ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing April 26, 2016
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: April 26, 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 Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 9:02 a.m.
15935 LE PRÉSIDENT: Well I’ll say it anyway even though that it’s not really required. À l’ordre, s’il vous plait.
15936 THE CHAIRPERSON: Everyone is quite quiet this morning, it must be the weather.
15937 Madame la secrétaire.
15938 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. Before we begin I would like to announce that the Concordia University’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, On Screen Manitoba and the Canadian Media Producers Association advised us that they will not be appearing at the hearing. They were scheduled on Wednesday April 27th.
15939 Given those changes, Vaxination Informatique and Cybera who were supposed to appear on Thursday April 28th, will now be appearing on Wednesday April 27th. And the hearing will start at 8:30 on Thursday.
15940 We will now begin with the presentation from the Joint Task Force. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 15 minutes.
15941 MR. HOLMES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. My name is Jonathan Holmes and I’m the Executive Director of the Independent Telecommunications Providers Association. To my far right is Pierre Allard, Manager of Engineering and Regulatory Advisor from CoopTel in Quebec, next to Pierre is Angela Lawrence, General Manager of Hay Communications, to my immediate left is Donovan Dias, Director Sales and Marketing from CityWest Cable and Telephone in British Columbia, next to Donovan is Ian Stevens, President and CEO of Execulink Telecom, and finally we have Rob Petruk, Chief Executive and Technology Officer from Gosfield North Communications.
15942 We are representing the member companies of the Canadian Independent Telephone Company Joint Task Force, or the JTF, a cooperative effort between the ITPA and l’Association des compagnies de téléphone du Québec, or the ACTQ. Members of the JTF are commonly referred to as small Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers or SILECs.
15943 We’d like to start our presentation with a short video that demonstrates what our member companies are doing in their areas.
15944 So if we could have that roll now, please.
15945 ---(VIDEO PRESENTATION)
15946 MR. HOLMES: Pierre is going to start us off and in French.
15947 M. ALLARD: Nous sommes très heureux d'avoir l'occasion de vous présenter nos opinions sur les questions qui sont au cœur de cette importante instance, et parler au nom de tous les Canadiens qui ont été oubliés par les grandes entreprises de télécommunications.
15948 Les trois points essentiels que nous tenons à exprimer avec vous aujourd'hui sont: 1, les Canadiens ont besoin de vitesses de large bande à 10/3 pour participer de façon significative dans l’économie numérique; 2, la subvention actuelle pour le service téléphonique demeure toujours nécessaire pour supporter l’accès des Canadiens en régions rurales à des services fiables, abordables, de haute qualité là où ils demeurent; et 3, nous devons rehausser les mesures réglementaires existantes pour mettre en place une stratégie nationale de large bande afin d’assurer qu’aucun canadien ne sera oublié.
15949 En premier lieu, les Canadiens requièrent des vitesses d’accès internet supérieures à 5/1 mégabits/seconde. L’accès à l’internet à large bande est devenu l’enjeu principal dans cette instance. Nous notons par ailleurs le commentaire de quelques jours passés du Président du Conseil qui confirmait que le CRTC considère déjà le service internet à large bande comme un service de base pour tous les Canadiens.
15950 Cependant, partant de ce constat, la position des parties diverge radicalement. Il est très surprenant que les grandes entreprises de télécommunications de la présente instance prétendent qu'un service de 5/1 mégabits/seconde est ce qui devrait faire l’affaire de tous les Canadiens. Mais en même temps, ces grands transporteurs sont orientés sur les marchés urbains densément peuplés où ils offrent des services dans la plage de 100 mégabits de téléchargement et plus.
15951 L’énorme différence entre ce qu'ils vendent en ville comparé à ce qu'ils proposent dans le cadre de cette instance est étourdissante. Néanmoins ce n’est pas étonnant dans un contexte où la grande majorité de leurs revenus est produite en milieu urbain. Nous concluons qu'un service de 5/1 mégabits n'est tout simplement pas suffisant pour aujourd'hui, et encore moins pour demain.
15952 MS. LAWRENCE: In order to illustrate this conclusion, we’d like you to recall what the Commission said in its last Obligation to Serve Decision when it established the current aspirational target. Canadians should have access to a service that allows several users in one household to use the World Wide Web to see alpha-numeric text, images and small video files and other online services such as email and banking all over a single connection at the same time. And broadband internet should allow a single user to stream higher-quality video and audio, and to participate in video conferencing at reasonable quality using online services.
15953 Just reading this list aloud highlights how much the world has changed in the past five years. The internet and the possibilities it creates has exploded since 2011. And yet, it is precisely the same connection speeds that the large telecom companies are arguing for in this proceeding. They are telling you that yesterday’s speeds are okay for tomorrow. We strongly disagree.
15954 The Let’s Talk Broadband Findings Report noted that in the representative survey, 62 percent of Canadians reported dissatisfaction with internet speeds of less than 5 megabits. And furthermore, that dissatisfaction with internet speeds is twice as likely in rural areas.
15955 The JTF is proposing that the Commission move beyond its current aspirational target of 5/1, and take the next logical and technologically-feasible step to mandate that as many Canadians as possible should have access to a wireline service that actually delivers 10 meg down and 3 meg up to consumers.
15956 The required network improvements should be implemented over the next three years. Following that, and on a regular basis, the Commission should review how Canadians are actually using the Internet to ensure that any basic Internet package keeps up with what Canadians need to actively participate in the digital economy.
15958 MR. DIAS: Our second key point is that the current voice subsidy is still needed to support rural Canadians' access to reliable, affordable and high quality services where they live. We don't want the Commission to lose sight of this important issue. The subsidy that supports the provision of voice services in rural high cost exchanges continues to be an important pillar of fulfilling the fundamental policy objectives of the Telecom Act and protecting the interests of rural Canadians.
15959 The list of carriers that actually operate under the obligation to serve and the basic service objective is a small subset of the parties to this proceeding. Even though we operate under the same OTS and BSO requirements, the JTF members represented by this panel are very small operators compared to the likes of Bell, Telus, SaskTel and MTS.
15960 Moreover, our territories are in 100 percent high cost serving areas with no large urban centres against which we can cross-subsidize. As such, we are far more sensitive to the status of the voice subsidy than a company like Bell.
15961 Subsidy has always been linked to the obligation to serve. As private sector companies, SILECs are largely driven by financial considerations with a social policy overlay.
15962 We remain prepared to operate under the OTS, provided there are no unfunded obligations. On the other hand, as service providers who live and work in our local communities, we know that the obligation to serve and the local subsidy has been an important tool to ensure that Canadians in high cost serving areas have access to affordable telephone service.
15963 So we look at this issue through both a business lens and a public policy lens at the same time. Remembering that all of our exchanges are in Bands E and F, if you eliminate the local telephone subsidy in these bands, as suggested by some parties, then in fairness, you would also have to remove the obligation to serve.
15964 Rural Canadians would then be faced with paying 100 percent of the cost to acquire and maintain service, putting at risk access to service for vulnerable rural Canadians, many of whom do not have access to dependable or reliable alternatives. All but one of the large ILECs continue to support the current voice subsidy in Bands E and F and so do we.
15966 MR. STEVENS: Our final key point is that as a nation we can't afford to leave some Canadians behind when it comes to broadband access. We must build on existing regulatory measures to implement a national broadband strategy.
15967 Our video paints a picture of the customers in our high cost serving areas. There are only a few areas in our operating territories where the Commission's current broadband target levels are not available. The same cannot be said in neighbouring areas just beyond the reach of our wireline networks where the only options some Canadians have is a wireless service or a dialup service. Your earlier conversation with the ward councillor for Milton comes to mind as an example of this.
15968 Our position is that wireless is a stopgap that will only work for a period of time. We believe that five years from now parties will be back before the Commission advocating basic service speeds at 100 megabits per second, far beyond the sustainable capability of wireless. We urge you to not invest in technologies that won't go the distance.
15969 In a Let's Talk broadband report, rural Canadians described in a variety of ways that poor Internet service has impacted their daily lives. One of the most common complaints is that the price paid in rural areas is higher than in urban areas for what is viewed as inferior service.
15970 The report also identified that many rural Canadians are limited in what they can do online. Rural Canadians have lost time, lost income, and lost opportunities. Rural participants talked about the many things that would change in their lives for the better if they had better Internet access, not the least of which is education.
15971 Your latest Communication Monitoring report states that 80 percent of Canadian households can subscribe to a 5/1 Internet access service today. Based on our experience, the broadband business case for the industry stops at non densely populated areas where DSL and cable wireline networks currently end.
15972 Without a national broadband strategy to address the absence of a business case, rational private sector companies will not expand their networks into underserved areas. To encourage further expansion and evolution into non dense areas, an ongoing subsidy is required.
15973 By focusing only on the 4 percent of Canadians who are unserved, the large ILECs and cable companies are misrepresenting and understating the problem. The real problem the Commission needs to focus on exists within the 20 percent of households, up to 7 million Canadians, many of whom live beyond the reach of 5/1 wireline broadband networks.
15974 Here's what we're proposing to improve the situation. Rob?
15975 MR. PETRUK: Where are these households? Referencing the maps we filed February 1st and that we've included in these comments this morning, by combining the 80 percent wireline coverage statistics from the latest CMR with ISAID systems of hexagons, we've identified the densely populated areas that contain 80 percent of the population in green hexagons.
15976 We're proposing broadband subsidy eligibility be restricted to the group of red hexagons containing the remaining 20 percent of the population, those Canadians in non densely populated rural and remote areas, not just in the extreme North. We've identified how you can leverage your existing regulatory mechanisms to collect the needed funds and pay for the rollout of broadband in non densely populated areas.
15977 Most of our member companies have spent more than 100 years serving rural Canadians customers. We live and work in rural and remote areas. It is no surprise to us that we are the only group of carriers in this proceeding that has provided you with a workable blueprint to bring dependable, wireline-based, high speed broadband to those rural Canadians who really need it. Our February submission went into considerable detail on our proposal.
15978 To conclude our presentation, we would like to reiterate our three key points:
15979 Canadians require broadband access at 3/10 to meaningfully participate in the digital economy; the current voice subsidy still needed to be -- the current voice subsidy is still needed to support rural Canadians' access to reliable, affordable, and high quality service where they live; and we must build on existing regulatory measures to implement a national broadband strategy to ensure that no Canadians are left behind.
15980 MR. HOLMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. We would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
15981 And I'd also like to point out, just before, and state for the record that three of our panel members are CEOs of their companies. If not directly indicated by their titles, they are, nonetheless, heads of their businesses and have invested heavily in preparing for their appearance today. Thank you.
15982 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, you said it ahead of me. I had noticed that, that we had CEOs, and of course, the Commission always appreciates. It doesn't have to be CEOs of the largest companies in the country; they're still the leadership of the telecommunication industry. And when the Commission has an important hearing, it's nice to see people showing up at the highest level, so it's quite good.
15983 Monsieur Allard, je veux juste spécifier que je ne crois pas que j’ai dit que le service internet était un service de base, ça c'est une question à décider encore. Je crois que le mot que j’ai utilisé était « vital ». Et puis -- donc on continuera à considérer les enjeux parce que évidemment le dossier n’est pas fermé.
15984 Je vais vous mettre entre les mains de mon collègue, Monsieur le vice-président Menzies.
15985 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good morning.
15986 They're already here asking for 100 megabits per second basic service, so on that point---
15987 So what does 10 and 3 that 5 and 1 doesn't?
15988 MR. DIAS: So one of the reasons why we thought that 10 and 3 should be mandated, based on Internet, growth trends, and as we knew them back in 2011, 5/1 was a good enough target to set at the time. But with the rampant exponential growth of Internet based applications today, the need for higher speeds is certainly growing at a rapid pace.
15989 So far in this proceeding, we've heard many TSPs say that 5/1 is good enough, but at the same time, we heard them also say that some of their most popular packages are their 10 megs or their 15 megs service. And they offer much higher speeds than some of their other urban areas.
15990 On the flip side, we've heard consumer groups talk about 5/1 not being good enough for them, and if they had access to more than that, that's something that they certainly require and will enhance their lives in the way they go about their business on the Internet.
15991 From what we've seen on our networks, we -- we're more inclined to agree with the consumer groups because that's what we hear some of our customers asking us for. So we are proposing the 10 and 3 as we feel that these are the speeds that Canadians truly need to participate in the digital economy.
15992 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, that's -- just to go back on that, it's one of the issues that we struggle with, because we're trying to define a basic service. And if the market demand is driving it higher, that's great, right, but it's one of those wants versus needs. So if we're trying to make sure basic needs are met, which---
15993 So I'm wondering, do you anticipate with the 10 and 3, that things such as government services, websites, et cetera, would be getting more sophisticated, would be offering more video or something that would make access to some of these basic needs difficult for people if they only had a 5 and 1 service so it would have to be -- I mean, I’m all in favour of being aspirational. But at the same time, we have to be careful that if we’re talking subsidy that we’re not subsidizing companies to build something that the market would drive them to anyway, as opposed to subsidizing something that gives the people the foundation and then the companies the foundation if they wish to go beyond.
15994 MS. LAWRENCE: I think one of the things that we talked about when we were trying to come up with what our recommended speed was, and something that we see at my company all the time, is the -- while 1 individual government website may very well not exceed the 5/1, when you look at adding in 1 child or 2 child -- children trying to do homework in an evening and a parent trying to access government websites, access banking, all those other important functions, you suddenly find that 5/1 is not anywhere near enough for that basic residential home anywhere throughout Canada.
15995 The other thing I’m reminded of as I’m sitting in my office and I hear our help desk trying to resolve people’s problems, accessing the Internet is -- and we discussed it last night even, how the Internet is always a two-way street. Even if I am requesting download information, I am -- in order to request that information, I need to send out a request to find it. So if all of the -- if the one upload, one meg upload is -- sorry, if the five meg download is maxed out, there is no way I can get out to request another website.
15996 MR. HOLMES: And I’ll just add, there is an interesting letter filed on the record of the proceeding from Health Canada. It was from the Deputy Minister. And it said the use of Telehealth continues to grow significantly. The total number of clinical Telehealth sessions, many of which I’m understanding include some video conferencing aspects, increase from 45.7 from -- increase 45.7 percent from 2012 to 2014. So that was a jump of 282,000 sessions to 411,000 sessions. So we just see the demand just continuing to grow.
15997 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. And that sort of segues to the next point, which is about data usage minimums in terms of that because if you’re talking children doing homework, et cetera, et cetera, that’s been an issue that’s come to our attention. So do you have a view on that that if there’s a -- that that would be part of a basic service designation? And if so, what would be an appropriate?
15998 MR. DIAS: So this was not something that we’d put in writing earlier on in the proceeding, but we certainly talked about it as a group, as well as amongst our members. And we are suggesting that 25 gigs as a data cap would be sufficient to include in the basic service objective.
15999 It’s -- I think when Canadians use the Internet to do things like eHealth and ecommerce and job searches and things like that, 25 gigs covers it.
16000 I was talking to Serge and one of the things that Coop Tel does is they monitor their customer usage. The average customer on their networks using about 45 to 46 gigabytes per month. And when we were looking at our network usage, about 50, if not slightly higher, is being used for entertainment purposes, such as Netflix or online gaming. So when we put those two numbers together, we came up with 25 gigs for essential services as a data cap.
16001 MR. HOLMES: And when we were thinking about this at the beginning of the proceeding, you know, we -- one of the things we want to avoid as regulatory people is getting out of scope and making sure we stay in scope in the proceeding. So the original notice of consultation talked about specifically the digital economy. I think it kind of hinted at what the definition was and we recalled the Chair’s comments as well first day that this is about a wants versus needs. So that was -- I think that all fed into our cap size that we’re proposing.
16002 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
16003 You mentioned -- okay. In terms of basic service standards, you’ve mentioned capacity. You mentioned speed. You also mentioned latency. Was there anything else?
16004 MR. PETRUK: Not necessarily. I think what we were looking to put forward is that any service that we provide should come with a set of standards mandated by the CRTC to ensure that the -- all Canadians are receiving a reliable service. We did say that latency should be 100 milliseconds. We said that jitter at a standard resting rate should be no more than five milliseconds. And that availability should be 99.999 percent of the time for any service given to a Canadian.
16005 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. In terms of the latency standards, as you mentioned, your number was 100 milliseconds. Do you see this as applying to the network or an end to end measure?
16006 MR. PETRUK: Actually, the way that we viewed it was that for residential service, the services should be provisioned and installed to meet that standard. And then if the customer calls in with a repair, they should be repaired to bring them back up to that standard if they’re falling for any reason.
16007 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And would it be the same standard for all technologies, including satellite?
16008 MR. PETRUK: It should be to ensure reliable service for all.
16009 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
16010 Now in terms of the obligation to serve, your position is that it should be imposed for broadband on all LECs, BILECs and SILECs. And then only if they are unwilling or unable to meet that obligation would other service providers be eligible for subsidy; correct?
16011 MR. ALLARD: First of all, our position has evolved over time as we ---
16012 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, now all my questions are going to have to change.
16013 MR. ALLARD: At this point we acknowledge that there really is no incumbent for broadband service, contrary to telephony service, where the subsidy was given to the ILEC with the obligation to serve according to the BSO. So in the broadband world, there really is no incumbent.
16014 So what we’re suggesting is that we should focus not on an exchange basis as is for telephony, it’s much more on a per household basis. Because within a given exchange there might be just a few households that don’t have access to broadband services that meet the BSO. And so therefore, what we’re proposing and what we discussed in the February submission is that we’d focus on the hexagons that have only 20 percent of the population.
16015 And within those hexagons, we’re not suggesting that all of the households would be eligible for subsidy. What we’re suggesting is that we would have to look at each specific household. If there is at least -- if there are at least two providers for a given household that is able to provide service at that household that would been the BSO, then we’re suggesting that there’s no subsidy that should be payable. And the reason for that is that just market pressures; right? Every competitor will want to keep pace with the other. And so therefore, as the Commission changes the BSO over time that’s it quite reasonable to expect that the providers will match whatever is required for competitive reasons.
16016 If there is only a single service provider that is addressing that particular household, we are, in fact, suggesting that there should be some subsidy for that particular provider for that household, essentially on a per-NAS basis, if you wish.
16017 And the reason for that is that we want to ensure long-term sustainability. So as the requirements for broadband evolve over time, then that service provider will be able to evolve his network and ensure that the service continues to meet the BSO.
16018 Finally, if there is absolutely no service provider addressing that particular household, then we’re simply suggesting that it comes on a first-come, first-served basis.
16019 So we are not suggesting, for example, that the SILECs should get the subsidy. If a cable company or, for that matter, a wireless provider who was able to meet the BSO with the quality of service objectives and such, then fine, that particular party should be eligible for the subsidy.
16020 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. But that’s where -- it’s in that transition where I got a little lost in terms of what happened to the obligation to serve, which is fine, if it simply doesn’t apply to broadband, that’s fine, as your position. But what about that final household, I guess, is what we were talking about, because the rest of the transition is really just a market forces competitive pressure access and that sort of stuff. That's how I understood it would end up serving those people but it was still the person at the very end of the last mile where nobody was there. How do we -- because that's kind of, in a broad sense, where we're at with the system. How do we make sure they get service?
16021 MR. ALLARD: That is one position that the JTF has not changed on. So what we're saying is that we are in fact willing to take on an obligation to serve.
16022 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
16023 MR. ALLARD: According to BSO, but there should be no unfunded obligation. So in other words, if we need to get further than where we are today to address that remaining household down the road, we're willing to do it if there is a subsidy to do it.
16024 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, but that's where the LEC becomes responsible. Is that correct?
16025 MR. ALLARD: Any service -- as I mentioned a while ago, any service provider ---
16026 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Any service provider willing to ---
16027 MR. ALLARD: To take on ---
16028 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- to take it on and go with the subsidy and that would be ---
16029 MR. ALLARD: And take on the obligations to do it.
16030 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And that would be determined by what method? Just first one to put up their hand?
16031 MR. ALLARD: If there are no service providers that are able to address that particular household today, then yes, if there's one to come in and say I'm willing to take it on, willing to provide service that matches the BSO requirement and therefore I'm eligible for the subsidy, I should also have the obligation to serve that particular household.
16032 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And that would most likely be the incumbent.
16033 MR. ALLARD: It could be the incumbent. I'm not suggesting that it would be in all cases. I'm suggesting though that we are willing to take on that challenge in our territories.
16034 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So just to clarify for me, somebody living down the end of that road contacts us and says, “I can't find anybody to give me internet. I phoned here, here and here and nobody will -- nobody will come out and do it.” What do we tell them?
16035 MR. ALLARD: Essentially then it becomes on a first-come, first-served basis. There may be cases where, for whatever reason, the SILEC is not able to do it either. So maybe then there's a wireless provider that is willing to step up to the plate and say I can do it, but he's got to take on the obligation to serve and he's got to be able to serve according to the BSO requirement.
16036 It is not sufficient to say, for example, “I can give you 5/1 but hey, by the way, there's traffic management practices. There's going to be additional delay. There's going to be additional jitter, and so on and so forth.”
16037 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. I'm just getting a little lost -- I mean not lost there but I'm just trying to figure out how that works for that person down the end of the road because we need to be able to -- I mean if we're telling people this is part of the basic service and all Canadians should get in, when somebody phones, we should be able to say, “Okay, what you need to do is phone this guy. He's the guy who can take it on.” Or we can say, “You know, you have to phone the satellite provider or whatever, or wireless.” But there needs to be a path that's evident to the consumer Canadian on that.
16038 MR. HOLMES: I’m not sure if we have a clear path from our proposal but what we're proposing is that if there's subsidy attached, monthly subsidy attached to serving that end customer, then this subsidy will hopefully close the business case that a service provider in the area requires to actually extend their network out to that end customer. So the subsidy is really the incentive to go after that customer for the service providers.
16039 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I see. Okay.
16040 So that was with broadband but with land lines, you still want the obligation to serve to exist and the subsidy to exist for telephone?
16041 MR. HOLMES: Yes, we do. We've heard what MTS and SaskTel have said on this issue and we think they provided great responses in response to the continued need for subsidy and OTS and we agree with them.
16042 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So in terms of subsidy, a person living in a household who wants a telephone and would have subsidized internet, would they be able to get -- choose between one or the other? I mean it's a line going into the house, right, or would they get -- or would the service provider be able to get subsidy for providing both?
16043 MS. LAWRENCE: I think the service provider, if the customer took both services, would be able to get subsidy for both. It may not be the same service provider as Pierre was speaking to but both of those services would have their costs of providing service defined according to a Phase II process.
16044 So there would be no duplication in funding of the costs to provide service. They would be two very -- two distinct services with their own set of costs inherent in them.
16045 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So if services can be provided in bundles at discounts by companies, why can't subsidy be provided in bundles for multiple services at a discount, at less cost to the subsidizer?
16046 MS. LAWRENCE: I think the reason there is that the costs related to those services determined by a Phase II process is very specific and does not include excess margin that can be reduced through a bundling process. And again, there is always the possibility that it could be two different service providers.
16047 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. And I don’t think to -- yes, but the question was ram-bundling but you've answered it. That's fine.
16048 So assuming there's still role for phone directories, what kind of information should they contain? Mobile phone numbers for instance? Or is there a role for them? I mean assuming ---
16049 MS. LAWRENCE: We definitely think there is still a role for paper phone directories to ensure service access to those customers that don’t have any other means or that prefer to have a paper phone directory.
16050 As far as including cellular numbers or mobile numbers in the directory, it's not something we specifically considered but my opinion would be that we would not include those because of individual preference and wanting to maintain privacy of their mobile numbers.
16051 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. As you've noted in your submissions and again today, Bell says telephone subsidies are no longer required in Bands E&F and Shaw said the same. Others disagreed with them, including you quite strongly.
16052 So the question is not so much -- I guess it is. Would you like to expand on that a little and within the context of isn't this something that's going to have to happen sooner or later?
16053 I mean if we're anticipating all these changes in the future and we're building basic broadband standards that are trying to anticipate the future, shouldn’t we be trying to anticipate the future of land lines which doesn't appear to be eternal and starting a transition out of that? I mean why would we be funding 19th century technology as opposed to shouldn't we be focusing on 21st century?
16054 MR. HOLMES: Hereto, we heard what MTS and SaskTel argued on this point and we agree but I would add that I think we all can see that the voice -- the wireline voice trend and the numbers trending down, the issue is we don’t know what its ultimate fate is right now. So we don’t know whether it's going to go right down to zero or whether it's going to level off at some level and what that level would be. So we don’t know the future.
16055 What we also know is that -- and the Let’s Talk Broadband Task Force Report also informed us that in rural Canada, at least 88 percent of rural Canadians still have a home phone service. That's a pretty substantial number.
16056 I know that the national statistic in terms of people that have left wireline home phone behind is probably significantly higher than that but that 88 percent is still a large number.
16057 So in rural Canada high-cost serving areas, it's our position that it's too early to abandon the subsidy for voice services.
16058 MS. LAWRENCE: And if I could just add on to that, I think as well to speak to the 88 percent of rural Canadians that still have a land line, the uptime of your land line traditional telephone dwarfs any VoIP service as far as reliability and it's precisely those times, in times of power outages and emergencies, that customers need to be able to rely on that picking up their phone and getting someone on the other end.
16059 From our company’s perspective why we -- our members’ perspective, why we still feel that the high cost serving area is vitally -- subsidy is vitally important to our businesses, I think it was MTS mentioned that they were particularly at risk to losing the high cost serving area fund, because they serve double the amount of high cost serving area exchanges that any other provider in Canada did or their percentage was higher.
16060 And they were something like 20 percent of their total mass was in a high cost serving area.
16061 We have 100 percent of NAS are in high cost serving areas. For us an urban area is maybe 20 to 30 homes in some cases, maybe 4 or 5.
16062 We do not have any opportunity to cross-market subsidize between a community even close to the size of Kingston with our operations in a rural area. It’s just not there in our serving areas.
16063 So we feel that we are even more vulnerable than the likes of SaskTel, MTS, as far as needing to ensure that we have the high cost serving area funds available to ensure service to Canadians.
16064 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
16065 I want to talk in -- I think it was actually -- I have to be careful because my writing is not very good and I get paragraphs and pages mixed up, but I think it was page 1 of your February response.
16066 You point out that access to broadband is not just a problem in Canada’s north and certainly the record shows that to be the case, but someone from Nunavut might suggest that they’re situation might be a priority because, unlike your serving area, they don’t have roads.
16067 So should we not focus first on the north and then move into these other areas?
16068 MS. LAWRENCE: We seem to be hitting all my questions that I’m responsible for.
16069 MS. LAWRENCE: We believe you should ---
16070 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You’re welcome.
16071 MS. LAWRENCE: We believe that you should focus on any Canadian that does not have service. So in the far north the issue may be transport into that community. In the rural areas and the remote areas that we serve it may be, and it is, the last mile.
16072 So yes without question we do not fully comprehend the difficulties of living in Canada’s north. However, we don’t think you can ignore any Canadian that does not have service. It’s just the solution to their issues may be different.
16073 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right it’s certainly not our intention to ignore anyone. It’s just you usually have to start some place.
