long time. The infrastructure exists and has existed for a very long time. And I’m just wondering how difficult is it to string a cable on existing poles? No provider is willing to do so apparently, and I have tried them all.
15045 If the current attitudes of the deregulated telecom industry had prevailed in the first half of this century, our phone would still be on a party line shared by so many that it would be hard to use, and our hydro would be a 12-volt system with regular brownouts to 1.2 volts.
15046 Remarkably, countries similar to Canada have managed to achieve it. Finland, for example, has had a program to make high-speed internet a basic right, and to have everyone at 100 megabits per second down by 2015. We need a similar program in Canada, perhaps inspired by the legacy of one of our greatest cabinet ministers C. D. Howe, who was instrumental in building this country's infrastructure at a critical time. Ironically, he was an American.
15047 In practical terms, what does rural unreliable internet mean? I can't speak for others. For myself, as a retired IT professional, it made telecommuting a challenge. When I was still working, I worked from home several days a week. Many times I had to fall back on tethering to my cell phone to get the internet working to meet a deadline. I consoled myself with the fact that that was still cheaper than driving to Montreal.
15048 We've considered selling our home and moving to an area with reliable and fast internet. After all, we'd only have to move 10 kilometers. But that is a radical and costly step.
15049 I have developed some strategies to get around bandwidth caps and slow download speeds. For example, my wife and I like to watch a movie on Saturday night. So we select our movie on Friday night, and then at the restaurant where they have free public Wi-Fi where I have breakfast with friends every Saturday morning, I download the movie on my IPhone to play back with Apple TV when I get home.
15050 Similarly, I’ve had to turn off automatic updating on my computer so I don’t bust my bandwidth cap. As we speak, I’m at 85 percent of my monthly capacity and I still have another week to go. We do keep a close eye on bandwidth.
15051 My bottom line is that the telecom providers in Canada have failed in their duty of public service in the current deregulated market, and that failure is glaring.
15052 Therefore, I think the government should re-regulate the provision of internet services. If it is not technologically feasible yet to provide service faster than 10 megabit per second down to last-mile clients, and I highly doubt this, then at the very least it should, in the short term regulate that providers deliver at least 80 percent of advertised speed at all times, or at least have more truth in advertising because I’m getting nowhere near the advertised download speeds at peak times.
15053 Providers have a Service Level Agreement that is clear, providing response times in case of system failure and compensation levels if those times aren't met. I’ve had long outages with Xplornet due to technical problems in their first generations.
15054 And the cost should be no more than or identical to similar packages in areas where high speed internet is available. It’s like looking at a gas station where gas is $2.00 a liter on one side of the road and $1.00 a liter on the other side of the road, and there’s a barrier the two and you can’t cross it.
15055 So in the medium-term, I think Canada needs to follow Finland's example and make 100 megabit per second download and 100 gigabyte data cap the standard to which everyone has a right. I believe this is realizable within five years, but I doubt that providers alone will do so at a reasonable and fair price structure for last¬-mile clients based on recent history.
15056 And I do believe government intervention is necessary and that’s why I’m here.
15057 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your intervention. We all chuckled a little bit on your movie nights on Fridays. They say romance is dead but that’s still nice to hear.
15058 So I’ll put you in the hands of Commissioner Vennard.
15059 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello.
15060 MR. GAMMON: Hi.
15061 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Thank you for coming to talk to us today and letting us know some of your concerns and frustrations with respect to your service.
15062 I have a few questions for you. In your area how many homes are -- we’ve heard a lot about these different pockets of stranded people that are in these unserviced areas.
15063 MR. GAMMON: Right.
15064 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And so your situation unfortunately isn’t unique in that sense, which doesn’t alleviate any frustration for you, that’s for sure.
15065 But one of the questions that we’ve been asking people is how many people are actually affected by this? You say that you’ve got six homes?
15066 MR. GAMMON: That’s correct, yeah.
15067 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So is it just a small pocket of six homes or is it bigger than that? We’ve heard of up to sometimes even a couple hundred houses.
15068 MR. GAMMON: I’d say probably 50 homes if you look at the area that I am that has some difficulty in getting connectivity. The fixed line wireless works in some places but its line of sight -- and I happen to be in an area -- our road happens to be an area where the line of sight doesn’t reach or it doesn’t reach reliably. I tried it for some time but it was too unreliable, and I was working from home at that time and I could not use it.
15069 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. So you haven’t gotten any satisfaction nor made any progress in trying to get your area serviced?
15070 MR. GAMMON: No. The only provider that can service us at the moment is Xplornet. They regularly drop publicity in my mailbox for their 100 megabit per second down LTE 4G wireless, and when I call them they say, “Oh, it doesn’t quite reach your area.” So it’s kind of frustrating to get the publicity but you can’t really act on it.
15071 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. I basically have one question for you, which is what specific action should CRTC contemplate to try and handle both your situation and the situation of other people?
15072 MR. GAMMON: Well, I think that there needs to be a realistic target like Finland had that said, you know -- and we can argue about what it is, but it needs to be a realistic target that’s achievable with technology but that has some foresight for the future.
15073 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And what would that target be?
15074 MR. GAMMON: Well, right now with the 10/1 that I have supposedly, I could live with that if it was reliable and it was delivering that on a consistent basis and I didn’t have the latency time. So, you know, if a wireless -- either fixed wireless or a cellular network provider at a reasonable cost -- could meet that target, I could probably live with it. It’s not the best but in the short term I could live with that.
15075 In the long term I think you have to aim for 100 and 100 gigs of data cap.
15076 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So what would the long term be, 10 years, five years, what?
15077 MR. GAMMON: I’m saying five years at the moment.
15078 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Five years?
15079 MR. GAMMON: Yeah.
15080 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So to go back to my question, what specific actions could CRTC contemplate to handle your situation? So making a target speed is one of them.
15081 MR. GAMMON: Making a target speed. Obviously there’s a disparity of technologies that will need to be applied to different areas that have different challenges. But, you know, if we had used this -- the approach we have now was totally deregulated, you know, in a time when telephone was completely regulated, you know, almost every home was reached and Hydro reaches every home.
15082 You know, so there needs to be some kind of impetus to the industry to say you need to serve these people. It’s a public service. It’s no longer a, you know, for profit or, you know, competitive marketing thing. You need to service these people. It’s a necessary service; it’s part of the infrastructure.
15083 And I think the priority I would set would be buildout of the infrastructure because, you know, if you don’t have the infrastructure to get those kind of speeds it’s pointless to set targets. So I think the first thing to do would be to build out the infrastructure and make sure you reach out at those last mile clients.
15084 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Who do you think should be responsible for building up that infrastructure?
15085 MR. GAMMON: I think that the government has to give an impetus to the industry to do so. I think they have to do it -- they have the technology. You know, Bell built their phone infrastructure at one point in time.
15086 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
15087 MR. GAMMON: And it has to -- you know, we have to go back and look at what we did back in those days and see what worked and what didn’t. And, you know, the fact is, everybody’s got phone, you know, or almost everybody now, except for the ones that are getting rid of it, have a, you know, a landline. Everybody has hydro. It’s public infrastructure.
15088 So either we have to think of some way of making it public infrastructure or getting the industry to realize, yeah, we own the infrastructure but we have a duty to provide it.
15089 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
15090 MR. GAMMON: And at a fair price.
15091 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Are there any other actions that you can think of that you could suggest?
15092 MR. GAMMON: I think for the -- in a very short term I think there has to be a bit more truth in advertising. And the pricing is a big issue. For me, the pricing is a big issue. It’s not a question of affordability. I can afford it. But it’s frustrating to pay double what other people are paying. And, you know, nobody gets rich by spending more than they have to.
15093 So that’s been a big frustration has been the pricing. You know, at $107 a month for 10/1 that’s not even reaching, you know, in peak times 25 percent of 10/1 is pretty frustrating when, you know, just down the road they’re paying $50 for the same service.
15094 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So standardizing and setting a standard, pricing is an issue for you as well.
15095 MR. GAMMON: Yeah, and price -- and also standard for truth in advertising. If you’re going to deliver 10/1, if you’re saying you’re delivering 10/1, well, it should be that most of the time or at least within 80 percent.
15096 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. We have a study that shows that the providers are actually delivering in most cases in excess of what their advertised speeds are.
15097 MR. GAMMON: That could be in other areas, but I can say for sure that’s not the case with Xplornet with their satellite service in peak times.
15098 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. Okay. Do you have any other specific actions that we could contemplate that you’d like to suggest?
15099 MR. GAMMON: No, I think those are the basic ones that I would suggest for now.
15100 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. I don’t have any more questions for you. Do you have any final comments that you would like to make?
15101 MR. GAMMON: No, I think I’ve said what I had to say.
15102 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you very much. I’ll turn you back over to Mr. Blais.
15103 THE CHAIRPERSON: Of course, our SamKnows Study did not include satellite, so it was for wireline services, so not covered.
15104 But you’re not satisfied that in advertising that they point out that it’s “up to”?
15105 MR. GAMMON: They point out that it’s up to but I don’t find 22 -- I think it was 22 percent that I -- I done a bunch of tests before coming here to --
15106 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
15107 MR. GAMMON: -- accumulate data. And 22.4 percent is what I get in the evenings.
15108 THE CHAIRPERSON: And did I hear you said that 80 percent should be a norm? That the “up to” can’t be less than 80 percent of what you promised?
15109 MR. GAMMON: I think that would be reasonable. You know, I think the technology exists. 10/1 is not really superfast Internet.
15110 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So why 80 percent? So why did you choose that number just ---
15111 MR. GAMMON: Out of a hat. But --
15112 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. There’s no science behind it.
15113 MR. GAMMON: -- but basically -- alls [sic] I know is 20 percent is ---
15114 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s a very honest answer. That’s fine.
15115 MR. GAMMON: Yeah.
15116 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s --
15117 MR. GAMMON: Yeah.
15118 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- okay.
15119 MR. GAMMON: But, you know, at 20 percent I can’t watch a YouTube video.
15120 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
15121 MR. GAMMON: Okay? Without having it choppy. In fact, I tried to look at some previous videos of the proceedings that have been going up to now, and at three or four times during the video it would drop out and stop for about 30 seconds a time. So it’s annoying.
15122 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Understood.
15123 I believe those are our questions.
15124 MR. GAMMON: Okay.
15125 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for having participated in the hearing. And as you know, there’s subsequent phases and hopefully you’ll be able to participate in those as well.
15126 MR. GAMMON: Thank you.
15127 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
15128 Madame la secrétaire, s’il vous plaît.
15129 THE SECRETARY: I will now ask i-CANADA to come to presentation table.
15130 We will also connect by Skype for Mr. Hutchison.
15131 MR. HUTCHISON: It’s Bill Hutchison. Can you hear me?
15132 THE SECRETARY: Yes, we can hear you. You may begin your presentation. You have 10 minutes.
15133 MR. HUTCHISON: Thank you.
15134 Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Bill Hutchison. I’m the Chair and Co-Founder of the i-CANADA Alliance created six years ago to encourage and support Canadian communities, large and small, to transform expeditiously into some of the world’s leading smart, intelligent, sustainable and resilient urban, rural and remote communities.
15135 The 60 governors on our Governor’s Council include mayors from communities large and small from Edmonton, Surrey and Halifax to Stratford, Fredericton and Berwick in Nova Scotia, along with leaders of private sector companies like Tangerine Bank, Schneider Electric, IBM and IMAC Systems and institutions like OCAD University and George Brown College, to name just a few in each category.
15136 I-CANADA has tabled a written submission as requested, but today I’d like to respond to the request you made, Mr. Chair, on Monday last week in which you asked for a focus on the question does Canada currently have a coherent national broadband strategy. And you said, “It strikes me that this CRTC proceeding launched over 12 months ago may very well be the last, best chance to get it right, the chance to create together a coherent national broadband strategy through an open and transparent process based on evidence from all Canadians achieved, to the extent possible, through a consensus and implemented through shared responsibility.”
15137 First, let me say we certainly don’t have a coherent national broadband strategy. And we certainly don’t need another national telecommunications commission on this topic to figure it out. We tried that route a few times over the last four years and we still lag behind the world.
15138 We agree with your comments of last Monday and we need to quickly move to achieving the goals you’ve defined by creating a national action initiative, one that collaboratively moves Canada to regain world leadership in communications that we once enjoyed. The process and goals in that action initiative must include the features you so well describe, an open and transparent process based on evidence from all Canadians achieved, to the extent possible, through consensus and implemented through shared responsibility.
15139 We’ve done this previously in Canada. One good example was in 1991. Our federal government of the Department of Industry facilitated a national collaborative planning process to create a strategy and plan for establishing one of the world’s most advanced communications infrastructures for our research and education institutions.
15140 I was honoured to be retained by Industry Canada to chair that process, which ultimately included, if you can believe it, a steering committee of 250 people from all relevant public and private sector organizations and provinces and territories. Meetings of the steering committee were held every four months to continually build consensus. And the process was managed through a 20 person executive committee.
15141 We developed a national consensus and created a 7-year, $1 billion business plan with $900 million from the private sector and 100 million from the federal government. We incorporated a new organization and called it the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research Industry and Education, or CANARIE.
15142 The Ottawa Citizen then said in bold headlines, “This bird will never fly.” Today, 23 years later, all agree that CANARIE has been one of the world’s pioneers and leading performers in national research and education network. I’m pleased to say the bird continues to fly very well.
15143 You know, other country’s national broadband action morals have been successful too, although they were less collaborative. In recent years, United States has been ranked well behind world leaders in broadband performance and availability. To rapidly move the U.S. forward, President Obama created an organization called US Ignite to drive innovation particularly in IT and telecommunications. Many new, very impressive initiatives have already been created through US Ignite, although it is not really a national consensus built strategy.
15144 My confidence in Canada’s ability to achieve the important roles you so effectively defined last Monday is derived from my years of working internationally and the many years I’ve watched and participated in Canada’s unique broadband challenges and opportunities.
15145 Fifty-nine (59) years ago I worked on the installation of a new, advanced long-distance communications central office in New Liskeard, Ontario, population 4,500 kilometres north of Toronto. Twenty-four (24) years ago it was CANARIE for 4 years as Chair before and after incorporating CANARIE Inc. For 5 years starting in 2005, I led the planning, design and initial implementation for one of the world’s most advanced award winning gigabit communications services in the new waterfront Toronto communities.
15146 I’m also aware of the many innovative broadband initiatives by i-CANADA participants. Canada has many world class broadband islands of excellence with a lot of existing infrastructure in which we can rise up to create global leadership in tomorrow’s ultra-broadband communications.
15147 Achieving that goal will be difficult, although not impossible, but the rewards are worth the effort too. They include a geographically and socially inclusive Canada. A Canada that is innovative, competitive and productive, and one which more easily meets our Paris COP 21 goals because of our world leading broadband communications infrastructure.
15148 i-CANADA looks forward to working with others on an urgent national collaboration initiative, as you requested or suggested, to define the plan and achieve the broadband leadership.
15149 Now that’s our opening statement, and let me just say that i-CANADA is also sponsoring a World Summit -- Future Cities Summit, June 8th and 9th -- sorry, 9th and 10th in Toronto, and we’ll be addressing this in further detail. And we invite members of the Commission and anybody that is presenting to come to that summit and we can chat about it further and help to kick off a national collaboration.
15150 Thank you, Mr. Chair.
15151 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your presentation. I’ll put you in the hands of Commissioner MacDonald.
15152 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon and thank you for bringing your voice into -- into this proceeding.
15153 Before we get started, I'm just wondering -- you represent about 70 smart or intelligent communities across the country, and I'm wondering if you can speak to what the characteristics of a smart community are and what benefits are brought to the area residents by virtue of living in a smart community.