16074 Now in terms of your map and the hexagons, the ISEC hexagons and that, that’s a useful construct.
16075 And this is a map of your members’ primary serving areas; right?
16076 MR. HOLMES: Not necessarily. This was just kind of a representative sample of what the country would ---
16077 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. I just wanted to make sure it was a representative sample, because it’s a -- it’s useful, but we would -- you wouldn’t suggest that we take this sort of look and apply it so that it, you know, it took in an area that I’ve heard of frequently that’s not too dissimilar from yours?
16078 Let’s say the south shore of Nova Scotia where access is of service is a bit of an issue.
16079 You take -- we would take this same sort of template apply it there, or west coast of B.C., something or wherever; right?
16080 MR. HOLMES: That’s correct.
16081 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And just work through that? And this is an example of how it applies in South Western Ontario?
16082 MR. HOLMES: That’s correct.
16083 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
16084 So shifting into the area of subsidies, the system as it exists now is -- and it has moved things along pretty nicely, is market forces combined with targeted government funding.
16085 Your submissions indicate that you have a few issues with government funding, the way it’s worked for you.
16086 So I’d like, if you could clarify and perhaps give some examples, because I’m guessing –- I don’t think I have to guess.
16087 From your submissions it hasn’t worked for you or for your -- the people you serve.
16088 MR. HOLMES: I’ll ask Ian to contribute on that.
16089 MR. STEVENS: So we -- Execulink has and our members have received one-time funding and we’ve watched one-time funding being provided to other operators in and around where we operate and -- you know, some few examples.
16090 We know -- I know of a local municipality that’s received two tranches of one-time funding from two different funding sources.
16091 The second tranche rebuilt an entire network that the first tranche built. It was just moving the bandwidth target up higher.
16092 The winning proponent of the funding built fixed wireless networks. We won one round and somebody else won the other and the end result was that even today the network that we built three or four years ago is basically end of life. It’s not meeting the demands of consumers. The towers are at capacity.
16093 The one-time funding -- to win the one-time funding we -- there’s a series of requirements to be met. We built out to it. We got the cheque, but some of the complaints we’ve heard is we’re supposed to cover 100 percent of the region, provide service to all.
16094 Well fixed wireless it just doesn’t quite work that well and there’s people in valleys and people in forested areas that can’t get the service.
16095 So when they thought they were getting high speed and everybody was getting high speed it was everybody but them.
16096 In another region -- I guess it’s about an hour from where we are, we are aware of somebody else received a bunch of funding. They had a five year commitment to provide a service speed. They got the cheque, they built the network.
16097 Almost five years to the day after the network was signed off on they sent Dear John letters to all their customers saying we don’t want to do this anymore, we’re shutting it down.
16098 I don’t know what their business rationale was, but all of a sudden these customers who are in rural areas, who were highly dependent upon these networks, were scrambling to find a solution to the problem.
16099 I guess what we talk about here or what we see is that the one time gets it built, but it gets it built to today’s standard.
16100 It doesn’t look at long term network evolution that will -- we see recurring subsidy funding as a way to drive that continued conversation that by the way next year you have to move the benchmark from 10/3 to 15, to 20, and every year it kind of moves along.
16101 And by tying in that recurring revenue lever it gives the regulator, the administrative body of the fund, to keep pushing along network evolution.
16102 It also speaks to -- when choices are made to build networks if you’re going to build a network to meet the bar today, but you know you’re going to lose your recurring revenue funding, you’re not going to make a choice that in three years you’ll have to throw up your hands and say well we’ll have to go for another funding source to rebuild this thing again.
16103 So those are some of the challenges we’ve seen with one-time networks -- one-time funding networks and really think that a long term recurring funding mechanism gives -- can drive some very different behaviour in how networks get built out.
16104 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So if we were to establish a funding or subsidy regime or -- and/or we were to give advice to others doing it, would you be willing to undertake to give us some wording that you would suggest would be useful in terms of, you know, you’re -- first of all you’re talking about service subsidy funding rather than capital grants. I get that.
16105 But if capital funding is to continue and take place what sort of suggestions would you make that would improve the outcomes?
16106 MR. HOLMES: We can undertake to do that.
16107 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
16109 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you mentioned it today and pointed to the need for systems that have capacity for Telehealth and just to be the devil’s advocate on that, just a couple of questions in terms -- first of all, can you give some details on the types of services we’re talking about when we’re talking about telehealth?
16110 MR. PETRUK: It’s basically two-way conversations between a patient with an in-home care worker and a specialist, a nurse practitioner, a doctor who is remotely located. It has -- it started off with just phone calls and simple pictures and video, and now has escalated to the point where you can hook up full monitoring systems to a person in-house without the need of a specialist showing up onsite to do the monitoring. They can track a patient’s health, cares or concerns remotely with the aid of an onsite nurse, nurse practitioner or a care giver.
16111 So in an instance like that when we’re talking about 10/3, if you only have one meg of upload, you may not have the horsepower that you need in a circuit like that or a service like that to get all that information to the specialist in time. And when you're dealing with people in rural or remote areas of Canada who need access to a specialist, it makes it very, very difficult if they need to travel for three or four days depending on where they live to get to the nearest specialist.
16112 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: The other -- the other thought was we’ve heard quite a bit about, you know, the cost benefits to the health care system of serving people in rural and remote areas of telehealth and the benefits the broadband can bring to it and -- I mean the -- not only the health benefits to people, but the cost benefits to the health care systems. And I noted yesterday sort of in context that Health Canada had provided funding for -- through SaskTel -- in partnership with Sask -- well, they provided the funding, SaskTel had done the work to service First Nations in Saskatchewan.
16113 Has there been any indication in your area that has this as a good service for people’s health, and has it -- has a -- an actual return on investment to the operators of the health care system that the provincial health care systems might consider investing as part of this build as Health Canada did for First Nations?
16114 MS. LAWRENCE: I don’t know that we’ve seen any such a direct link between the two, but I can speak to service in our area. There happens to be a group -- a group of like companies that are similar independents in the same area, and for the past probably 10 years we’ve connected up the local hospitals through fibre connections and allowed them to have access to a regional centre of medical excellence through additional fibre connections.
16115 So through obtaining the services, they are in fact contributing to the expansion of the network, because we put fibre to a specific hospital, that gave us access into a community that we didn’t -- couldn’t previously justify. So by being consumers they're helping build out the network.
16116 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And they were paying ---
16117 MS. LAWRENCE: They were paying ---
16118 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- they were financing the build ---
16119 MS. LAWRENCE: --- through ---
16120 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- as a customer rather than as a grantor in terms of that.
16121 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes.
16122 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So they were inspiring the build through ---
16123 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes.
16124 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- that.
16125 MS. LAWRENCE: And then we were able to leverage that build to ---
16126 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, of course.
16127 MS. LAWRENCE: Yeah.
16128 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, okay, thanks. What do you think would be the most efficient approach to the three following issues: digital literacy, adoptability and service for low income people, very low income people?
16129 MR. HOLMES: Can you just clarify in terms of -- is there a Commission role in that or who’s best to promote that?
16130 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, I mean it’s not -- there are issues that have been brought before us.
16132 MR. HOLMES: Right.
16133 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- with -- generally I ask that we solve it, we’ve pushed back a little bit and saying -- for instance, in low income if we’ve said, you know, if the provincial social service agencies don’t recognize access to broadband as a basic need, but it is, I mean it doesn’t really matter the reasons through oversight on purpose or neglect, it doesn’t really matter, they have decided not to fund it for people receiving social service benefits.
16134 Isn't that their role to make that decision or is it our role? Digital literacy, is it something that the industry should be taking on? Is it something that, you know, should be happening in the education systems? Do you think it belongs with us? Adoptability initiatives as well.
16135 MS. LAWRENCE: Just to start off ---
16136 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You don’t have to ---
16137 MS. LAWRENCE: --- the conversation ---
16138 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: You don’t have to answer those, you know.
16139 MS. LAWRENCE: I have something I want to say.
16140 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I have to ask them, you don’t have to answer them.
16141 MS. LAWRENCE: Just to roll off, start the discussion on that question, a very good question obviously because we’re struggling over it, but I think the primary role for the Commission has to be access, because without access all of those other discussions are moot. This is not a chicken and an egg scenario where we have to worry about digital literacy or access first, the primary decision is access.
16142 So I’ll -- no, you didn’t ask about access in your question, but I just wanted to preface the discussion with that and then I’ll let Jonathan speak to the others.
16143 MR. HOLMES: And I’ll shoot it down to Rob at the end of the table.
16144 MR. PETRUK: When it comes to digital literacy and literacy training I can speak from Gosfield’s perspective. I have 70-year old customers who have some of the fastest connections that we allow, because two Christmases ago their grandkids got them iPads. So they wanted iPads that would allow them to facetime with their family in various parts of Canada. Our technicians when they go onsite to do an install with a customer fully explain exactly what they're getting into, and we give them the ability and the instructions on how to search for questions on their own.
16145 Further, we also have a service that’s almost like a geek squad, where you can have one of technicians come and visit you for an hour and spend time to talk with you about everything that you need to know on how to make things work inside your home.
16146 MR. HOLMES: And I’ll take this up to more of a national level. I think -- I think in terms of the Commission’s role, while you may not have direct jurisdiction to do much specific common problem, I think you can bring a laser focus on identifying what these issues are.
16147 You know, you’ve got a pretty big record from this proceeding, you're the -- you're the -- at the federal level you're the telecom expert in the country. So you can -- you can issue reports, apply some moral suasion to your federal cousins, that kind of thing. And just say, “Here’s the issues that -- as we see them”, but we also acknowledge that there's a real mix of jurisdictional issues. Issues when they do go across the river, they become political and get mixed up with -- with other government priorities and into budgets, and there’s limited budgets for thing, people are making choices all the time.
16148 So I think -- and this gets I think perhaps to your digital strategy proposal as well. I think there's lots of roles for lots of people, but I think the Commission’s role can really just focus everybody and say, “We have a problem here, here’s what we see the primary issues are.”
16149 We really think perhaps the Minister of Industry who -- actually, I went back and looked at who initiated the David Johnston Report, and it was the Minister of Industry who got things going. You could make recommendations to him that, you know, we need to get industry stakeholders around the table and look at the specific issues.
16150 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. You could too, by the way.
16151 MR. ALLARD: Thank you. Just to address digital literacy as well from the small provider perspective. Obviously we don’t have the means and ways to do, you know, grandiose things, but you know, we do operate in very small towns, villages and so on and so forth. So we hire people, we train them, and so they become experts of the field in high tech telecom jobs. So they become in essence kind of a “train the trainer approach”. So they go out to see their families, their friends, and they tell them about, you know, broadband internet services and how to make it work. And so those people learn a bit and they in turn inform others, so we get it done that way.
16152 We also have -- many of us around the table here have got community TV channels. That’s another form of digital literacy as well, because it’s all volunteer-based of course, and so a lot of folks in small towns get to learn about how -- what the broadcast industry is, how to operate a camera, how to operate the backroom and so on and so forth, control room. So that’s part of digital literacy for us as well.
16153 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I know you’ve mentioned -- you mentioned or made reference to it a couple of times, but you seem very clear that subsidy access should not -- should be technologically exclusive and leave out the wireless, the wisps in terms of that.
16154 And I understand -- I'm taking it from what you've expanded on today that it's because it's a limited technology in terms of that, but I can't help feel a little sorry for those guys. I mean, they've been out at the end of the last mile for several years now with they're putting up their own money and ingenuity and bringing basic services to a lot of people around -- at the end of the Lech (sp) Road, and beyond, in terms of that.
16155 So how could we justify excluding them or recommending exclusion should there be a subsidy regime? Although I note that they're not necessarily in favour of one.
16156 MR. HOLMES: Well, we've said that the subsidy regime should be technologically neutral. So if a wireless service or a wireless carrier can meet the BSO and provide that creative service to a particular NAS, then they would be eligible for a subsidy.
16157 And I think perhaps what we haven't been as clear on as maybe we should have is that, you know, we acknowledge that even though wireline is the best, and delivers what it promises, that it's never going to be able to reach all Canadians. So at the far end, yeah, at the far end of wireline networks, scenarios where there'll never be wireline networks, we see a role for wireless service providers to participate there.
16158 And if you -- you know, if you wanted to, as a result of this proceeding, look at some kind of subsidy mechanism to acknowledge that, I don't think we'd be opposed to it because there is just some places that wireline networks will never reach.
16159 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, dispossess me of this. It sounded a little -- I got the impression reading it that your goal was to make sure they were non competitive within your serving areas. To be blunt about it. Dispossess me of that notion.
16160 MR. STEVENS: That wasn't the objective. Execulink has, I think, just shy of 100 towers out there that we do wireless services on.
16161 Our wireless -- fixed wireless network, it feels like every time you do an upgrade you've met today's need but tomorrow's -- the next day, the next week is not year out. The customer satisfaction still -- the customer demand consumes everything you upgrade.
16162 We believe that fibre is the end game. We're not there. We watch cable operators push fibre deeper to nodes. The copper-based networks have remotes getting further and further out, all fed with fibre. Even the fixed wireless industry, everybody's trying to get fibre to their tower, same with mobility as well.
16163 So we're pushing fibre and fibre deeper into the network. Having built that fibre networks, our experience is once you get it there all of the digital noise about service, quality, speed, it all goes away, and -- but it persists very highly in wireless networks. They just don't measure up.
16164 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
16165 In regard to affordability, in the EKOS survey, it was noticeable that, for instance, residents in the Northwest Territories were, no matter how grudgingly, accepting of the fact that in the high cost service areas they might have to pay a little bit more for service.
16166 In your areas, I think is my question, is the bigger, I mean, bigger issue price, or is it comparable service? Like would people in your areas ---
16167 I mean, given, you know, the cost of housing and all kinds of things are much different in some of these areas than they are in Toronto, the different lifestyle things, in the grand scheme of things is an extra $10 or $15 a month on an Internet bill going to be a deal breaker when you have a 10 minute drive to work as opposed to a 2 hour commute into Toronto and that sort of thing, provided you have access to similar services? Or is price equality a firm thing for your customers?
16168 MS. LAWRENCE: I think that -- I think someone mentioned the other day if you ask someone if they want to pay less for cauliflower they're going to say yes, and I think the same goes for Internet in our areas. But at the end of the day, I think the primary issue is having access to similar services. That's my perspective in our area.
16169 As far as affordability for financially challenged people, I think that may be a different issue.
16170 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. Those are my questions. I'll refer to my colleagues if they have any.
16171 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
16172 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
16173 I heard what you said about fibre, and I think that that's -- I think there's no question every customer who gets fibre to their home is a lucky customer. But this hearing certainly has emphasized that there's a lot of customers that are far from fibre and their needs are not being met at all today.
16174 I want to go back to where you were defining whether a basic service, if it is to be determined that Internet is a basic service, whether it's 5/1 or 10/3, you were talking about quality indicators along with that.
16175 And one of my questions, my first question is, while we've had a lot of discussion about 5/1 or 10/3, services today are sold as up to versus floor speeds. So what do we do about that? As we're defining this service, are you suggesting it's a service up to 10/3? Is it a service that's available 80 percent of the time at 10/3? How do we define that element of speed?
16176 MR. PETRUK: Well, as I mentioned earlier in our submission, availability should be 99.999 percent of the time.
16177 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: At the speed ---
16178 MR. PETRUK: At the speed the customer ---
16179 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- that's advertised?
16180 MR. PETRUK: Yes.
16181 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Ninety-nine point nine-nine (99.99)?
16182 MR. PETRUK: That's ---
16183 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So you are requiring fibre to every home?
16184 MR. PETRUK: I think on copper circuits you can provision them in such a way that they will work to the up to speeds or to the speed that a customer is requesting or paying for. That's a network design topology that I think would be different for each service provider.
16185 But in terms of the monitoring of the circuits, if it was included in the obligation to serve, and if it was regulated, we could use the existing mechanisms that the CRTC already has in place for complaints from customers and monitoring to make sure that the customer is getting what they're paying for, that their speeds are what they're supposed to be, as advertised or as described by the service provider in question.
16186 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, service providers advertise them as up to speeds, and that's my issue. Because clearly, we've -- we have a lot of different incidents brought before us to indicate that the up to isn't happening very often in some cases. We had a gentleman yesterday talking about receiving that speed 22 percent of the time, I think.
16187 MR. PETRUK: In those instances, we are seeing that in parts of our operating territory with customers who are using a wireless service, and as soon as a wired service becomes available, they're more than happy to switch because there is a higher rate of reliability.
16188 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, I understand that.
16189 MR. PETRUK: Sorry.
16190 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And if everybody could have fibre or even a DSL connection, great, but you folks know well the donut issue, and I think you've come before us essentially speaking about everybody outside of the donut hole; right?
16191 I mean, those are the underserved, those are the challenged to serve, those are the ones that DSL is not touching at this point. They're outside of the range of DSL. Those folks are the ones who are being challenged by wireless and satellite solutions that are giving them service not of the same reliability.
16192 So unless and until those folks, somehow you're extending your fibre to those folks, they are likely to be using shared networks, congestion issues, and so on.
16193 And so give me some direction, perhaps something more reasonable than 99.9 percent as to how we would define the basic service related to the speed, reliability, and so on?
16194 MS. LAWRENCE: I think -- I can't address the nine's issue, but what I would like to say with regard to the donut effect and the folks in the outlying areas, is when we are rolling out our networks and developing our future plans, it’s -- the first step is not necessarily a direct fibre to the home connection. We’re extending our remotes, our boxes further connected by fibre, shortening that loop line in a step to ultimately get to a direct fibre connection. So with technologies like VDSL, we are able to provision those 10/3 services at a high standard.
16195 MR. HOLMES: I’ll ask Ian to ---
16196 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Outside of your community boundaries?
16197 MS. LAWRENCE: Into the rural areas of our exchange services.
16198 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You’re taking VDSL outside of ---
16199 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes.
16200 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Oh.
16201 MR. HOLMES: I’ll ask Ian to contribute as well.
16202 MR. STEVENS: So the 5/9s, we’ve been able to do that telecom for a long time with voice. And with DSL, and even cable networks, we’re seeing really high availability when you don’t push it really, really hard, when you, as Angela said, take fibre deeper. It might not be right to the house, but it’s maybe within the last mile. I think we can start to see service levels that are approaching those numbers.
16203 MS. LAWRENCE: If I could just add one final comment because the questioning from you is interesting. But the questioning we get from our customers on a daily basis, why don’t I have fibre, that helps drive our decisions to get the VDSL out further to them so they’re not experiencing any different level of service, whether they have a fibre connection or a copper-based solution.
16204 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. And I hope you continue to drive out your fibre as far as you can.
16205 One of the -- I think you had the conversation with the Vice-Chair acknowledging there’s going to be somebody at the end of your wire. And those folks are looking at different solutions. I mean, I’m prepared to accept the availability and reliability on wired networks that you’ve suggested here, I mean, for purposes of this conversation. But there are other networks that are also in play here in order to serve all Canadians.
16206 The underserved are using wireless. You yourself are using wireless. Those networks are more challenged with oversubscription, with congestion. And I was just looking to you folks to say what might be reasonable ways if this becomes part of the basic service, which means there’s obligations, you know, around ensuring it’s available and reliable, how would we define that in a way that’s reasonable so that customers get a reasonable experience always? Not just, you know, at midnight.
16207 MR. STEVENS: So back to the fixed wireless networks. We know that -- and I think -- we know that the minute a wired broadband shows up all our customers are off the fixed wireless network. They just -- they abandon it like rats from a ship.
16208 We, in our networks, we see and we pushed out fibre to service small and smaller clusters of customers, sometimes under 20 or 30 per remote. And we don’t see that investment in the adjacent wired networks.
16209 We see the investment, the dollar spent -- I think there’s -- last year there was 15 -- almost $15 billion invested in telecom across Canada. We see a lot of that investment going into dense urban areas where there -- two operators are competing against one another to push speeds beyond 100 meg.
16210 We know that we can push the wired networks harder, we can invest and get the remotes closer to the customer to give them the speeds they need. We’re not seeing that happening in adjacent networks.
16211 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Vennard?
16212 MR. ALLARD: Just allow me to --
16213 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
16214 MR. ALLARD: -- give you my own personal perspective. I’m one of those who lives at the end of the road, if you want. I’m two hours away from downtown Montreal. And I’m close to retirement, so I’m semi-retired so I’m doing work at home. And I’d actually need high speed bandwidth.
16215 Where I live, it’s in a very, very remote area covered by mountains. And so cell towers, I’m lucky if I get one bar of cell. So let’s forget broadband on cellular. I’ve called them all. I’ve called Telus. I’ve called Bell and Fido, everybody else. Nobody has -- nobody can give me that kind of service. Called the incumbent phone company. They don’t have high speed Internet in that area. One day they might, but no plans, no firm plans.
16216 So all I’m left with is satellite-based technology or fixed wireless technology. One of which is fairly decent at the speed level, but is excessively high for over usage. And you know, doing teleworking and stuff, I can go over. And I had a child that came over who’s a gamer. And all of a sudden I get this warning message from my supplier saying that current trend I’m going to paying $429 in over usage this month. Like that’s -- that was incredible.
16217 And if I go with the other guy, well, there’s Internet traffic management practices and so on and so forth. So neither one is really optimal for my particular application.
16218 So I would bet that if there was a subsidy scheme, probably the incumbent would do something. He probably wouldn’t bring fibre to my home because I’m really remote. But maybe there would be, you know, a fibre cabinet, fibre to the node system somewhere. And just maybe I might be able to get some level of Internet service from the incumbent phone company.
16219 Or, you know, as we said a while ago, it is conceivable that in some areas wireless or satellite technology is, in fact, the only viable solution. And so perhaps in those cases, it’s not necessarily the same level of performance that must be mandated. But certainly something better than what is today, both in terms of pricing and in terms of quality of service.
16220 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Vennard?
16221 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: We’ve been hearing some interesting things throughout the -- our hearing on the utilization of existing infrastructure. For example, last week we heard about the Cree Nation and how they use the infrastructure of the power. And were you listening to that? You might want to go back and review that. But they’ve created an entire network utilizing existing infrastructure.
16222 We heard from SaskTel yesterday that they had done a fibre swap. If you go back to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, one of their partners is also a power company. So the power companies have got fibre all over the place.
16223 And I’m wondering if that -- does that fit into your plans at all? Have you looked at any of that? I don’t -- I have no idea if it’s in your area -- any of your areas, but I’m just suggesting that that might be something that you want to have a look at too.
16224 Has -- have -- does that fit in with what any of you are doing or know about?
16225 MR. STEVENS: I can’t speak for all of our members, but I know that there’s probably two or three of us at the table that I’m aware of that have done swaps, trades, deals, joint builds with other carriers, other power utilities, other people that have networks in our region.
16226 From our perspective, you talked about the far north, we got to get fibre to the community in the far north. When we look at the rural areas that we service, there’s already fibre to some part of that town on somebody’s network. It’s the last two, three miles of build that has to happen or DSL infrastructure upgrades or, you know, more fixed wireless towers if there’s spectrum and space. Like that’s the gap that we’re seeing in the areas. That’s the business case gap.
16227 And so we continue to explore those ideas and we are always welcome to new ones that are well matched. You know, when two people show up to make a deal, they both have to get something out of it.
16228 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. It sounds like you’re in kind of the same situation in that respect is the -- for example, the Cree Nation, which their next phase of their plan for their network is to take it right to the home and it sounds like it’s the same sort of challenge that you -- a lot of you people are facing as well.
16229 MR. STEVENS: And in our kind of thesis is many parts of rural Canada are already that way.
16230 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16231 MR. STEVENS: But there’s no business case, no rational business case to push it to the next step. And that’s, you know, kind of Pierre’s comment. If the incumbent that he had had a little bit of push, they would take and invest capital dollars to make it happen as opposed to take those dollars to compete with a big cable operator in their urban markets where the cost-to-serve per household is much lower from the capital perspective and an operating perspective.
16232 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, but you might gain some efficiencies if you utilize existing infrastructure -- things that are there already -- and then you could maybe even reposition some of your financial inputs into going into the home instead of doing -- you know, duplicating potentially an infrastructure that’s already there, and that might be useful.
16233 Another thing I was wondering about too was if you could try and clarify for me how a subsidy would work. Like, when you -- you obviously are not that big on the idea of a targeted funding to build because what happens to it after that. How would you see a funding mechanism working that would solve that problem?
16234 MS. LAWRENCE: So are you talking about the provision of the funds or how you would draw funds out of the pool?
16235 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Well both, because they have to -- they have to both come out somehow but they have to go in the first place somehow.
16236 MS. LAWRENCE: So as far as the funds into the pool, part of our proposal is that currently funds are paid to the CFA based on a subset of telecommunications revenue in the country, we’re recommending that that be broadened to include all telecommunications. So that’s how we would envision the funds going into the pool.
16237 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So that would be a contribution from, say ---
16238 MS. LAWRENCE: Internet ---
16239 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- retail internet ---
16240 MS. LAWRENCE: --- and mobility.
16241 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- income. Okay.
16242 MS. LAWRENCE: So then ---
16243 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Do you have any idea how much that might be, some numbers around that? Have you thought about that at all?
16244 MS. LAWRENCE: As far as a rate that they would pay?
16245 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16246 MS. LAWRENCE: So currently I believe it’s .56 would be paid into -- .56 percent of specified telecom revenues are paid into the CFA fund. We believe that rate would likely need to go to about two percent, so about three times the current rate.
16247 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. And ---
16248 MS. LAWRENCE: So as far as drawing funds out of the pool, we envision a very similar process to the current draw out process, so involving the Commission setting what it deems to be the affordable rate for its basic internet package. And when I say “affordable” I mean the average Canadian not -- you know, maybe there’s a different level of affordability for certain sectors.
16249 So the average affordable rate less the Phase II costs to provision the basic internet package as determined by that process and the shortfall would be eligible for funding from the pool.
16250 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So that would then be -- it would be like on an application or do you tie that in with the obligation to serve?
16251 MS. LAWRENCE: It would be tied in with -- if a party was choosing -- was submitting to the Commission that they are willing to take on the obligation to -- or that they are applying for the funding they would take on the obligation to serve.
16252 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Do you see operating companies being able to move from area to area or just in their own operating area?
16253 MS. LAWRENCE: So we are looking at it based on the, I said, hexagon boundaries as opposed to the traditional telephone boundaries.
16254 And as Pierre was saying earlier, we believe that yes, a provider, be it a telecom, cable, wireless, that meets those criteria would be eligible for -- eligible to draw funds from the pool.
16255 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So, for example, within your own organization, if you had a corporation that was focused on filling in those gaps then that organization could conceivably go from area to area from Ontario to British Columbia or other areas as well and then access that and take on the obligation to serve that’s not necessarily attached to a particular area ---
16256 MS. LAWRENCE: Correct.
16257 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: --- for a particular function? Is that ---
16258 MS. LAWRENCE: Correct.
16259 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Is that what you were thinking?
16260 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes.
16261 MR. HOLMES: Yeah, and the logic is we don’t think there’s any incumbency in broadband, so if one of our member companies sees some opportunities like 25 miles away outside of their SILEC territory they’d be free to go and build a network there and then start claiming subsidy for the broadband NAS that they serve.
16263 MR. ALLARD: Just a small comment. I looked at the map that you put online recently. It’s a very good effort by the way. It appears to be based on the hexagon system so that’s great.
16264 I guess my comment is that in order to make it even more productive, I think there should be a mechanism in there so that you can actually -- there’s a tool that would allow you to essentially drill down to a specific hexagon.
16265 I was having some trouble, you know, focusing down to the specific individual hexagon. But once you’re there, there should be a tool to be able to kind of challenge what’s being shown in terms of coverage.
16266 Obviously LTE coverage, for example -- and it’s right on the site too -- LTE coverage may not cover all areas, and that’s really a fact, but there are many other wireless systems that claim that they’re able to cover certain areas and they just can’t for reasons of topography and others.
16267 So there should be a mechanism in there for different suppliers to say our customers are telling us that there is absolutely no supplier able to provide service there so therefore we should be able to go into the system interactively and update that hexagon to say there is no supplier.
16268 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Okay, those are my questions. Thank you.
16269 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we hear you on the map. It is a first cut at it and it needs to be improved.
16270 As you know, we have some satellite-served communities in this country, and for the foreseeable future I think that’s going to be the case. Do you think there should be a different broadband BSO for satellite- served communities?
16271 MR. ALLARD: Yeah, what we’re suggesting is that for the most part different suppliers that are getting a subsidy should meet the same level of BSO. However, there are -- yes, there are certain areas where it’s just conceivable that there is only a single technology available to provide service to that particular customer. And so it is quite conceivable that there might be different levels of performance that might be attached to that BSO in those specific cases.
16272 THE CHAIRPERSON: So what would be the BSO in those communities, in your view, in terms of speed and other characteristics?
16273 MR. HOLMES: We haven’t really put a lot of thought into what a satellite BSO would look like. I’m hesitant to say we could undertake to do that because we don’t have a lot of experience in those areas.
16274 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you might turn your mind to it in the subsequent phases on the 25th of May and the 13th of June for instance?
16275 MR. HOLMES: Yes.
16276 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Understood.
16277 It wouldn’t be a telecom hearing if I didn’t get to ask a Phase II cost question. Ms. Lawrence, you mentioned that we would probably or might have to go through a Phase II cost approach if we were in a case where a supplier was providing both phone and broadband. How would the loop cost be assigned in that case?
16278 MS. LAWRENCE: Let me first preface with the fact that I am not anywhere near a Phase II expert.
16279 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, nor am I.
16280 MS. LAWRENCE: But I think my initial response to that would be that the loop costs would be allocated based on -- currently right now based on traffic. I think that would be the basis that would drive the allocation of those costs.
16281 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it would be shared on how much traffic was voice and broadband?
16282 MS. LAWRENCE: Right.
16283 THE CHAIRPERSON: At least conceptually?
16284 MS. LAWRENCE: Yeah.
16285 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. But we’ll see in practicality how that would work.
16287 MR. HOLMES: I think Ian might have something.
16288 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
16289 MR. STEVENS: I think, you know, the thought -- Angela’s thought is right in line with what we’ve been -- I’ve been thinking about as well is that there needs to be some allocation.
16290 What it ends up doing is those that already have a network have a slight advantage in terms of Phase II costing potentially than somebody else that already is trying to come in with only half the story.
16291 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
16292 I don’t want to pick on you, Ms. Lawrence, but I noticed that you -- for Hay Communications you have unlimited offerings ---
16293 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes, we do.
16294 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- and -- including for fixed wireless?
16295 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes. Mind you, the ability to crank up a lot of volume on our fixed wireless is greatly diminished.
16296 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So why did you go in that direction? Because, you know, some might argue that the reason we, in the earlier days, had caps was to manage the network and it’s morphed into something other, arguably, and yet you’ve chosen to go unlimited.
16297 Is that because there is less of a need to manage the network through caps?
16298 MS. LAWRENCE: So I don’t think it was a conscious decision. When we first rolled out our internet packages it wasn’t something that was considered.
16299 I’m anxious to see the results of the query that was sent out recently by the Commission in terms of average use by package. To see how far our average use is different from those that do have internet caps, so I’m looking forward to that.
16300 We have considered it at various times. However, our build of our overall network has not been hampered, has not been a requirement to -- we haven’t seen the immediate need to restrict our users.
16301 And it certainly is something that would generate a lot of customer backlash. Whether they were affected by it or not, customers want the ability to choose -- or to not be concerned about their usage so there’s a marketing impact to it.
16302 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right but you probably still have fair-use policies?
16303 MS. LAWRENCE: We do.
16304 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
16305 MS. LAWRENCE: We do.
16306 THE CHAIRPERSON: For the extreme cases.
16307 MS. LAWRENCE: Yes, yes.
16308 THE CHAIRPERSON: Anyone else on this?
16309 MR. STEVENS: So Execulink offers unlimited and capped packages and -- on both our own infrastructure and on resold TPIA and Bell wholesale networks.
16310 We spend a great deal of time engineering and watching our customers, on the TPIA and wholesale networks, and can attest that the consumers that are on unlimited consume a lot more than those that are on capped packages.
16311 It is an engineering factor that we spend quite a bit of time on.
16312 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. From an engineering perspective but ---
16313 MR. STEVENS: Cost -- and cost.
16314 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you can -- well obviously for cost, but economically as well; right?
16315 MR. STEVENS: Yes.
16316 THE CHAIRPERSON: So -- yes, okay.
16317 MR. STEVENS: Yes.
16318 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m glad you mentioned the interrogs we sent on usage. It’s not just the FCC that’s looking at this issue; we are as well.
16319 Your position as an ILEC -- as ILECs, and granted smaller ones, where you’re seeming to come forward and say we think you should have an obligatory standard, which is quite a stretch in terms of speed, seems to be out of whack with other ILECs.
16320 And I was wondering -- and yet it will require investments will it not?
16321 And yet you’re thinking that that’s the right solution and I’m struck that the smaller players are making that argument, whereas almost unanimously the larger players are on the other side of the issue.
16322 Help me understand that.
16323 MR. HOLMES: Help you understand why we’ve ---
16324 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why you’re so -- as ILECs, smaller -- probably one could argue you have less capacity --
16325 MR. HOLMES: Sure.
16326 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- you’re ready to step up, but the -- to a very stretched goal, but the larger companies, often some of them are publicly traded, obviously are concerned about financial issues, as they should be, are in a publicly traded market place and about their investments and all that, why they seem almost unanimously to be against this sort of standard.
16327 MR. STEVENS: So in my opinion I think you’ve nailed talking about how they are funded, managed, owned. The reason why they are -- they have to continue to meet quarterly results and the capital investments needed to do rural Canada with -- if it’s not funded doesn’t make business sense.
16328 So they are spending their dollars on markets where they have the lowest cost to get the most speed, the most value for their shareholders.
16329 Now in my view, you know, it’s easy in downtown Ottawa to get to 10, 15, 20,000 customers. I was looking out the hotel this morning, there are more customers in the high rises I could see out my hotel window that we have in our entire service operating territory.
16330 It’s highly dense, very low cost. And they’re competing, two incumbents -- or a cable and a -- generally a cable and a telco, are competing for the customer and if they don’t keep investing in these markets the other guy is going to win.
16331 So they’re taking their capital dollars, putting it where it’s the best spot to get revenue and it’s not in rural areas. When we look at -- we believe that the rational business decision is not to invest in non-dense areas.
16332 So they’re doing exactly what they’re stakeholders are asking them to do, get the most revenue, most profit ---
16333 THE CHAIRPERSON: Stakeholders or shareholders?
16334 MR. STEVENS: Shareholders.
16335 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, sorry.
16336 MR. STEVENS: Thank you.
16337 Are asking them to do and get the most dollars for their investment and rural Canada is not going to do that for them.
16338 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
16339 You may have heard that I’ve -- thank you for that. That’s useful and something that perhaps others should reflect on in the further stages, because there is quite a different perspective on it.
16340 As you noted we asked other providers, and it’s a bit more complicated in your case because you represent a lot of companies, about complaints that you might receive about internet services.
16341 And many have undertaken to provide some explanation or a description of the top three internet related -- broadband internet related complaints that you receive.
16342 Have you given some thought on how you could do that in light of the fact that you have several companies before us?
16343 MR. HOLMES: What we usually do when we get Commission interrogs is I get them and then I distribute them out to everyone.
16344 So if you’d like us to do that --
16345 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
16346 MR. HOLMES: -- I can definitely ask for just give us the top three --
16347 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
16348 MR. HOLMES: -- that you receive and we can undertake to file that.
16349 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, that’s good. If you could, thank you.
16351 THE CHAIRPERSON: And again complexity, because we’ve been asking for –- and I don’t even know what your practices are from company to company in terms of contracts versus just using general terms and conditions.
16352 Do you have specific internet contracts or does it differ broadly?
16353 MS. LAWRENCE: It’s probably a wide range of practices, as far as contracts or terms of service.
16354 THE CHAIRPERSON: Again, realising the complexity of having so many folks in front of us, could you undertake to give us let’s say five, whether it’s a contract or terms and conditions, by which you offer internet services?
16355 In my view probably terms and conditions are a contract, but I don’t have ---
16356 MR. HOLMES: Yes, we can undertake to get five examples for you.
16357 THE CHAIRPERSON: For five of your members? Representative --
16358 MR. HOLMES: Representative, yes.
16359 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- of them. So if there’s two that are identical that’s not useful. That won’t be useful but, you know, just to get a range of those that would be useful --
16360 MR. HOLMES: Yes.
16361 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- as an undertaking for the 5th of May, granted.
16363 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well thank you very much for your participation; always appreciated. It’s -- as I mentioned earlier it’s nice to see the leaders in the various companies showing up to our hearings.
16364 So why don’t we take a break until 10:55. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:39 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:56 a.m.
16365 THE CHAIRPERSON: À l’ordre. Order, please. Madame la secrétaire?
16366 LA SECRÉTAIRE: We will now hear the presentation of CanWISP. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
16367 MR. DUCHCHERER: Good morning Minister Chairman, minister -- or Mr. Vice-Chairman, ladies and gentlemen Commissioners and Commission staff.
16368 I am Terry Duchcherer, past Chairman of the Board of Directors of CanWISP and Co-owner of Netago, a wireless ISP based in rural Alberta.
16369 I would like to introduce the team that will be presenting today.
16370 To my right, Christopher Pape, Vice-Chairman of the Board; and Meredith Simpson, co-owner of Kingston Online Services; to my left, Johnathan Black, CFO of Storm Internet; and Guy Lussier, consultant for CanWISP as well as to many of our members.
16371 Unfortunately, the Chairman of our Board was not able to join us today and since this consultation was initiated under my mandate, he has asked me to carry on the project.
16372 I’ll let Meredith start off with a description of our industry and relevant issues.
16373 MS. SIMPSON: We thank you very much for giving us the time to share our experience and our views of the needs of both private and business consumers living in rural and underserved markets in Canada.
16374 CanWISP is an association of Canadian Wireless Internet Service Providers operating mostly in areas that are not serviced by large operators.
16375 Our association is growing. We have 40 members after only 3 years of operation. Our members now serve over 130,000 subscribers spread across almost all the provinces.
16376 The typical profile of our members is an owner-operator, a technical entrepreneur, who is passionate about the service they provide. They built their own network to the Internet and they build a company around their customers' needs. The large majority of our members live in the communities that they serve.
16377 Many of our members started providing Internet service when Netscape was still the prime web navigator. We have a lot of experience with providing Internet service in underserved and hard to reach or scarcely populated areas.
16378 Before we dig in this presentation, we want to acknowledge that on April the 18th, the Chairman provided new direction for this hearing. Although we already have some thoughts on the issues raised by the Chairman, we would respectfully ask for the opportunity to provide the Commission with a more detailed response at the May 5th deadline.
16379 In this short presentation, we would like to address the following four main topics:
16380 Number one: Market forces for the provision of Internet services in rural and hard to reach or scarcely populated areas across the country;
16381 Number two: Operational subsidies for the delivery of Internet services in rural areas;
16382 Number three: The need to establish a regulatory mechanism to provide infrastructure funding in order to foster better and more robust competition for the offering of Internet services to customers living in rural and hard to reach or scarcely populated areas. And finally;
16383 Number four: The need to ensure a more efficient and effective way to use spectrum, especially in rural areas, a constructive collaboration between the telecom industry, the Commission and Innovation, Science and Economic Development, ISED Canada, with a public policy objective of ensuring that consumers living in rural areas may benefit from the same level and quality of Internet service as those of us living in Canadian urban centres. These services should also be available at a reasonable price.
16384 I'll let Jonathan now discuss some of the market dynamics that impact our members.
16385 MR. BLACK: Let's start from what Canadian consumers are saying. What follows are some comments taken from Canadians' responses to the EKOS Survey on rural Internet service commissioned by the CRTC for the benefit of this public hearing.
16386 From all the good information about Internet services that we found, we retained a couple of points. The following information pertaining specifically to the rural market.
16387 First, Internet is the most used service of all the telecommunications services. Just from this data, it's clear that the Internet is an essential and valuable service.
16388 Secondly, 8 percent of the 11 million Internet subscribers are served by fixed wireless. That's 800,000 homes and businesses. Fixed wireless is, therefore, an important method of delivering an Internet service to consumers in rural areas, and for good reasons. It's not as expensive as laying out wirelines, and if it is engineered correctly, in the right environment, it can be as reliable as wireline-based services.
16389 Thirdly, we found comments that there is higher dissatisfaction about Internet access and services in rural communities because of pricing and service level.
16390 So let's analyze each of these points and see how they link to our four main topics.
16391 First point: Internet is an essential service.
16392 Where there is no Internet service, there really should be. Since there are areas that still don't have a reliable service, we believe that capital expenditure funding assistance is both necessary and required, and this funding should be made available on a yearly basis.
16393 Funding should be available through competitive bidding, letting market forces be the driver. However, in the past, many times we have seen public funding go to larger companies, which in turn, in many cases, used that money to overbuild existing networks in rural areas.
16394 Above all, we consider that operational subsidies to telecom companies should be abolished where there is already an alternative voice offering. Using a public policy mechanism, such as the National Contribution Fund in this way, only distorts the marketplace. There is no longer a need for this type of financial support in Canada in the 21st century.
16395 Our members have been operating in these areas without any type of operating subsidies. We can do this because we keep our cost structures low. Yet, we provide local employment and expertise in the markets and areas in which we operate. In doing so, we greatly contribute to the economic activities and social fabric of the rural communities we serve.
16396 Second point: We found fixed wireless is an important and necessary tool to provide quality Internet access and services at a reasonable cost to the customer in rural areas. The reason is simple; fibre optic networks are expensive to build. However, wireless networks cannot be implicated -- implemented without the use of a scarce public resource, namely spectrum.
16397 Unfortunately, current ISED Canada spectrum allocation policies stipulate that spectrum blocks are auctioned off by geographic areas, or tiers. These tiers encompass urban centres and surrounding rural areas. This makes licenses prohibitively expensive for our members.
16398 Third point: Customer dissatisfaction in rural areas. There were two main areas of complaint –- service and price.
16399 Price to the subscriber. Well, services that are available in rural areas come from three main technologies -- mobile smart hubs, satellite, and fixed wireless. The first two solutions are very expensive
16400 Our members, who are fixed wireless providers, tend to offer competitive service levels at lower prices than the competitors in our market. Despite this, even our members cannot match the price and service levels found in urban centres.
16401 Pricing is also affected by the cost of infrastructure. In some cases, government funding is necessary to build the infrastructure. Competitive pricing depends on the availability of appropriately priced wireless backhaul and fibre optic Points of Presence.
16402 Spectrum is another type of infrastructure that also impacts pricing. Earlier in the hearing, the Milton councillors referred to the unavailability of spectrum and we will address this a little later this morning.
16403 The EKOS Survey further revealed that customers are also dissatisfied about the speed they get and the download capacity they have per month. In our world, this also equates to spectrum.
16404 So we think that spectrum is the elephant in the hearing room that needs to be addressed or at least explained. From our perspective, spectrum is a big part of the problem as well as a part of the solution.
16405 I'll pass it over to Terry at this point.
16406 MR. DUCHCHERER: Let's explain the world from our point of view. It's impossible to deploy fibre optics everywhere; it would be too costly. We know, some of us have looked into it.
16407 The only terrestrial solution is wireless, yet the spectrum that is allocated to solve the coverage is very small. However, we think that spectrum in general is underutilized in rural areas. We also think that it's not priced to solve the problems.
16408 On the slide that you have on the screen, this is our world. Fifty-eight (58) percent of the spectrum is licensed and difficult to obtain by WISPs because of its pricing and availability.
16409 We operate in unlicensed spectrum, which represents 20 percent, sharing the use with Wi Fi, home phones, baby monitors, video surveillance systems, utility meters, and even the RCMP in some areas. The Dynamic Frequency Selection, DFS spectrum, has a lot of limitations, which render it unpractical for coverage beyond 5 kilometres.
16410 A lot of our members are deploying or looking to deploy LTE equipment. This further limits our selection to the Lite Licensed spectrum, which is only 4 percent, and we have to share with all other providers. In other words, we share the spectrum with a lot of services and we do last mile and backhaul in these same bands.
16411 Also, we need to explain that licensed spectrum is auctioned in tiers, as it was mentioned by Rogers last week, but a tier always includes an urban portion and a rural portion, so one has to purchase the urban to get the right to use the rural. Very often, pricing is prohibitive for that reason.
16412 Up to now, we think that we have exploited this natural resource very efficiently, but we are running out of options and creative solutions. And like everyone, we are seeing data throughputs and capacity requirements increasing exponentially.
16413 The licensed spectrum band dedicated to fixed wireless is 3500 megahertz. It is the best-suited band because equipment is available.
16414 Because of the transaction that took place last week between Telus and Xplornet, the band is now owned at 84 percent by Inukshuk, a Bell/Rogers partnership, and Xplornet. This is now a duopoly, since there is no spectrum cap for fixed wireless. It is not fostering healthy competition.
16415 The duopoly becomes a monopoly in Toronto, where all seven blocks of spectrum are held by a single licensee, Inukshuk. Incidentally, Inukshuk covered rural communities but both Bell and Rogers stopped their wireless data operations in this band in 2012.
16416 We would like to mention that there is unused spectrum in the rural areas assigned to mobile operators. Mobile spectrum needs are forecasted for dense urban areas and mobile operators acquire licences for all the territory, yet don’t deploy much in the rural areas because of the density is low.
16417 We also have a keen interest in the upcoming 600 megahertz auction rules and obligations because it may affect the remote rural broadband system, or RBS, and TV white space, both which show promise as a solution for our members.
16418 We believe that is a public policy principle in order to foster robust competition to the benefit of rural Canadian consumers. Fixed wireless operators should have a reasonable possibility to access as much needed spectrum covering rural areas.
16419 We are well aware that the CRTC does not have jurisdiction over spectrum management. This falls under ISED Canada. However, throughout this hearing we’ve heard the Commission ask, what can the CRTC or other governmental organizations do to improve the situation?
16420 CanWISP has the following recommendations.
16421 We believe that there should be a National Broadband Strategy and that both the CRTC and ISED Canada have a critical role to play. We also believe that as part of this National Broadband Strategy, Canada’s most valuable, invisible, natural resource, spectrum, is utilized in an effective and efficient manner in the delivery of broadband services.
16422 Secondly, and possibly the most out of the box thinking, a broadband fund could be established. This will be funded by a small percentage of revenues of major carriers. However, given that major carriers have spectrum holdings which are idle in rural areas, then they should be mandated to contribute the spectrum to the fund in partial satisfaction of their required monetary contributions.
16423 Because of the recent changes in the environment since our original submission was filed, we feel that the need to value spectrum based on the megahertz per population rather than megahertz per hexagon in this scenario. In this scenario, a minimum amount of spectrum would need to be contributed to the -- turned off.
16424 Operators wanting to use the spectrum would have to pay the fund to get access to it. Spectrum put into the fund will be made available for a sub-licensed term of at least five years. Yearly applications will be made by operators to fund capital expenditures necessary to expand or upgrade infrastructure in underserved areas in a competitive bidding process.
16425 Adoption by the Commission of this proposal would provide a rapid yet bold and sound solution to a large problem that cripples Internet services in sparsely populated areas, both for independent ISP operators and the Canadian consumers living in those underserved areas.
16426 In conclusion, our member’s goal is to better serve the areas that we are in, expand where the demand is and will be in the future. We are incentivized by having the local politicians calling us and underserved residents meeting with us. But continue to work -- but continue our work in providing robust competition in Internet access in rural areas, we need the recommendations implemented.
16427 Thank you very much for your attention and patience. We are now at your disposal to answer any questions you may have.
16428 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Commissioner MacDonald will start us off.
16429 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Good morning. And thank you for your comments this morning. They take a little bit of a different focus than the original submission. So I’m going to -- I’ll have a few questions on your original submission, but I’ll largely base my questions on what you’ve presented today.
16430 Just to start out you note that your organization is only three years old and you’ve got about 40 member companies. How did you all come together into one organization and what’s your mandate, your mission statement?
16431 MR. DUCHCHERER: Our group was founded primarily three years ago because there was a consultation on 35 megahertz spectrum and the renewing of licences at that time. So there was a group of about 12 operators that had a common interest in that. We met in Ottawa, formed the organization, entered a submission and on that proceeding, and then have grown from there to try to determine what are the other issues of our operators across Canada.
16432 I cannot cite our mandate and mission off the top of my head, but I would be happy to put that into our submission May 5th as an undertaking.
16433 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay. Thank you.
16435 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: And your member organizations, because I looked on your website and I couldn’t find it, are they -- tend to be clustered in one geography? Or do you have member organizations from across the country?
16436 MR. DUCHCHERER: Our member organizations are just about in every province in Canada. Now we have representation in the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.
16437 What was the second part of that question, please?
16438 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: I was just sort of trying to get a sense as to where your organizations were, whether they were all, you know, clustered in the area around Toronto, for example, or whether they were representative of issues coast to coast.
16439 MR. DUCHCHERER: I think it would be coast to coast. I know we have five members, I believe, in Alberta, three or four in Manitoba. So we do have representation. B.C. is a little bit lighter because they have the BCBA in that province. But we work with them as well. They’ve been to our conferences. We’ve been to theirs. And we keep in constant communication with them as well. The BCBA is actually a member of our organization as well.
16440 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay. And of the 130,000 subscribers that you have across those member companies, do they tend to be the remotest of the remote or do they tend to be clustered in and around suburban areas or rural parts of the country that are still relatively close to larger centers?
16441 MR. DUCHCHERER: Okay. So first let me clarify our position on rural and remote. We consider rural most of Canada but remote to be more the north. At this particular time, we don’t have members in the north so we don’t consider that part of our organization.
16442 We have varying size members. So we have members that would have as low as 100 or 200 customers, and members that are larger into say the 27,000 mark.
16443 We have large members that are close to urban centres and we have large members that are completely rural. So it’s a diverse mix of those type of companies.
16444 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay. In your original submission you suggested a new target of 10 down and 2 up. And I’m just wondering, was that agreed to by all of your members? And the follow-up question would be, to your knowledge, are your current members able to provide the minimum -- the current minimum of 5 down 1 up today?
16445 MR. DUCHCHERER: So our original submission our target was agreed to at 5/1.
16446 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay.
16447 MR. DUCHCHERER: With a future target of 10 in 5 to 7 years.
16448 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay.
16449 MR. DUCHCHERER: The majority of our members today do provide a 5 by 1 service or are striving to get there. And we feel that market forces will push us towards a 10 service over the next few years.
16450 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: And was the general thought that the current target and the future target in five to seven years that that would be adequate to meet both the needs of residential customers as well as small, medium business customers as well?
16451 MR. DUCHCHERER: So I think we need to keep in mind that we’re talking minimum targets, not maximum. And the majority of our members build to provide at least the minimum. But of course, being business people we need more revenue. More revenue is attracted by larger packages. So most of us do offer higher speeds.
16452 So if consumers want them or if businesses want them, they are available.
16453 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay. Perfect.
16454 You’d suggested ultimately moving towards a two meg up service. And yesterday we heard from SaskTel and they were suggesting that one meg up would be adequate even on a go-forward basis. So I’m wondering, can you explain your thoughts as to why we may want to look at a target upload speed of two megs versus the one?
16455 MR. DUCHCHERER: I believe we are seeing a shift of some services moving towards Cloud. So upload is being -- become a little more of a factor than it is today. The majority of traffic is still going to be in the download direction. But we don’t want to choke our download direction by not having enough upload to support the services that we’re using.
16456 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: And do you see those future targets as being a regulated target, hard target or more of an aspirational target? Because we -- five years ago we set an aspirational target, and to large extent across the country, that has been met.
16457 MR. DUCHCHERER: I don’t think any of us have a crystal ball of what we’re going to need in three to five years. The numbers we’re saying today could be totally ludicrous or more than enough. I believe we have to remain aspirational, and I believe that as business people our consumers will continue to tell us what they want, how fast, how much capacity. And if we are to remain in business, we’re going to have to meet that demand.
16458 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I wish we did have that crystal ball, because I think it would make all of our jobs a lot easier.
16459 MR. DUCHCHERER: Absolutely.
16460 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yesterday SaskTel also told us that although they offer the 5/1 service, many of their customers elect to purchase a smaller package with -- with less bandwidth, be it for economic reasons or they just don’t have the need for that type of capacity. Is that something that -- that your members see, people for whatever reason opting for smaller packages when they're provided?
16461 MR. DUCHCHERER: I’ll speak from my company’s perspective. We’ve offered a 5/1 for a few years now, we are now rolling out LTE into the majority of our area. We’re not seeing the uptake that we expected to see from consumers. We’re actually finding that a lot of them are happy with the 5/1 service. The consumers moving to higher packages are mainly families with lots of kids, maybe a little larger rural operations as far as business, but it has not been to the level we expected. So yes, I do believe that the consumer will always want a lower-priced option.
16462 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And do you think the major driver there is just the price of the service, people making that decision for economic reasons or because that’s actually what they require to contribute and be part of today’s digital economy?
16463 MR. DUCHCHERER: I don’t think it’s always an economic reason. I believe there are people out there that are satisfied. And possibly in a rural population, we may find that the population is a little older than in the urban centres. A lot of the younger people move away from rural areas. So some of our older consumers have a need to check the weather, email, maybe Skype with their grandkids. They're starting to get into Netflix, but their needs are probably not as high as a younger generation.
16464 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah. How do you position your -- well, just to back up, I mean we’ve heard from -- from different satellite providers and companies like Xplornet that talk about their -- their future offerings and you know, the new -- new speeds that are coming. And I'm wondering how do you position your services against those of Xplornet or -- or other -- or other providers?
16465 MR. DUCHCHERER: Yeah, as far as satellite services I believe we certainly have better performance metrics, better latency, better throughputs. I believe we’re better positioned on price than a satellite service. Again, we’re business people, you always have to monitor your competition and adapt to the marketplace in order to retain customers.