15154 MR. HUTCHISON: Well it’s a great question, and usually when I give speeches I can take about 10 minutes to get rid of the confusion, and we in the industry have done it to all of our listeners because there are about 10 different definitions of a smart community all over the world. The Americans have one, the Brits have one, and there's the intelligent community definition. At least two definitions began in the early ‘90s, first Intelligent Singapore and then the Smart Valley in -- the Silicon Valley. So now we have sustainable cities, we have resilient cities, and every other name that another consultant or an academic could come up with.
15155 But broadly though, I think it’s important to know that it’s all about using the latest in digital technology and communications technology to find ways of transforming the city or the town or the village in ways that provide better service, more convenient service, more productive operation of the cities and towns. But by convenience I mean, you know, even in lot of countries the delivery of health care right into your home. The diagnostics of whether your kid broke their arm or not happened in a home in Sweden through their networks.
15156 Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank in New York that really has promoted the praise intelligent community over 15 years, and they have an annual competition for the Intelligent Community of the Year. So there's some pretty good statistics in the winners there.
15157 The first thing is they like to distinguish intelligent from smart. Smart often sort of implies really a techie thing, we’re going to engineer it for you, whereas the intelligent community also includes a social inclusion, a digital inclusion, so some of the broader elements of our cities and where we live. But the winners inevitably have faster rates of economic growth, their Innovation Index is going up, they're getting more incoming investment, and it’s a much more convenient place to live.
15158 And so the idea behind i-CANADA when we created it six years ago, was if we could get enough cities and towns all winning that award, then Canada’s Innovation Index would go up. Now you may know that Canada’s Innovation Index compared to OECD countries has been going down over the last eight or 10 years. So creating this national movement and if we can achieve these goals is much better, we think, than walking around Parliament Hill with the placards saying “We should innovate more”, then we all go home and nothing happens.
15159 So the intelligent and even the good smart communities all have these impressive increased rates of economic growth, inclusion, incoming investment. And I’ll give you a very fast one that relates to broadband, if I may. Now Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city of about 100,000 people, was concerned that they were not getting the new automotive companies and other investments that were going into Nashville and other places in the south as car companies were setting up down there. So they forwarded a city bond, they created the first gigabit network to all homes in Chattanooga, the first line in the United States. Within two years they had four billion dollars of new incoming investment from three companies, Alstom, Amazon and Volkswagen. So there's -- and there's all kinds of stories like that, but -- so the intelligent -- and they won the Intelligent Community of the Year. So in brief, those are the key characteristics.
15160 MR. GANDER: Bill, if I might just to add one thing further to that. A big part of this is the integration of all of the aspects and sectors of the community together using the technology to pull them together, is to create a community, not just a set of different technologies, so that the police, fire, emergency services are connected to the city’s utility systems and its lighting systems, so that they all coordinate and work as one. And that's important to us because the innovation economy that we’re in is an economy where connections lead to new ideas, that’s what innovation is. And if we don’t have that, we’ll fall behind in the innovation economy itself. So I just thought I’d throw that in, Bill.
15161 MR. HUTCHISON: That’s Barry Gander, one of the cofounder of i-CANADA as well. Thanks, Barry.
15162 MR. GANDER: Yeah.
15163 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We’ve heard from other municipalities -- and I don’t know whether they're part of your membership or not, but that have picked up the torch and actually made investments to run their own infrastructure. And I'm the Commissioner for Atlantic Canada and Nunavut, so I’ll speak to an Atlantic Canadian example, and it’s -- I see Fredericton is on your list of communities that you mentioned earlier today. And one of the projects that they undertook a number of years ago was through their company Innovations to run -- fibered all of their facilities. So I'm wondering how much of -- how much of what's involved in becoming an intelligent community requires a municipal government to make those investments in the infrastructure.
15164 MR. HUTCHISON: It's quite ---
15165 MR. GANDER: If I might, Bill, this is my area of the world, this is -- Atlantic Canada, can I talk to that?
15166 MR. HUTCHISON: You have better roots there now.
15167 MR. GANDER: I moved to Atlantic Canada not too long ago, and I want to add regarding our past presenters the comments about living in a rural area. My wife and I have always lived in a rural area and I happened to move into a house -- as my wife says, “On the road to nowhere” -- but we’ve got a fiber cable running right past the house. So I have 100 gigs going to my house -- or 100 megs going to my house for $100 a month, and this was a network established by a family company, this is not a big organization. And one of the reasons in fact I moved to Nova Scotia was because you get small grain variety, and competition picking up where quite often the large telcos leave behind. And I’m not against the telcos, I used to work for Bell in Saudi Arabia, so I have no problem with that, but sometimes they are inadequate. And I’m circling around to your question if you don’t mind.
15168 The fact is the ICF that Bill was mentioning, the Intelligent Community Forum, in its 12 years of giving out awards for Most Intelligent Community of the Year, never has given an award to a city that was driven by a telco. It’s always been either a city government or a utility in the city. Those are the organizations that are driving the most advanced, fastest, most innovative networks, and I don’t think it’s a fluke over 12 years that you would find that.
15169 Now Fredericton is one of one heroes. Brad Woodside, the mayor of Fredericton, is one of my personal favourites. I took him across Canada with me to show people this is what the mayor of a smart city looks like. He had wonderful phrases to help people along. We had a meeting -- other mayors across the country and one of his favourite lines was, “I don’t charge people to walk on my sidewalks, why would I charge them to use my WiFi?” And so it’s a brilliant little crisp flash.
15170 For example, he was with me when we were pulling together seven mayors in the Vancouver area, and he was explaining how a smart community worked and what they should really expect from this to happen. And at the same time, we had the CIO from Seattle at that same meeting of these municipalities, and the Seattle CIO said, “We have open competition and open networks in Seattle and we have 140 ISPs in Seattle, you have three in Vancouver with closed networks. Where is a business going to locate, Seattle or Vancouver? It’s going to be in Seattle.” Those are the kinds of pressures we need to put on people to make this country work. So places like Fredericton are ideal for us.
15171 In fact, Brad Woodside is one of the two founder or co-founders now of our movement called “The Rise in Communities Movement”, where we’re taking the mid-section of Canadian cities and addressing their particular problems like Stratford -- in fact, the mayor of Stratford is the other co-chair of this movement -- and addressing them in particular to say this is how you build yourself up. These are the tools. These are the steps you take. This is what it really feels like as a mayor to face these problems.
15172 And, of course -- and Bill, I’ll turn it back over to you now because I think the next step in this, we have a whole process to do this and then we talk about i-Valley a bit later but you might want to talk about the governance issue, Bill, as the second most important thing.
15173 MR. HUTCHISON: I’d like to just -- some people say well, what's “our ask”. I'd like to suggest there's no question, we have great examples of excellence and Stratford and Fredericton are two of the real great ones and there are others. West Parry Sound for example pulled seven regions together and they're doing some great things.
15174 But, you know, we have to look at the country nationally and I think the point has already been raised by the Chair in his comments a week ago and we've heard from other communities in the north and remote communities and those in anti-poverty but we have a lot of other communities as well that really need to have this addressed.
15175 And so it really does call for a national strategy and a national program and “our ask” would be to in fact set up a new -- an independent national organization. It could be the CRTC or it could be a separate organization do the kind of thing we did with CANARIE.
15176 CANARIE was really a focused community. It was the research and education world but there are communities in big cities.
15177 For example, in London, England, there's a tremendous community of game, computer game developers in Soho. They have very, very high broadband and they have a very high broadband connection right down to Hollywood and every time a new movie is announced, they're in there talking to everybody in Hollywood about let us do your special effects.
15178 Well, Toronto needs that and other cities need it and, you know, we could leverage off things that others are doing and leverage off existing infrastructure if there was a national program and that's why we really need to do it.
15179 I have to show you this. This was in the Globe and Mail when we first created CANARIE and it was all about creating this thing for Canada. I look a heck of a lot younger in that picture but the fact is it was an unbelievable national collaboration and that's what we need. It has to be independent but with all the players.
15180 I mean when we started CANARIE, I'll tell you the two incumbent phone companies would not even sit in the same room with each other and in the end they signed on to the business plan.
15181 So this could be done again but I think we really need the national one. Otherwise, there's no question some cities will kind of take it upon themselves but they're all building it separately and we have these islands of excellence but we've got a whole lot of islands that just don’t have a thing and a lot of communities that don’t have the ability.
15182 You hear a lot about everybody is pulling fibre these days and that would be great. Fibre has been around for 30 years and it's been in the ground for 30 years. So it's nothing new and the fact is the rest of the world is now moving with 10 gigabits and 30 gigabits downloads and thing like that. So we're still way behind overall and, you know, we're moving forward but the rest of the world is moving forward even faster.
15183 So we would ask that we create this national initiative. We really look forward. We've got a broad base of members as you can see. As Barry said, we expect to add another 200 rising cities in the 10 to 100,000 population range and just a fabulous opportunity but we really have to get moving.
15184 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So I'd like to draw on some of your experience with CANARIE and I've had some dealings with CANARIE over the years. And it strikes me from your presentation today that it is not an easy task to try and bring 250 participants together on one steering committee and actually end up with the desired result at the end of the day.
15185 So do you have any best practices that you can share with us about how to do that, to develop the strategy and who should be the leader of such a strategy once it's being developed?
15186 MR. HUTCHISON: Thank you. It's a great question.
15187 And I have had the privilege of working with all different -- all three levels of government over the years. I would say that the CANARIE one was probably the best example of how to do it.
15188 So Industry Canada, they retained me, a private sector guy, and I've had one foot in the academic world and one in the private sector for many years and even at the moment I'm chairman of 10-university collaborative research program led by the University of Toronto funded by ANSER (ph).
15189 So, first of all, Industry Canada, this is important. They, in a sense, outsource the control and design of this to this group that got put together. They are ex officio on it and obviously they have a hand in it all and they were going to put 100 million in. So that was -- that was important but they didn't try to run it themselves. They left it to us and they had a broad base.
15190 Now, I have to tell you I stumbled initially, initially because they asked me to do this. So I hired twenty -- well, I didn't hire. I recruited 25 people that I thought would be really good to develop the strategy and that worked until they said, “Bill, this is a federal program. If you think you need 25, you need 25 from each province. So that's how we got the 250 people. So we created an executive committee as well.
15191 So the executive committee was important but what was important were these national consensus building sessions of a day or two every four months and we moved those around the country. So everybody had a say and I said it took two years. I think it got probably close to the three years, back and forth and back and forth, but this is an amazing program and it's a billion dollar program for a seven-year period.
15192 But I think just the facilitating, they were obviously involved. The Ministry of Industry of course was very involved and at the end, they said, “Bill, we've got to get the private sector to get their money in first and be advised we'll put ours in too. We're with you.”
15193 So it was a great partnering and that sort of an approach I'd say was the main best practice. And then after that it was all about how to collaborate and giving people a sense that they were all contributing.
15194 MR. GANDER: The other piece, Bill, if I might jump in again, that really impressed me was how you pulled together the Toronto project involving all of the different sectors to come together on a plan for Canada’s first gigabit network. And that was the model for i-CANADA.
15195 Bill brought together the healthcare workers and the police chiefs and the people who are involved in subsidized housing, everybody who had an interest in benefitting from a very high speed network, and they created their future as it were, envisioning what it should be, and with this group you were able to push through an almost uncontested plan for a gigabit network.
15196 Is that about right?
15197 MR. HUTCHISON: This is at Waterfront Toronto. I'll tell you, there are things you have to overcome and, you know, you've got a lot of people with views about how things should be done.
15198 It actually took me two years to convince the Board of Waterfront Toronto that we should issue an RFP to give out a concession for somebody to run the waterfront network. They did comment that they didn’t join the Board of Waterfront Toronto to get into battles with major companies.
15199 But we did it. It was open to everybody. Everybody could bid and it's there running and once there are more people living, these are the new waterfront communities, you'll hear more about it but it's up and operating.
15200 MR. GANDER: The thing we pulled out of that in fact was the model for i-CANADA and how it works. Every community is different across the country but the steps are the same.
15201 We go into a community. We pull together the leaders of the community, both the economic and social leaders, and I'll do this in a fine-grained fashion from where I am now in the six months since I've gone to Nova Scotia.
15202 I've created an organization called i-Valley or intelligent valley. It's all about the Annapolis Valley, 200 kilometres of Annapolis Valley and Canada’s garden land, but we have created a network of leaders all up and down who understand why this should be done. We've had hearings in front of those leaders on what the broadband network is all about and why it's important.
15203 We brought in some colleagues from the United States for example, for Louisville, who were talking about what the gigabit network means to them. We brought in other experts to explain it and now what we're doing is going up and down the valley, town by town by town and sector by sector by sector to say what is it you want in an intelligent community.
15204 But in order to do that right, we also bring in industry people and other experts to show them what the state of the world is in education. What does it mean if you can teach English in Korea without leaving your living room, those kinds of things because they don’t know.
15205 And as I say, this is 90 percent social dynamic and 10 percent technology. As my favourite Don Cherry would say, this ain’t rocket surgery but it really is important to get these people on board.
15206 Then we go back to the community and say, “These are your goals you have told us about and we'll put those into a plan with options.” This is what Network A could look like, and Network B, and Network C, and these were the costs. And by the way, we'll help you try to find the funding because there are many ways you can get funding these days and only part of it is federal or provincial because they're pretty tapped out in many cases, but there is money out there from the user community. For example, you could do a public/private partnership kind of thing, many ways to make that all work.
15207 And then of course, the network starts to get built, but it's not an instant process. It's going to take two or three years to create this. One of the things I-Valley has going for it is that there's already a fibre network going up and down the valley. The problem is, nobody knows about it because they've always thought of it as a piece of technology, so nobody's explained it to people.
15208 We had a public meeting in Berwick, for example, a little tiny town. Apple capital of Canada, if you're looking for a vacation idea. But we had 50 people show up at that meeting, almost with flaming torches, saying, "We want broadband now. When is our broadband coming?"
15209 So I take a little bit of issue with our colleagues with Saskatchewan who were here earlier saying, "We don’t understand where the demand for broadband is coming from." It's coming from the little software developer in the -- in Hall's Harbour, little people who are trying to run their own -- one of the things about this economy now, you've got to realize -- and maybe you already do, of course -- but 55 percent of the new businesses are being started by people with gray hair. These are people who are in retirement who are starting something new and they want that, they need that gigabits kind of connection to make their businesses work.
15210 Even in Ottawa here, you don’t have enough speed to run the kind of businesses that are needed. I know because I'm involved in a program to expand that. But for example, not too far from here -- you've all seen maybe "The Lord of the Rings" movie? The texturing for that entire movie section was done by two guys in a garage here in Ottawa, and they couldn't send their files back and forth fast enough on Ottawa's network, so they put them onto drives and mailed them to California.
15211 So this is the kind of thing we need to think about, seriously, when we're talking about the industry of the future. Anyway, I digress.
15212 MR. HUTCHISON: Let me just interject here, Barry. Just for the Commissioner, one more point that I think is really important, because I think the one big takeaway -- and there's some great examples that Barry just listed and there are just all kinds of them about the benefits. But one other point on your question, Commissioner, is the best practices.
15213 Now, when we started the CANARIE Initiative, there were really two national incumbents, Bell and UniTel in Canada. They didn’t want to sit in the same room as each other at that time. And over time, they signed on and they were very much part of it and they benefitted themselves from it. I'm not suggesting that this would be easy, because now there are a lot more incumbents, but I would say the other key factor, success factor, was in making sure that everybody was participating and feeling that they were being heard and participating.
15214 So this is not about creating some independent thing. This is -- I started my life with Bell Canada. I worked with other communications companies, was in the media business. I was on the board of Torstar and with them for a number of years. So it's about getting everybody moving forward. And the first few meetings, nobody wanted to act and everybody will be complaining, but I know that.
15215 But just in answer to your question, I would say that that was probably the other main contributing factor to success, and that was just getting everyone collaborating and getting through that (inaudible) part and letting them see the benefits of the fact that we need a new model. The model we have started years ago.
15216 But there are social benefits now that you can't recover if you're a supplier of these services. If the health care doctor can diagnose your kid right in your living room and you don’t have to jam up the hospital outpatient thing, you don’t have to go to clinics, well, the phone company or any communication company can't charge enough for that to cover the cost, and yet the social benefit, there are people that suggest we could knock 10 percent off our annual health care costs if we really did this right.
15217 So getting everybody involved -- and I can tell you, too -- Canada is not about saying, "Ah, let's go and do it ourselves with the little guys," or something. It's all about -- we all have to be together and it takes a little doing, but that was a key contributor on CANARIE as well.
15218 COMMSSIONER MacDONALD: You touched on an issue a minute ago about people wanted access to broadband now but no one even knew that the fibre line was running down throughout the Annapolis Valley, and that's something that's been repeated a few times by a few different intervenors here, that even if there is a community or a small service provider that wants to deploy last mile connectivity to a particular community, they have difficulty in knowing where transport capabilities are or obtaining access at a reasonable rate.
15219 Has that been a problem, that some of your member municipalities have faced?
15220 MR. GANDER: Oh, absolutely. You really nailed it with that. In fact, it's the number one problem in the valley and it's not just the customer not knowing. It's the provider not being able to tell the customer because in a sense, the customer hasn’t been aggregated for them in a model that they understand. They might be used to dealing with large customer groups in cities, for example.
15221 But if you work the Smart Valley situation, you can pull these customers together into groups that are identifiable, and that's a demand that a provider can understand. So it's a matter of making visibility happen on two sides of a mirror, if I'm able to put it that way.
15222 Definitely, the part of the process we have to do is to show each of the user groups where they can get the services that they need, and the user groups are very different. For example, Acadia University is one of our collegial organizations in A-Valley and it runs a fabulous program in agriculture where they're starting to use drones to fly over the farmers' fields to look for moisture and fungus conditions and that kind of thing. That's all data intensive kind of activity, and they don’t even know where to start connecting and nobody else knows what their story is.
15223 So we have to start getting that -- that's what we've started to do now, getting their story out. And this is not a very difficult thing to do, but it's just that it hasn’t been done, so we're starting to do that now and making these things visible and making these things happen.
15224 The other thing I was going to mention, further to something Bill was saying, this is so fundamental that it is affecting the ordinary, as it were, ordinary people on the ground, in their property rights and their property values. There was an article in one of the Nova Scotia newspapers some months ago now saying that this guy was suing one of the service providers because his property didn’t have an internet connection, so it was valued at $15,000 less than the guy next door who did.
15225 And that's the kind of thing that these guys are really aware of. You don’t have to convince them that they need it. They know they need it. They don’t quite know what they need, and they don’t quite know how to get it, but the hunger is there. It's absolutely fierce.
15226 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So sort of along that same line, you stated that part of your role as an organization is to encourage communities to, you know, to undertake these types of initiatives, so that at a practical level, how do you do that? Is it finding them access to transport facilities? Is it knocking on doors to help get people onto a network to help them prove a business case?
15227 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: That's part of it. We have a step-by-step process, of course, but it starts with the city council, for example, in telling everybody what is -- what the process of achieving a smart community is. It's all about governance at that level, and then we go out into the community and find out from the community, with explanations to the community in all of its sectors, what they want to have and getting their input on what they want to have, then creating the network model for them, and then either with them, hiring somebody to provide that network service or we'll find a way to do it ourselves, but we don’t like to do that.
15228 The fact is, we're not contractors. We're just facilitators, and we're a not-for-profit organization, so it -- we're more comfortable in the connecting role than in other roles. And of course, as I mentioned before, some help with financing -- locating financing, if that's needed.
15229 At the end of a term, though, for example, if we go up and down the valley or anywhere else, we create, for example, an econometric model for the communities to show in this community, you put in this amount of broadband and you will get this amount of return. And it's like, $1 gets 200. And we can show this. We have the models for it, and they're real.
15230 The fact is that the return on investment from an investment in broadband is enormous and it's stunning to the -- even to the town council that suspect something is valuable, to show them, through their businesses, how that will improve and what that will do.
15231 So we show them the econometric model, and then we make sure that the plan we’ve got will achieve that, and then onto the network and so on. So it’s a step-by-step process and that’s why it takes a little bit of time.
15232 But right now, for example, we have little tiny towns in the Annapolis Valley, like, Lawrencetown; the population may be 800. They’re trying to build their own network. They’re starting to put up their own towers. They -- bless their hearts. And this was before we arrived, as it were. But that’s the kind of thing that’s going on because people want it. They need it. They don’t know what to do.
15233 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is that a model that you would be able to share with us from past conversations with other municipalities?
15234 MR. GANDER: Sure.
15235 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Is that something you could file on the record for us to have a look at?
15236 MR. GANDER: Sure, absolutely.
15237 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
15238 MR. GANDER: Yeah.
15240 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just one final question that speaks to leverage in that initial investment. And I note that, you know, in the CANARIE experience you were able to leverage about $100 million into a $1 billion investment. And I’m just wondering, is that typical that you’re able to leverage $100 million in government money to obtain $900 million in financing or investment on the part of the service providers?
15241 MR. HUTCHISON: You know, it depends on the project. In the Waterfront Toronto one, even though Waterfront Toronto is an organization and is owned as a partnership, all three governments -- City of Toronto, Ontario, and the feds -- there was no government money in that one. All the money came either from developers or concession rights, not to the communications provider. So each one is a little different.
15242 And you know, and if you take Chattanooga, for example, I think it was about a $300 million bond that they put up and they got $4 billion back from the private sector investors earned in two years. So, you know, a 9 or 10 to 1 investment is generally realistic but there are public private partnership models. Chairman of the Public-Private Partnership Council of Canada Mark Romoff is one of our governors.
15243 And so we’re bringing, i-Canada is bringing all of these people together as we move forward and to help these communities but there is absolutely a big leverage factor. The government is playing an important role. They play a leadership role. But the model that I describe for creating CANARIE really worked.
15244 I’ve been involved in other initiatives and you know, sometimes there’s a feeling by the public servant that we should do this ourselves. They think they’re getting a little notch on their belts. And they don’t work out quite as well as if you get a whole range of people.
15245 I was on the -- on Mr. Mulroney’s as vice-chairman for the National Advisory Board for Science and Technology as well, and we’re 36 people from across the country on that one plus six cabinet ministers. And it was all to drive policy and that sort of thing but it worked well also.
15246 So there are different models. I think the fact is that collaboration is so important. And between us all we can figure out the models, but there’s no question there’s a tremendous leverage on some government funding. And what the governments can do is create some sort of, you know, national compatibility (inaudible) and this is important when you’re in these areas and you’re looking for standards.
15247 MR. GANDER: Something like that is happening on a mini scale here in Ottawa, in fact. There’s a meeting later on this week that pulls together some of the leaders of Ottawa under the auspices of Bruce Lazenby, the head of Invest Ottawa to -- and bringing up my colleagues from the United States as well to discuss how SMART Ottawa is going to evolve. So this hopefully will be in your houses very shortly.
15248 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Perfect. Well, those are my questions. Thank you very much, and thank you for traveling in from Nova Scotia.
15249 MR. GANDER: Thank you.
15250 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it would appear that those are all our questions, so thank you very much for having both participated in the hearing.
15251 And as you know, there’s two further stages in the proceeding on the 25th of May and the 13th of June, and of course you’re welcome to make submissions in that context.
15252 MR. GANDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
15253 MR. HUTCHISON: Mr. Chair, I would like to invite you, and we’ll follow it up in writing, to be a speaker at our summit June 9th or 10th. And it would be just wonderful if you could. You’ve encouraged us in the past with some of our initiatives and we certainly appreciated that too.
15254 THE CHAIRPERSON: That’s very kind. We’d have to consider of course if it was appropriate in light of the fact that we would be deliberating at that point on the hearing so we’ll see.
15255 MR. HUTCHISON: Well, we’ll have everybody from all groups at the event so there you go.
15256 THE CHAIRPERSON: No danger there.
15257 MR. HUTCHISON: We’re not biased.
15258 MR. GANDER: Speaking of all groups, in fact I might re-iterate Bill’s invitation to extend an invitation to all the people who have been in front of you for a free seat at that summit; not a problem.
15259 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you.
15260 MR. GANDER: Thank you.
15261 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that.
15262 MR. GANDER: Thank you. Thank you all very much.
15263 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
15264 Madame la secrétaire, les prochains intervenants, s’il vous plait.
15265 THE SECRETARY: I would now invite OneWeb to come to presentation table.
15266 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 10 minutes for your presentation.
15267 MR. WYLER: Ten (10) minutes. Well, we’ll do our best.
15268 This is -- well, I’ll start off thank you, Madam Secretary, Mr. Chairman, Commission, Commissioners, lady and gentlemen.
15269 It’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of OneWeb. And I’ll sort of shorten this presentation a bit to make it in 10 minutes. To my left is Mr. Don Osborne from MDA, and they’re Canada’s premier space company. And then beyond her is Ms. Leslie Swartman, and then to my right is Marc Dupuis. And my daughter is back there but she didn’t come up.
15270 So this has been great to watch the testimony of everybody. And I’ve seen a lot of very interesting points from the issues of city connectivity to the issues of rural connectivity. And OneWeb is really about rural connectivity. It focuses and answers and addresses the issue of the individuals, schools, communities, and houses that are remote and just too far from physical infrastructure.
15271 So as the testimony over the past two weeks has shown, and as you have eloquently summarized, Mr. Chairman, telecommunication services have converged onto the internet. Access to high-speed internet is therefore the only facility required to provide all telecommunication services essential to fulfill the needs of Canadian citizens in today’s digital economy. As more and more citizens abandon their landline phone for cellular and Voice-over-IP, the copper cable for those fortunate to have it, will be used primarily for internet and the so-called plain old telephone service will soon be irrelevant.
15272 Therefore, we support the Commission's view that the definition and application of basic telecom service needs to evolve to internet connectivity.
15273 So we believe that Canada should strongly consider minimum service specifications for broadband access, and we will also present some views on how to enable access for every household.
15274 Let's start with the most important specifications for a broadband. Coverage is the foundation of any service. Whether a user is mobile or at rest, they must have access to simple and reliable connectivity. Coverage is highly personal. Internet access down the street, as we have seen, is different than internet access which reaches your home.
15275 Government coverage maps today are by postal code, town, or hexagon tile. When even one house is covered the maps colour code the entire tile, but a house-by-house view would show a much different picture.
15276 Coverage must also be feasible, meaning all the way to the residence or the institution serviced, and be installed quickly.
15277 The next three criteria are technical by nature and a bit complex. Each specification affects the others, and their importance has changed over time. For instance volume, the number of gigabytes per month, was irrelevant when people only had 64 kilobits per second line. Latency mattered less when people only used bulletin board services and maximum speeds were 256 kilobits per second. However, the terms are the crux of what we call broadband and we applaud the Commission for taking the time to carefully review them.
15278 There are plenty of other terms we could suggest but these really highlight what is necessary to understand broadband.
15279 Speed defines how fast data can be sent and received between the customer premises and some point of presence on the Internet. It is typically advertised as "burst speed" or "up to", which have different contexts. As the connection between your computer and the destination server transits many networks or links in a chain, the actual speed is only as fast as the slowest link; therefore, adding to the confusion, every customer will, to some extent, experience a variation of speeds depending on the site they visit. However, most major sites are located only a few hops from the user and so the experience for those sites should be consistent.
15280 Volume. Defines how much data the user can consume in a given period of time, typically measured on a monthly basis. Most providers will place some limit, often referred to as data caps, based on their subscriber's data plan, and if the cap is allowed to be exceeded additional costs or the speed is reduced.
15281 This is to ensure that one or a few subscribers do not significantly use the network's resources to the detriment of all of the users. You've heard much about this over the past two weeks, and unfortunately, they're just a reality of limited bandwidth.
15282 As speeds have increased, so has our ability to devour content. "All you can eat" plans work fine for children with small appetites, but the local football team would put any restaurant out of business if they came by every night for dinner.
15283 The good news is that volume limitations, like "all you can eat" limitations, are a sign of a mature market. It means that speeds have reached a point that people can consume Internet at a high rate. Once the speed is high enough and the latency is low enough, then paying per byte is a simple and viable metric.
15284 Latency. You've heard a lot about latency and it really is important. It's the most defining aspect of usability once a link speed reaches 1 or 2 megabytes per second. Why? Because it literally is the time, it takes to go get a packet from the other computer. It is also highly and reasonably misunderstood.
15285 Each of these three criteria vary in importance depending on each other and they also affect each other. Confused yet? The result is they are all important.
15286 Let me explain. Imagine you live on the 36th floor of an apartment complex. You turn on the hot water but cold water comes out of the faucet. It turns out the boiler is in the basement, so you have to wait for the hot water to climb the 36 stories to the faucet.
15287 While you are experiencing the latency, you call the plumber. The plumber comes over the next day, upgrades your piping at great expense, from one quarter-inch diameter pipes to one inch pipes. Now, you have big pipes. Fantastic.
15288 The next morning, you turn on the hot water. It still takes the exact same amount of time for the hot water to arrive. All the plumber did was increase the volume per second, or what we call speed in Internet terms. But you are still waiting; however, you do have a lot more volume per second so you consume more water.
15289 So you ask your friend in the same building if she experiences the latency. She says, I get hot water really fast; it's practically instant. You think about it and you realize that she lives on the first floor. She's literally 36 times closer to the boiler than you are.
15290 This illustrates the relationship between volume, speed and latency. They play a role with each other, and the only solution for latency is to have the content closer in distance to the user. Why? Because packets, being represented by electromagnetic waves, travel at the speed of light, so latency and distance travelled are highly correlated.
15291 Internet through GEO satellites is on the -- that's like being on the 36th floor, which is the case for all services, because as you'll see, GEO satellites are at 36,000 kilometres. OneWeb is building a system to bring the satellites down to 1,200 kilometres so you'll be on the first floor. The latency is just a pure physics question, how long is the distance the packet has to travel?
15292 Every website you use will be affected by latency. Internet applications like videoconferencing, virtual classrooms, and gaming, are all difficult, if not impossible on a high latency link. There are many examples of how latency affects the use of the Internet.
15293 What's the impact of latency? Modern telecommunications networks and software applications that run on these networks are designed for end to end two way latency below 100 milliseconds. LTE and 3G wireless networks require low latency for the hands off between cell towers. Internet applications require low latency networks for quality, and in some cases, to even function.
15294 What can be an irritant in voice calls or a videoconference due to the delay between one speaker and his or her correspondent becomes untenable for Cloud applications, VPN networks, or even video laden web pages.
15295 I believe it was the Affordable Access Coalition that mentioned the recent FCC Connect America Broadband program and its 100-millisecond latency limit. The FCC, as have many other governments, have struggled with these specifications and recently condensed the important specifications to a nutrition label called the Consumer Broadband Label. And can you see on it the focus is speed and latency as two of the primary important pieces.
15296 OneWeb is designed to provide a path latency below 30 milliseconds, and even adding terrestrial connections to the Internet, the end to end latency will still be below 50 milliseconds, roughly equivalent to fibre, DSL or cable modem services.
15297 OneWeb is a new low latency satellite system designed to provide a service with a user experience identical to a cable modem, whether you're in Nunavut or here in the national capital area.
15298 Currently, 18,000 Canadian households are located in satellite dependent communities in remote and high latitude regions. OneWeb will begin to roll out services in 2019.
15299 As our satellites will operate in near polar orbits, the extreme latitudes will be the earliest served and get the best connections. In fact, we'll be able to provide services to Northern Canada before the rest of the continent. The North will be the first in receiving such new services with quality comparable to urban terrestrial-based services and without the lag or pointing issues of GEO satellites.
15300 OneWeb will wholesale to all the Canadian operators or to some of the Canadian telecom operators, who will then retail services to the public. The low latency network will cover 100 percent of Canada, improving the availability and overall quality Internet for everyone.