16466 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So then ---
16467 MR. DUCHCHERER: A second point that I think we do excel on is in customer support. A lot of our companies are local, we have offices where customers can come in and talk to us. We have people that live in their communities they're talking to on the phone. It’s a different interaction with our customers than the larger providers.
16468 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And that's because you're actually closer to the community, not -- and don’t have to put someone on a plane or an excessively long truck roll to address a problem when it’s -- when it actually arises?
16469 MR. DUCHCHERER: That’s correct, all of my company lives in the area we serve.
16470 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So in a sense you're obviously in a different industry, you would be of the view that even services such as -- such as Xplornet or we had OneWeb speaking yesterday that that’s -- those solutions aren’t necessarily the silver bullet to solve all of the connectivity problems that we face in the country?
16471 MR. DUCHCHERER: There's no one solution, it’s not fibre, it’s not wireless, it’s not satellite, it's not low orbit. There is no single solution. The fact that we have multiple solutions is evident because of that need. And to the consumer, it gives him multiple choices.
16472 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So if there's no one solution, should there just be one target across the country, or should we be looking at different targets whether they’d be fixed targets or aspirational targets, should we be adapting that to account for the different realities across the country?
16473 MR. DUCHCHERER: I would say that, you know, whoever would be involved in your national broadband strategy, that would be one question that they would have to answer inside that.
16474 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just to move off of speed for a second, we’ve been hearing a lot about data usage and data caps and people that if the caps is set too low that they burn through it in the first few days of the month, then face significant overage charges. Does your company or any of your members offer unlimited packages today?
16475 MR. DUCHCHERER: I’ll let Christopher answer that one.
16476 MR. PAPE: Thank you for your question.
16477 Several of our members do offer unlimited plans, either on the fixed wireless side or with other methods of delivery currently. I think that that is a strategy to reduce turn and to promote customer loyalty. We see a lot of turn in the business where customers feel that they might be charged or receive surcharges at every turn. And the customer likes to have a level of price certainty in their monthly expenditure for internet services.
16478 The challenge is that there are several types of users of internet systems, some are -- as Terry has previously mentioned -- looking to do some email, some web surfing, maybe some Skyping. Then there's another class that are very dependent on Cloud services like Netflix and other streaming media sites. And then finally there are heavy use customers who see the delivery of internet service as a constant service that they want to be able to fully utilize.
16479 And so the challenge is to figure out a strategy where you could offer price certainty as well as not overwhelm your network configuration. So each member tends to look at unlimited service slightly differently, but many of our members do promote and supply it, and many of our members also use caps.
16480 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: What ---
16481 MR. DUCHCHERER: Can I just add to that?
16482 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes.
16483 MR. DUCHCHERER: I'm going to add from the perspective of my own company. We started out doing unlimited internet mainly for the reason that we didn’t think data was going to be a problem on our network. We since had to move to data caps, more to get consumers into the correct package than to penalize them with overages. We very seldom charge overages, but educate our customers as to where they need to be in our plans.
16484 I use the example of one customer I had that was basically downloading 24 hours a day, didn’t care about the speed, he was just archiving data. He used between 800 gigabytes and a terabyte of data per month on a five meg package. That causes a problem for my other customers in that tier. Therefore, we had to implement a strategy.
16485 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And what challenges from a technical standpoint does that create in your -- on your infrastructure -- your backend infrastructure, when customers are using data to -- to that level?
16486 MR. DUCHCHERER: So wireless technology is based on bits of time. Each customer gets a bit of time to provide data, and if he’s using all the time slots all the time, there aren’t enough to go around for all the customers. So it has an impact on the ability to deliver services to other people.
16487 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And it’s a question for your company or your other member companies, for those that do provide unlimited packages, were you ever able to do any -- any monitoring or modeling to figure out what the average customer actually uses from a data perspective, knowing that there are different buckets of customers, the light users, the medium or heavy users? Do you have any data to suggest what -- what a minimum data allowance should be if we were to mandate one?
16488 MR. DUCHCHERER: We don’t have that figure on an industry-wide or organization-wide basis. In particular again, we just implemented a very good monitoring solution into our network so we’re only about eight months of looking at data very closely.
16489 We could get back to you on figures.
16490 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
16491 M. DUCHCHERER: Poll our members on that.
16493 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. That would be helpful.
16494 And I know it’s difficult because you’re here speaking for 40 companies with 40 different backend systems and processes so I know that creates some complexity.
16495 But how commonplace or do any of your organizations do anything today with respect to alerting customers when they’re nearing their cap and what are the best practices to, you know, manage that relationship with your customers?
16496 MR. DUCHCHERER: Okay. Again I’ll speak from my perspective.
16497 We send out an email at 80 percent of data usage. In the email we explain to them that they’ve reached this percentage. We also explain all the packages that we offer and the amount of data in each package. So we’re hoping that at what point in a month they receive that email they should be able to determine how much they’re going to use in a month. We send out a second email at 100 percent. So again they know now that they’ve reached their caps.
16498 We do not throttle or stop bandwidth at any point. So we give two warnings and it’s up to them now to monitor their usage or change packages.
16499 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. In your third point this morning you mentioned that two of the main complaints that you receive is with respect to the quality of the service and the price. And since you are predominantly serving more rural customers, or at least customers outside the urban area, do you get the sense that rural customers expect to pay more for their service than urban customers would given the cost to deploy some of this infrastructure?
16500 MR. BLACK: I’ll take that. Thank you for the question.
16501 Just to clarify, that comment came from the survey not necessarily from our membership, but as we read through the survey that was one of the comments that came out about rural internet. Of course, our customers aren’t complaining. No, I’m kidding.
16502 From what we’ve experienced, rural customers understand that they will need to pay a bit more than urban customers. They’re not happy with it. Would they always want to pay less? Yes, of course.
16503 But I think in our membership our desire is to offer a competitively priced package at a minimal premium over what they would have to spend if they were living in an urban centre.
16504 But, just to clarify, those comments were from the survey not necessarily from our members.
16505 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And again, just in your own conversations with rural customers -- I think everyone always wants to pay less for everything; we’ve talked about the price of almonds and cauliflower so far in the hearing.
16506 If people have concerns about price, do you get the sense that it’s -- they just think everything should cost less, or they’re doing a comparison to what their cousin or their brother might be receiving in an urban area, or is it more of a value for dollar, I don’t feel that this $50 a month package is providing the service that I should get for $50 a month?
16507 MR. BLACK: When we get comments about pricing it comes mostly because they’re looking at a provider in an urban centre, service that’s available in an urban centre, be it DSL or cable-based internet services, it’s not because they’re looking at a rurally based competitor.
16508 So we do get the sense that they are comparing themselves to the urban centres, their uncle, their cousin, their relative.
16509 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So that’s price. The second is quality of service. And from within your own members and their relationships with their customers, what percentage of the complaints would relate to quality of service issues like jitter latency, mean time to repair when there’s an outage?
16510 And if you don’t have that today that may be something you want to canvas your members and ask the question.
16511 MR. DUCHCHERER: Yeah, I think that, as the previous group said, we could certainly query our members on what the top three or four service complaints are that they deal with and try to get back to you on that on May 5th.
16513 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. That would be perfect. Thank you.
16514 With respect to backhaul infrastructure, be it wireless, be it fibre-optic, what have you, do you have difficulty in obtaining -- I’ll back up one step. Do you have difficulty finding out and discovering what your backhaul options are in a particular geography?
16515 MR. LUSSIER: Yeah, thank you. So I’m a consultant for many operators and usually the operators know very well the area in which they are in. They might not know the exact point of location of the point of presence but the operators or the suppliers -- the backhaul suppliers are certainly known.
16516 If fibre goes around you just take a walk and look up the post and there’s a tag and there’s -- it’s there, you can figure out where the fibre’s going.
16517 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: It might become a little bit more difficult if it wasn’t on a pole but in a conduit, but I take your point.
16518 MR. LUSSIER: But you can always go on Google Earth if you want and look up on Google Earth and you can see the tag.
16519 MR. DUCHCHERER: I found your comment, or one of the comments from one of the Commissioners this morning about, you know, alternate accesses that we haven’t thought about, for instance, power companies with fibre along their main transmission lines, could that be part of a strategy as well where a lot of those things are identified as alternate thoughts of where to be able to obtain fibre, because I believe you’re right, there’s a lot of fibre in the ground that is un-thought of that companies would even have it.
16520 A friend of mine works for the power company and I asked him one day what the building was at the bottom of a transmission tower in the middle of nowhere only to find out that that was a fibre regeneration pop.
16521 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So do you think it would provide value to your members if there was more access to that type of information?
16522 Because, to your point, it’s not just the telcos that have fibre, municipalities are out running fibre, power companies are out running fibre. But it’s difficult to sometimes discover what the best options are, and that has an impact on price, if you think there’s only one fibre running into a community when in fact there may be a couple it limits your options.
16523 MR. DUCHCHERER: I would agree with that. Again, we tend to think of looking for fibre from telecom companies. We haven’t necessarily thought what are other sources of fibre out there.
16524 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: In your dealings with the telcos, do you feel that they are eager to make those assets available to you at a reasonable price?
16525 MR. BLACK: My company participated in the eastern Ontario regional network build-out, and as part of that I think they very wisely put in as a first phase the backhaul. So a number of fibre pops throughout eastern Ontario were installed by Bell and there were regulated or promised prices at which anyone could access those fibre pops.
16526 In that situation, we were able to economically get access to that fibre and to internet transit. It also impacted the design of our network.
16527 I wouldn’t say they are reluctant. In fact, in many cases they’re looking for customers for those remote areas, you know, and underserved. If they’ve put in a fibre pop in rural Ontario they’d like to get some revenue out of that too.
16528 So I wouldn’t say they’re reluctant. When we call them and say, you know, do you have anything in this area we tend to get a response.
16529 I think to your former question, we may not know what we don’t know. You know, there may be fibre there in places -- or with companies. We’re not asking.
16530 So I don’t sense a reluctance.
16531 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just one final question and then I’m going to move to -- oh, sorry. Go ahead.
16532 MR. LUSSIER: I’m sorry. I wanted to talk a little bit about that.
16533 I think your question also had a pricing side to it. I would say that on that side if you’re in remote areas the price is very much higher, and I would say that sometimes it can go as far as three times the price that you get in -- you could get in the city. So that’s the first portion.
16534 Then let me share a little bit about on the map the fibre accessibility or availability. I have worked with the Government of Quebec in some -- in trying to map all the network facilities that were available and in their big mapping plan that they started, they never finished it because of the change of the government. But they had all the fibre links mapped out from the telecoms and all the utilities and also the fibre owned by the government.
16535 So that was very interesting but it stopped there and I think Quebec doesn’t have the chance that these guys have in Ontario where you have a backhaul network to support WISPs like us.
16536 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So that could send to an interesting area at least for me with respect to the mapping because there are two schools of thought.
16537 One, yes, I want everyone to know where my fibre is because how can they buy it if they don’t know it's not there. From an operation standpoint, it -- and that's the former sales guy talking.
16538 From an operation standpoint, it may be, no, I don’t want anyone to know where my fibre is running because then someone may cut the fibre and may choose to cut it going under a bridge or something like that where it's difficult to find and difficult to fix.
16539 So how do you balance those two conflicting objectives?
16540 MR. LUSSIER: I haven’t seen any good answer on that point. The project in Quebec didn't go on but it was certainly a concern that they had from all the fibre providers or owners. So I don’t have a good answer.
16541 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And just one final before I move on to spectrum because that was one of your key focuses.
16542 We heard from Axia out in Alberta I think last week and they were proposing or they were suggesting that, you know, if we build the transport infrastructure, if we build those points of presence or points of interconnect in all of the different communities that market forces will prevail and there will be smaller providers that are interested in coming in and building out those local networks in community, be they wireless, be they fibre, whatever.
16543 Do you think that's true in all areas of the country or will providers cherry pick the larger communities and then leave the smaller communities of 100 people continue to be stranded?
16544 MR. DUCHCHERER: That's a very interesting question. Coming from Alberta and the Alberta SuperNet being built by Axia, we have seen fairly good penetration across the province. That was fairly evident in the last “Connecting Canadians” program where there wasn't a lot of funding available south of Edmonton per se. There was a need still in the northern parts.
16545 Cherry picking is always a concern. It's a concern for us as small businesses because, you know, we tend to go in and try to build everywhere, but if our competition is only coming in and cherry picking the larger portions of our network, it puts a lot of constraints on us to be able to continue to operate and provide the services to everyone. It also puts a lot of constraints on trying to build into those smaller niche areas.
16546 So, yes, I think market forces will always dictate where there's a business case is where they're going to go and, you know, if we looked at a mapping exercise across the Canada after this was all done, those smaller areas that were missed could be, you know, capital funding provided on a reverse auction basis or something to have people go in and fulfil that area.
16547 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And would you agree to the extent that there is any funding made available to go in that particular route that it should be targeted towards where there is no adequate service today as opposed to a blanket rebuilding of everything that already exists out there?
16548 MR. DUCHCHERER: I would agree with that.
16549 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
16550 So with respect to the slides that you put up, you noted that Inukshuk, the partnership between Rogers and Bell, takes up about 53 percent of the available spectrum. To your knowledge, is that being used for anything?
16551 Because if I rely on a number of years, I took part in an Inukshuk test program. I was one of the guinea pigs but I'm not aware whether that spectrum is actually being used for anything today.
16552 MR. DUCHCHERER: At this point in time, we have to rely on ISED and their policies around that spectrum. They have an implemented policy where a certain percentage of the spectrum has to be used in each tier 4 area and they are satisfied that it is used to their conditions. So we have to abide by that, accept that. We have no proof one way or the other.
16553 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. When the Rogers’ panel presented, one of the statements that was made was that when they had unused spectrum that they weren’t using to support one of their products or that they weren’t planning on using to support a future service offering, that they would do sublicensing of the spectrum to other providers.
16554 And I'm just wondering do you have any experience with Rogers or with other spectrum holders in setting up any sublicensing agreements?
16555 MR. DUCHCHERER: I do know that one of our members, at least one of our members has a sublicense agreement with the Inukshuk group. Personally, I had a sublicense years ago with SaskTel when they owned a piece of spectrum. That piece of spectrum has been sold four times since the original agreement.
16556 The process on a sublicense is that it does not automatically renew like a primary licence does. So in my particular case today, I don’t have a signed use of the spectrum even though they're allowing me to still use it.
16557 I know other members have said they've tried to contact Inukshuk without success. It may be they're talking to the wrong people or it may be a reluctance for them to share it, or they may have said we have a plan for it. I don’t know the exact answer to that.
16558 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And when you say it doesn’t -- in sublicense agreement, it doesn’t auto renew, you mean it doesn’t auto renew at the end of the term or the contract isn’t honoured when that spectrum is sold or traded to another company?
16559 MR. DUCHCHERER: The sublicense is honoured on a trade but it's not automatically renewed on the license renewal period. So, for example, the 3,500 megahertz licences all expired in 2014 and were renewed on a one-year contract. Subordinate licences do not automatically renew like primary licences. They have to be reapplied for to Industry Canada every time the primary expires.
16560 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: In your original proposal you made, there was a notation that I made that one of your recommendations was for providers to offer up in kind spectrum and I'm wondering can you explain that to me a little bit what you mean by in kind spectrum?
16561 MR. DUCHCHERER: If it wasn’t clear in our original submission, it was the same proposal we have now where they would be able to provide spectrum at a monetary value into a fund. We're not asking them to give the spectrum up for nothing.
16562 So same type of thing as today we're saying if there is a percentage of their revenue that has to go into a broadband fund and they have spectrum, they can use that spectrum as a part of the monetary value that they would put in.
16563 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So if a company’s obligation was to put a million dollars a year into some type of fund, if they put in a million dollars’ worth of spectrum, that would satisfy their obligation?
16564 MR. DUCHCHERER: Correct.
16565 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. Are there other methods available to make that spectrum available for your purposes or other methods that you could suggest to entice the service providers to either do sublicensing or open it up for your use after they've made the initial purchase?
16566 MR. DUCHCHERER: So any policy on spectrum obviously would have to come from ISED.
16567 But to your question, I think of mandatory tower sharing that came in a few years ago. As soon as we were a license holder in Canada, now a spectrum, any tower, infrastructure that we have we're mandated to have to share that with other providers.
16568 Possibly, there's a policy the same way around spectrum. If you have a spectrum, and it's unused, perhaps there's a policy that says you have to share it.
16569 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Do you have any thoughts on why owners of the spectrum, if they're not using it or don't plan to use it in the immediate future, say the next 5 to 10 years, why they're not more eager to proactively go out and establish those sublicensing agreements? I would think if they've paid a significant amount of money for an asset, that they'd want to monetize it to the greatest extent possible.
16570 MR. DUCHCHERER: I would think the biggest reason there would be to prevent competition. I don't know of another reason in my head why you wouldn't want to monetize an asset that you have if you can.
16571 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
16572 With respect to future funding mechanisms and how they may be put into place, am I correct in understanding that you're advocating for an ongoing annual subsidy as opposed to a one time fund to build, or are both of those levers that we should be pushing on?
16573 MR. BLACK: Our proposal is an annual capital fund, and I guess if it's annual capital versus operating, we could get into an accounting discussion over which is a capital expense and what's an operating expense. Not the purpose of today.
16574 But the concept was it would be for build out and it would be an annually recurring fund, so that there would be some assurance to the community that there would be capital funds available for that upgrade for that next mile, if you could bid on that and be successful in the next auction.
16575 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So predominantly, that funding would be going towards building that next mile out versus doing upgrades to those that already have service? Like would the funding be used to take someone from 5 megs to 10 or 15 or would it be used to get service down to the end of the road?
16576 MR. BLACK: Subject to the mandate of the fund, you know, the priority would likely be, and our recommendation would be to serve those people that don't have the basic service level yet. And beyond that, if there were aspirational or additional speeds and feeds that were required in the market, then that would be a secondary use of that funding.
16577 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And that was the $45 to $65 million a year that you had mentioned. How did you arrive at those figures?
16578 MR. DUCHCHERER: So the figure is an example-type figure, but essentially, what we did is take the last Connecting Canadians program, which was $305 million. At the time, we thought that was going to take us for five years, so we divided 305 million by 5 and came up with $60 million.
16579 Now, however, those things could have changed now because the Federal Government has allocated another 500 million or 500 million, however that is, so that figure is probably a little dynamic at the moment.
16580 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: With respect to the new $500 million -- obviously, those -- where that goes, those are decisions largely made across the river. Do you have any thoughts or best practices you can share on how that money should be distributed to ensure that smaller wireless providers, such as yourselves, can actually get access to it so it doesn't all go to one of the larger players?
16581 MR. BLACK: Our members have been involved in a number of funding programs over the years, be it Connecting Canadians most recently, or the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, or even before that, Rural Connections or Rural Broadband Connections, I believe it was called. Some of our members would have input to that.
16582 Today, we don't have any immediately for you. We'd be happy to reply if that's something you would like, but we could canvass our members.
16583 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah, if you could just -- I think it would be helpful to find out when these funding schemes are put into place, and obviously, their specific criteria that need to met.
16584 MR. BLACK: M'hm.
16585 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Where the roadblocks are to smaller providers actually being able to take advantage of some of those funding programs that are put into place ---
16586 MR. BLACK: M'hm.
16587 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- that would be helpful.
16589 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: With respect to where the money comes from, where should it come from? Is it best left to the taxpayers and government contributions, either at a federal, or provincial, or municipal level, or is it best handled through a contribution fund that service providers and their end customers would have to pay into?
16590 MR. BLACK: I guess where I'd start is more is better, but more can also be more complicated. As you participate in funding for more sources, each of those sources may have their own requirements or hurdles that they want the recipient to fulfill.
16591 We've been involved in some projects with federal, provincial, and municipal funding and the number of hoops and reports that they all rightfully, you know, felt they needed made the overhead rather extreme.
16592 So I would say a couple of things: One, multiple levels of government are interested in this, and should likely participate; secondly, the industry, to be a world-recognized leader in providing service to all of Canadians, I would say the industry should also participate.
16593 Many funding programs today already come with a requirement for investment. I can speak to my company's experience. We -- we're a small company. We have taken part in approximately eight funding programs with three-and a half million dollars of funding and we've contributed just over two to two and a half million in our own capital. So we're willing to participate, and various levels of government, I would say, should also.
16594 We've also talked about the participation of major industry players who have some benefit from providing service in the higher density areas. So our answer would be more is better, not so many hoops that we can't get through them all, and we're willing to participate as well.
16595 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: What's the best way to bring all of those people to the table? You've got three levels of government, you've got ourselves, you've got service providers, people out building, research and education networks, power companies that own fibre. Like how do we get all the horses into the barn?
16596 MR. BLACK: We've been thinking about that, as well as you have, and don't have a good answer for it. We do know some of the parties that we believe need to be around the table, and we've covered that in our recommendations.
16597 We -- I expect some of us will need to be pulled to the table and some -- because we are driven by our own markets. We want to -- our shareholders, whether they're private shareholders or public shareholders in stock markets, all want returns on their dollar.
16598 So some of us may need to be enticed and/or held to the -- chained to the table as we meet, but my guess is that could only come from a government source at some level.
16599 And you have your mandate, and ISED has their mandate, and the federal and provincial governments have their desires and mandates, so I think it would probably have to be a government-sponsored participation. But we have struggled with that, just like you are.
16600 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Just a couple more questions before I hand you back over to my colleagues.
16601 With respect to voice services, in your original submission you stated that VoIP wasn't a substitute for traditional phone services.
16602 And I'm just wondering if -- I think we can all acknowledge the importance of a broadband, and if it can be delivered in a reliable way at a reliable speed should we still be contributing money towards rolling out, what some have described as legacy infrastructure, or should everything now on a -- in a world of convergence be provided over one broadband connection that gets one subsidy?
16603 MR. DUCHCHERER: Did you indicate that we said VoIP was not an alternative?
16604 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: That’s what I read. I ---
16605 MR. DUCHCHERER: Can you give me a reference to that, please, because I believe in my mind that we think VoIP is an alternative.
16606 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Now, like some of my colleagues I’m going from my own notes, which is always dangerous. Perhaps I should have been a doctor instead.
16607 I can’t find the -- I’m just -- with respect to funding, there’s still a significant amount of funding that goes towards delivering wireline voice services in high cost serving areas. And in a converged world, is it better to direct that funding towards providing stable broadband instead of running two pipes into the build and one for your voice services and then one for your broadband connection?
16608 MR. DUCHCHERER: I believe that would definitely be the position of our organization. We believe broadband is delivering all those services today. Data, voice and video. So yes, we think one converged pipe is the answer.
16609 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay. And just -- I know you’ve got a few undertakings for the 5th, just one final one that we’ve asked for from some other service providers, so perhaps you can canvass a few of your members to provide copies of their Internet service contracts, terms and conditions, acceptable use policies, things of that nature.
16610 MR. DUCHCHERER: Absolutely.
16611 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Okay.
16613 COMMISSIONER MaCDONALD: Thank you very much. Those are my questions.
16614 MR. DUCHCHERER: Thank you.
16615 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar?
16616 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you and welcome. I understand this is your first time before the Commission so well done. You’ve expressed your position well.
16617 I want to just ask you the same question I asked the group before you, and that was as it regards if we were to define Internet as a basic service, and part of that definition was to include a minimum speed. One of the issues is that many companies sell speeds up to a certain level and clearly it’s not delivered on a continual basis. So what are your thoughts as to how to address that within any kind of basic service definition?
16618 MR. LUSSIER: So we actually discussed this question just before and I think I came up with the answer so I have to give the answer.
16619 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’m so glad you have an answer.
16620 MR. LUSSIER: I think it goes down to engineering basically because whether it’s a limitation on the access or it’s a limitation on the backhaul, you always have to engineer to a certain degree your network. So when you give a package, you give a package to -- up to five megabits per second. Well, it’s going to be five megabits per second for most of the time. And since the -- on the wireless side -- and it is like that also on the other equipment, but it’s not as obvious. It’s shared time that you have to be on the network. So now our shared pipe is actually spectrum.
16621 If we want to have a better five megabits per second insured for everyone at peak time when everybody’s watching Netflix at 7 p.m., then you need to engineer your network properly. And coming back to what we said, it’s about spectrum. The more spectrum we get, the better speed we can give, and then the engineering is done that way.
16622 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Fair enough. And you’re speaking about what would be required to meet a target level of basic service. In your case it’s spectrum issues. In other cases it might be other issues. But what I’m asking is what -- how in defining basic service, if we were to define it at a certain speed, what -- how should we define that?
16623 I don’t think it’s good enough to say it’s -- the basic service is --
16624 MR. LUSSIER: Up to.
16625 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- up to 5 and 1 because everybody can say -- well, most people can say they deliver it, yet we’ve seen folks come forward to say they actually achieve that speed 22 percent of the time.
16626 MR. LUSSIER: Right.
16627 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So what would be the appropriate way of defining the basic service so that it provides some means to deal with true peak periods and congestion that can occur, you know?
16628 MR. LUSSIER: Yeah. Thank you for that clarification. I think it’s the right approach.
16629 The Government of Quebec had also the same question. And what we came up with was a percentage of the time. You know, it -- so you get five megabits per second for a percentage of the time. And, of course, you want it to be as close as -- to 100 as possible, but you know, you need to look at practicality as well.
16630 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm. And so what did you come up with -- when you’re participating in the government funding programs, do they define that?
16631 MR. LUSSIER: I think it was -- well, I’m not sure that we define it as per se, but we looked at 80 -- between 80 and 90 percent of the time.
16632 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And what about reliability? Another parameter to contain. I mean, the Telecom Act says you should have reliable service. So in defining reliability, what would you suggest might be appropriate parameters around this?
16633 MR. BLACK: In a number of the government funding programs that have been in place, there are requirements and measurements that are required in regular reporting around things like up time, oversubscription ratios at various points in the network. All of those things feed into, you know, what you’re coming out with at the other end at the consumer level.
16634 I don’t believe I’ve seen any end user measurement, but I don’t know why there couldn’t be. I think part of the issue would be the monitoring and measuring of that once you try to implement it.
16635 Our members have -- as they have participate in government programs they have met those requirements as they were laid out at the beginning and they’d be happy to do that going forward.
16636 I know that SIRA is undertaking currently a measurement tool. They’re putting out some measurements shortly about what the Internet speeds are based on provider and province. And I think they’re actually going to be published soon. They could be a source, an independent source of verification and measurement.
16637 So just to summarize, yes, there are requirements in existing government programs and our members are happy to sign up for that. Of course, as long as we understand them ahead of time.
16638 To date, I’m not aware of any that have actually stipulated a percentage of time at what bandwidth at the customer end.
16639 All of the government programs have required a download and upload speed and a price and a data cap as a primary service offering that the successful recipient of the funding must maintain for the period of the contract. They are free to add packages or higher level packages or lower level packages, but typically there’s one that must remain. Short of any cataclysmic change in Internet pricing, has not happened yet.
16640 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just to be clear, when I’m asking my question, I understand that there are conditions around funding.