15301 Uniquely, OneWeb's terminals will provide both direct to home broadband Internet and increased local wireless service coverage. Each terminal is a cell tower. It provides 3G and LTE services to the region around it. This will help spur local entrepreneurship, jobs, enable digital education, medicine, telemedicine, government services, and connectivity.
15302 Another feature of the terminals, besides being less expensive and easier to install, they are also very low power because they're only pointing and sending signals to a satellite only 1,200 kilometres away. So it's 36 times closer and it requires so little power it can operate on batteries or on solar panels.
15303 The OneWeb terminals can provide transportable or relocatable LTE wireless for emergency care that can be placed on trucks and vehicles and allow emergency care technicians to have coverage wherever they go.
15304 So what do we do? The Commission should consider establishing two targets for broadband Internet access. One that can be included in the definition of basic service and the other which is needed to achieve full grade broadband service. Something others before me called an aspirational goal, but which I will refer to as full broadband service. Such basic and full broadband target speeds or technical criteria should be considered on a regular basis.
15305 Telecommunications services, similar to any other consumer product, require a standard set of specifications. The consumer information need to -- needs -- the consumer needs to understand and compare available offerings, including speed, volume, latency and price.
15306 We suggest that the Commission consider defining the terms for basic service and broadband service with the idea that the basic service offering should be designed to promote affordable access to lower income populations at a minimum price, to ensure that every Canadian has the access required for such necessities as children's education and access to important services.
15307 So two questions you might ask yourself. One, is there a price point for basic service which is low enough that the Commission may consider offering it to every rural household free of charge? Two, what is the cost of Canada and residents not having access to the Internet for digital government, education, and telemedicine?
15308 There was an interesting and excellent point brought up by the former speakers about the ancillary value of Internet access that's not recoupled by the provider. It's well beyond the service charge, but the ability to do telemedicine and drop the costs of digital government.
15309 So many government services in Canada are available online. As I understand it, some services are available only online. So what happens to those left behind?
15310 Rural communities have a particular and unique economic and social vulnerability with regard to communications. Brain drain occurs as individuals move to places with better jobs and better access to education. New, innovative start-ups and companies must have access to survive but there's no option for them to locate in these communities.
15311 True high speed Internet availability will be like rays of sunshine for these communities, promoting growth and stability. They will benefit from a better access to government services; they will have a stronger voice and be a better position to advocate for their needs. Their children can have access to the world's best education and start their own business, writing enterprise software apps, gaming or Cloud services. Maybe some of those children will know enough about the needs of rural communities that they build specialized applications for education or telemedicine, which will be used, by communities around the globe.
15312 Market forces alone will not ensure basic communication services to all citizens. Disaggregated and rural communities individually have typically not represented a large enough market for industry to focus its energies.
15313 Canada has an opportunity here, an opportunity to pull all the communities together into a single market. If you do you’ll be surprised at how inexpensive rural broadband can be.
15314 Current technologies such as fibre, cable and microwave have costs that are highly related to housing density.
15315 In remote areas, even with the deployment of such technologies, the backhaul costs drive prices. Countries around the world struggle with the limited availability of existing communications.
15316 Lastly, the Commission must be technology agnostic in its approach. Every technology has its own specific features.
15317 Fibre, for instance, is excellent for data transmission. However, it is expensive per kilometre to install and has ongoing maintenance costs that can exceed its value for thin routes.
15318 It is excellent for some applications, but like using a teaspoon to dig the foundation of your house, it can get the job done, but may be expensive and time consuming compared to other options.
15319 For example, we have heard the cost to reach 25 communities in Nunavut would be approximately $1 billion. There is obviously no way to recoup that investment based on Broadband fees alone.
15320 In fact, communities do not actually need fibre, they need connectivity. New technologies will enable the same exact connectivity without having to run the fibre. I can give you an example.
15321 In 2007 I formed a company called 03b Networks, which stands for “The Other 3 billion” and we designed and launched 12 of the highest speed communications satellites ever built. It is up and running today.
15322 The satellites operate in MEO orbit, at approximately 8000km with latencies about 130 milliseconds, to large communities -- to large community ground stations.
15323 The company provides fibre quality communications services to about half of the Pacific Islands without the expense of running fiber.
15324 While 03b was not designed to and cannot reach Canada due to its orbit structure, the point is that new technologies can provide the exact same quality of fibre, in many cases at much less cost.
15325 So the proposal suggested is to ensure reasonably priced basic service, as the Commission or the Government may wish to consider an RFP process.
15326 You could issue an RFP that indicates payments of perhaps $5 a month for a period of time, for 5 years perhaps, to provide basic service for a certain number of rural homes, in addition to one-time payment for installation of perhaps $200 per home.
15327 Each provincial government could then augment this subsidy with their own funds if they like. The RFP could stipulate that funding would be provided for at least 100,000 homes, so that bidders know the value of the minimum contract price.
15328 The RFP should be clear that service has to be available to any rural home in the province or territory; there can be no cherry picking of the easiest homes. A maximum installation time could be included.
15329 Service Providers could then submit bids to provide a basket of services. The bidders with the best basket could win and after the infrastructure is completed, the winner would then have to sell the product.
15330 Each customer would reduce the government commitments and represent an upsell opportunity to the service provider to provide the Full Broadband Service.
15331 Result? The Service Provider would then have a known minimum quantity customer base and could be reliably incentivized to build infrastructure in regions which otherwise would represent too high of a risk.
15332 The government’s support as a guarantor could be a key and a dollar neutral way to ensure all Canadians have access to basic service and would provide an optional upgrade path to the full broadband service.
15333 The definitions of basic service and full broadband service should be updated and revisited from time to time in order to ensure that they properly reflect the needs of Canadian citizens and consumers.
15334 I would like to thank the Chairman and Commissioners for your valuable time and your interest in our presentation and we’re ready to answer any questions you may have.
15335 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for that presentation. I’ll put you in the hands of Vice-Chair Menzies.
15336 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good afternoon. Thank you for that presentation.
15337 I have a few questions, so I’m going to try to keep them as sharp as I can and we’ll try to work on the answers the same way if you can.
15338 So you suggest that once internet broadband becomes a basic service that it’s no longer necessary to have a subsidy for POTS anymore, because of the VoIP capability.
15339 What about -- some people would wonder what about redundancy of communications, particularly in the north, that shouldn’t we keep the landline there just in case.
15340 MR. WYLER: Well POTS is a technology; voice communications is what they’re looking for. So there could be many other versions of voice communications that allow for redundancy, for instance mobile phone services.
15341 You could easily, for now, keep POTS going. Keep the copper line going and if -- but if you have a copper line you probably have some version of DSL.
15342 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: M’hm.
15343 MR. WYLER: So you might not be needing to shut down the copper line and no one would say cut the copper line if it exists. If you already have the infrastructure you should use it to the best of your availability.
15344 So I wouldn’t say get rid of POTS, I’d say that just the -- there’s a natural and slow evolution away from plain old telephone service and as other providers -- provisions become more reliable, you’ll start to move away from them.
15345 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you’d perhaps see it as giving people an option? You can take a subsidy for this or you can take a subsidy for this?
15346 MR. WYLER: I haven’t actually thought about subsidies specifically. Of saying let’s subsidize internet versus let’s subsidize POTS, because if you have plain old telephone service, then your internet, as I said, is probably going to come over DSL and you’ll have DSL and POTS together.
15347 And if you have the plain old telephone service you could easily have the VoIP service over the same exact line, so you’d be -- if the line was cut you’d lose both at the same time.
15348 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, I’m just thinking in terms of where we would -- we have a subsidy for telephone service.
15349 MR. WYLER: M’hm.
15350 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right? And I was wondering if your suggestion is saying we no longer require that. We should only subsidize internet broadband.
15351 MR. WYLER: I suspect you could subsidize one or the other and if somebody took internet that would include a VoIP service.
15352 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
15353 MR. WYLER: But if they didn’t have access to the internet, then get the POTS.
15354 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, okay. Yes, okay thanks for clarifying.
15355 So your two tiers, this is skinny broadband that you’ve sort of presented us with was with -- one with the basic tier and then the other is -- I actually forget your terminology, but the ---
15356 MR. WYLER: Just broadband. One is basic and one is ---
15357 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Basic and broadband service, right.
15358 So where do we come to the 5 in 1 measure what for the purpose of this conversation I’ll call skinny broadband.
15359 MR. WYLER: Where did we come up with it or ---?
15360 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, how does -- why is that appropriate?
15361 MR. WYLER: That was -- well ---
15362 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is it technology or is it something else?
15363 MR. WYLER: You had 5/1 already listed as a requirement.
15364 Frankly if you have low -- if you have low latency, which is actually not listed in the requirement, you could get away with even less and have a basic broadband.
15365 The question is that I was looking at on basic broadband, is what is required but basic telemedicine, basic education and basic digital government services.
15366 And you really want to cut the line right between broadband and HD video, where if somebody wants to have HD video, Netflix and watch movies then it’s a -- something that they should pay a higher price for.
15367 But there is a certain requirement and sort of existence, if you will, and that it’s really good for humanity to have at least the basic services which they can get from a lower speed.
15368 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But it’s not video it’s HD video, is kind of where you’re drawing the line, because there’s been discussion, and you mention it yourself in here about in your submissions, children’s educational purposes and that sort of stuff, there’s educational videos and that sort of stuff, but they are still obviously available at 5 in 1, it’s just the HD -- the HD provides for a morally agnostic -- a technological (inaudible).
15369 MR. WYLER: It’s not a perfect cut.
15370 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
15371 MR. WYLER: But it more or less says if you want to watch the HD surround sound, theater –- and people will pay for HD. They want it clearer, right, then you have to pay more.
15372 But if you -- but there is a certain benefit to having at least SD video. You can still watch Bill Nye on SD and get the same fundamental educational benefits out of it.
15373 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. And how would you address -- we’ve had a number of people, particularly with disability groups, et cetera, suggest that an upload of 1 megabit per second is not sufficient.
15374 There’s been groups looking for -- we even had a group this morning that offers synchronicity in terms of that.
15375 Is one going to allow for, for instance, people to access the video relay service?
15376 MR. WYLER: I’m not familiar with the video relay service, so.
15377 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Well then I shouldn’t use that example.
15378 MR. WYLER: But can one do upload ---
15379 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It’s a service for the deaf and hard of hearing. So they are uploading --
15380 MR. WYLER: Right.
15381 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- their image and interacting with a translator to have their conversations.
15382 MR. WYLER: It’s kind of a -- it’s a funny question, because we’re talking about 5 in 1, we’re talking about these numbers, and the question is are they real numbers or are they supposed and imaginary numbers and ---
15383 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well that’s my next question.
15384 MR. WYLER: So if it’s a real number absolutely no problem. If it’s imaginary, well I don’t know where that goes.
15385 So I’ve seen even HD video now, 1.5 megabits per second, so can you do a good video -- quality videostream in under 1 megabit per second? For sure.
15386 Now if there are specific groups that have specific needs, I’d say segments that are important, like you just talked about, I would certainly -- I see no reason why you wouldn’t segment them out with special applications, but I don’t know.
15387 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand that.
15388 You suggest at one point in your submission that the basic 5 in 1 service should be subsidized in the north, in your original intervention. And you suggest it could even be free, but then you kind of discount it and you suggest instead using an affordability index to target funding for installation in concert with a regulated basic service price, right?
15389 What do you estimate the size of an installation subsidy would be and the size of a service subsidy would be?
15390 MR. WYLER: Well, the -- first of all, the reason why I'm sort of -- we're talking about a bunch of variables because it's not something that we would implement, it's something that you or the government would implement.
15391 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That's what we would do, right.
15392 MR. WYLER: So we're throwing ideas down.
15393 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But as I've said to others, we don’t have money, we just have access to other people's money, so we should know what we're talking about.
15394 MR. WYLER: So I'm just -- we're just giving you ideas about concepts here, but I think a subsidy of $200 or $300 per household, or even $400 per household, somewhere in that range, you'll learn when --if you put an RFP out ---
15395 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is that the installation subsidy you're talking about?
15396 MR. WYLER: Yeah, the installation. And then if -- I think if you put an RFP out and say, "I want 100,000 homes anywhere in Canada," you'll get responses from industry and you may find -- then you'll get the real hard numbers. You'll know that it's $250 per site to install and that the industry has come back and said, "Five dollars ($5) or $10 per month of the basic broadband service.” And at that point you'll have the information to start to decide the best way to accomplish it.
15397 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, and the service subsidy would -- we'd get an idea of the -- what the cost of that might be, how ---
15398 MR. WYLER: I think the -- in a basic service, the entire basic service might be $5 or $10 a month. So how much you want to subsidize that, I -- you could subsidize it all (inaudible).
15399 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sorry, the basic service could be provided for $5 or $10 a month?
15400 MR. WYLER: Yes.
15401 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I don't understand that. You could provide somebody with a basic service, 5 and 1, 10 gig data cap, right, with I don't know, a latency?
15402 MR. WYLER: A low-latency system.
15403 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: A low-latency system with a latency objective of -- what are we talking about?
15404 MR. WYLER: Thirty (30) to 50 milliseconds.
15405 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, for $5 or $10 a month?
15406 MR. WYLER: Yes. This is a new system. We’re spending $3 billion on a new satellite system and Canada's uniquely positioned, on the satellite system especially. It's designed for rural services, but we have a lot of satellites over Canada with a lot of capacity. I don't know if you have a picture of one of the pictures with the satellite?
15407 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: We -- I don't (inaudible).
15408 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, I still don’t understand that. If you’ve got billions -- you're spending billions of dollars and you're going to sell a service for $10 a month to 18,000 households ---
15409 MR. WYLER: We're not 18. We want to go to 250,000 households, and so this is where the (inaudible).
15410 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But that’s a (inaudible) -- that's why I'm trying to understand how this works as a business proposition, because I'm assuming, because I looked at your maps. I mean, this goes all around the world, so this is available -- this is just as available on Toronto Island as it is on Eureka, as it is in Antarctica, right, so there must be a global market that you're trying to ---
15411 MR. WYLER: That's correct.
15412 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- access that makes this business make sense, right?
15413 MR. WYLER: Yes.
15414 MR. MENZIES: Because just when we're talking about the size of the Canadian market, it doesn’t make sense.
15415 MR. WYLER: Right.
15416 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so how big is the global market?
15417 MR. WYLER: Global market is over 100 million locations.
15418 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, now I understand, so this gives me a little bit of confidence to ---
15419 MR. WYLER: And then you have all the airplanes and then you have all the ships and then there's just so many different applications for broadband around the world.
15420 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, that -- my sense of disbelief is somewhat less suspended after that. Thank you.
15421 MR. WYLER: We don’t have to charge so little.
15422 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So, and this subsidy, you'd see, would be something -- a regime that we would create, a service subsidy of -- or and the installation subsidy?
15423 MR. WYLER: Yeah, what we're saying is if you put forward an RFP and say every rural household -- and you can add them up -- maybe there's 300,000, maybe 500,000, depends on your definition of rural. Maybe it's two homes per square kilometre or 10 homes; you have to work that out.
15424 But if you put that RFP out, we would respond and I'm sure others would respond. We would respond with telecommunications service providers as partners, and I think you'd be surprised at the pricing of that.
15425 Now, some, maybe 200,000 homes take the -- what you might offer, even as a free broadband service for basic services to get people on the digital government and let them have telemedicine; some portion of them will upgrade. I don't know the price of the broadband service, but some portion; 10, 20, 30, 50 percent may upgrade to even have a much higher speed, a 25 megabit speed, and have HD video and the like. And of course, that will generate more revenue for the company, but at least we'd get everybody connected.
15426 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So what would be the estimated costs of these enhanced services that you would offer? And we talked about the basic at 5 and 1. What would the enhanced -- I forget your terminology -- I'm sorry, because it was just presented here, but ---
15427 MR. WYLER: The full broadband service.
15428 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The full broadband service, and I'm assuming that might tier up too, but what would that look like?
15429 MR. WYLER: So we would not be providing the service; we'd be doing it through a telecom service provider, someone who is a local operators and the local different ISPs. But likely it would be within 10 or 20 percent of what the cost would be for a cable modem in the city.
15430 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so if it was -- if the enhanced service was $150 in the city it would be a couple of hundred bucks in ---
15431 MR. WYLER: If it was $150 in the city you wouldn't have many people living there, but ---
15432 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But I mean, I'm just ---
15433 MR. WYLER: But yeah.
15434 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- trying to get ---
15435 MR. WYLER: Yeah, yeah, so it would be within 10 or 20 percent of ---
15436 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No, but if somebody was paying for a gigabit service or something like that that they were paying ---
15437 MR. WYLER: Yeah, well, the gigabit's probably not where we're targeting. We're targeting a 25 megabit per second, even a 50 megabit per second service.
15438 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So if you were paying for $75 -- let me try it this way -- for a 25 service, it -- the cost would ---
15439 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15440 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: In -- for one of your -- through your provider to one of the customers would be about $100?
15441 MR. WYLER: It would be in the -- yeah, in the ballpark of the same price, whether -- if it's 75 normally in the city, then it would probably be around $75, plus or minus 10 or 20 percent. But we don’t see the need to have a huge rural penalty. It should be really around the same price. But we don’t set the prices. The telecom service provider will set the prices, ultimately.
15442 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure. Should 5 and -- would 5 and 1 be sufficient for small and medium business, do you think?
15443 MR. WYLER: I think a start-up business, they would start there and they would -- it depends on what type of business. If you're just doing transactions to know how much gas you pumped, sure. But if you start to move into other aspects of a business, you're a start-up, then you probably want to go a little higher.
15444 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so I'm still not sure I believe this. So can you confirm that the technology's been tested as in place? You're talking a 2019 launch, right? And you're talking -- just again, to confirm for the record, 5 and 1, data allowance of 10, and you referred maybe you got 30 milliseconds latency path and the end to end is 50, right?
15445 Can you confirm that that can be -- that you've done the testing, that can be provided ---
15446 MR. WYLER: Well, I can actually ---
15447 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- with three years ---
15448 MR. WYLER: --- turn you over to two of our colleagues from MDA who's a ---
15449 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- and a reliability ---
15450 MR. WYLER: --- Canadian space company.
15451 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, please.
15452 MR. WYLER: So you can (inaudible).
15453 MR. OSBORNE: Sure, on behalf of MDA we're -- sorry about that. We're one of the manufacturing partners of OneWeb. We're also an investor in the company. We have undertaken the development of one of the key subsystems, which is the antennas which are on board the satellites, and we have developed those as were newly-developed for this program, have never been done before, and we've actually done the RF testing and concluded the performance meets the expectations.
15454 Obviously, there's an end-to-end system here, and I'll let Greg speak to that, but that is one of the key areas where we were concerned about performance and we have accomplished that.
15455 MR. WYLER: So there's a pretty wide group of investors and partners on this system. It's -- we've been very fortunate to have Virgin, Qualcomm, Hughes, which makes the Jupiter broadband system that you're familiar with. Intelsat is an investor, Bharti, Grupo Salinas -- I'm sure I'm forgetting -- and MDA, of course, and of course, Airbus is a big investor.
15456 And on the board from each of these companies are the chairmen or the CEOs of each of these companies; Tom Enders from Airbus who is the CEO of Airbus; Paul Jacobs, who's the chairman of Qualcomm.
15457 And you may know something about some of these companies; obviously, Airbus makes the aircraft, Qualcomm makes the chips that are in many of your cell phones. I think 95 percent of the cell phones of the world use Qualcomm technology. Intelsat's the largest satellite operator in the world. So there's quite a few people around the pile here and they've done a lot of work in developing and designing and testing the system. So -- and we've put a lot of money into it, so there's a lot going on here, and we're on track.
15458 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: There is a lot going on. I -- and the people's -- you know, you do have other people like, I was reading up on it and such as Richard Branson speaking very well of you. I wanted to give you the opportunity because there was a skeptical quote that would -- might -- in a story in the LA Times last January about not just your business but a competitor’s business -- I think it was Mr. Musk.
15459 Anyway, this was a quote in the LA Times from January 2015 and it was from Roger Rusch. I’ll just read it to you, the paragraph -- two paragraphs:
15460 “But other companies have tried a similar undertaking before and found the cost far too high. ‘It's highly unlikely that you can make a successful business out of this,’ said Roger Rusch, a satellite industry consultant in Palos Verdes. ‘It's inconsistent with experience. These people are up against the laws of physics.’
15461 So I just want to -- I mean, there’s many other nice things said but enough to make me ---
15462 MR. WYLER: Well, as an entrepreneur ---
15463 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- double check. So I wanted to give you the opportunity to address that.
15464 MR. WYLER: Well, as an entrepreneur I love being told that it won’t work. It’s just energy.
15465 But, seriously, the systems that were done before, so this is what’s happened is -- and there’s a few people say, “Well, people tried to do things before.” Yeah, people tried to build cars before the first one worked. People tried to build airplanes before the first one worked. That all happened.
15466 People have built satellite systems; Globalstar and Iridium are up today that are non-geostationary satellite systems. Now, they actually had challenges but they came through those challenges. They’re up and running today.
15467 The next successful and the only successful non-geostationary satellite system has been O3b Networks, which is a company I founded in 2007 and raised $1.3 billion to build, and that’s up, it’s running, and successfully covering many, many different communities around the world.
15468 It turns out that there is a way to build these things and technology has really evolved to make them cheaper and more affordable and provide better and better services to the communities that they will service, ultimately.
15469 So we’re pretty far past on the technical side. You know, consultants who haven’t really looked at the system and haven’t dove in deep won’t be able to confirm any of the details, but if you look at the people around us and the companies and how technically involved they are, that should give you some comfort as to the system itself.
15470 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Would you be willing to file any of those technical details with us in confidence?
15471 MR. WYLER: Sure. I don’t know how your system works but -- what “In confidence” means but we would be happy to have you do as much diligence and detailed -- and give as much detailed understanding of the technologies and to talk over to MDA and walk into their labs and to see some of their ---
15472 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, we can’t quite do it that way.
15473 MR. WYLER: No.
15474 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But if they could -- if you could provide us with the data that you were referring to in your reply.
15475 MR. WYLER: Absolutely.
15476 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. May the 5th, I think, is our current timeline for that, if that’s possible. Okay, great.
15477 So just in terms of data allowance, we’ve -- there’s been a lot of people in the last couple of weeks talking to us about how that’s an issue for them. And I wanted to get a sense of -- I mean, if you’re providing this service through -- you’re providing this technology to be accessed by service providers, essentially, right?
15478 MR. WYLER: Correct.
15479 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You’re not a service provider. Can you give us a sense of whether 10 is a reasonable target for us to set? It seems rather low from what we’ve heard a lot of other people say, and would larger data allowances be accessible to people at a reasonable cost?
15480 MR. WYLER: So the answer is the basic service that we’re putting gout.
15481 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Because this is what Xplornet offers right now is a about a 10 gig cap.
15482 MR. WYLER: So the basic service, the intention of the basic service is to get every house online; to make access to the internet like access to oxygen or roads or the postal system. It’s supposed to make access to the internet available for all your basic items for everybody. That’s the goal and that’s the emission.
15483 So is it going to be used for watching Star Wars when it comes out in HD? Probably not, but those are things that people who upgrade to if they want to buy the entertainment. And so you would have commensurate increases in data caps for the upgrade services that we talked about before. As you move from maybe a government offered free service for every citizen or every household to an HD high-speed internet service or Enterprise-class service, those will obviously cost more but they will also come with an increase in data caps.
15484 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: One more from me and then my colleagues might have some questions.
15485 And you have to -- I mean, you’re an entrepreneur but I’m not and it just -- we do hearings like this frequently. This is not your fault but it is an issue I want you to be able to address, and it always seems that there's a Moses at every hearing, right? Someone who’s going to solve all our problems for us, lead us to the promised land and at the end of our day our faith is tested and we suffer spiritual crises over these things.
15486 So are you Moses, or aren’t you?
15487 MR. WYLER: I’ve been called a lot of things. This is the best one yet.
15488 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I mean, I’ve got to give you one last chance; are you that guy at this hearing, or do you really have the solution?
15489 MR. WYLER: We’ve put hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into this. We have 20 -- we’re the largest launch purchaser in the world, probably -- there might be someone else who’s bigger but we bought 21 Soyuz rockets; they’re scheduled, they’re being produced right now. We have three launch locations. We bought 39 Virgin Galactic launchers.
15490 We have established, if you look last week, we announced our factory in Florida where we’ll be manufacturing the world’s first high-volume rate production facility for satellites right on NASA property at Cape Canaveral.
15491 There’s a lot of people around the table here and a lot of people pointing in this direction, a lot of digital -- I mean, a lot of due diligence has been done on this system, a lot of testing. So we’re really, really far along on that.
15492 So can we be late? Maybe. Does the technology work? Yes. So we’re real excited about it.
15493 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I forgot -- sorry; I apologize, I should never say I have one last question because it’s often not true.
15494 There was one thing I just wanted to check. Your satellite terminals, when I checked online they were still patent pending. On your Web site there was a patent pending technology on that. I just wanted to double check that that was -- it’s good to go?
15495 MR. WYLER: We have -- our terminals are -- there are many varieties of terminals. The terminal on an airplane is different than the one on a ship which is different than the one on a cellular backhaul system. Some of those are ready to go, so to speak, if they’re -- you know, if the satellite system was up and everything was put together, and others are still in development and others are ideas that will come in the future and continue to drive the cost down.
15496 So there are many versions that are good to go and there are versions that are just -- that are ideas, and there are versions in the middle that are in testing.
15497 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks very much for your presentation. I enjoyed it and I appreciated the time that you took to try to address some of the basic issues for -- in terms of the greater public interest.
15498 I’ll turn it back over to the Chairman and perhaps my colleagues.
15499 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
15500 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
15501 I’m going to accept the expertise of all your investors about your technology and that it works and all of that, and I just want to talk a little bit on the business side of things.
15502 If I understood it properly you’re not proposing coming here that you may be a service provider willing to aggregate unserved Canada and deliver this basic and enhance broadband. You would be -- you’d be delivering the satellite capacity to a service provider who you think might -- I’m just looking at your presentation where you made the point that for unserved rural, the government could aggregate all the unserved customers to make a potential business case for a service provider who might bid on that. That was what you proposed?
15503 MR. WYLER: Yeah, so we would be a -- probably the principal technology behind a service provider. But somebody has to do the billing and show up at the house and take the phone calls and things like that. And that’s not what we’re building a company to do.
15504 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
15505 MR. WYLER: So we would work with many or one.
15506 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
15507 MR. WYLER: We’ll see what happens in Canada.
15508 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And this notion of delivering free or, you know, five, $10 basic service would be delivered by a service provider, not by you?
15509 MR. WYLER: They would be the billing agent and the person that you call. The reality is it would be coming from our satellites down to a terminal which somebody built for us that they installed or was self-installed.
15510 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, for sure. But they’re going to set prices and they’d be the ones setting the prices for any kind of enhanced broadband services as well.
15511 MR. WYLER: Yes, but -- and we would be working as close as we can, especially if it -- when it first comes out. So in other words, if you put out a bid and said, “We would like every house covered. Tell us what it costs. And every house. Not -- don’t cherry pick the goods ones, the easy ones near the city or the ones that you have line of sight for with wireless access or whatever, every house.” You’d find a lot of really interesting companies and industry really trying to respond. And we would work with one or all of them to help get that price to something, which I’d like to see a very high take rate. There’s a mission behind the company and that’s to connect every school and also to have all the rural households connected.
15512 And if Canada took a bold step forward and did that and you are in a position to do that because you’re a wealthy country with a lot of very wealthy cities and populations that are rural that you could afford under these premises to support, that would be a great leadership position for a lot of the other countries that I deal with and governments that I talk to who are not in the same financial condition as Canada.
15513 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. So while this speaks of aggregating the unserved, underserved into a basket and potentially one contract with service level guarantees and all of that, I get that. But the notion of a basic service that would be at a free or nominal price, you would have a lot of people within urban Canada going a little bit crazy if that was only available within the unserved and rural communities.
15514 So I’m sure you’ve thought of that that ---
15515 MR. WYLER: Maybe they’ll move. I mean ---
15516 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Oh, you haven’t thought of that?
15517 MR. WYLER: City flight or something to the rural areas.
15518 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So I mean, in looking at whether or not this was a viable business opportunity here in Canada, with the number of unserved in rural --
15519 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15520 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- Canada and the potential of the amount of those that would upgrade, you clearly came thinking this was a viable option.
15521 MR. WYLER: At the ---
15522 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Is it a viable option if that kind of a basic service is available throughout Canada?
15523 MR. WYLER: At the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, you never want to say you don’t want customers, but every customer in a city who has cable option and a fibre option and takes one from the satellite is taking one of the number -- the finite number of customers that we could serve that would be in the rural areas.
15524 So Canada would probably have to make a -- the government would make a distinction and a decision that there are areas around Canada where it’s very hard to get broadband. If you live in a density of less than 2 homes per square kilometre, of 10 homes per square kilometre, whatever the number is you decide, and Canada believes that they should have -- it’s very important that they have access to broadband.
15525 Now the price for full-on broadband will be the same as any provider, maybe even a little bit more expensive by 10 or 20 percent. So they would veer towards one if it’s local and available. But the basic service is really designed to get everybody online.
15526 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm.
15527 MR. WYLER: It’s not designed to be a city -- an income balancer in the cities. I mean, it might and it could work there, for sure but ---
15528 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But I’m sure you understand well but ---
15529 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15530 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- I mean if there was a headline somewhere that there is free or $5 basic service available in rural Saskatchewan, some --
15531 MR. WYLER: So ---
15532 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- people in the city are going to say well, where’s mine?
15533 MR. WYLER: Well, they can and maybe, you know ---
15534 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just not through --
15535 MR. WYLER: There are people who have ---
15536 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- not through your low --
15537 MR. WYLER: Right.
15538 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- orbit satellite though; right?
15539 MR. WLYER: Well, I’d rather -- I don’t know if I’d say I’d rather not, but if there was one person in the city who had three other options to get broadband and there was one person in rural Saskatchewan who had no other options, I’d rather give the person in rural Saskatchewan.
15540 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm.
15541 MR. WYLER: And, you know, there’s a couple of things you could think about. You could even lower it to a two megabit and one megabit free basic service and say, you know, go to -- take the free basic service from these other people, but that -- but at least you’re online. At least you’re on digital government. At least you can get telemedicine if there’s a -- and you can do -- I mean, it’s so important that people have broadband just fundamentally. It’s a lifeline.
15542 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You don’t -- we’re all on --
15543 MR. WYLER: You know that, yeah, so ---
15544 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- we’re all on board with that, yeah.
15545 Just one more question. In serving the unserved, the rural and so on, one of the things we’ve heard about other satellite solutions and certainly any kind of fixed solutions is the high cost of install and operations. Is that the case with yours as well?
15546 I mean, there’s lots of windshield time between some of these rural customers. So --
15547 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15548 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- do you need the skills in the communities? Do you need the -- you know, an installer or is this kind of a citizen complete kind of a package?
15549 MR. WYLER: It’s certainly self-installable by anybody with moderate skillsets; right? The -- a few -- just a few differences between this satellite -- and I don’t -- and the geo satellites. These satellites, because there’s so many of them, are almost always directly overhead. So you’ll point -- you’re only looking up. You’re not trying to get through the trees at 10 degrees or, you know, there’s the horizon. You’re 10 degrees over the horizon. There’s almost always something in the way; right?