16641 MR. BLACK: M’hm.
16642 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I mean, certainly it wouldn’t be in anybody’s best interest if we put in something that conflicted terribly with that. But there are also situations where Canadians are served without funding, both in high cost areas and in urban areas. But you know, if we kind of focus on the rural and remote because that’s your world right now.
16643 There are situations and technologies where service has been extended without subsidy.
16644 MR. BLACK: M’hm.
16645 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And there’s situations, as you know, well, where the funding has expired. You know, it’s like a five-term. It’s a capital build and you’re an ongoing --
16646 MR. BLACK: Yeah.
16647 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- operator.
16648 So what I’m looking at is from the perspective of the consumer that when they’re making a contract they understand, what is the service levels they expect? What is the basic that as, you know, as a Canadian telecom consumer they can expect? That doesn’t mean over the term of a capital build contract. It means over ongoing.
16649 So from that perspective, you know, they could expect that their service would be available at the speed they’ve contracted a certain percentage of time.
16650 MR. BLACK: That’s right.
16651 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: They can expect that it would be up. It would be reliable.
16652 MR. BLACK: M’hm.
16653 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: They can expect it potentially would be -- any service outages would be limited to a certain amount; otherwise, they would be, you know, perhaps eligible for a refund of some of their service. Those are -- that’s kind of the lense I have on ---
16654 MR. BLACK: M'hm.
16655 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- when I'm asking.
16656 MR. BLACK: It’s almost a consumer protection issue or a consumer rights issue, not unlike whatever contract we may make with any other kind of service provider. So we -- we don’t have recommendations today on what those metrics would be. If that’s something you would like us to look at, we certainly could.
16657 Guy, you had mentioned that in the case of Quebec they were looking at receiving the purchased speed 80 to 90 percent of the time, I realize that’s a fair gap, but it is a metric, it is a line in the sand.
16658 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Sure, if you want to undertake to provide your thoughts on what that -- exactly, I'm looking at it from the consumer perspective.
16659 MR. BLACK: M'hm.
16660 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: If we’re defining basic telecom service, it is from the consumer’s perspective. Thank you.
16661 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you can do that for May 5th?
16662 MR. DUCHCHERER: We will take that on, yes.
16664 THE CHAIRPERSON: And while you're at it, when you talk 80 or 90 percent of the time, think about when people are online. So I take it your ---
16665 MR. DUCHCHERER: Of course.
16666 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- 80 percent is on a 24-hour period. So that’s actually a lower threshold than saying 80 percent between -- I don’t know, excluding midnight to 5 a.m., where maybe people aren’t as connected because they're doing other things.
16667 MR. DUCHCHERER: We’ll -- we’ll put some thought into that for sure.
16668 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, okay.
16669 MR. DUCHCHERER: Thank you.
16670 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not -- just think about it ---
16671 MR. DUCHCHERER: M'hm.
16672 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- in terms of ---
16673 MR. DUCHCHERER: Of a consumer.
16674 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- as a way of signaling to others too that are or may be concerned.
16675 I see your comments on paragraph 7, you can do it as a undertaking if you wish, but now that we have two rounds of comments, it’s also possible for you to do it on the 25th of May if you would prefer to make comments. It’s up to you.
16676 MR. DUCHCHERER: You want comments on your questions?
16677 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, yes, but you're saying ---
16678 MR. DUCHCHERER: We would prefer to ---
16679 THE CHAIRPERSON: Take a little bit more time?
16680 MR. DUCHCHERER: --- put that on our May 5th. Yes.
16681 THE CHAIRPERSON: So do it in your 25th ---
16682 MR. DUCHCHERER: We did spend the last 24 hours talking about it, but ---
16683 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
16684 MR. DUCHCHERER: --- we need more time.
16685 THE CHAIRPERSON: That’s fine.
16686 MR. DUCHCHERER: Thank you.
16687 THE CHAIRPERSON: And nobody should be adversely affected by that, because there's a reply phase on the -- I’m not using the right word, but a “final argument” I think we’re calling it ---
16688 MR. DUCHCHERER: Right.
16689 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- or something like that on 13th of June, so people will be able to react to it. Okay, so that’s it. I believe those are our comments and our questions at this stage. So thank you very much for having participated in the hearing.
16690 In light of the time, I think it’s probably best for us to take the lunch break at this time, rather than start and have people being hungry while we’re asking questions. So why don’t we adjourn till 1:15? Thank you. Donc nous sommes en ajournement jusqu’à 13 heures et quart.
--- Upon recessing at 12:10 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:17 p.m.
16691 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre.
16692 Madame la Secrétaire.
16693 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de Unifor. S’il vous plait vous présentez et présentez vos collègues, et vous avez 10 minutes.
16694 M. ROUSSEAU: Bonjour, Monsieur le Président, membres du Conseil et les autres présents dans la salle. Au nom d’Unifor, j’aimerais vous remercier de nous donner l’occasion de vous adresser à vous cet après-midi.
16695 Je suis Marc Rousseau, je suis le président du Conseil industriel de télécom d’Unifor. Je suis accompagné de Naureen Rizvi, directrice des télécoms, et de Mike Yam, du Département de recherches spécialisées au niveau des télécoms.
16696 Unifor représente plus de 310 000 membres dans tous les secteurs de l’économie à la grandeur du pays. Unifor est le plus grand syndicat des secteurs des télécommunications au Canada. Dans ce secteur, il représente plus de 26 000 travailleurs de toutes les régions du pays, dont des employés d'entreprises telles que Bell Canada et ses filiales, y compris Bell Aliant, Expertech, Bell Solutions Techniques, et les autres compagnies SaskTel, MTS et Allstream.
16697 Les membres d’Unifor fournissent des services directs aux Canadiens et sont fiers de répondre à leurs besoins en télécommunications. Par conséquent, nous nous intéressons au résultat de la présente consultation.
16698 Tout d’abord, Unifor considère les services de télécommunication de base comme des services publics, puisqu’ils jouent un rôle important et universel dans la société. Ce qui comprend le service internet à large bande.
16699 Les Canadiens utilisent internet pour de nombreuses fonctions essentielles, que ce soit accéder aux services gouvernementaux, perfectionner leurs compétences et relever leur niveau d'éducation, répondre à leurs besoins commerciaux, s'informer, divertir et réseauter. Ils devraient donc avoir un accès égal à ce service, et nous considérons comme élémentaire et essentiel.
16700 Or, les propres rapports du CRTC démontrent clairement un écart en matière d'accès aux services internet à large bande. Plus particulièrement, certains obstacles empêchent toujours des Canadiens de participer à l'économie numérique en ce qui concerne la vitesse de téléchargement de 5 meg et de téléversement de 1 meg, un point de référence établi par le CRTC.
16701 Par exemple, on observe facilement un écart en matière d'accès aux services internet lorsque compare les régions rurales et urbaines. Cet écart concerne non seulement la disponibilité de base des services internet à large bande, mais aussi le nombre de fournisseurs et la tarification des services.
16702 En sus des différences géographiques une inégalité d'accès liée au revenu persiste. Les Canadiens à faible revenu affichent un taux d'abonnement à internet inférieur aux Canadiens à revenu élevé, comme le révèle l'Enquête nationale auprès des ménages la plus récente.
16703 Il est inquiétant qu’un bon nombre de Canadiens doivent choisir entre les priorités essentielles, et que les Canadiens à faible revenu soient encore plus désavantagés puisqu’ils ne peuvent pas se connecter à internet.
16704 Bien que l’infrastructure joue évidemment un rôle important dans l’accessibilité des services, le revenu et les conditions socioéconomiques sont des facteurs majeurs dont nous ne pouvons pas nous faire abstraction. Nous devons accorder la priorité à l’égalité d'accès aux services et nous jugeons -- que nous jugeons essentiels.
16705 Compte tenu de l’inégalité d’accès qui perdure, il est clair que nous ne pouvons pas compter simplement sur le libre marché, même s’il s’agit du principal mécanisme utilisé pour fournir à la population canadienne des services internet à large bande depuis une vingtaine d'années.
16706 Tant à l'échelle fédérale que provinciale, les programmes gouvernementaux aident certaines collectivités en les ciblant, mais leur portée est limitée. Afin de corriger complètement l’inégalité d’accès, il faut adopter une approche différente, et le CRTC est bien placé pour amener ce changement.
16707 Unifor recommande d’inclure internet à large bande dans l’objectif de service de base. Après tout, l’objectif de service de base vise à s’assurer que tous les Canadiens ont accès aux services de base nécessaires pour participer de façon concrète à la société. Il est grand temps que l’objectif du service de base tienne compte de l’évolution rapide des technologies et des communications au Canada.
16708 La pièce numéro 1 du Conseil contient une illustration de base de la bande passante requise pour diverses applications internet populaires. Elle montre qu’il faut au minimum de vitesse de téléchargement de 5 meg pour la plupart des applications de lecture en continu vidéo qui ne sont pas en HD.
16709 Nous préconisons d’inclure internet à large bande à une vitesse minimale de téléchargement de 5 meg et un téléversement de 1 meg dans l’objectif du service de base.
16710 Or, le Conseil devrait envisager de fixer des points de référence encore plus élevés, compte tenu des besoins et des exigences des Canadiens. Par exemple, cette vitesse minimale serait-elle suffisante si davantage de Canadiens relevaient leur niveau d’éducation en ligne grâce à la lecture vidéo en continu ou la vidéoconférence?
16711 Qu’en est-il de la demande et de la nécessité du service mobile 4G LTE et de tout autre service au cours des 10 prochaines années?
16712 Il serait naturel de discuter des mécanismes de financement si internet à large bande était inclus dans l’objectif du service de base, et considéré par rapport aux points de référence connexes.
16713 Ainsi, nous suggérons de commencer par les mécanismes de financement en place qui se sont avérés efficaces. Le Fonds de contribution national est un point de départ logique. II faut voir si les taux de contribution pourraient être flexibles. Nous sommes convaincus que le CRTC pourrait augmenter les taux de contribution, le cas échéant, tout en équilibrant le fardeau financier des entreprises contributrices.
16714 Une autre option consisterait à déterminer de nouveaux types de revenus admissibles à la contribution. Par exemple, si les fonds supplémentaires avaient pour objectif de faciliter l'accès internet à large bande, il serait judicieux d’inclure les revenus tirés des services internet au détail. Il faudrait également envisager d’inclure les autres services actuellement exemptés dans les types de revenus admissibles à la cotisation du Fonds.
16715 Le Conseil devra se -- devrait se pencher sur un mécanisme qui permettrait d’assurer l’abordabilité des services pour les Canadiens à faible revenu, ainsi d’améliorer les obstacles financiers à leur accès. Cette approche nécessiterait un examen plus approfondi, mais une approche initiale serait plus efficace qu’une approche complémentaire comme les crédits d’impôt.
16716 En général, il serait bon que le Conseil surveille constamment les décisions qui découleront de la présente consultation à la lumière de l’évolution rapide des technologies et des communications au Canada.
16717 Il pourrait notamment élever les vitesses de téléchargement requises par les ménages canadiens, ainsi que la disponibilité et l’abordabilité des services internet à large bande périodiquement.
16718 Pour terminer, le Conseil a tout -- a de tout temps joué un rôle déterminant dans la règlementation du secteur des télécommunications afin d’assurer aux Canadiens l'accès à des services. Nous espérons qu’à l’issue de la consultation, le Conseil prendra des mesures audacieuses afin que les Canadiens soient bien outillés pour participer à la nouvelle économie et à l’ère numérique.
16719 Je vous remercie et je vais accueillir vos questions avec plaisir.
16720 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci bien pour -- pour votre présence et votre présentation. Je vais commencer les questions et puis je vais vous les poser en français mais si vous voulez, vous ou vos collègues, vous pouvez les répondre en anglais. Soyez à l’aise là. C'est votre choix entièrement.
16721 Je vais vous poser des questions dans cinq champs: premièrement, la connectivité; deuxièmement, l’abordabilité; troisièmement, les taux d’adoption; quatrièmement, les enjeux d’accessibilité; et cinquièmement, l’impact réglementaire globalement.
16722 En ce qui a trait à la connectivité, certains intervenants sont venus nous dire qu’il est important d’assurer l’accès partout au pays à la connectivité à large bande, et d’autres sont venus nous dire qu’il est trop optimiste de penser qu’on pourrait couvrir le pays en entier, qu’il y aura toujours des trous noirs.
16723 Qu’en pensez-vous?
16724 M. ROUSSEAU: C'est sûr que nous, Unifor, on représente les employés qui sont sur le terrain. Donc quand on parle de connectivité, c'est certain que les gens qui travaillent dehors sont fiers du travail qu’ils font et veulent être en mesure de pouvoir continuer à connecter les gens.
16725 Pour ce qui est des trous noirs, mais je pense ça va être les différentes technologies qui devront être disponibles ou qui vont devoir venir dans le futur, qui vont devoir pallier à ces différences-là.
16726 Je pense qu’il y a différentes technologies qui permettent d’aller jusqu’à un certain point, soit au niveau du filaire ou de la fibre ou tout ça. Comme d’autres intervenants ont apporté, on peut apporter de la fibre jusqu’à un certain point, puis après ça continuer sur le cuivre ou tout ça. Y a le satellite et effectivement les ondes cellulaires.
16727 Maintenant, je pense que c'est les technologies des années qui vont venir qui vont déterminer où est-ce que ça va se rendre au niveau -- où le niveau de connectivité va se rendre par rapport au reste du pays. Fait que c'est vraiment une question de technologie.
16728 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc avec ces diverses technologies, vous êtes d’avis que notre objectif -- puis quand je dis « notre », je veux dire le Canada, pas nécessairement seulement le CRTC mais notre objectif collectif serait d’au moins de tenter de couvrir le pays en entier.
16729 M. ROUSSEAU: Oui, et je pense que c'est faisable. Je pense qu’il y a moyen de pouvoir le faire. Si on a quelqu’un qui, avec un téléphone satellite en plein milieu de la jungle, est capable de faire un appel interurbain ou un appel cellulaire, je pense qu’il y a une façon d'avoir ou de développer de la technologie qui permettrait de donner du service un peu partout au Canada, oui, et même dans ces zones qui sont un peu plus reculées.
16730 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais ça devrait se faire sur une période de temps évidemment pour accepter l’émergence de certaines technologies.
16731 M. ROUSSEAU: Oui, effectivement, comme ça été le cas depuis l’internet depuis les 20 dernières années-là.
16732 LE PRÉSIDENT: Toujours sur l'enjeu de la connectivité, vous spécifiez, si je comprends bien, qu’il devrait y avoir une norme obligatoire par rapport aux vitesses de téléchargement et de téléversement dans la définition du service de base.
16733 M. ROUSSEAU: Oui, c'est ce que nous appuyons effectivement.
16734 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et à quel niveau?
16735 M. ROUSSEAU: C'est-à-dire?
16736 LE PRÉSIDENT: Quelle vitesse?
16737 M. ROUSSEAU: Ah, ça serait -- la base devrait être pour tout le monde 5/1. Pour l’instant, ça devrait vraiment être une base au niveau du -- je pense au niveau du marché, au niveau que les gens devraient avoir. C'est sûr que dans différents endroits y a d’autres vitesses qui sont disponibles mais la base devrait être 5/1 pour tout le monde. C’est le minimum requis je pense.
16738 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et vous basez cette analyse en partie sur la pièce du Conseil sur la bande passante nécessaire pour certaines utilisations?
16739 M. ROUSSEAU: Je base mon information sur, entre autres, cet outil-là mais aussi mon expérience. Ça fait 18 ans je suis employé de Bell à l’origine. Donc je base ça un peu aussi sur mon expérience et mon utilisation aussi personnelle à la maison. J’ai deux ados. Donc je me fie un peu là-dessus et puis pour vous donner un exemple, je me suis branché ce matin ici sur le WiFi puis j’avais même pas un meg de download et pas tout à fait un demi meg de upload sur le WiFi dans le centre, pis ça fonctionne pas vraiment bien. Le niveau est trop bas.
16740 Fait que si on parle d’un 5/1, ça devrait être vraiment un strict minimum pour être capable d’avoir une qualité minimale au niveau d’un service.
16741 LE PRÉSIDENT: Une chance que les ados ont le dos large parce que depuis le début de l’audience, on leur met beaucoup sur les épaules puis on semble oublier qu’ils vont payer nos pensions quand on va être plus vieux, mais voilà.
16742 M. ROUSSEAU: Je dois dire j’en consomme aussi beaucoup.
16743 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui. Avez-vous des positions à prendre? Vous avez vu qu’on a discuté avec d’autres intervenants des limites de capacité qui existent dans le marché mais qui, à l’origine, étaient là pour bien gérer le réseau puis maintenant semblent être plus pertinentes pour la tarification plutôt que pour gérer la capacité des réseaux.
16744 M. ROUSSEAU: Je vais y aller d'un point de vue personnel. Encore là, je pense qu’un maximum de -- ou un cap d’un maximum au niveau du téléchargement au taux du visionnement, je pense qu’éventuellement c'est quelque chose qui devra être appelé à disparaître. Avec tout ce qui se fait maintenant en ligne, on parle des Crave TV, tous les services de « streaming », excusez mon expression, mais l’imposition d’un cap ou d’un maximum ça devrait éventuellement disparaître. Je pense que c'est une question plus pécuniaire pour l’instant le fait d’avoir une limite parce que quand les gens dépensent, bien entende c'est des revenus additionnels pour les compagnies-là, mais ça c'est une opinion très personnelle.
16745 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc votre -- Unifor, votre syndicat, ne prend pas de position à savoir si la définition de service de base devrait inclure une norme par rapport à la capacité nécessaire comme minimum? Parce que c'est bien beau de dire 1 et 5 mais, un moment donné, la capacité aussi on en a entendu beaucoup parler que les gens ont peut-être la vitesse mais que, après 10, 12 jours, ils ont épuisé leur capacité.
16746 M. ROUSSEAU: Je pense encore là qu’on parle d’une question de technologie. Si on parle d’un service, exemple, par fibre ou par cuivre ou, exemple, quelqu’un qui est branché, la notion de cap elle est moins là. C’est souvent des packages qui sont offerts par les différentes compagnies qui sont quand même assez élevés au niveau des bandes passantes d'utilisation.
16747 Là où la limitation est beaucoup plus petite c'est au niveau cellulaire. La plupart des forfaits je pense c'est du 6 megs ou du -- du 6 gigs par mois ou si on veut avoir plus, à ce moment-là les échelles de prix augmentent.
16748 Pour ce qui est de la position d’Unifor, nous, notre position c'est vraiment d’avoir -- d'être en mesure d’offrir aux Canadiens une vitesse de base minimale de 5 megs et 1 meg.
16749 Avoir un cap, ça dépend toujours de l’utilisation des gens j’imagine puis de voir qu'est-ce que les compagnies de télécoms sont en mesure d’offrir à leur clientèle une fois que cette base-là sera émise ou sera, mettons, comme demandée ou exigée là de la part du CRTC.
16750 LE PRÉSIDENT: Qu’en est-il de d’autres normes technique telles que la latence, le « jitter » -- je sais pas encore qu'est-ce que c'est en français -- et les services de -- les standards de services pour les réparations? Certaines parties sont venues dire que ça aussi ça devrait faire partie d’une définition de base.
16751 M. ROUSSEAU: Je suis pas assez connaissant au niveau de l’aspect technique de cette portion-là. Moi chez Bell j’ai travaillé au service à la clientèle. J’ai travaillé au service des experts puis un peu au réseau. Fait que j’ai pas vraiment tout cet aspect technique là par rapport à la base qu'est-ce qui devrait être inclus.
16752 Par contre, j’imagine que si on offre un service, faut qu’on s’assure d’offrir un service de qualité puis un service qui donne ce qui est annoncé, donc d’avoir un service. Si on annonce que le minimum c'est 5 megs, ben la personne qui utilise le service devrait avoir un minimum de 5 megs. Puis si c'est pas atteint, ben là à ce moment-là faudrait qu’il y ait des -- faudrait que les correctifs soient apportés pour que la personne puisse profiter de cette vitesse-là.
16753 LE PRÉSIDENT: Quelle est votre position à propos de l’abandon de la subvention pour les services de voix? Je vois que, évidemment, vous savez que Bell a pris une position mais que d’autres parties comme SaskTel puis MTS ont pris une position différente. Vos membres travaillent pour les deux sociétés -- les trois -- toutes sortes de sociétés. Donc est-ce qu’on devrait éliminer la subvention pour la voix dans les secteurs au coût?
16754 M. ROUSSEAU: Je vais laisser mon collègue Mike répondre à cette question.
16755 MR. YAM: Hi. I’ll speak in English.
16756 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's fine.
16757 MR. YAM: No. We are of the position that the existing subsidies should remain. Other parties have spoken about the importance of Voice and existing services that people still rely on, and people do rely on both telephone and internet services in various ways.
16758 So we definitely support keeping the existing subsidy regime.
16759 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
16760 MR. YAM: But as you see in our submission, we are suggesting to build on that success because it has worked well and apply that in the case of internet.
16761 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
16762 Je vais poursuivre dans le deuxième sujet qui était l'enjeu de l’abordabilité.
16763 Je vois dans votre présentation que vous avez une préoccupation par rapport à l’accès aux gens au service de large bande qui pourrait être limité en raison de facteurs économiques.
16764 Certains partis sont venus nous dire que c'est un enjeu de pauvreté et non pas un enjeu réglementaire et que le Conseil n’a pas vraiment de rôle à jouer dans ce domaine-là.
16765 Quelle est votre position?
16766 MR. YAM: You know, it is their position that while it is an issue of poverty and there are larger socioeconomic factors in play, the Commission can play a role in it, just like any other body that has jurisdiction over things related to that issue.
16767 You know it is concerning -- and we’ve heard this from other groups like the Affordable Access Coalition and others that, you know, people just simply can’t afford it.
16768 You know the choice between food and internet really is not acceptable and that is something that we, as workers, especially workers who provide these services, are concerned about.
16769 And our members deal with low income customers daily as well and people complain about affordability all the time, let alone the people who can’t afford the service all together.
16770 You know, if it’s within the CRTC’s mandate to help facilitate that access, within the CRTC’s power to help facilitate that process we feel that, you know, we would certainly encourage that.
16771 That’s not to say that, you know, provincial and federal, municipal governments don’t have a role in tackling the issue of poverty generally, but if there are levers that we could use within this structure, I think we certainly encourage that.
16772 THE CHAIRPERSON: And what specific action do you think we should take then if you’re of the view it’s within our bailiwick?
16773 MR. YAM: You know the Affordable Access Coalition, for example, did suggest some sort of subsidy regime. That is something that we thought upon seeing that suggestion was a good idea, a good potential idea.
16774 You know we don’t have a -- I think it needs to be studied further as to what’s more -- what’s a better system to use, what’s a more efficient program to implement, but I think that is one potential idea that could work.
16775 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
16776 MR. YAM: And it could -- there are funding -- sorry, there are funding mechanisms that exist that could help create such a fund.
16777 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Well we’re developing quite an extensive record on this issue.
16778 If you think the Commission should do something in this area you at least have the potential of taking a clear position on the 25th of May or on the 13th of June on the issue, so that would be very helpful.
16779 Je vais tourner maintenant sur les taux d’adoption des nouvelles technologies. On a entendu parler que c’est un enjeu, oui, par rapport aux jeunes gens qui évidemment n’ont peut-être pas accès à de l’éducation en terme de l’utilisation de ces nouveaux médias, mais aussi pour des gens plus âgés, qui quand même en ont besoin pour avoir accès à des journaux, par exemple, qui sont de plus en plus en ligne ou pour avoir accès à de l’information sur ce qui se passe en société.
16780 Est-ce que Unifor a une position par rapport au rôle du Conseil pour –- afin d’augmenter les taux d’adoption des nouvelles technologies dans diverses tranches de la société? Y compris les enjeux de littératie numérique.
16781 M. ROUSSEAU: Je pense pas qu’on a une position officielle en ce sens que l’information, ou l’accès à l’information, ou la curiosité à la technologie, c’est -- je pense c’est inhérent à chaque personne et il peut avoir -- je veux dire j’ai ma mère qui est d’un certain âge, qui a son iPad, puis elle a son cellulaire, puis elle est super contente, puis elle fonctionne bien avec ça.
16782 J’ai d’autres personnes du même groupe d’âge qui on leur donne un iPad, puis ils ont aucune idée à quoi ça sert, puis ils ne veulent même pas y toucher. Ils en ont peur.
16783 LE PRÉSIDENT: J’imagine que votre mère, comme la mienne, vous utilise comme personne ressource?
16784 M. ROUSSEAU: Pardon?
16785 LE PRÉSIDENT: J’imagine que votre mère, comme la mienne, vous utilise comme personne ressource?
16786 M. ROUSSEAU: Absolument. Oui, oui, oui. Je suis le technicien de -- sur appel 24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7, effectivement.
16787 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous donnez du meilleur service que moi.
16788 M. ROUSSEAU: Mais -- donc le niveau d’adoption c’est une question de transfert d’information de -- que ça soit un jeune qui va parler à son grand-père ou un ado qui va montrer de quoi à sa grand-mère, qui va dire -- qui va l’accrocher et tout ça, je pense c’est ça qui va aider.
16789 Avoir une position officielle je pense que d’éduquer les gens ou de leur dire qu’est-ce qu’ils peuvent faire avec une telle type de technologie, peut être fait de façon plus général au niveau de campagne, je parle, moi, de campagne publicitaire ou tout ça dans l’étendue où est-ce qu’on pourrait aller là.
16790 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mes collègues et moi-même ont posés souvent les questions aux entreprises qui fournissent des services de télécommunications, en leur faisant valoir que le taux d’adoption, outre un enjeu sociable fort utile, a -- peut avoir un bénéfice pécuniaire aussi.
16791 Parce que le plus de personnes qui adoptent des nouvelles technologies de ce genre va se transformer naturellement en des revenus supplémentaires, parce qu’il y aura plus de gens en ligne et connectés.
16792 J’aurais pensé que par extension les employés de ces compagnies-là, donc représentés par votre syndicat, auraient tout intérêt à augmenter le taux d’absorption des nouvelles technologies dans la société Canadienne.
16793 M. ROUSSEAU: C’est clair que tous nos membres qui travaillent pour les compagnies télécoms, quand ils sont dans leurs familles ils sont à venter leurs produits ou ils sont à venter la nouvelle technologie. Ça c’est certain. C’est les meilleurs porte-paroles.
16794 C’est autant les meilleurs porte-paroles des compagnies par rapport aux amis et à la famille quand ils les rencontrent dans des soirées et tout ça.
16795 Comme à l’inverse c’est les meilleurs porte-paroles des gens quand ils sont -- quand ils ont -- ils font leur travail sur le -- dans le champ ou sur le plancher, comme on dit, ou dans les centres d’appel, c’est les meilleurs porte-paroles aux compagnies de savoir c’est quoi les -- qu’est-ce que les gens veulent, qu’est-ce que les clients s’attendent comme service et tout ça. Fait que les -- ça fonctionne les deux côtés.
16796 Fait que c’est certain que nos membres qui sont connectés, effectivement c’est des gens qui vont avoir tendance à faire connecter les membres de leurs familles, puis les différentes générations, oui -- puis adopter différentes générations pour (inaudible).
16797 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais vous ne voyez pas que vous, comme syndicat et peut-être d’autres syndicats, en partenariat avec le leadership des compagnies, auraient un rôle de championnat pour augmenter le taux d’adoption des technologies numériques dans la société Canadienne?
16798 MR. YAM: Sorry, I was just catching up to the translation there.
16799 Absolutely we do support that adoption. I think we may have -- we might be separating two different issues, because you’re speaking about the role of the CRTC and people adopting the technology.
16800 I think when we flip it around people have already adopted the technology and the demand is there, which is why we’re seeing more of these services provided online, which is why we see more people taking courses online for college or university degrees, why government services are being shifted more toward online.
16801 So I think it’s actually a reflection of what the demand actually is, whether we are talking about the younger generation or older generation.
16802 There have been other studies that have found that online use is increasing for all age groups.
16803 You know, there will be individual cases, of course, where someone, you know, my grandmother, for example, needs to figure out how to use her iPad, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s almost like the “if you build it they will come” kind of point, but at the same time people are already there so we almost have to build it to catch up to them.
16804 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So you -- I just want to make sure that I understand. In your view, adoptability is not an issue that is significant enough for us or anyone else to be concerned about?
16805 MR. YAM: No, it is something to be concerned about, but we need to provide that access.
16806 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well then what do we do about it?
16807 MR. YAM: I’m sorry?
16808 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, well then what do we do about it?
16809 MR. YAM: We need to first provide the ---
16810 THE CHAIRPERSON: And the “we” is not just the CRTC.
16811 MR. YAM: Yes. We need to first provide the access. That’s the fundamental point where we have to start, because if you don’t provide the access there is nothing to adopt.
16812 So that’s kind of where our focus has been. Yes.
16813 MS. RIZVI: Hi, sorry.
16814 So I guess from my own standpoint, from a personal level, in terms of adoptability our members who are, you know, Bell -- BTS technicians, Bell Technical Solutions technicians, often go into residential customers’ homes and, you know, put in modems and smart hubs and all kinds of different smart technology to, you know, give accessibility of services.
16815 And in my own home when I was getting, you know, internet services put in when we moved, my father who’s 82 and my mom who is 70, who would not touch the internet, would not bank anywhere except going to stand in line, started having a conversation with the technician who was telling them “oh it’s really easy to work this. I can explain it to you”.
16816 And by the time we came home from work, you know, my dad was working a smart hub on, you know, on the T.V. and was explaining to me how the smart T.V. works, which is unbelievable at 82 in like, you know, a 5 minute lesson.
16817 So we went out and bought him an iPad Air for Christmas and they do all of -- now they do all of their banking online.
16818 So adoptability is there even for somebody who’s retired and never was -- never moved with the internet from the point where, you know, we had dialup service so that they have a comfort level to where we are now.
16819 My parents are completely online. They are in social media. They are on Facebook. They are now connected with people back home, their cousins and their family, and, you know, they post pictures from their smartphones.
16820 So I think the adoptability piece, if -- you know, I support Mike’s piece on it. As long as it's accessible and somebody takes the time to explain it, and that's one thing that our members do really well. When they go into the residential homes, they explain to the customers really easily how to use the functions.
16821 So I think that the initial fear sometimes on the adoptability piece really is overcome quite quickly and there's nothing easier than, you know, using your finger on an iPad and suddenly you have like the world at your fingertips.
16822 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, but you still an iPad and a smartphone and, I mean, one could say that my parents, your parents, most of the folks in this room are on the upper end of the socio-economic spectrum and that my question also deals with those that may not have the economic access to those.
16823 If you have an iPhone or and iPad, there's a better chance that you'll have a network around you, right, to help. So my question about adoptability also goes to other more vulnerable people in society. So what are your views on that?
16824 MR. YAM: It's an excellent question actually and a very complex one I think.
16825 You know, Naureen was just talking about the role of our members when they're helping customers out with their service and that is an important interaction. So that's work that a lot of folks already do. It's people who are able to get that service and it could just be a conversation between a technical person and installing the network and talking to the customer. And there are also customer service representatives who play that role for various companies.
16826 It is worth looking at low-income adoption but that is intricately related to low-income connectivity. So we almost -- they are not the same issues but they're so related that, you know, we do have to address the basic -- I think that basic need to connect first.
16827 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
16828 MR. YAM: And we can still have that conversation obviously and we still think it's important but it is a really complex question there. I don’t think there is a simple, you know, silver bullet answer to it.
16829 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci.
16830 Je vais me pencher maintenant sur des enjeux d’accessibilité.
16831 Nous avons entendu beaucoup de témoignages de divers groupes par rapport à leur accessibilité aux systèmes de télécommunications, particulièrement aux systèmes de télécommunications à large bande, en même temps qu’ils doivent faire face à des enjeux d’handicap physique ou cognitif. Et donc peut-être le fardeau pour eux est encore plus grand.
16832 À votre avis -- on a posé les questions aux diverses sociétés, particulièrement les grandes. À votre avis, est-ce que les compagnies comme Bell, SaskTel, MTS et les autres que vous avez listées là dans votre présentation où vous avez des membres, en font assez pour aider les Canadiens ayant des défis physiques ou cognitifs pour avoir accès aux services de télécommunications et particulièrement les services de large bande?
16833 M. ROUSSEAU: Au niveau des autres compagnies -- ben, on représente plusieurs compagnies effectivement, nos membres. Nos membres en principe vont -- pas en principe -- nos membres font tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour pouvoir aider les clients des différentes -- de différentes catégories, que ce soit au service à la clientèle, que ce soit les gens qui répondent aux personnes qui sont sourdes et muettes, ou que ce soit les techniciens qui sont dehors et qui doivent aller dans des maisons qui sont ajustées ou qui sont modifiées pour une accessibilité et tout ça.
16834 Ils sont là pour donner des services. On est là pour pouvoir aider ces gens-là. Maintenant, au niveau des compagnies, c'est quoi leurs politiques, je pourrais pas vraiment vous donner plus de détails là-dessus. Je sais que nos membres travaillent très fort pour aider ces gens-là.
16835 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Mais ma dernière question avant que je me tourne vers mes collègues s’ils ont des questions, le Conseil doit toujours être préoccupé de l’impact de ses décisions sur le modèle économique des compagnies sous notre compétence.
16836 Il y a quand même un certain risque si notre intervention est trop agressive, puis je pense que vous nous invitez à démontrer de l’audace. Donc c'est peut-être un agenda un petit peu plus activiste, que nos décisions pourraient donc avoir un impact sur les modèles d’affaires des compagnies, et donc, par ricochet, sur le taux d’emploi de vos membres ou les bénéfices.
16837 MR. YAM: That’s always a concern. I would like to actually flip that around a little bit where if we are calling for broadband internet to be expanded, that's actually good for the economy, in our view, because we're looking to provide more service for Canadians and in that process, we're creating more jobs actually when we do that, especially in areas that -- say, rural areas where the economy might not be as strong, you know, for example.
16838 So it's actually a way to boost the economy. If we are increasing services and providing those services, we are creating more jobs and hopefully local jobs too where those new services are being provided, which is something that we always talk to our employers about.
16839 So from a labour perspective, we see this kind of move toward expanding services and requiring -- or including internet in the basic service objective as a job stimulator, as something that's good for our local communities.
16840 You know, whether some of the companies are doing well, that really depends on who we're talking about but a lot of the companies we work for are doing pretty well. And so there is always a balance that we have when it comes to the impact on their business but, you know, many of them are doing pretty well but at the end of the day, for us it's an economic stimulator. I mean it's good for our communities to look at expanding services.
16841 M. ROUSSEAU: Si je peux conclure aussi sur une -- encore sur une base personnelle à titre d’employé, le CRTC a toujours eu des -- les décisions du CRTC ont toujours eu des impacts au niveau des compagnies de télécoms. Et au service à la clientèle, j’étais là, je prenais des appels. Quand la dérèglementation sur les lignes téléphoniques a été faite sur les appareils, sur les prises, sur l’interurbain, et puis Bell était dans une position où -- ben mon employeur était dans une position où est-ce qu’il y avait des frais, c'était beaucoup plus cher. Fait que les commentaires des clients, je les ai entendus plusieurs fois, à plusieurs reprises, puis on se faisait -- on se faisait traiter par tous les noms.
16842 Dans ce cas-ci, pour ce qui est de la large bande, comme mon collègue disait, c'est quelque chose qui est positif pour les Canadiens. C'est d’avoir -- c'est de leur assurer une accessibilité à internet avec une vitesse stable, puis que tout le monde aurait la même base pour tout le monde. À ce moment-là, c'est quelque chose de positif et puis pour ce qui est des emplois, c'est sûr que ça va créer plusieurs emplois.
16843 Puis pour ce qui est de la convention collective, ben on est là pour négocier nos conventions collectives avec l’employeur puis on va s’assurer d’avoir les meilleures conditions de travail, d’avoir les meilleures techniciens sur -- les meilleurs employés sur les emplois, puis de bâtir un réseau de qualité puis quelque chose de fiable que les Canadiens soient fiers d’avoir entre leurs mains.
16844 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais il pourrait y avoir des pertes d’emplois dans certaines compagnies.
16845 M. ROUSSEAU: Si on parle de pertes ---
16846 LE PRÉSIDENT: Parce que je veux pas défendre mais certains diront que ces grandes sociétés-là, surtout celles qui sont cotées en bourse, doivent se préoccuper du marché des actions, non seulement au Canada mais à l’international. Ils doivent se préoccuper du marché des obligations aussi parce que c'est un marché international.
16847 Ils ont besoin du capital pour investir, puis un moment donné si leur fardeau, que ce soit un fardeau règlementaire ou autre qui revient du marché canadien, fait en sorte qu’il y a une pression sur les retours sur les investissements, bien la seule solution ou souvent la solution, certains diront, c'est la réduction des coûts. Puis généralement, c'est vos membres ou des membres des syndicats semblables qui ont le contrecoup.
16848 M. ROUSSEAU: Je vous dirais que vous avez raison en partie.
16849 Depuis qu’Unifor est créé on a eu plusieurs occasions où est-ce que différentes compagnies de télécom ont voulu appliquer ce type de raisonnement là, dire « Ben, ça nous coûte plus cher, on doit couper. » On a -- on a mis en place -- en tant que notre nom Unifor on a mis en place quelque chose qui -- qui est plus gros que qu’est-ce que les compagnies de télécom s’attendaient à avoir comme syndicat.
16850 On est -- on est plus fort pis on est en mesure de négocier des choses ou d’avoir des règlements. Pis y a toujours le CRT ou le CCRI qui sont nos portes de sorties quand y a des enjeux qui vont à l’encontre de qu’est-ce qui a été négocié entre le syndicat et les employeurs. Et puis je peux vous dire par expérience qu’on a -- on a quelques -- on a fait des pas là-dessus pis on a fait des avancés là-dessus.
16851 Donc c'est sûr que les compagnies vont toujours regarder, y vont toujours dire « Ça nous coûte plus cher, ça nous coûte plus cher. » Comme si je prends mon employeur, c'est les cinq piliers d’investissement qui est l’infrastructure, la compétition, tout ça.
16852 Mais je veux dire faut pas oublier qu’à la base c'est ses employés qui ont bâti son réseau, pis y doivent continuer à reconnaître ses employés pour continuer à développer le réseau. Pis l’expertise elle est déjà là, donc c'est à eux autres d’exploiter leur expertise.
16853 Pis c'est quand nous on vient qu’à s’asseoir à la table de négociation quand on négocie la convention collective, ben c'est à nous autres à mettre en place des mécanismes qui vont empêcher justement les compagnies de dire, « Ben, ça nous coûte tant, ça nous coûte trop cher. » On va dire non, tout simplement. On a juste à sortir les états financiers justement des -- de ces compagnies-là pis dire, « Ben, vous avez fait tant de milliards de profit, vous êtes sûrement capable de payer pour quelques employés de plus. » C'est toujours des arguments de négociation là.
16854 LE PRÉSIDENT: Effectivement. C'est très bien. Je vais me tourner vers mes collègues pour voir si ils ont des questions. Non plus. Le contentieux non plus?
16855 Alors, comme vous savez on a deux autres phases de commentaires, celui du 25 mai et du 13 juin. Et puisque vous représentez 300 -- au-delà de 300 000 -- 310 000 membres, et si on fait -- c'est beaucoup de foyers, et donc vous avez tout intérêt je crois à peut-être à développer et approfondir votre position, parce que ça pourrait avoir un impact sur l’avenir de vos membres aussi et de votre syndicat. Donc merci beaucoup.
16856 M. ROUSSEAU: Excellent. Merci beaucoup et bonne fin de journée.
16857 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci.
16858 Madame la Secrétaire.
16859 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci.
16860 We will now hear the presentation of Kootenay Boundary Broadband Committee.
16861 Mr. Gay, can you hear me?
16862 MR. GAY: Yes, thank you very much, Madam.
16863 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
16864 You may begin your presentation. You have 10 minutes.
16865 MR. GAY: Okay, thank you for the invitation.
16866 MR. GAY: Just for a kind of a quick backgrounder. I'm a politician, what we call a rural politician in the area of the Kootenay's.
16867 So I am speaking on -- today on behalf of our Columbia Basin-Boundary Regional Broadband Committee, which is composed of the chairs of four regional governments within the East Kootenay's, as well as our Ktunaxa Nation Council, the local Indian band, and the Village of Valemount.
16868 Our Committee of elected community leaders came together as local government and First Nations representatives for a very rural region –- the southeast corner of British Columbia. We came together because we see every day the lack of adequate broadband service, that it impedes our region's social and economic development and affects our region and our residents' future.
16869 Our region has a low population density and extremely mountainous topography with dense forest vegetation. These factors make telecommunications infrastructure expensive, with little potential for short-term investment return. As a consequence, we have a limited -- the investments by major carriers and service providers have been limited and many areas of the region remain seriously underserved.
16870 And I did hear -- overhear your conversation. I was pleased to be able to listen in, and I think, you know, your committee has summed it up very well around, you know, the new job creation and the employment opportunities, as well as the opportunities of our youth staying home. We see a lot of out migration just because we can't provide those types of jobs within our communities.
16871 Our region is home to many beautiful communities, surrounded by natural amenities. We have ski hills; we have camping, mountain bike trails. Very much moved from a resource base to trying to -- you know, we remain with sawmills and mines, but we're trying to bring the tourism industry to us as well.
16872 We'd also like to take advantage of this knowledge-based economy and have people that can live at home and do their jobs. And we have -- we're starting to see many home based businesses and good jobs created, but we need broadband infrastructure services that are affordable and available to attract those individuals.
16873 So for your consideration, and based on our region's experience over the last four or five years, I am going to provide you some recommendations and surely able to defend somebody's points should you wish.
16874 So we have been very fortunate. We did get some federal funding programs for our ISPs. We have a local organization called Columbia Basin Trust, which was a trust account set up years ago because of the impact on our region from power generation dams. The trust has been managed very well. Right now, they invest up to $40 million a year within the Basin and they have a side company called Columbia Basin Broadband Corp.
16875 Without this corporation's help guiding our small ISPs through the process, we would never have been able to get these grants. So we appreciate the grants, but again, we recommend that they shouldn't be just one time funding or programs that come up every five years. I think we need to be able to count on them a little more, like something like the gas tax, which we have a 10 year agreement with the federal government on.
16876 Within these programs, as I mentioned, without this Columbia Basin Broadband, we would never have been able to access this fund. We don't dismiss the need for accountability and transparency, but some of the barriers are very, very difficult, and so that was something I'd like to point out.
16877 We do have the large telecoms and they have infrastructure in our area. In fact, many of our small towns see broadband or wireless going right through the area and we're not able to access it.
16878 Oh, I'm sorry -- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
16879 THE SECRETARY: Mr. Gay?
16880 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can you still hear us?
16881 MR. GAY: Yes, we can hear you very well.
16882 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, we lost you for a little while there.
16883 MR. GAY: Okay. Maybe we need more than just broadband. How am I now? I'll put my ---
16884 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, it's fine right now. You just -- it's ---
16885 MR. GAY: Okay, is that better?
16886 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, that's perfect. Keep going.
16887 MR. GAY: Okay.
16888 So I'll -- maybe I'll just read the recommendations.
16889 So the first one was regarding the federal funding to the ISPs. And we very much appreciate it. We've been successful to get a program here, but without the hard work of a local trust that we've got, our ISPs being small companies would never have been able to access. So what we would see the Government with creating kind of a permanent long-term fund until all areas of our beautiful country are serviced.
16890 The other thing that I wanted to talk about briefly is the large incumbent telecoms that do exist in our area. Now, we've got either wired -- mostly wired throughout our region, but many of these small communities can't access it. So Telus goes through our area or Shaw goes through our area and it frustrates the people.
16891 And what we see -- and I'm sure you folks experience, and I heard you discussing business models -- where these large telecoms will come in. There'll be enough in an area, enough population density that they'll serve, let's say, a 1 kilometre square radius, take the majority of the clients that the small ISPs had, kind of cream of the crop that way, and then leave those on the fringes of that 1 kilometre radius to have very, very poor service or none at all.
16892 So we suggest, and I don't know how the CRTC does that, but somehow to open access. That infrastructure, if it's not going to be used by these telecoms, that some local company be able to access as a reasonable rate.
16893 And then the last question is the Internet speeds. And when I heard -- overheard your -- the Commission speaking, as well as the presenters, about, you know, about the economic impact of it, and the whole global economy.
16894 And really, when we look around, you know, we're hoping -- and five is nice, it's a lot better than one, and I know it's going to take us to get more, but we really need something we see -- quite a lot quicker. We see a lot of the developing countries have skipped over those stages and have gone to, you know, 30 or 50, United States, the largest carriers offer up to 250, and again, at competitive prices, but if people and businesses need those high speeds they can pay for them.
16895 So that was kind of my main messages today. Again, a very rural community in Southern Canada. And we always hear, you know, the rural and remote and people gravitate to the North, and then the North needs all the help. And there are, I think, small areas, and granted, I think we're getting better at it within Canada, that we have very many challenges on satellite and still people on dialup and others that can't have access.
16896 And I think as we've all learned, this is just, as I mentioned at the beginning. We're in -- I'm in government. We provide water services, we provide sewer, solid waste management, and Internet to our local residents is seen just as an essential service as any of those services that took time to, you know, to be a part of Canada and our system and I think Internet is certainly there.
16897 So I’ll conclude with that and thank you very much for your time.
16898 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for that presentation.
16899 So Commissioner Vennard will start us off.
16900 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello, Mr. Gay. This is Commissioner Vennard speaking.
16901 MR. GAY: Hello.
16902 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello.
16903 I have several areas that I’d like to focus on and have a conversation with you about. The first one is basically so that I can -- we can get a little bit better understanding of your particular organization and your area, some of the challenges and some of the -- also some of the success -- elements of success that you have enjoyed as well.
16904 All through our hearings we’ve been hearing from different groups that are banding together and they’re forming all sorts of different kinds of relationships and partnerships with different goals and different objectives and so on. So that’s basically what I’d like to just start to talk to you about.
16905 But first of all, I’d like you to tell us a little bit more about your area. For example, the size of your region, how many communities you have, how many residents?
16906 MR. GAY: Oh, okay. And I’m not sure if you’re afforded there that briefing note piece that was made available. Now I don’t know if you have it. And that might be useful. It’s a short two-pager.
16907 But our area if -- I don’t know how many of you folks are familiar with British Columbia, but we’re in the extreme southeast. So we’re bordered by the State of Montana and Idaho and Washington to our south, and then we border with Alberta. So the Rocky Mountains is Hereford Mountains for cell phones.
16908 So the total area that we’re serving -- and we call them regional districts. So in British Columbia what happens is they -- the municipal governments in the rural electoral areas directors get together and they form a regional government. So it’s a large geographic area in terms of hundreds of square kilometres. But our population that we’re serving under this committee is probably about 125,000. And that is based in 26 different communities. And our communities range in size from about 400 people to Cranbrook, B.C., which is the largest, which is just about 20,000. So we considered ourselves all rural.
16909 And we’re very much valley people. We’re surrounded by mountain passes and we live in the valley. So and the valleys aren’t always running north/south. So again, when we look at trying to do broadband servicing, it’s, you know, even if we go with the microwave towers, we need a number of towers and they can be quite expensive. So that’s ---
16910 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Do you go -- does your area go all the way up to Radium? Do you go over to the Shuswap, over to Penticton?
16911 MR. GAY: Yes. Yes. So you know the area. So we go --
16912 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16913 MR. GAY: -- we go to a little place called Field, actually, in the Yoho National Park.
16914 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Oh, really.
16915 MR. GAY: Yes. So we go to Field and then Valemount is a partner of ours. And then we cut through the Arrow Lake area and then down to the Boundary country, which Grand Forks is in. So yeah, so that’s the area. So four regional districts, one tribal council in the Valemount and then our other partner that I should talk about -- and Aimee, are you on?
16916 Okay. She was going to try to join. But Aimee ---
16917 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: We can maybe get that more -- more into that when we talk about your organization. Right now I’m just --
16918 MR. GAY: Yes.
16919 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- trying to get for our record the size and the variety of the communities that you covered. You also include the Okanagan in your area?
16920 MR. GAY: No, no. We -- so we border on the Okanagan. And so we just --
16921 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
16922 MR. GAY: -- form the Kootenay regions.
16923 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. You have quite a variety of communities in there and different things going on.
16924 MR. GAY: We do. The other thing that we have and that may be of note is we’re one -- actually, the oldest region in Canada. We’re -- 25 percent of our people right now are 65 years of age or older.
16925 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
16926 MR. GAY: And that’s for a couple reasons. But the main one, in my view, is that our young people leave. They go to Calgary or Vancouver or Kelowna.
16927 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16928 MR. GAY: Sometimes, you know, because they like the urban lifestyle, but often it’s for the job opportunities.
16929 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16930 MR. GAY: And we see them coming back sometimes in retirement. So again, services for our seniors around public safety, around medicine, the Internet can play a huge role.
16931 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. That’s what I was going to ask you about next. Your primary businesses in an area as large and diverse as that, it’s -- obviously those are quite varied as well.
16932 So tell us a little bit about the number and the types of businesses that you have within this region, within your area.
16933 MR. GAY: Yeah, I would say that we’re very entrepreneurial. And I spent 12 years of my life doing business -- lending to small business. I probably have a soft spot to that. But we have some large businesses. Teck Metals, for example, has five mines in our Elkview area, as well as a large smelter in Trail, B.C. It used to be called Cominco years ago.
16934 So they depend on a lot of small businesses for servicing, and larger businesses. So folks like Caterpillar and the larger suppliers are located in those mining towns. And it goes everywhere from contract janitorial services to welding services. So a lot of tradesmen reside in our area.
16935 We also have -- we have -- our competition, although it’s turned around, is -- because we’re on the American border we see a lot of our money going out. Because in the State of Montana, for example, there is no state tax at all. So --
16936 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
16937 MR. GAY: -- where in British Columbia it’s 12 percent. And again, people gravitate to Alberta because there’s no provincial tax there. So very competitive world for our business communities.
16938 But we’ve got one area, the Creston Valley, it’s heavily into agriculture and they’re seeing some movement into the wine industry now with the climate changing the way it is. Education is a large part of it. We have two main colleges in our area. Maturing Health -- as I mentioned a lot of seniors, so Maturing Health is our health provider. And probably would be the second largest employer after the mines.
16939 And then, you know, we have, you know, all the banks and I guess all the fast food chains and, you know, in our area.
16940 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: You have a fairly vibrant tourist economy there as well; don’t you?
16941 MR. GAY: We do. We have a number of what we call resort municipalities.
16942 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
16943 MR. GAY: They’re -- and they provide -- they have ski hills.
16944 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
16945 MR. GAY: So we do quite well. And then we’ve moved heavily into the golf business.
16946 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16947 MR. GAY: So we have the shoulder seasons that are slow, but the winter and summer months are pretty good.
16948 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. What do you find -- and just to use as an example, the Columbia Valley and all the golf resorts down through there. Obviously there’s a big influx of people when it’s golf season and so on. What sort of challenges do you find with your broadband at that time?
16949 MR. GAY: So that’s a really good question. And just to give you some perspective on this Columbia Valley for the folks that don’t know it. It’s kind of a playground of Calgary, for the most part. Sixty-seven (67) percent of the homes in the Columbia Valley are second home owners. So very large part of our tax base.
16950 And what happens is these individuals -- and many of them are fairly affluent because they have second homes, come from Calgary and, like all of us, you know, take our cell phones or laptops or computers and want to do some work when they’re home. So they come from a city that has service of I don’t know what, you know, to the rural area that is freely hit and miss. And it’s a frustration for them.
16951 And we’ve tried to have a bit of a campaign to say this is a good place to raise your kids. It’s affordable. Why don’t you move here and work from home four days a week and run into Calgary once or twice a month instead of the opposite. And people would like to do that.
16952 And they’ve said, “If we can get the broadband service that could connect us with our office, we would actually relocate to our seasonal homes.” And many of these seasonal homes are not the cabin by the lake. They’re --
16953 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16954 MR. GAY: -- you know, 500,000 to even a million dollars in some cases. So they’re year-round residences.
16955 So there’s a real frustration from those folks. And then in a situation where the locals have been depending on kind of a dial up that, you know, when there are three of us are home it’s not a problem. But in the weekends and during the summer when all the other residents come out, now we’re slowed right down to a walk. You’ve I’m sure heard that story as well so.
16956 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16957 MR. GAY: So yeah, having them seasonal residents become permanent residents would be something that we value. Because these folks that come in and out, they’re not assisting in terms of the volunteerism that we need. They feel part of the community to some extent, but, you know, it’d be nice if they could raise their kids in our area here.
16958 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. How do you find that connects in with emergency services and so on with your ---
16959 MR. GAY: As I say, they -- in some cases these people are very well linked with their community. So let’s just say we need to fundraise for a new emergency vehicle. Well, they’re very apt with that. They can bring in talented musicians or whatever and they can fundraise real well. So I won’t say they don’t contribute to it.
16960 But their expectations are city expectations. And we’re, for the most part, country boys. And, you know, if you phone an ambulance it’s not going to be there right away because we don’t have full-time ambulance people and we don’t have full-time firemen and they are a rural fire department. So it takes 10 or 15 minutes for people to, you know, get to the fire hall and get the ambulance or to get the fire trucks. So --
16961 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16962 MR. GAY: -- it -- they’re -- you know, there’s -- I guess there’s, you know, you live in a certain world and we have a different set of standards.
16963 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. Thanks for that description and enlightening us as to what’s it like there because I was going to ask, what does even the concept of the digital economy mean for an area like yours?
16964 MR. GAY: Well, you know, I -- and I know it’s important in the city, but I’ve been thinking in rural Canada we’ve come to depend on, in a lot of ways -- and I heard somebody earlier, you know, explain how their parents are doing banking. And what we see is one of the issues of getting old, and as I mentioned, we have an older population, is the loneliness factor.