15550 So the pointing -- and they’re self-pointing. So you don’t have to aim it anywhere. It’s not like there’s a wind chill -- there’s a windstorm out there and now you got to come back in and kind of aim it and, you know, hear the beeps and stuff. That all goes away.
15551 So there are a lot of things which make it less expensive and easier than installing the geo systems. It takes a lot less power as well.
15552 So it’s not magic. It’s not going to self-install from, you know, parachuted in or something, but it’s really a lot easier -- it will be a lot easier and a lot smaller to install than the standard systems that are out there today.
15553 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
15554 MR. DUPUIS: Yeah, I’ll just add a point if I may because I used to be with a geo operator so I know what it is to install a terminal.
15555 What -- the other, the big difference, of course, is that it’s a very small terminal. So anywhere you can FedEx or Canada Post anything you can FedEx or Canada Post a terminal.
15556 The last point though on the installation, it is self-pointing. So in theory there’s absolutely no difficulty at all to operate such a terminal, even if you have no experience ever installing anything for satellite. However, that final decision will rest with our friends at Industry -- ISED, the old Industry Canada. Because today they don’t have rules that would permit self-installation.
15557 What we truly believe that once we’ve convinced them that these terminals cannot cause any interference to anyone because they’re self-pointing, that they may come up with the right rules that would allow us to let users self-install. But that would require a rule change at Industry Canada -- excuse me, at ISED.
15558 Thank you.
15559 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, thank you for that. And that’s helpful.
15560 Are there other regulatory or legislative requirements within your path to I think you said 2017? Is that your date?
15561 MR. WYLER: We launch in -- next year we launch our first satellites and then we go on a launch campaign in 2018 with then services after that.
15562 I don’t think there’s any significant regulatory hurdles. We’ve been working very strongly on regulatory issues for the past three, four years. So we’re in pretty good shape.
15563 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And just so I understand better, how many countries are you working to clear your regulatory hurdles over?
15564 MR. WYLER: So it doesn’t exactly work that way, but it --
15565 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: No?
15566 MR. WYLER: -- I mean, it sort of does.
15567 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I mean, we’re just using the --
15568 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15569 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- example of what you need to do to --
15570 MR. WYLER: Right.
15571 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- get the terminal --
15572 MR. WYLER: Yeah. He’s talking about --
15573 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- terminal cleared here.
15574 MR. WYLER: -- the right to self-install, which is kind of a ---
15575 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Which you wouldn’t consider a regulatory hurdle?
15576 MR. WYLER: It’s not a normal regulatory hurdle.
15577 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I mean, if you can mail it versus have somebody go there and --
15578 MR. WYLER: Yeah.
15579 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- put it in, that’s a pretty big ---
15580 MR. WYLER: Yeah. It’s not a hurdle to actually having the system work, but it is --
15581 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
15582 MR. WYLER: -- a hurdle to how fast you can send it and adopt it. And I think ---
15583 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And the business plan I would think as it regards the cost.
15584 MR. WYLER: Yes. So on a country by country we’re going to -- we’re talking to pretty much every country of the world about different small little things that they might have and smoothing the path to harmonize the ability to -- just like you have to use a system, just like you’ve harmonized the rules for using handsets and cell phones and Wi-Fi. And that’s happening and it’s happening across Europe. It’s happening all over the world.
15585 The primary regulatory hurdle is -- comes from the ITU. Under the UN there’s a group called the ITU, International Telecommunications Union. And they’re the ones who deal with the spectrum rights and we broadcast in a particular spectrum that we have priority rights from that. And then each of the countries sort of work with and within the rules of the ITU.
15586 So but there are -- will be little things about setting up a business in a country and --
15587 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm. M’hm.
15588 MR. WYLER: -- what taxes they have in telecommunications. And is this internet or is this phone service? Those will be country by country things that we have to look carefully at.
15589 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. And you’ve -- you have examined Canada and the things related to delivery in Canada?
15590 MR. DUPUIS: Yes, we have.
15591 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Clearly you’re down to the terminal now.
15592 MR. DUPUIS: Sorry. Yeah, so in Canada there’s really one hurdle, if I can call it that. But as Greg said, it’s not really a hurdle, it’s just an inconvenience for the public if they have to rely on a professional installer when it’s not really required. So again, it’s just an issue that we have to work through with Industry Canada. And sorry if I use that name all the time because I’ve ---
15593 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That’s okay.
15594 MR. DUPUIS: --- dealt with them for 30 years. I haven’t made the transition yet to ISED.
15595 And in many countries it’s fairly small. The key point, as Greg mentioned, is the big hurdle is to get recognized in the International Telecom Union. And we’re very, very successful there.
15596 So we have the absolute priority for the use of the frequencies. We are number one in the list. And last year our team was at the World Radio Conference where all those regulatory decisions get made, and we managed to ensure that the regulatory regime has not changed. So we are in a very favourable position.
15597 And now we’re working country by country for things like licences, or landing rights, and this is just a process. You just go through it. Some countries have to make a few more little tweaks to their regulatory procedures. In Canada we’re in real good shape. We are actually waiting hopefully for a licence from Industry Canada so we -- sorry, ISED -- and so we are waiting for that but that’s still not a showstopper. We’re making good progress.
15598 And the same thing in many, many countries. And a lot of countries have -- like, in Europe they have a one system for the entire European block. So once you’ve made it through their system -- and we’re working through their organizations to get our terminal recognized. And once that’s recognized we can deploy terminals anywhere in the 53 countries. We don’t have to go country by country.
15599 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And just one more question although I said I was finished. Are you making this pitch to other countries? Like, is this notion of a basic service at a minimum level -- is that something we would see you potentially, you know, pitching and see provided in many different countries?
15600 MR. WYLER: Well, actually it’s a great question and you’re -- I’ll just -- we do actually have the licence to operate from Industry Canada. One of them, and there’s another one that we’re waiting for, which in ancillary actually. But your question is really, really right on point.
15601 When we had submitted our documents to you we talked about this rural connectivity for all the rural homes. And there’s been a lot of interest in it from different countries about whoa, you can solve my 10 percent problem. I can do the first 50 or 60 percent with industry, the next 20 percent I can do with huge subsidies, and then it gets asymptotically, you know, more expensive. It’s like infinite dollars to connect the next home, right. And so we just live at the edge there in the last 10 percent and we’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of countries.
15602 But the next step beyond that, we’re talking with large government and global organizations, intergovernmental organizations, about doing something called a “model bid”. And it’s along the lines of what we’re talking about. And the model bid -- and you may hear about this more by September in a very large fashion -- is to aggregate countries that are in emerging markets to connect all their schools.
15603 So they will actually put the GPS locations of their schools up to a one single bid, and a large intergovernmental organization will be creating a model bid and what it means to be connected. How many megabits per second per student? How do you know that it’s connected? You must have the internet access, the number of gigabytes being consumed sent to a public website. So I can look at a country and I can zoom in the school and I can say, “That school last month ate 20 gigabytes.” So and that, what actually is used by the school, is what we’ll pay the vendor.
15604 So that model bid that’s being worked on and discussed right now in a bunch of different countries and forums may turn out to be something really large, which you could possibly aggregate a million or a million and a half schools together globally and get the intergovernmental banks to be supporting this, which would cover every school.
15605 And so that’s really a way that we think we could -- and others because it won’t just be us. It will be fibre players and telecom operators in lots and lots of different industries get together to support the rural communities and the rural schools. And so it’s a very exciting thing, and I’d love to share more with you on that if you’re interested. But it’s not a Canadian problem but it’s a big one for the world.
15606 Fifty-four (54) percent of the population is offline, you know? I mean, I know that seems like a big number but it’s the UN number. Fifty-four (54) percent of the world has limited or no access to the internet.
15607 So your question about who could buy; well, you know, over half the world is still waiting.
15608 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And 17 percent of Canada. The last time we measured was 17 percent of Canada.
15609 MR. WYLER: Yes.
15610 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just two clarifications. The right to self-install, is that under the Radiocom Act or is that a program issue?
15611 MR. DUPUIS: I believe it would have to be in the details of the rules. It would under the Radiocom Act but it’s not the Act that would need to change, right.
15612 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, no, but it’s under --- it’s not with respect to Connecting Canadians.
15613 MR. DUPUIS: No.
15614 THE CHAIRPERSON: It’s really about the Radiocom Act.
15615 MR. DUPUIS: Yes.
15616 THE CHAIRPERSON: And what was the thinking behind that policy when it was adopted, do you know?
15617 MR. DUPUIS: The policy was adopted to protect other satellite systems, because if you mispoint your transmit antenna you can cause a lot of interference to the adjacent geo satellite in the sky.
15618 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, for the transmit (inaudible), okay.
15619 MR. DUPUIS: That’s why you have to protect the system.
15620 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
15621 MR. DUPUIS: But with us it’s auto points. I guess Industry Canada will just need to be convinced that the risks are infinitely small, and so we just have to make the representation.
15622 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And when you were talking about lots of countries -- and I understand the socioeconomic situation of various countries is quite different, and you’ve mentioned emerging economies, I get all that. That’s all very valid but do all these “lots of other countries” you’re using include countries such as the U.S., Australia, France, UK? Sort of comparable markets to our own?
15623 MR. WYLER: Yes, we’re talking with all the different governments in all those countries, or some of those countries. And there’s, you know, a lot of interest in how we can really -- you know, using new technologies is one piece of the puzzle. Really shift and change and get that last 10 percent to be covered.
15624 It turns out and it was kind of interesting -- this is where the digital government in one of the countries it -- when we talk about these numbers they say, “It costs us more to keep this parallel government, non-digital government, the analog government running and keep little service centres open in these different communities so farmers can come in and get their cheques.”
15625 It’s they’re just, like, we’ll pay for the connectivity. It doesn’t need to be the government. It’s just cheaper for us to shut down the analog government.
15626 So there’s a lot of interesting and fun conversation going on and they are comparable countries. Not the same land mass but ---
15627 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, understood. Well, thank you very much. Very refreshing. Not necessarily we buy into everything but certainly refreshing in our hearing to change the face a little bit so very much appreciated.
15628 And we wish you good luck with those launches because that can be quite negative if it doesn’t work. Thank you.
15629 So we’ll take a short break until four o’clock before we hear the last two intervenors.
--- Upon recessing at 3:47 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 4:01 p.m.
15630 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
15631 Madame la secrétaire?
15632 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
15633 We’ll now hear the presentation of Brenda Borley. Ms. Borley is appearing by Skype. You may begin your presentation.
15634 MS. BORLEY: Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Commission.
15635 My name is Brenda Borley. I reside in the RM of Cartier in Manitoba, located six miles from the town of Starbuck, 10 miles from the town of Elie, and 40 kilometres from the city of Winnipeg.
15636 My husband and I operate a medium-sized grain, oilseed, and forage seed farm. Here are the points I included in my intervention for this hearing, number 154.
15637 At our home location we only have one option for high-speed internet service, one line of sight provider. The quality of service from our internet provider is not reliable and expensive. Reliable, affordable, and quality internet service is a basic requirement for us as consumers and as business owners.
15638 When free TV went from analog to digital we lost all of our free TV signals, and self-service in our area is poor and varies greatly.
15639 According to CRTC’s statistics, the target speed of 5 down and 1 up for all Canadians was available to 94 percent of households in 2013. And on a map, our area is shown as this target being met. This is not the case, and I wonder how many other households deemed to have availability to this level of service in the 94 percent actually don’t.
15640 We currently pay $70 per month for 3 down and 1 up and 50 gigs of data. We do not consistently have these speeds. The internet often goes down. And the service and support from our provider is poor. We wish we had a choice of another provider.
15641 Our service provider tells us they will be upgrading the tower, but they have said they would do this since the fall of 2014. If that actually happens, they tell us we will have to pay $99 a month in order to get the minimum upload speed of 1.0. In an effort to have some choice of internet provider, we’re considering constructing a tower so that we have a line of sight to other internet towers. Of course, this is a cost we would have to bear ourselves that most Canadians don’t to get a similar level of service.
15642 The availability of cell service is also a related issue, and I would like to see basic standards for cellular services. Cell service is no longer a “nice to have” or a luxury service. It’s essential in today’s digital world. In rural areas, it’s essential to business owners as they need to be connected to their customers and the markets.
15643 In our industry of agriculture, farmers need to have access to weather information, be able to sell their product and purchase inputs and obtain agronomic, financial, information technology and legal advice all from their smartphones. We get no cellular service in our yard, and poor or no service in many of our fields. We often have to drive down the road in order to send or receive text messages with our business partners. We sarcastically joke that it’s like Oliver climbing the telephone pole to make a phone call in the old TV show Green Acres.
15644 Our monthly cell bill for our farm cell phones is $158. That’s how much we pay for a service that we can’t even access all of the time. Yes, we could purchase cell boosters in an attempt to get service in our yard, but does it make sense that we have to spend 1 to $2,000 to get a service that we already pay for?
15645 Cell service is also integral for safety. If my husband has an accident in one of our fields where there’s no cell service, I guess he’ll have to write his goodbye message to me on the rim of the tractor tire instead of calling 911 for help.
15646 As previously mentioned, we get no digital TV signals and must purchase satellite TV. When TV signals went from analog to digital, this was a step backwards in accessibility for rural Canadians and for many, increased costs. It’s not like we can livestream TV with the current levels of internet service we have available to us.
15647 I believe rural Canadians have significantly higher costs for internet, cellular service and television as compared to urban Canadians. Not only are there fewer vendors to choose from and therefore, higher prices due to lack of competition, but we often have additional costs just to access the service on top of the regular monthly fees, like purchasing cell phone boosters or constructing a tower. We currently pay $280 a month for internet, cell service and a landline, and that doesn’t include our kids’ cell phone bills.
15648 In conclusion, here is what I would like to see included and considered in CRTC’s basic telecommunication services. For internet, 5 down/1 up is a good place to start. We don’t even have that now, but please, don’t believe this target has already been met. I believe there are many, many households and businesses like ours that are deemed to have this available and it’s not. Minimum data allowances should also be included in the standard. What good is high speed if you can hardly use it without incurring high overage charges? The minimum speeds and data allowances should be reviewed regularly as the digital world and technology continue to evolve. And reliability should be built into the basic standards. A service provider may offer the basic standard, but if the speeds are only obtained some of the time or if the line drops often or if it’s down for substantial periods of time, the standard is not really being met. And affordability should be built into the basic standards. Right now there isn’t enough competition in rural areas to encourage affordable prices.
15649 For voice, I would like to see more choice for cellular service providers in rural areas to provide price competition. I’d like to see some minimum standards for service in rural areas, specifically a basic level of cell service in all areas. And until reliable cell service is available for rural areas, affordable landlines are essential. We pay $46 a month just for a basic landline.
15650 Television, free television signals for basic Canadian networks should be restored for all rural Canadians that no longer have access to the new digital signals.
15651 Finally, I would like to you to recognize that these telecommunications issues are not only prevalent in remote areas of the country, but in areas like mine, within easy driving distance of a major city.
15652 Thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns about telecommunications services in rural Canada. If anybody has any questions about our personal experience, I’d be happy to answer them.
15653 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Ms. Borley. Commissioner MacDonald will ask -- will start us off with some few questions. Thank you.
15654 MS. BORLEY: Okay.
15655 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good afternoon. I guess I’d like to start off by asking specifically how does your small business use the -- use the internet. We’ve heard from a lot of individuals in this proceeding, we’ve heard from some small business, but I understand with the revolution in the way people farm and the automation of farming that you're maybe more dependent upon connectivity than you would have been in the past. So I’m just wondering if you can tell me how -- how your farm actually uses the internet?
15656 MS. BORLEY: Pretty much in every aspect of our farming operation, right from -- gathering information on production, monitoring the markets multiple times a day. In fact, I told my husband he couldn’t be on the computer while I appeared because our internet -- he would use too much of our bandwidth, I wouldn’t be able to sign in.