16965 And, you know, and our libraries have really come forward to help train our seniors. And you can go to our library this afternoon and there’ll probably be 20 seniors because that’s all they can fit around the table, and some younger people, learning to share photos, to get on the social Internet. And much of that is because of the loneliness.
16966 But because they’re on there, you know, they can check with their doctor. We’ve got some telemedicine now that’s really starting to take off in rural British Columbia where people could, you know, check in with the doctor 24 hours a day. And these doctors are anywhere. They could be in your province. So that’s a good move.
16967 In terms of public safety, something that I’m responsible for, you know, we have a high risk of forest fire here some years.
16968 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
16969 MR. GAY: So to get messages out in a timely manner. So it’s really given us a better quality of life and we’ve really come to depend on it.
16970 People in our area know that I’ve been Chair of this Broadband Committee and expect that they could phone me and I’ll solve all their problems. And we see the solution from the private sector and government really doesn’t need to be in here except providing some leverage money to help the businesses go.
16971 So yeah, so it’s -- I think like the rest of Canada it’s very much a part of it. You go to our schools and every kid’s got their cell phone and they’re all, you know, playing games and the stuff. So I think it’s really levelled the playing field, probably not only for Canada, but for globally.
16972 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Are you -- I want to talk a little bit about your organization next. Are you connected to the Highway 3 economic development that’s going on in southern Alberta, that group?
16973 MR. GAY: No.
16974 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: No.
16975 MR. GAY: No.
16976 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
16977 MR. GAY: We know the Highway 3 group just through -- actually, Highway 3 because we’d have a mayors and --
16978 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
16979 MR. GAY: -- chairs committee that advises government on a priority fund highway upgrade. But beyond that, no.
16980 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. I’d like to talk a little bit about the structure and the history of your organization, how you came together, what sort of governance structure you have, you know, that sort of thing. Just give us an idea of what your particular organization is about.
16981 MR. GAY: Yeah, so you know, there -- when there was a problem there, I think what we each had to do in our area here is we don’t ask for other orders of government to solve the problem. We get in and then decide what we need.
16982 So what would happen is this was a frustration of everybody, sort of the lack of broadband connectivity, the way that the telecoms were coming in and cherry picking some of the communities and making them sign onto multi-year deals so there was no competition.
16983 So four of the chairs of the regional district, we were at a meeting together and we got together and said there’s stuff that we could do. So in I think 2013 we agreed to meet essentially at a little town called Creston. Invited the First Nations who are a big part of our business and we had -- the Provincial Minister of Economic Development joined us as well as this Columbia Basin Trust. So a very small group, like just six of us. And we sat down and we kind of did an analysis.
16984 And our municipalities were part of the discussion but they weren’t the one that lacked the service. It was on the -- always on the edges. So the main community of Cranbrook, for example, has pretty good speed. But on the edges they don’t. And so the money that we’ve gotten from the federal government, just to put perspective, is helping about 12,100 homes over that big area. So those were the ones that were -- either had no service or had very poor service.
16985 So anyway, we got together. Our governance is very easy. We try to just come to agreements. We pay our own expenses. The Columbia Basin Trust supplies the meeting room. So and we have a memorandum of understanding and it’s about a page and a half long. And we are advocates.
16986 And one of the things that we wanted to do and where we thought we end is we were going to do a strategic plan and sort of portray the -- how big the problem was and some solutions then leave it at that. So we did.
16987 And we said this is what we need. So we looked around our region and we said, well, who could implement this? And there was really nobody. So we said, let’s go to step two. And this is just when the Connecting Canadians ---
16988 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Can you tell us a little bit about what your strategic plan was at that time? You developed that around 2013 or so?
16989 MR. GAY: Yes. I don’t have it in front of me, but basically, the key objectives was affordable Internet to everybody in our region that wanted it. Because there are a few hang-ups that, you know, I never wanted and stuff and we would probably see a percentage of that. We didn’t define affordable and we wanted it by 2016. So we put a timeline on it. And that’s what we wanted.
16990 And then we have the backup, the rationale for it around health, public safety, education, economic development, you know, the reasons that you hear a lot of. Well, we rolled that into that. So we tried to boil that down to a one-page and then -- and went to work.
16991 And just at our same time, Network BC was -- which is our provincial for us that we’ve actually met with our provincial minister as we rolled this out, and we also met with our MP, who at the time was David Wilks, who was Conservative MP, was very supportive. So, you know, because we’re in politics we sort of did that, that sort of advocacy role.
16992 And then from that point, that was just when the Connecting Canadians program came along. So we were fortunate to find a gentleman in Vancouver that had been through it before. We brought him on board through money from this Trust. And we let all the ISPs know. There was 23 people made application to us. We sat down with them and it turned out only 13 wanted to move forward.
16993 And I remember working right through Christmas because, I mean, the deadline for that was early January and we got our submission in. We got -- we were able to access quite a few million dollars that’s getting put on the ground as we speak this year.
16994 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Can you tell us a little bit about the fund that you mentioned? The Trust, where the money came from and who’s involved in that?
16995 MR. GAY: Yeah. So I don’t know, again ---
16996 MS. AMBROSONE: Rob, I’ll just say that I’ve joined just so you know.
16997 MR. GAY: Oh, okay. Aimee, that’s great.
16998 So Aimee Ambrosone is the Chair of the Columbia Basis Broadband Corporation, which is an offshoot from the Trust. So I’ll turn that over to Aimee.
16999 But just to give you a little background. If you can envision, and I mentioned that were a series of valley living people. So we live in these valleys and these valleys have rivers. And many years ago our government decided that we needed more electricity in our province and we have lots of rivers and lots of steep valleys. And they basically dammed a lot of our valleys up, displaced a number of residents. Still hard feelings after 25 or 30 -- 40 years actually now.
17000 But a trust was set up to help compensate us. And over the years this has been managed very well. And, you know, they -- they’re able to put, you know, upwards of -- I think last year was 26 million, but their revenue’s gone up -- back into the basin for the legacy of our residents.
17001 So I’ll let Aimee discuss what the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation is.
17002 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17003 MR. GAY: It’s really -- we wouldn’t have been able to access any of these federal or provincial programs without their technical knowledge and their ability to provide competent staff. So Aimee.
17004 MS. AMBROSONE: Thank you, Rob.
17005 So Columbia Basin Trust, just to add to what Rob was saying, is -- its sole shareholder is the Province of B.C. It was created under statutory legislation in the Province of B.C. in 1995. And its purpose is to return social, environmental and economic benefit to the region that was most impacted by the Columbia River Treaty and, as Rob alluded to, the damming of rivers in this area and the impact that arose from that.
17006 It essentially has, not unlike a major community foundation or a Vancouver foundation, it has an investment portfolio, a very different kind of investment portfolio. The returns from its investments fund our corporate operation and they fund all that -- all of that money that Rob mentioned that’s flowing out to communities, they fund all of our work in communities.
17007 We give grants. We develop partnership. And depending on what communities express as their priority and need -- and we take our cues from them in terms of where we should focus our efforts. We’re responsive to what the region needs.
17008 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So does that -- would that include infrastructure like new community halls?
17009 MS. AMBROSONE: Absolutely.
17010 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: What about things like roads and so on? Does that maintain or ---
17011 MS. AMBROSONE: Typically we don’t play a role -- we don’t -- wouldn’t do anything in sort of the roadway or the sewer kind of base. We would say, you know, that’s more the responsibility of government as opposed to our responsibility. Yeah.
17012 So we do things that range from literacy programs to ---
17013 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hang on. Hang on for a sec. My mic was off.
17014 So infrastructure, communications infrastructure is part of the infrastructure that you would fund? Although it wouldn’t be roads and so on, but communications infrastructures you would fund?
17015 MS. AMBROSONE: Indeed. So broadband emerged as a priority in our region.
17016 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17017 MS. AMBROSONE: There was a lot of interest, not only from the group that Rob mentioned, but other communities. And our organization chose in 2011 to play a role in this space. It created a wholly owned subsidiary called Columbia Basin Broadband. And that entity is building and managing a regional high-speed fibre optic network throughout the southeastern corner of British Columbia. Our network has a 724 kilometre footprint. And it extends from Rossland in the west, as far north as Canal Flats in the east, and over to the community of Elkford.
17018 So Columbia Basin Trust recognized that broadband was priority, created an entity, Columbia Basin Broadband to build this network, to light it up, and to drive better Internet service into rural communities in our region.
17019 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, so communities in your region would make application to you for these funds and you would fund it and?
17020 MS. AMBROSONE: We build and own the regional network ourselves. It's our own asset, right.
17021 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17022 MS. AMBROSONE: The communities, to interconnect us, if we were bringing service -- if our fibre network went by a small rural community, we could interconnect to an ISP's last mile infrastructure there. And we in fact are giving some grant dollars to those last mile ISPs to upgrade their own last mile infrastructure, which is primarily wireless.
17023 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, so how large is this -- is that corporation? How many employees do you have?
17024 MS. AMBROSONE: The Columbia Basin Trust has over 40 staff. We've got a website, www.cbt.org, and some good publications out there. The wholly owned subsidiary, Columbia Basin Broadband, is, I think, four or five staff within our -- we're essentially a department of the trust and our operating support comes from the trust.
17025 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, and with that many people, you've managed to create a broadband network out there?
17026 MS. AMBROSONE: Indeed.
17027 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17028 MS. AMBROSONE: Yes, a lot of really good contract support.
17029 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, well, that's interesting.
17030 MS. AMBROSONE: Yes.
17031 MR. GAY: And I think just to mention that, you know, a lot of this work is done through, you know, through you -- you have spoken to have many of them. But some of these Internet service providers are these small not for profits that probably in the past have been a company that provided TV service to the community.
17032 So they're very unsophisticated but have some real technical expertise. So it's not sophisticated in the way of getting grants from government, but Columbia Basin Broadband and through Aimee's work have been able to, you know, go to these folks' door and work with them and make it happen. So it's really a homegrown solution.
17033 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So what percentage would you say of your region is covered?
17034 MS. AMBROSONE: Well, it's interesting that you asked that. We're just going through some mapping work ourselves relative to that, because it's very difficult to have granular data, particularly given mountainous topography. The fact that most wireless ISPs use -- unlike spectrum, because they, you know, don't have the maintenance, really the financial wherewithal (inaudible) through licensing process, there is issues around line of sight and those kinds of things.
17035 So there is data out there, and I know that the Government of Canada plays a role in maintaining and managing that data. We think there are accuracy issues with it.
17036 And a good example would be within a community, and let's say a community in our region, the largest is Cranbrook, an incorporated municipality would range between say a population of 500 to Cranbrook, which has about 18,000 or so people.
17037 Within a community proper, usually you will find an incumbent telco will have infrastructure there that serves residents over -- beyond the 5 meg current minimum from the federal government. But in the surrounding areas, the areas immediately outside that town, you'll find that there is lots of residents that have less than 5 megs download speed because they are receiving service from a wireless telco.
17038 Under our project, which is being funded through the Connecting Canadians program, and we're working with 12 ISPs and the group that Rob mentioned, we're going to bring 11,000 households in the region up to that 5 meg threshold. But there still will be a number of households again that aren't reached given the nature of our topography, given the nature of, you know, where there's a business case to reach them that aren't served.
17039 And we're actually going through looking at doing some granular work on getting a number around that. It's a hard number to come up with, just because of the geography and the infrastructure (inaudible).
17040 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Does your region have the sort of thing, I don't know how closely you've been following our hearings, but we've been hearing about unserviced sort of pockets of houses and so on?
17041 MS. AMBROSONE: And very much so. Exactly that, yeah.
17042 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, yeah.
17043 MS. AMBROSONE: Yes, exactly that.
17044 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And so do you have a plan or a strategy to fill in those gaps or to service those people?
17045 MS. AMBROSONE: Well, our goal with our broadband initiative, it's a priority for the trust that they've set for the next five years. We've already built out a significant regional network, we're working on a significant federal project in partnership with local ISPs, so those are good strides forward.
17046 But we're in this for the long haul. So we're looking at, okay, you know, what piece is next, where does it make sense to potentially expand the network, where does it make sense to potentially work with other ISPs that maybe didn't participate with us in the last federal project.
17047 So when you say a plan, yes, there's a number of fronts that we're working through in terms of due diligence to say, okay, what next in terms of how to ensure that we can get service.
17048 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17049 MR. GAY: One thing I might add to that, because money is always a factor.
17050 MS. AMBROSONE: Absolutely.
17051 MR. GAY: And we were quite fortunate that for a municipality in British Columbia, and I think probably across Canada, we always -- we get a share of federal gas tax money. And in the past, it was always for sewer and water, and the list of eligible activities is very short. In fact, I think there was only three things on it.
17052 Now, we that have renegotiated the agreement we have about 12 things on the list. And one thing on the list, which means we could use this federal money for, is for Internet and broadband connectivity. So that was seen within that program.
17053 So for an example, Aimee was talking about some of these people in this area that have -- don't have service, they may put a community group together and say, well, for another -- if we can just $30,000 we could do a tower and we can work with this guy. Well, we've got the $30,000 now for that community, so there's a link to that funding.
17054 So it's really nice to see that the federal government has allowed, you know, more eligible activities and that broadband is one of them. And we fought hard for many years to do that, meeting with different MPs and ministers and that, and so at least in our area that's a source of funding. And most of the rural directors in our small municipalities are willing to put money toward it.
17055 So when we had to match this federal money we had 22 different electoral areas come forward and put some money on the table. So that makes things happen as well.
17056 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, what's the price of the packages?
17057 MS. AMBROSONE: They're variable across the ISP. So each ISP sets its own pricing structure and rates. We can forward that information to you or a sample of that information if that's of interest.
17058 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, that would be of interest to us. Could you get that sent to us?
17060 MR. GAY: When you mentioned about our strategic plan, that was one of the things that we were very clear on going into this, is that we kept using the word "competition" because we want that to be in the marketplace. So it wasn't like government was going to go in and build you a, you know, a $20 a month or $100 month thing. It's, as Aimee said, the small folks who go in there, and you know, if Joe Blow's service isn't doing the job, then the next guy comes along and offers you something equally as good for a lesser price, well that's kind of the way things go.
17061 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17062 I'd like to now just move over to -- and here, I'm looking at your speaking notes that you've provided us with.
17063 You say that:
17064 "The Government of Canada should create a permanent fund that can be accessed on an as needed basis by ISPs."
17065 Can you explain what you mean by that or how that would work?
17066 MR. GAY: Yes, so as I alluded to the gas tax fund, it was a deal that we made through our, it's called the Union of British Columbia Municipalities where the money has come from the feds to there. But it's a 10 year agreement.
17067 So that's what we see, because as you know, by the time you plan these projects -- and our window of operating in the Kootenay's, we're in a very heavy snow belt most of our area is, is probably six months for sure, seven, but the winter months are very difficult. So kind of a planning year. You have the purchase the stuff, then the insulation. So doing that on an annual basis is very, very difficult. So that's what we just would like to see sort of the practicality put into these funding programs.
17068 And Aimee maybe you can speak more about how long it's taken with the Connecting Canadians and so on?
17069 MS. AMBROSONE: Yes, I think our thinking around having a fund that can be accessed on an as needed basis is, I think, right now there is a potential for a cycle to get created. You know, I think the federal (inaudible) service level used to be, you know, one and a half megs download speed and then there was funding that came out that was tied to that that was one time funding, and then, you know, a few years later, here comes the 5 megs speed and there's funding that's tied to that.
17070 And it's great. It is absolutely great that there are dollars available for infrastructure upgrades for small ISPs, but I think it creates a bit of a perpetual cycle in that the (inaudible) changes. Here is what the new minimum download speed, which is a better speed, which is again, a good thing, so that (inaudible) changes.
17071 The ISP always deals with the fact that they have a very small rural market from which to recover their capital costs. So they're getting some grant dollars to help with that from the feds, which is terrific, but they are kind of right in this perpetual cycle of oh, okay, maybe we need a capital upgrade, and then the speed is going to come out, the new speed requirement is going to come out, so we're going to tie our upgrade to that. And it just creates this cycle of apply, reapply, apply, reapply to meet new standards, which again, new standards are a good thing or higher speeds are a good thing for Canadians for sure.
17072 I think if there was, you know, if there was a more permanent fund created on an as needed basis that was tied more specifically to granular thinking around which areas are underserved. It could help the ISPs plan better to make investments in their infrastructure for the long term that take them past some of those minimum speed thresholds.
17073 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Now with this idea, would you say that this would be something that should be all the way across Canada? Or is this something that is more specific to your region?
17074 MS. AMBROSONE: I can’t speak to that. I speak from our region’s context.
17075 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you for that.
17076 MR. GAY: Yeah, it’s safer.
17077 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So now to get back to the money, where would the money for this come from? How do you see the contributions happening for the fund like this?
17078 MS. AMBROSONE: I think that there are -- there is currently funding available for federal infrastructure improvement programs and I think it’s just redirecting existing funds.
17079 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So ---
17080 MR. GAY: Yeah, I agree. I think -- you know, if you give the residents the choice, what we’ve seen in the past, and I’ve been in government for over a decade now, is that government will come up with a program, and let’s say it’s, oh, I don’t know, a park. And so we’ve got a parks program. And we, as local government, we do our plans. And in our plan is sewer. So they’ll say, well, here’s parks money. Take it or leave it. Well, some politicians say, well, we’re going to go chase that money and we’ll build a park that we know in the long term we can’t afford to maintain.
17081 And we’ve argued for years, give us the choice. Put the money in the pot and if we need a park, we build a park, if we need a trail, if we need sewer or if we need water or if we need broadband. And that’s what I was very impressed, as a I mentioned, with that gas tax agreement where the list of activities that we could -- you know, and we set the priorities local. We could spend our money on, we will do it. So if our seniors need something, we can do it with that money.
17082 But as a region here, we’ve chosen broadband as an important priority. And as I say, we are all prepared to do that.
17083 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
17084 MR. GAY: So just not putting a whole bunch of strings on some of these federal money and just say this is Infrastructure money Canada. You know what you need. You need a road, you needed broadband and that’s good enough. So I agree with Aimee. Just let’s redirect the funds. We don’t need new taxes ---
17085 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Where would you redirect the funds from?
17086 MR. GAY: Well, that gas tax is a perfect example where all, you know, all Canadians when we gas up we pay a share of the tax and part of it comes back to each province and it’s distributed.
17087 The argument there that becomes between the province and the -- well, I guess we would see as the lower level of government, municipalities and that there’s always that push. But I guess we won’t have to fight that fight to see that.
17088 But, you know, it’s kind of like healthcare but it -- broadband is so interesting because unlike natural resources where the federal government has told the province you’re responsible for it, broadband seems to be we’re all accountable for it. You know, the feds have pressures, the province does and so do the regions.
17089 So when we get together as a collective with our MP and with our MLAs, we’re on the same page. It’s actually quite refreshing that way because the deed argument is not there. It’s how we fund it. We kind of work together to try to figure that out, as well as our First Nations partners.
17090 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. I have just a few more questions for you. In your speaking notes you also -- and I believe also in the short submission that you gave to us, you talked about the large incumbent telcos and the infrastructure. Do you have any asks of CRTC with respect to that?
17091 MR. GAY: Yeah. And I don’t know, Aimee and I were talking about it yesterday and I don’t know if there’s a word for it, but you know, this cherry picking or this coming into a community where we could make a business case out of 80 percent of the community, but the other 20 percent we don’t care about. And their business case tends to be we need to pay this back or we need our ROI in two or three years.
17092 Where, you know, we’ve had discussions, more with Telus than with Shaw. And they say, well, if you could come up with some money -- and they’re right. But it’s frustrating where I’ve got residents that, you know, can look across the street and I’ve got five megabytes here and across the street the person’s got nothing. It’s that drastic. And the fibre cable’s going right by these communities. And that’s kind of what was our frustration with these folks.
17093 And you know, we’ve seen it in our province where it comes to public safety, they’ve forced Telus into some deals, but it’s always been short term. So provide this community broadband for the next two years at this rate, but then -- and then it skyrockets. Maybe I’m thinking of someplace like Yap where, you know, it was a short-term solution but not long-term.
17094 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. Do you have any specific recommendations for action for us or are you bringing this to our attention and asking us to contemplate it?
17095 MR. GAY: Well, our recommendation would be -- and I don’t know because I’m not in it, is the open network. And we’ve always had that concept. So if that cable is going through, and I know -- let’s all pick on Telus -- Telus has paid for it. It’s going by the community. But if they cannot make a business case, which is fine, that’s how they do business, but there should be some rules to say at a reasonable cost, this small ISP should be able to hook onto that cable.
17096 You know, certainly they’re probably not using every fibre. We’re talking about one fibre maybe out of a bundle of 48. And we, as a regional district, own the fibre. And we’ve actually leased it back to Shaw.
17097 So we have this open concept but they certainly don’t. And maybe I’ll let Aimee speak more to it. But that’s our frustration, especially as local politicians, when people know darn well that cable’s going by their community and they’re being told no, no, no, no, no.
17098 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you for those comments.
17099 I just have a couple of more things that I would ask you to comment on, if you would like to. And one of them is on digital literacy. Do you have anything to say about that? How do you handle it in your area? Is that something we need to be concerned about here at CRTC?
17100 MR. GAY: Exactly. You know, we -- and, Aimee, I’ll let you speak to it.
17101 But when we do our presentations we show a graph of three things. One is kind of this graph that, you know, the first job is to get your community wired. And the second one is to get people educated. And the third one, you know, we have some of our communities are starting to look at that smart community concept, because it’s a real economic driver for them as well as keeping people at home.
17102 But, Aimee, I’ll let you talk a little bit about the education piece and how we’re approaching it.
17103 Oh, did we lose her?
17104 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: I think we lost her.
17105 MR. GAY: Oh, okay.
17106 MS. AMBROSONE: Sorry. It’s Aimee here.
17107 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Oh, here she is.
17108 MR. GAY: Yeah. So Aimee, we’re just talking about digital literacy.
17109 MS. AMBROSONE: Yeah, I got you. Yeah.
17110 I would just flag on the Commission’s previous question.
17111 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Sure.
17112 MS. AMBROSONE: I would just flag that Columbia Basin Broadband made a submission as part of the review of the basic telecommunication services on July 13, 2015 with some very specific recommendations of what could be changed in the regulatory environment relevant to some of the questions that Rob is responding to and the access to telecom infrastructure. So that is a matter of the record.
17113 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Thank you very much for bringing that to our attention.
17114 MS. AMBROSONE: Okay. On the digital literacy issue, I actually -- you know, if you think about -- if we think about broadband from the economic development perspective, you know, there are programs in our area that teach seniors how to use computers or how to access the internet for the first time. And those are important things and they should be continued. I don’t think there’s a role for the Commission there particularly.
17115 I think the bigger issue is, it’s one thing to build infrastructure and make these services available in a community. It’s another thing for a small rural community to take advantage of that infrastructure and market their community to those economic development engines that could use the infrastructure to create more wealth and growth within the community.
17116 So, for instance, we can build broadband infrastructure into small communities and give them access to better services. But if you think about a small rural community in Canada of 2,000 or 3,000 or 500 people, and maybe it’s the nicest place to live in the world and maybe it’s got some nice trails to hike on. It’s got affordable housing so people will want to live and work there. You’ve got a broadband infrastructure that can build and bring them better service. Someone is still going to need to work with the community, to help the community to develop their marketing strategy, to develop their recruiting strategy to get those people to live in their community, to figure out how it should maybe rezone land within the community for economic development purposes. Those kinds of things.
17117 So having the infrastructure is one thing. Making all of the links to how the infrastructure could drive economic development is a whole other thing. It’s an issue that we’re just starting to wrestle with and just starting to help communities with, as Rob alluded to.
17118 I think it’s going to be complex. And all of the things that make driving rural service into rural areas challenging are going to apply to how do you use that service once it’s there? I think it’s a much broader issue than just build infrastructure and make service available. That isn’t going to capture it.
17119 And I don’t have the answers for you. It’s something we’re just starting to wrestle with.
17120 From my perspective, it would be a terrible thing if infrastructure was put in place and services were available and they weren’t used to their utmost potential. And if you think about a small community and the work that would need to be done to take that infrastructure and do something with it, you’ve got to think about where those resources going to come from, where is that capacity going to come from.
17121 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, that's part ---
17122 MS. AMBROSONE: Who’s going to ---
17123 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: That’s part of what it is that we’re looking at here.
17124 MS. AMBROSONE: Yes.
17125 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: We’re referring it to -- to it essentially as adoption. And do you see any role for the CRTC with respect to adoption?
17126 MS. AMBROSONE: M'hm, I think -- certainly I see a role for the federal government, I’m not sure if -- its best home is within the CRTC. Maybe it rests more within a ministry focused on innovation, technology, economic development, that kind of a home.
17127 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17128 MS. AMBROSONE: I'm not sure there's a regulatory role there per se.
17129 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, thank you for that. This is my final question. I’m wondering what -- what speed do you think is adequate for the digital economy?
17130 MS. AMBROSONE: I'm going to let Rob answer that one.
17131 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
17132 MS. AMBROSONE: Oh, are you up?
17133 MR. GAY: Oh sorry, I might get that.
17134 MS. AMBROSONE: Yeah.
17135 MR. GAY: Yeah. When we did the strategic planning we had our consultants look around the world, and I was surprised at some of the speeds in some of the developing countries. So I’m going to say, you know, somewhere -- 50 would be sort of the minimum for these home-based businesses, people that want to, you know, work in the community and have their head office in a larger city. Five just doesn’t cut it and 10 is actually too slow now, so that’s kind of the area. And we -- we have a number of examples where people are living in these rural communities for lifestyle choices, and you know, connecting with -- with a larger company, you know, in the States or in the cities in Canada.
17136 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, well thank you for that. Those are all my questions.
17137 MR. GAY: I really appreciate the time, at least when we originally signed up we thought we’d do our 10-minute presentation and go away, so your -- your exploratory questions have been just great in kind of ---
17138 MS. AMBROSONE: Absolutely.
17139 MR. GAY: --- let us expound on some of our things, so we certainly support your work. And I’ve heard your folks speak at the Broadband Conference in British Columbia, and good luck with your deliberations. You’ve got a real big job there.
17140 MS. AMBROSONE: Absolutely.
17141 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for having participated at this phase. As you know, there's further phases and you're most welcome to participate in those as well.
17142 MR. GAY: Well we’ll keep our eye on it. So thank you very much and thank you for your time today.
17143 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Those are -- those are all our questions, so thank you very much.
17144 MR. GAY: Very much appreciated, very good questions as well. Thank you, Aimee.
17145 MS. AMBROSONE: Take care, yeah, thanks, Rob.
17146 MR. GAY: Okay, bye everybody.
17147 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la Secrétaire.
17148 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. J’inviterais maintenant SCFA du Canada à s’approcher et nous connecterons aussi à Winnipeg.
17149 S’il vous plaît, vous présenter et présenter votre collègue, et vous avez 10 minutes pour votre présentation.
17150 Mme LANTHIER: Merci. Alors Monsieur le Président, messieurs et mesdames du Conseil, je vous remercie d’avoir invité la FCFA à comparaître devant vous aujourd’hui.