15657 MS. BORLEY: There's everything, our bookkeeping, I keep our records on -- on the Cloud, all of our farm records, our financial records, our production records. We file -- we pay our bills online. We do our banking online, it’s endless. Pretty much every -- every aspect of our farming operation involves transfer of data and gathering of information through the internet.
15658 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And does that -- and obviously there's certain business functions, email, banking, things like that ---
15659 MS. BORLEY: Yes.
15660 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- that you’d be doing. What about -- and maybe not just in the case of your farm, but the farming industry in general -- what about the automation of equipment and connected devices and what impact poor quality service actually has on your business operations?
15661 MS. BORLEY: Well as far as cell service, there -- we actually don’t -- other than -- of course there's GPS, which is separate, but there are certain GPS systems that will run off cell towers, we can't use them because I mean if we were going with a GPS system, it has to be accessible to every piece of equipment.
15662 Honestly, we don’t use -- we don’t rely a lot on the cell service out in our fields because we can't. We can't employ that technology, we can't rely on it.
15663 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You mentioned the importance of local -- of telephone service because you don’t have access to reliable broadband and you don’t have access to reliable wireless.
15664 MS. BORLEY: Yeah.
15665 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: If those two problems were addressed, if you could ---
15666 MS. BORLEY: Yeah.
15667 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- connect with your mobile phone or you could do more Skype conversations or VoIP calls, do you think that the importance of a telephone would continue to decrease?
15668 MS. BORLEY: Absolutely. Many of our neighbours that actually do have access to cell service cancelled their landlines, but we can't do that.
15669 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: There's a funding mechanism in place whereby everyone pays a few extra dollars to ensure that telephone service is provided in higher cost serving areas such as your own. Do you think a similar funding mechanism perhaps should be put in place to address some of the -- some of the network problems that people face today, or is that best left to government subsidies?
15670 MS. BORLEY: I really don’t know, because I don’t -- I wouldn’t be able to comment or estimate on the costs to provide a basic level of cell service or reliable internet service to households like ours. I don’t know how many they are and I don’t know how expensive it would be to provide that, so it’s really hard to comment on that without knowing the numbers.
15671 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. You mentioned affordability, what in your mind is a -- is a fair price? Do you think you're paying too much right now in relation to the service that you're receiving, or do you feel you're paying too much in relation to what someone in the city may be able to ---
15672 MS. BORLEY: A little of both actually.
15673 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- purchase?
15674 MS. BORLEY: Yeah, a little of both. I feel $70 a month for three down/1 up that's not reliable is quite excessive compared to the city. I think a similar level of service in Winnipeg, if you're to go through MTS, would be about maybe $55 a month, but I believe most of those plans don’t have data caps, ours do. Yeah, I’d like to see -- I would be willing to pay a little more than my counterparts in urban areas, just recognizing that it would probably cost a bit more to provide us with that service, but not gouging.
15675 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And just one final question, because you mentioned data caps, and we've heard that a number of times. It doesn't matter how fast the connection is, if you burn through your data allowance in the first week or two of the month you're at a loose end or facing significant overage charges towards the end of the month.
15676 What in your mind should a -- I mean, should a data cap, a minimum data cap be set by the Commission, and if so, what level should it be set at?
15677 MS. BORLEY: That's a very good question. I've put some thought into it and, of course, I believe that as -- if you increased your speeds available to you, you would use more data because it would be easier. I mean, we don't live stream anything here. I mean, we never watch television; we never rent a movie from iTunes and download it because number one, it would take forever. And as it is, we've gone through our 50 gigs.
15678 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: How quickly do you normally -- even though you're being very cautious about what you do online, does 50 gigs get you to the end of the month or do you generally run out before the month ends?
15679 MS. BORLEY: I would say it's about 50/50. Another shortcoming of our current Internet provider is we can't even check online to see where we are.
15680 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So there is no tools in place for you to be able to check? They don't send you an email or anything to say you're getting close to your tab?
15681 MS. BORLEY: No, it's a surprise when you get the bill.
15682 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And can I -- just one final question. Can I ask who your service provider is?
15683 MS. BORLEY: Yeah, it's Valley Internet Service Provider of Winkler, Manitoba.
15684 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
15685 Thank you very much. Those are my questions.
15686 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
15687 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Hi Ms. Borley. I'm the commissioner for Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
15688 So I'm not sure that I have a question so much as a comment to provide you, because I know this is a big proceeding and it's great that you've chosen to participate and, you know, express your frustrations and experience.
15689 And I'm not sure if it gives you any kind of comfort, but I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. Didn't even have a telephone until I was in Grade 6, so I do understand the issues. My sister is there now and is expressing to me similar issues to yours.
15690 So we are looking at solutions, but I did just want to comment that while it appears we're far away, we actually do understand some of the issues that you folks are ---
15691 MS. BORLEY: That's good. Thank you.
15692 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- are experiencing.
15693 Thank you.
15694 THE CHAIRPERSON: I believe those are all of our questions for you, but I do want to echo my colleague's comments, how important it is for folks like you to actually participate in these hearings and we very much appreciate it to bring a different perspective and a richness to our conversation. So thank you.
15695 MS. BORLEY: Thank you for the opportunity.
15696 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thanks.
15697 Madam Secretary?
15698 THE SECRETARY: I will now ask Forum for Research and Policy and Communications to come to the presentation table.
15699 Please introduce yourself and your colleague, and you have 10 minutes for your presentation.
15700 MR. STEVENSON: Good afternoon, my name is John Harris Stevenson. I'm the Vice-Chair of the Forum and a PhD researcher in Internet Governance at the University of Toronto iSchool.
15701 With me today is Monica Auer, the Forum's Executive Director.
15703 MS. AUER: The Forum applauds the Commission for this process and for considering the inclusion of broadband and the basic service obligation. As we've all heard during this hearing, Canada requires an ambitious and unambiguous vision for affordable access to high quality communications for all Canadians, including those in remote and rural areas, and particularly, in the near and far North.
15704 This vision is not your sole burden. All of us with government have a role to play, but the CRTC's leadership is essential to a sustainable vision for 21st Century communications in Canada from sea to sea to sea.
15705 Today, we'll speak briefly about payphones, disruption, broadband speeds, and the Forum's recommendation of a target of 100 megabit per second accessibility by 2021.
15706 MR. STEVENSON: This process has focused a great deal on broadband speeds, as it should. While speed is the most visible metric when we discuss broadband service levels, it risks becoming a false idol.
15707 First, we need to be clear about what speed means. In network terminology, speed is sometimes used to describe the actual measured throughput at the end -- to the end user, but in other contexts, it is the ideal rated speed that network equipment can accommodate.
15708 When Canadian ISP's offer Internet connection speeds of 50, or 100, or even 250 MIPS, these are ideal speeds that are only potentially available if every link in an Internet connection supports them. A network is only as fast as its slowest point of congestion. Real network throughput depends on network capability, a capacity outside of local, regional, and even national ISP control.
15709 Second, as other parties have suggested, other network characteristics beyond speed also matter when it comes to the quality of basic Internet service. Others have made the case for low latency and the Forum agrees. Latency is important because low latency can be essential to web based Cloud applications, Internet telephony, and VPN.
15710 Available bandwidth should also be a consideration, especially when it is rationed to end users through data caps. As well, symmetrical throughput offerings will be increasingly required in the future.
15711 Returning now to speed, our written submission recommends that 100 megabits per second be available to all Canadians by 2021. This is an ambitious target and not one supported by current Internet consumer case -- use cases. Why did the Forum recommend it?
15712 We began by looking at current trends in Internet usage and making informed guesses about which will wax and which will wane, and we assumed that Internet use will neither plateau nor decline. For example, we are still seeing uptake of streaming video and a transition away from traditional BDU carriage of video toward various forms of Internet television and streaming media as more OT services become available online. The availability of 4K video will drive bandwidth and throughput requirements even further.
15713 A second key driver of network use is Cloud based application services and storage, both consumer and business focused. Use of web based productivity applications is likely to increase, led by Office 365 and Google apps, offering lower costs as compared to desktop alternatives. A number of enterprise tools in the style of salesforce.com, WebX, NetSuite, and SharePoint Online will drive bandwidth and latency expectations.
15714 On the user side, there will be equivalent growth out from e commerce and social media platforms into Cloud backup and storage, health and education services, and various sorts of consumer self-service ranging from wedding planning to photo editing to tax preparation. We are increasingly seeing the Internet as the single conduit for all communication to the household, and indeed, to individuals themselves.
15715 We agree that network uses such as these could probably accommodated by speed targets lower than those that we have recommended if relatively low latency inadequate and optimally uncapped bandwidth are included as metrics. We also believe that upload/download throughput symmetry will be increasingly important characteristics of service offerings in future.
15716 Even if the CRTC were to mandate low latency and sufficient bandwidth for basic Internet service, the Forum still recommends setting a 100 megabit per second pan Canadian target by 2021 for two reasons.
15717 First, a national commitment to 100 megabits will drive the development of Canada's entire Internet infrastructure. ISP capacity, of course, but backbone in transit Internet as well. This will create shorter routes between Canadian Internet access points, improve throughput, and increase the bandwidth of our national infrastructure.
15718 Second, the consistent availability of 100 MIPS will also create an environment in which new and innovative network based services can be developed anywhere in Canada and be accessed by every Canadian. The precise affordances that will be provided by ubiquitous ultra-high-speed networks cannot be predicted accurately but the history of the Internet over the past 25 years suggests that as yet unimagined business and service models will emerge to benefit all Canadians economically, socially, and culturally.
15719 Ultra high speed Internet will likely be a key component to future innovations around such emerging sectors as additive manufacturing, autonomous and unmanned vehicles in the Internet of Things, even though I hate using that term. As the Commission is aware, we see similar throughput targets in other jurisdictions.
15721 MS. AUER: Moving from the leading edge to the trailing edge, we would like to briefly raise the issue of payphones. Legacy technologies are often essential to certain groups of users even today and they are often economically and socially disadvantaged.
15722 Such is the case with the payphone. Its use is declining rapidly as increasingly inexpensive and powerful mobile technologies become available.
15723 But as the Forum’s written submission noted, the removal of payphones disproportionately impacts people without either wireline or wireless telephone service, as well as potentially all Canadians during public emergencies or personal crises.
15724 Payphone infrastructure need not be maintained as it has in the past, as New York City’s public-private LinkNYC program demonstrates, by giving 7,500 payphone booths a 21st century makeover.
15725 These booths are being converted into LinkNYC kiosks, each offering 45-metre radius high-speed WiFi, free domestic calling, a tablet to access maps, directions, and municipal services, and a red 911 call button for immediate access to emergency services.
15726 The project also expects to earn $1 billion over 12 years through advertising, and to shrink the digital divide.
15727 The Forum recommends that the Commission hold a proceeding to determine how low cost payphone-type services can ensure the availability of basic telecommunications services at fixed geographic points, while encouraging new, innovative, and accessible services that will replace the payphone infrastructure.
15729 MR. STEVENSON: There is obviously a very thin line between innovation and disruption.
15730 Canadian decision-makers are still grappling with the challenges created by large multinational internet content and service providers such as Google and Netflix. These companies matter not just because of the content they provide, but because of how they deliver it, by building or leasing network infrastructure and servers in Canada.
15731 These global hybrid platforms are the most disruptive players in current media and telecommunications environments.
15732 Google, for example, is experimenting with high-altitude balloons to create an aerial wireless network with speeds up to LTE standards. Project Loon's balloons could be substantially cheaper than satellite, more flexible in terms of coverage, and with latency potentially well below 100 milliseconds.
15733 OneWeb, who you heard from earlier, is another provider with relatively low latency, is proposing 640 satellites operating in low-earth orbit.
15734 It is beyond the scope of this hearing to grapple with all the implications of this sort of disruption to Canada's communications environment. But at some point, we must determine if there is a place in Canada for OneWeb, Google Loon, and other emerging global internet broadband services in Canada to serve rural areas, and the near and far north.
15735 Whether for that hearing or this one, the collection of data and ongoing monitoring by the CRTC are key to discussions about targets and they are already in discussions about affordability.
15736 So thank you and we'd be happy to take any of your questions.
15737 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I’ll put it the hands of the Vice-Chair.
15738 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
15739 So the first thought I had when I saw the 100 megabits target was within the context of what we've been hearing the last couple of weeks about -- and in one of the presenters earlier today about trying to get that last 10 percent, trying to make sure all Canadians have access, the first thought I had was if you set a target of 100 megabits, do you know what's going to happen? Right?
15740 Business is going to move to improve those services in Toronto, in Vancouver, in Montreal, in Calgary, and Edmonton, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and the gap between people who are still just asking us to get them from 1.5 to 5 and people who are already very well served in a lot of those major markets is just going to grow. And I'd like to have your perspective on that.
15741 MR. STEVENSON: It's a particularly challenging project to go from in the past decades determining that, well, we want everyone to have a touchtone telephone service with 911 and this sort of thing. It's a very basic service and if they want to use long distance a lot, they can certainly pay for that.
15742 And then trying to take a similar approach with internet access which has all sorts of different characteristics and uses. So finding that digital equivalent to a dial tone is very challenging because it brings in a number of different questions than simply basic telephone service.
15743 So you can be concerned about people having basic access to websites and to email. You can be concerned about -- on the other end about businesses being able to have access to the latest web-based services. They may want to do their accounting on the web. They may want to do 3D printing remotely, various sorts of things.
15744 So I think one thing that I've learned from the process over the last couple of weeks is that talking about having a minimum service that's accessible to somebody doesn't mean that that is the service that they have to take.
15745 So we talk about 100 being available nationally, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t also focus on a minimum standard in other contexts for other sorts of users. So whether that's ---
15746 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So you don’t see 100 as the minimum standard?
15747 MR. STEVENSON: It would be a minimum standard as a target for the bulk of the infrastructure in Canada. What we see in other jurisdictions with ---
15748 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So just to go back to what I was trying to focus on ---
15749 MR. STEVENSON: Okay.
15750 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- was we are trying to -- one of the issues here is how do we get all Canadians to a minimum standard and in rural remote, in the north and First Nations communities, and that sort of stuff, those -- some might suggest those who are farthest behind might need the -- might be at the front of the cue when it comes to priorities.
15751 Do you agree?
15752 MR. STEVENSON: I do, yes.
15753 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So would you agree that setting a 100 megabits standard now would not be the most helpful thing to them because it's just not possible right now for them?
15754 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah, I wouldn’t turn around and say that that's the -- that's the standard for 2017 and we picked the date of five years ---
15755 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So where should we start and what should we start with a minimum? I mean the folks from OneWeb said, you know, you could just -- you don’t have to make any judgment about usage but HD. You know, anything HD and above is enhanced and most people’s basic needs can be met at 5 and 1, which is still a stretch for a lot of people.
15756 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah, it is, it is. What we're seeing in other jurisdictions are fairly -- fairly ambitious targets around speed and in some cases the way that’s structured depends on geography and you might say that we want to get 95 percent of people at 50 or at 25 in a certain period of time and the rest we want to make sure they have that 5 and 1 or 10 and 1.
15757 And I think those approaches are -- they're perfectly acceptable. I think that that's -- there's nuance obviously to the challenges that we're looking at. I do think having an ambitious aspirational target for the longer term, maybe it's five years, maybe it's longer, is a good idea and it's not saying that everybody gets access to 100 and most people don’t need 100.
15758 But it's having that opportunity to access bandwidth and speed and latency that will allow innovation within the country longer term.
15759 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. In your original submission, I think it was in the executive summary, you expressed concern that there were 125,000 households who cannot afford basic telecom services in Canada, but that was an estimate. I mean you were upfront about that and even keeping in mind that maybe there's 2 percent of the population that just chooses to live a disconnected life like that.
15760 Anyway, your assumption, let's still go with that, that there are these people who can’t have access to these basic services, how is setting a 100 megabit standard going to make their lives better?
15761 MS. AUER: Before John adds something, I think you're quite right. There will always be Canadians who choose not to have access or choose not to be connected to the system. But they should at least have the opportunity to have it at some point.
15762 And if the Commission can’t at least stand in the way of setting a roadmap with phased-in targets perhaps for certain areas of the country, perhaps that would be the leadership that’s required at this point.
15764 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But, I mean, you understand how private enterprise works. That if you set these standards the money, the investment money, will flow to where it gets its -- because this how the world works. This is -- will go where it gets the quickest return on that investment.
15765 MS. AUER: Well, I think ---
15766 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you’re just going to broaden the gap.
15767 MS. AUER: I think John may have a comment about what we were just speaking about, but I think the CRTC exists obviously is because there have been private marketplace failures in certain areas. And the Commission is expected by Parliament to try to remedy that to the best of its ability and authority.
15768 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I agree.
15769 MS. AUER: Right.
15770 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I just don’t understand how we would be doing that by setting a 100 megabits target.
15771 MS. AUER: Well, we -- I think John also mentioned that we would not be setting a 100 megabit target for 2017.
15772 John, did you want to deal with that?
15773 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah. No, it’s ---
15774 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But, you know, I mean, 2021? You know, I mean, that’s less than five years from now.
15775 MR. STEVENSON: Right. Well, if it was 50 or 25 there would still be substantial challenges to bringing that level of bandwidth potentially to all Canadians.
15776 And I think that that -- I have no issues with phasing in that approach and a nuanced approached to how these services are deployed and who they’re deployed to. There’s no issue with that.
15777 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, then where would we start?
15778 MR. STEVENSON: Where should you start?
15779 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Where would we start?
15780 MR. STEVENSON: So in a -- there’s, well, for the north, for example, the most challenging environment. There is -- I was just reading a report on northern broadband from the Public Policy Forum that was done a couple of years ago. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. But it’s very challenging technologically, in fact, it’s a unique challenge globally.
15781 I’m of the opinion that you can -- someone can run fibre somehow up to the north, and then try to do a bunch of last mile deployments to different communities. Or it’s more likely that a large-scale international player like OneWeb, or Google, or Facebook, or someone else who’s doing some sort of experimental broadband project is more likely to come in and provide that sort of service.
15782 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks. Just in terms of the basic standards then, I understand your 100; what about data allowance?
15783 MR. STEVENSON: People should be able to purchase unlimited data, if possible.
15784 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, they can now.
15785 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah. Yeah, but they’re should ---
15786 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But what should be the minimum standard?
15787 MR. STEVENSON: I would say in terms of a short-term, like, a near-term standard, I would expect 20, 25 symmetrical upload/download, less than 100 millisecond latency, and then the ability to purchase unlimited data.
15788 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So when your target you’re proposing of 100, you’re proposing an upload speed of 100 megabits per second download.
15789 MR. STEVENSON: One-hundred (100) for sure.
15790 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So what should be the upload?
15791 MR. STEVENSON: Not everyone needs to purchase symmetrical. And if you look at retail broadband packages, there’s all sorts of different options.
15792 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: If they did people would be selling them, yeah?
15793 MR. STEVENSON: Right, yeah. Yeah.
15794 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But what is your take on what the upload speed should be?
15795 MR. STEVENSON: It’s a bit, I mean, a lot of customers don’t require large upload if they’re mostly ---
15796 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Just give me a number.
15797 MR. STEVENSON: For 100? Ten (10).
15798 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
15799 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah.
15800 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And latency?
15801 MR. STEVENSON: Well, less than 100 but with fibre that’s not an issue.
15802 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
15803 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah.
15804 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Your original submission spoke quite a bit, expressed a lot of concern for the people on the downside of Canada’s advantages. And we’ve seen -- had considerable submissions on those points too.
15805 But aren’t those matters of poverty best addressed by provincial and territorial social service agencies whose job it is to do that? As I put it to those other folks, we’re not social workers, we’re not childcare workers, in terms of assessing people’s basic needs like that. Should we not leave that to the people who have not only the constitutional responsibility to provide it directly through Social Services, but also most important in a sense the expertise?
15806 MS. AUER: Well, I think it’s interesting to frame a telecommunications accessibility and affordability issue as a poverty issue. But under the Telecom Act, Parliament gave the CRTC a mandate which requires it under Section 7 to deal with user social and economic requirements. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a poverty requirement. I think if Parliament had thought that the provinces and municipalities should deal with access as a poverty matter they wouldn’t have required Section 7(h).
15807 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. So if we provide a subsidy to low-income people then the departments of Social Services in those provinces take a look at that and say, “Okay, you’re getting -- it’s worth $40 a month. We’re going to scratch that back and your Social Services, your Welfare payment goes down by that.”
15808 MS. AUER: I think that’s ---
15809 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: How much good has happened there?
15810 MS. AUER: Well, that’s a speculative idea and I don’t think it’s within the Commission’s jurisdiction to worry about the provinces’ Social Welfare departments and how they decide ---
15811 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, I think it’s within the Commission’s jurisdiction to worry about the efficient use of public funds. I think that’s very much a responsibility of that. Just moving money around that doesn’t end up doing any benefit to the people that you’re ---
15812 MS. AUER: Well, it would benefit people if they actually had access to affordable high-speed broadband. And also, basic payphones, which we have continually harped upon.
15813 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. On payphones, I take it -- oh, and by the way, thank you for your concern for our process and critique of it. It’s been duly noted.
15814 On payphones, I take it that most of your concerns in your original submission were covered off by -- and I don’t need to get into a long discussion about payphones -- by 2015 545?
15815 MS. AUER: Our concern in our submission in that proceeding was that not all payphones should simply be allowed to be removed. And although the Commission has ---
15816 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. I’m ---
15817 MS. AUER: --- now introduced a notification requirement that formalizes notification in most circumstances, that doesn’t albeit change the fact that now all payphones can be removed.
15818 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure. And ---
15819 MS. AUER: We don’t support that.
15820 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- I’m not re-discussing that. I’m concerned -- it was the concerns you expressed in this proceeding in your original submission regarding payphones. Are they still on the table or are they ---
15821 MS. AUER: Yes.
15822 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- are off the table? They’re still on the table? Okay, thank you.
15823 And on the -- you reference to the advancements in New York regarding the use of payphone stations. I had this thought, and you can dispossess me of it. I’ve seen something in London, U.K. as well. And, like, as you said, it brings in $1 billion worth of revenue and that.
15824 But if you put London and New York together, in a relatively small space you have most of Canada. So as Canada’s urban markets grows, wouldn’t this sort of thing just develop?
15825 MR. STEVENSON: Hopefully, yes, they will develop.
15826 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
15827 MR. STEVENSON: And in New York City it’s a city initiative that’s been taken up by industry. It’s a public private partnership that has just started rolling out. So some version of that model may be just an internet kiosk or what have you. It’s still early days for that.
15828 MS. AUER: And of course the Commission did deregulate payphones in the late 1990s with the hope that private sector enterprise would step in to replace payphones that other companies might remove, the incumbents might remove. There’s very little data on it of course, but it didn’t seem to be a perfect one-to-one replacement, so to speak.
15829 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
15830 In your submission you suggested that -- you referred to the “complete availability of wireless service”. I wanted to clarify, when you say “complete”, how complete do you mean?
15831 It’s a -- executive summary, paragraph 4.
15832 MS. AUER: Thank you.
15833 I don’t know if John wants to comment on that, but I think what we were looking at was the original 2011 statement by the Commission where it had hoped to see 100 percent availability of 5 in 1 by now.
15834 So we agreed that all of these aspirational targets if you will ---
15835 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Actually this was in reference to wireless.
15836 MS. AUER: Okay, well ---
15837 You could refresh our memory, which paragraph are you looking at in the executive summary?
15838 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Executive summary, paragraph 4.
15839 MS. AUER: Paragraph 4.
--- (A SHORT PAUSE)
15840 MR. STEVENSON: Maybe we could clarify that with you.
15841 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, because it’s ---
15842 MS. AUER: Executive summary, paragraph 4?
15843 MR. STEVENSON: If that’s all right.
15844 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That’s what I have written down. Oh, it’s the 14th of July.
15845 Or -- hang on a second. Yes, it’s the 14th of ---
15846 MS. AUER: I
15847 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, it’s the 14th of July.
15848 MR. STEVENSON: Would you be able to read the sentence?
15849 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You only had one; right?
15850 MR. STEVENSON: Yes, yes.
15851 MS. AUER: I was like I know, but we’re just -- we’re looking at it. We don’t see it.
15852 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I may have misplaced it.
15853 Okay, well let’s just skip that, because I don’t want to waste time digging it up and it’s not that vital to the process anyway.
15854 You also indicated that you wanted in order to fill the gaps, to close the gaps, you indicated that governments should take action and I wanted to know what sort of action you are proposing that government should take?
15855 MR. STEVENSON: I think it’s fairly clear coming out of this process and the Chair has noted it that Canada requires connectivity, a broadband strategy that in -- that involves all levels of government.
15856 The CRTC has a part to play in that, but not the only part. By setting minimum standards for connectivity that this will hopefully feed into a broader process.
15857 And the components of that kind of approach have to include connectivity in the near and far north, and in rural and remote areas, as you know, and that’s going to require some unique solutions that will be only applicable in Canada, I would expect, technologically.
15858 MS. AUER: And as part of those solutions I think the Commission has a key role to play in obtaining data to describe progress going forward on a steady, annual basis, if not semi-annual.
15859 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
15860 So you also express concern about telcos’ profitability and I’m trying to understand what sort of framework you propose instead.
15861 I’m trying to understand how the Commission taking action to reduce the profitability of telcos enhances Canada’s telecom infrastructure and gets to 100 megabits per second in less than five years.
15862 MS. AUER: I think the comments that we made on profitability were to highlight the point that we’re not dealing with companies that lack resources.
15863 The companies, most of the incumbents, have sufficient resources that they could afford to do more, but they don’t have to. They’re not required to and that is our only point.
15864 And with respect to the idea that if telcos’ profitability is reduced the telecommunications infrastructure in Canada is damaged. I’m not sure I would agree with that syllogism, if it’s a syllogism.
15865 I would say instead, if the trade-off is that telco profitability might drop one or two points and service to Canadians improved that might be a useful trade-off.
15866 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But the barrier right now to the -- getting access to the last 10 percent -- and, you know, a lot of small entrepreneurs, you know, in -- at the end of the large telco road, have done a very good job of building out and building out, but then we’ve kind of got to the end of that and so we’re down to the last 10 percent.
15867 And the reason they have -- people aren’t spending to connect is because there is no economic case to do so; right? And it’s not just the build but there’s no revenue to be had at the end of it.
15868 It’s economically -- and that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have social purpose, but economically, in terms of the role that the private sector can play, it’s -- they’re not there because there’s nothing there in terms of -- in terms of a return and that’s what I’m trying to get to.
15869 Is not that the role where government should finance, as opposed to just reducing telcos’ profitability?
15870 MS. AUER: So on the one hand for recent telco ---
15871 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Which is likely to come out of jobs and less service elsewhere.
15872 MS. AUER: Well in terms of reducing telcos’ profitability, the idea is that you trade-off some expenditures from telcos’ for improved service for the rest of Canadians who presumably would benefit.
15873 So there might be well more jobs coming out of that benefit from that slight reduction and it doesn’t -- it’s not a permanent reduction. I can’t imagine it would be permanent.
15874 As for the notion that there is no revenue to be obtained from the last 10 percent, I think there is revenue to be obtained. It may not be of sufficient scale, it may not be in the 25 to 30 percent area, but there may well be revenue to cover costs.
15875 And so the issue becomes at what point do we say all right now you’re operating in a loss and we’re happy as a government, whether it’s a municipal, provincial, or federal, or territorial government, whatever, to perhaps compensate you for that cost. Either through the Income Tax Act or through other means perhaps the high cost service areas ---
15876 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, but that’s not how publicly traded companies work. They don’t ---
15877 MS. AUER: Well Bell Canada has been working that way for many years.
15878 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: If you -- if you’ve reduced their profitability they have to get it back, because that’s why -- that’s ---
15879 I’m not defending it; I’m just saying that’s how it works; right?
15880 So if you reduce their profitability by making them to do -- forcing them to do things that are uneconomic without subsidy of some kind, they will reduce service levels elsewhere, or reduce jobs, or increase prices, more than likely.
15881 So those are all not outcomes that most people would be looking for, so I’m just trying to understand how your proposal makes a better telecommunications infrastructure for most Canadians.
15882 MS. AUER: I think Canadians interests are better served when everyone in Canada has access to 21st century communications technology.
15883 And if that can be achieved by requiring telcos, incumbents, for instance, to expend money on the last 10 percent, I think that’s a worthwhile endeavor.
15884 And certainly other countries such as Finland and Australia are attempting to do precisely that.
15885 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: With a great deal of government investment, that’s what I was trying to get at.
15886 MS. AUER: The idea that companies can never lose -- I mean are we really saying that their profitability must be guaranteed?
15887 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, when you work at one that’s how it works.
15888 MS. AUER: But do -- does ---
15889 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That’s just -- that’s just how the world works.
15890 MS. AUER: But we don’t work at one and ----
15891 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I’m not saying it’s right or anything.
15892 MS. AUER: Okay but ---
15893 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But it is just how the world works.
15894 MS. AUER: All right, but the CRTC is not a company and that’s not its role, to defend the profit structures of companies. Its role is to implement the objectives --
15895 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No, but it is -- it is its role to understand reality.
15896 MS. AUER: -- of parliament.
15897 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right? And try to deal with that. So that’s -- I don’t think we’re -- we have different desired outcomes. It’s just -- I’m just trying to understand how your path leads to the best outcome.
15898 MS. AUER: I think it leads to a better outcome for more people.
15899 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks. Those are my questions.
15900 THE CHAIRPERSON: Apparently those -- sorry. Those are all our questions, thank you very much. Thank you for participating.
15901 MS. AUER: Thank you for your time.
15902 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. That completes our intervenors for today. So we ---
15903 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sorry just ---
15904 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh.
15905 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I did ---
15906 THE CHAIRPERSON: This just in.
15907 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: This just in, page 4 of the executive summary was my question.
15908 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Not paragraph 4. I couldn’t read my own writing.
15909 Ms. AUER: Tells you how frequently we’ve read the executive summary.
15910 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The main enablers ---
15911 MS. AUER: The main enablers -- yes.
15912 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- do a lot of Canadians participate or the complete availability of wire line and wireless telephone service.
15913 Thank you.
15914 MS. AUER: Thank you. We hadn’t read it today.
15915 MR. STEVENSON: What’s your question on that point?
15916 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: How complete?
15917 MR. STEVENSON: Hundred percent.
15918 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Hundred percent?
15919 MR. STEVENSON: Yeah.
15920 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So anywhere I go in ---
15921 MS. AUER: If we said 110 you wouldn’t like that.
15922 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- the country, I can get -- I can get wireless service.
15923 MR. STEVENSON: Pardon me?
15924 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So anywhere I go in Canada, wireless service needs to be available?
15925 MR. STEVENSON: Ultimately, yes. Yes.
15926 MS. AUER: Unless you’d like to ensure that payphones are available wherever there isn’t wireless.
15927 MR. STEVENSON: But I think ---
15928 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I shouldn’t have opened that door but good for you for stepping through it.
15929 MR. STEVENSON: So some technologies that we see coming are able to provide LTE service from -- in various ways, and I think that’s a goal to have. I’m not saying that we have failed if we don’t achieve that in five years ---
15930 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
15931 MR. STEVENSON: --- but that’s a good goal.
15932 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you very much.
15933 MR. STEVENSON: Thank you.
15934 THE CHAIRPERSON: So that was the last question. Thank you. And we’re adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. Donc en ajournement jusqu’à 9 heures demain matin.
--- Upon adjourning at 4:54 p.m.
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