17151 Je m’appelle Sylviane Lanthier, je suis la présidente de la Fédération, et je suis accompagnée aujourd’hui de notre directeur des communications, Serge Quinty, qui est dans vos bureaux de Gatineau.
17152 La FCFA est la principale porte-parole de 2,6 millions de Canadiens et de Canadiennes d’expression française vivant en situation minoritaire dans neuf provinces et trois territoires. Nous comparaissons régulièrement devant le CRTC sur des enjeux de radiodiffusion, mais à ma connaissance c’est la première fois que nous comparaissons sur un enjeu de télécommunications.
17153 Je tiens donc à souligner d’emblée que nous ne sommes pas ici comme experts en solutions internet, en infrastructures ou en technologies de livraison du signal. Nous sommes ici comme experts de nos communautés et ce qu’il faut pour vivre en français au Canada au XXIe siècle.
17154 J’aimerais fonder mes remarques aujourd’hui sur les questions que le Conseil pose aux Canadiens et aux Canadiennes dans le cadre de la présente audience, particulièrement via le forum en ligne. Tout d’abord, quels sont les services de base dont les Canadiens ont besoin, et internet à large bande fait-il partie de ces services? Pour la FCFA, la réponse est très clairement oui.
17155 L’accès à internet à large bande est en fait un élément de plus en plus essentiel de notre capacité de vivre en français. Dans des contextes fortement minoritaires où il est difficile de se procurer des produits culturels en français, internet est pour les francophones le moyen d’acheter des livres, de la musique ou des films dans leur langue.
17156 Au moment où le seul grand groupe de diffusion à avoir des stations régionales de langue française partout au pays accélère son virage numérique, une connexion internet qui permet le streaming audio ou vidéo est également essentielle pour consommer les contenus de Radio-Canada et d’autres médias de langue française. Enfin, à l’heure où nos radios communautaires dépendent de plus en plus d’internet pour télécharger des émissions et des publicités, sans compter la diffusion en ligne, une bonne connexion est également essentielle.
17157 Une bonne connexion internet est également la condition de succès de l’éducation à distance offerte par plusieurs de nos établissements postsecondaires et secondaires aussi. Dans plusieurs de nos milieux, des cours ne pourront être offerts que s’ils sont offerts à distance, en raison des nombres et de l’étalement géographique des écoles. Internet à large bande permet à nos écoles d’enseigner avec l’appui d’outils virtuels et d’applications éducatives en français. Dans les conseils scolaires qui couvrent un grand territoire, Skype permet de briser l’isolement entre le personnel et différentes écoles.
17158 Les organismes qui travaillent au développement des communautés francophones et acadiennes sont eux aussi répartis sur de vastes territoires. Les vidéoconférences et webconférences deviennent pour ces organismes des moyens efficients, à moindre coût, de s’informer et de se perfectionner pour mieux jouer leur rôle auprès des communautés qu’ils servent.
17159 La bande passante est une nécessité pour réaliser tout cela, et la brève enquête que nous avons menée dans notre réseau nous a montré qu’il existe à plusieurs endroits des défis à cet égard.
17160 Nous sommes bien conscients qu’une communauté francophone qui éprouve des problèmes d’accès, de coût ou de capacité en ce qui a trait à internet, vit essentiellement la même situation que la collectivité anglophone majoritaire de la même région.
17161 Mais il reste que cette communauté francophone se retrouve, en quelque sorte, doublement minoritaire. Parlez-en aux enseignants de l’École Boréale de Hay River, qui tentent d’enseigner à l’ère du XXIe siècle avec la connectivité du XXe. Ou encore à une Acadienne de l’Isle-Madame qui aimerait bien prendre des cours à distance à l’Université Sainte-Anne, mais ne parvient pas à ouvrir la plateforme en ligne. Ou enfin à des parents du Nord de l’Alberta qui ne réussissent pas à télécharger les émissions éducatives en français disponibles sur le site de TFO.
17162 Un accès limité à internet à large bande est aussi sans doute un facteur dans le choix de bon nombre de jeunes de quitter une communauté francophone en milieu rural pour s’établir ailleurs. En étudiant la carte de la couverture des services à large bande préparée par le CRTC, on peut voir un lien entre les régions mal desservies ou non desservies, et certaines communautés qui connaissent un haut taux d’exode des jeunes. Des endroits comme Tignish et Summerside sur l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, Chéticamp en Nouvelle-Écosse, la Péninsule de Port-au-Port à Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador ou la région de Cochrane en Ontario.
17163 Si on trouve des problèmes de connectivité en milieu rural en Atlantique et en Ontario, l’accès à une connexion large bande est également problématique dans les trois territoires et le Nord de l’Alberta, mais pour une autre raison, le coût très élevé des forfaits et les montants demandés pour les frais de dépassement. Nous y avons fait référence dans notre mémoire. Le gouvernement du Yukon et l’Association des communautés des Territoires du Nord-Ouest vous ont décrit la situation.
17164 Pour nous, c’est un enjeu important parce que ces endroits sont parmi ceux où la population francophone croît le plus rapidement. Le Yukon, en particulier, est une destination prisée par les immigrants d’expression française, particulièrement de jeunes professionnels. Un accès convenable à la large bande est un facteur de rétention et donc de croissance démographique et économique.
17165 Je prends quelques instants pour aborder l’autre question d’intérêt que pose le CRTC, à savoir si les cibles actuelles de 5 mégabits par seconde en téléchargement et de 1 mégabit par seconde sont suffisantes à l’heure actuelle, et s’il est difficile de s’adonner à certaines activités en ligne en raison d’une connexion à ces vitesses. Plusieurs intervenants dans le cadre de ces audiences publiques ont déjà indiqué que les cibles actuelles sont en voie de devenir obsolètes, et nous partageons ce point de vue.
17166 Qu’on regarde seulement, encore une fois, le contexte scolaire. Étant donné l’utilisation accrue des appareils mobiles en salle de classe, étant donné les nombreux programmes de citoyenneté numérique dans les écoles, on ne peut raisonnablement penser que les cibles actuelles continueront à répondre aux besoins.
17167 Je prends l’exemple des établissements du Conseil des écoles fransaskoises, qui ont une limite de 10 mégabits chacun et qui peinent à fournir à la demande en matière de bande passante. Je pense aussi à cette école en milieu rural à la Division scolaire franco-manitobaine qui est limitée, pour des raisons technologiques, à du 7,5 mégabits.
17168 Il est sûr qu’on parle beaucoup du milieu scolaire, mais dans un contexte d’économie numérique, vous serez d’accord avec moi que l’initiation des jeunes à la littératie numérique a son importance.
17169 Que nos jeunes puissent bénéficier de cette initiation dans leurs communautés en français au lieu de le faire plus tard en anglais a aussi son importance pour l’avenir de nos collectivités francophones.
17170 Monsieur le Président, vous avez parlé au début de ces audiences de l’importance de faire la distinction entre les besoins et les désirs. Nous ne parlons pas ici d’utilisation frivole de la bande passante, nous parlons d’écoles qui forment la prochaine génération de francophones.
17171 Sur le plan culturel, nous parlons d’individus et de familles qui utilisent Internet chez eux pour accéder à des produits et des contenus de langue française qu’ils auraient du mal à obtenir autrement.
17172 Je termine donc avec quatre recommandations qui vont dans le sens de ce que nous avons indiqué dans notre mémoire.
17173 D’abord, nous sommes d’avis que l’accès à Internet à large bande devrait faire partie de la définition du service de base en matière de télécommunication.
17174 Ensuite, nous estimons que les fibres de collectivité devraient être revues à la hausse à 25 mégabit/seconde en téléchargement et à 3 mégabit/seconde en téléversement.
17175 Troisièmement, nous sommes d’accord avec le gouvernement du Yukon quand il affirme que les gens habitants des régions rurales ou éloignées ne devraient pas payer un prix démesurément plus cher pour des services de qualité moindre.
17176 C’est un enjeu de taille pour les francophones des territoires et ceux des régions comme la côte ouest de Terre-Neuve et nous encourageons le CRTC à explorer des mesures de réduction des coûts de la large bande.
17177 Enfin, les investissements annoncés dans le budget fédéral le mois dernier pour l’amélioration de l’accès à Internet haute vitesse sont appréciés. De toute évidence, le numérique est une priorité pour le gouvernement du Canada.
17178 L’accroissement des services en ligne fait partie des lettres de mandat de plusieurs ministres fédéraux tandis que celles du ministre de l’innovation, des sciences et du développement économique incluent la responsabilité d’étendre la couverture à large bande à haute vitesse, d’appuyer la concurrence, le choix, et la disponibilité de ces services et de favoriser un climat propice aux investissements en ce qui a trait aux services de télécommunications.
17179 Cela appelle, selon nous, une stratégie nationale, cohérente et concertée, qui interpelle les gouvernements, le secteur privé, ainsi que les groupes communautaires dont ceux de la francophonie canadienne sous le leadership du gouvernement du Canada.
17180 Je vous remercie et nous sommes prêts à répondre à vos questions.
17181 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci bien pour votre présentation et votre participation. De mémoire, je suis d’accord que c’est probablement la première fois que votre association participe à une audience en télécom qui démontre que la convergence tant annoncée a -- est ici, est probablement ici depuis quelque temps, donc bienvenue à nos audiences en télécommunications.
17182 Évidemment, je comprends bien là vous avez pas une profonde expertise en matière de télécom, mais néanmoins j’aimerais explorer avec vous les thèmes qu’on aborde avec d’autres participants, mais de bien comprendre la spécificité par rapport à -- aux communautés en situation minoritaire.
17183 Et c’est ça, donc le premier thème porte sur la connectivité. J’ai posé la question à d’autres personnes. Est-ce qu’on devrait, en tant que Conseil, tenter d’atteindre une couverture quasi-universelle d’accès au service à large bande?
17184 Mme LANTHIER: Bien écoutez, étant donné que dans nos communautés, là où l’accès est le plus restreint correspond aussi souvent à des régions qui sont les plus éloignées des grands centres, j’aurais tendance à vous dire que oui parce que il y a effectivement des canadiens qui habitent dans des endroits plus éloignés et notre compréhension c’est que c’est aussi dans ces endroits là où l’accès à Internet et la capacité de faire des affaires à partir du numérique va jouer une très grande -- va avoir une très grande importance pour le succès de ces communautés là.
17185 Donc ma compréhension c’est que et pour les majorités, et pour les minorités de langue officielle, l’accès au large-bande et la capacité de jouer un rôle et de profiter de l’économie numérique est aussi une condition à leur développement.
17186 LE PRÉSIDENT: Pardon. Lors de notre instance, on a entendu parler de plusieurs programmes gouvernement -- du gouvernement fédéral, surtout, mais aussi provincial et autre, même des municipalités pour appuyer le déploiement de la couverture à large bande.
17187 On a entendu évidemment du programme du ministère de l’innovation, anciennement les anciens programmes d’Industrie Canada. On a entendu parler des programmes ou des subventions du ministère des affaires autochtones pour aider au déploiement des services à haut débit dans des communautés autochtones.
17188 Qu’en est-il de la lentille langues officielles à votre connaissance dans les programmes du ministère, maintenant le ministère de l’innovation, par rapport à -- j’imagine c’est une analyse en vertu de la partie 7 de la Loi sur les langues officielles pour assurer l’épanouissement de la vitalité des communautés.
17189 Est-ce que ils ont un critère particulier pour assurer la connectivité dans des zones où il y a des communautés en situation minoritaire d’importance?
17190 Mme LANTHIER: À ma connaissance, il y en a pas et peut-être que mon collègue Serge ici pourrait compléter ma réponse.
17191 Ce que je sais aussi, M. Blais, qui pourrait vous intéresser c’est que dans le passé, on a des exemples de communautés dans nos milieux qui se sont organisées elles-mêmes pour obtenir une connectivité Internet et le large-bande, qui ont formé des coopératives par exemple ou qui ont -- vraiment qui se sont organisés en communauté dans des villages ou autrement pour s’assurer d’avoir un accès parce que autrement, on ne leur fournissait pas d’accès facile. C’était pas quelque chose qui intéressait les entreprises qui fournissent l’accès.
17192 Au niveau des subventions, est-ce que les ministères ou les différents ministères du gouvernement fédéral ont des lentilles francophones? Je ne le sais pas, mais peut-être que Serge pourrait compléter cette partie-là de la réponse.
17193 M. QUINTY: C’est une deuxième première, Monsieur le Président. C’est la première fois qu’on comparait en deux endroits différents, à Gatineau et à Winnipeg, comme quoi les communautés sont capables d’innovation.
17194 Mais pour répondre à votre question, dans le temps où le ministère était Industrie Canada, on avait exploré avec eux la possibilité de faire un projet afin d’identifier plus clairement où était les problématiques en matière de dessertes des communautés.
17195 Malheureusement, ça avait achoppé. Il existe quand même un certain vide au niveau de la recherche au niveau des problèmes de connectivité des communautés, ce qui signifie qu’on a dû faire un assez gros travail auprès de nos membres pour aller tirer un peu de cette information-là, mais je vous dirais qu’au niveau de la connectivité, je ne vois pas à l’heure actuelle une application d’une quelconque lentille francophone.
17196 Et aussi dans l’information qu’on a recueillie du terrain, ce qu’on voit c’est que le « patchwork » dont vous avez entendu parler dans les derniers jours au niveau des initiatives pour appuyer la connectivité, on le voit dans des communautés comme à Port au Port qui essaient toutes sortes de choses, qui savent plus trop où se tourner pour essayer de débloquer une meilleure connexion.
17197 Ils essaient présentement auprès du gouvernement de la province de s’inscrire sur la liste des communautés prioritaires. Ils font des démarches auprès de Bell Mobilité. Ils ont entendu que peut-être en s’associant avec une compagnie minière locale, ils pourraient obtenir quelque chose.
17198 Donc en quelque part, on voit que il y a pas nécessairement de clarté sur où les communautés peuvent se tourner et en ce moment, je ne vois pas nécessairement que le ministère, au niveau de la connectivité, la question que vous posez, a un rôle.
17199 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc vous mentionnez le même problème de capacité que j’ai noté la semaine dernière que certains groupes ont à trouver où sont les solutions. Ça se reflète aussi dans les communautés.
17200 Qu’en est-il du programme des langues officielles ou la feuille de route ou je sais pu trop trop comment qu’on l’appelle là, le montant global pour appuyer les langues officielles au pays? Est-ce qu’il y a un volet pour aider le déploiement des -- de la connectivité à large bande?
17201 M. QUINTY: Je vais la prendre, celle-là, Sylviane, si tu le souhaites.
17202 Mme LANTHIER: Oui, vas y.
17203 M. QUINTY: Oui. À ma connaissance, le dernier programme compréhensif qui s’adressait véritablement à la notion de l’inforoute et de l’investissement ou de l’adoption des technologies numériques par les communautés, c’était Francommunautés virtuelles qui était dans le plan d’action 2003-2008, à ma connaissance.
17204 LE PRÉSIDENT: À -- donc ça c’était le plan de M. Dion à l’époque?
17205 M. QUINTY: Exact.
17206 LE PRÉSIDENT: Bien il était M. Dion à l’époque aussi, mais à l’époque dans un autre rôle. Oui, effectivement il est responsable des langues officielles.
17207 Vous pouvez nous parler de -- parce que le -- vous avez évoqué la situation de que -- de certaines coopératives qui se sont organisées pour -- certaines communautés qui sont organisées en coopératives pour assurer la connectivité de la communauté.
17208 Quelle a été votre expérience? Est-ce que ça été une bonne expérience? Est-ce que -- qu’est-ce qui a bien fonctionné ou mal fonctionné par rapport à ces coopératives?
17209 M. QUINTY: L’exemple en particulier ---
17210 Mme LANTHIER: Bien écoutez moi je connais les ---
17211 M. QUINTY: Oui, excusez. Vas-y -- allez-y, Madame la Présidente.
17212 Mme LANTHIER: Moi je connais -- merci beaucoup.
17213 Moi je connais le cas de St-Pierre-Jolys au Manitoba où dans les années 2000 les gens ont formé une coopérative pour obtenir une tour et se donner vraiment un accès internet et à ma connaissance ça bien fonctionné.
17214 Et je pense que Serge, t’allais aussi parler du cas de la Saskatchewan où les gens ont formé, je pense, une coopérative et qui a bien fonctionné aussi et ça fini par -- en fait SaskTel s’en occupe maintenant là.
17215 Mais il y avait des zones à l’époque où il n’y avait pas de service dans plusieurs milieux ruraux, donc les gens se sont regroupés ensemble et ça fonctionné et maintenant ils ont obtenu un service, mais ça ne signifie pas que partout le service est adéquat et permet de répondre à l’ensemble des besoins.
17216 Par exemple en Saskatchewan aussi on parle du Conseil des écoles fransaskoises, qui indique que la connectivité est limitée pour les vidéoconférences et les cours à distances, que la bande passante est insuffisante.
17217 Que souvent ce qu’ils font par Skype va être -- Skype va être déconnecté constamment parce qu’il y a trop, trop de besoin en même temps.
17218 On parle aussi en Saskatchewan du fait que dans les fermes, les fermiers qui dépendent beaucoup de la connectivité internet pour avoir toutes sortes d’information sur l’état de leurs champs, donc ont du mal à se brancher.
17219 Puis ils ont un service qui est très peu fiable et quand il y a un achalandage d’un grand ensemble de fermiers au même moment il n’y a plus rien qui fonctionne.
17220 Alors ce n’est pas parce qu’on a formé des coopératives à certaines époques que ça règle toute la question de la connectivité ou de la suffisance de la bande passante.
17221 Serge, je ne sais pas si tu veux compléter?
17222 M. QUINTY: Oui, certainement. L’entreprise dont ma Présidente parle, c’est Baudoux Communications, qui a été formé entre 2004 et 2006, qui est le fruit d’un partenariat avec un fournisseur de large bande privée.
17223 À l’époque il y avait juste du dial-up dans l’espèce de petite ligne de villages francophones entre Watrous et Prince Albert en Saskatchewan, donc des villages comme St. Denis, Vonda, Prud’homme, Bellevue et ainsi de suite.
17224 Et grâce à ça et à l’appui d’Industrie Canada ils ont pu bâtir 14 tours de transmission pour aller chercher un peu plus de connectivité.
17225 Et ce qu’on nous indique c’est que ça été vendu cette entreprise là par l’ACF, l’Association Communautaire Fransaskoise au partenaire privé Little Loon Wireless, qui offre toujours aujourd’hui le service et ce qu’on nous dit à l’Assemblée Communautaire Fransaskoise c’est que bon c’est mieux que rien en terme de connectivité.
17226 Ce que j’aimerais vous indiquer aussi, Monsieur le Président, c’est que je vous parlais tout à l’heure de la Péninsule de Port-au-Port à Terre-Neuve.
17227 Ce qu’on nous indique là-bas c’est que la communauté est en train d’essayer de voir aussi les possibilités de se cotiser, parce qu’ils ont entendu que par exemple Bell Mobilité pourrait venir monter une tour si la communauté était prête à, par exemple, faire une mise de fonds de 10 pourcent.
17228 LE PRÉSIDENT: Ça c’est sur la côte ouest?
17229 M. QUINTY: La côte ouest, oui. C’est la péninsule de Port-au-Port, oui.
17230 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et donc c’est un projet qui -- sur lequel ils travaillent encore?
17231 M. QUINTY: Ce qu’on nous indique et l’information que je vous donne provient de mes -- de nos conversations avec le Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador.
17232 Et ce qu’ils font en ce moment c’est qu’ils essayent plusieurs pistes. Ils se tournent à plusieurs endroits.
17233 Il n’y a rien qui a vraiment abouti à l’heure actuelle, mais à tout le moins ils essaient plusieurs pistes, parce que la situation est assez -- on nous indique que quand on va à la Péninsule de Port-au-Port généralement on doit fermer le cellulaire, parce que sinon au bout d’une heure la batterie se décharge à force d’essayer de trouver un réseau ou on le met en mode avion.
17234 LE PRÉSIDENT: La solution mobile aux yeux de certains pourrait être -- paraitre ne pas être la meilleure piste pour un service de large bande sur le plan technique et économique?
17235 Mme LANTHIER: Je vais laisser Serge répondre là-dessus.
17236 M. QUINTY: Et moi je vais vous dire que effectivement au niveau technologie vous l’avez bien dit, c’est notre première comparution sur un enjeu de télécommunication.
17237 Donc on n’est pas nécessairement des experts au niveau de qu’est-ce que ça prendrait techniquement pour accomplir ça, mais ce qu’on peut vous -- ce dont on peut vous parler c’est effectivement des besoins qui existent et aussi c’est pour ça qu’on utilisait tout à l’heure l’expression de « doublement minoritaire ».
17238 C’est que déjà lorsqu’un francophone est dans un milieu fortement minoritaire et essaie de vivre en français, il a encore plus besoin d’un accès convenable à internet pour aller chercher les contenus, les services, qu’il lui faut pour vivre en français, et si en plus il n’a pas cet accès-là à la bande passante c’est pour ça qu’on dit qu’il est doublement minoritaire.
17239 Mais au niveau technique je ne pourrais pas répondre à votre question, Monsieur le Président.
17240 LE PRÉSIDENT: Lorsque je regarde vos quatre recommandations dans votre présentation aujourd’hui, la première parle de définir un service de base qui comprendrait le service internet à large bande et ensuite on parle d’une -- d’établir des cibles de connectivité.
17241 Est-ce que je comprends bien que par cible vous -- c’est plus une cible visionnaire? C’est le but à atteindre sur une période de temps et lorsqu’on définit le service à large bande bien ça c’est plus obligatoire. Ça serait légalement contraignant.
17242 Est-ce que je vous comprends bien là entre la distinction entre ces deux items; oui?
17243 M. QUINTY: C’est exactement ça. C’est une reconnaissance de l’importance. C’est du caractère essentiel, en fait, d’internet à large bande, pour vivre en français au 21ième siècle et pour nos communautés.
17244 Quant à la cible --
17245 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais ça on peut presque le --
17246 M. QUINTY: Oui?
17247 LE PRÉSIDENT: -- tenir pour acquis. La question qui vient c’est -- alors c’est quoi, pour votre première recommandation, les éléments qui vont -- c’est quoi un service d’accès internet à large bande qui deviendrait obligatoire en terme de vitesse de téléchargement, de téléversement, de normes techniques, de latence, des normes de service?
17248 Est-ce que c’est des choses sur lesquelles vous avez des recommandations?
17249 M. QUINTY: Au niveau de la vitesse, à tout le moins, ce qu’on peut vous dire c’est que il semble y avoir un large consensus que 5 mégabits, 1 mégabits, ce n’est pas suffisant à moyen terme.
17250 Rogers vous a indiqué que 25/1 ça pourrait se faire d’ici 2020. La cible que vous avez établie, 5/1, date de 2011. On est en 2016. On l’a atteint à 96 pourcent. Atteindre 25/3 pour 2020 nous semble tout à fait faisable.
17251 LE PRÉSIDENT: Okay.
17252 Encore en termes de spécificité des communautés, est-ce qu’il y a un besoin plus important en termes de vitesse de téléversement?
17253 Je songe ici peut-être à des activités culturelles ou créations vidéos d’éditions, peu importe là, qui peut-être nécessiteraient plus de vitesse de téléversement pour les communautés?
17254 Mme LANTHIER: Bien si vous pensez par exemple à des possibilités que par exemple dans des communautés éloignées on puisse faire de la diffusion de films en français en -- directement de l’internet, des choses comme ça.
17255 Qu’on puisse éventuellement diffuser des spectacles qu’on produit sur une scène, mais qui sont diffusés dans des milieux plus éloignés qui -- où les gens sont à quatre heures de route du spectacle, n’iront pas, mais pourrait y avoir accès par internet.
17256 Ce genre de choses-là c’est probablement des choses qui, dans un avenir plus ou moins rapproché, pourrait devenir important pour favoriser l’accès à la culture en français à des communautés éloignées, ça c’est certain.
17257 LE PRÉSIDENT: Certainement je comprends votre point à propos de la diffusion, mais moi je pensais encore plus à la production.
17258 Si quelqu’un est en mode production audiovisuelle par exemple, en région éloignée, pour une production évidemment situation minoritaire, présumément francophone, mais ça fonctionne de la même façon du côté anglophone en situation minoritaire, qui aurait peut-être besoin d’une plus grande capacité pour téléverser le contenu dans le processus de création.
17259 Mme LANTHIER: Alors écoutez, je ne sais pas si nous avons en ce moment assez de données sur les activités culturelles dans nos régions-là pour avoir une réponse très adéquate à votre question, M. Blais.
17260 Mais ce que je vous dirais c’est que si on vous a dit dans d’autres -- si vous avez d’autres -- des gens qui ont comparu devant vous et qui vous ont dit que dans le domaine culturel c'était quelque chose d’important, ce qui est important pour les Anglophones ça risque de l'être aussi en français parce que la production de vidéos, la production numérique se fait de la même façon, quel que soit la manière qu’on parle. Et quand elle se fait de façon éloignée, alors il faut aussi être en mesure de répondre aux exigences techniques des lieux éloignés.
17261 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Mais vous allez avoir d’autres chances ---
17262 Mme LANTHIER: C'est l’entité, là où ma connaissance peut m’amener en ce moment.
17263 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, oui, mais vous allez avoir la chance de regarder le dossier complet et puis ajouter à votre position pour les interventions qui sont dues le 25 mai et le 13 juin. Donc peut-être que vous pourriez nous aider de ce côté.
17264 M. QUINTY: Si je pouvais rajouter, Monsieur Blais, une seconde. Infonuagique également, ce qu’on appelle en anglais, bon j’imagine le « cloud sharing » ou quoi que ce soit, j’aime beaucoup le mot infonuagique. Je trouve ça magnifique mais dans les écoles, naturellement on est rendu au point maintenant où est-ce qu’on crée des comptes Google pour les enfants qui sont des conseils scolaires et les activités -- les activités quotidiennes sont mises dans des portfolios.
17265 Et de plus en plus, y a des images haute résolution. De plus en plus, y a de la vidéo de spectacles de Noël, etcetera. Donc je pense que l’infonuagique dans une perspective d’enseignement au 21ème siècle est appelée à prendre une plus grande place au cours des prochaines années. Encore là, il nous semble que le téléversement, la vitesse de téléversement prend son importance également.
17266 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui. On est bien loin des tableaux et de la craie et donc c'est important de songer à la connectivité institutionnelle dans ce contexte-là, et puis vous allez avoir l’opportunité d’élaborer sur ça aussi.
17267 Juste quelques autres sujets, et encore une fois toujours sous la lentille est-ce qu’il y a une spécificité par rapport aux communautés en situation minoritaire où est-ce que le dialogue qu’on a eu jusqu’à maintenant s’applique au même niveau. Au niveau de l'abordabilité et l’accès par rapport aux groupes -- on a parlé de pauvreté et donc des barrières de participation à l’économie numérique ou la connectivité, est-ce qu’il y a une spécificité pour les communautés?
17268 Ça se peut que la réponse soit non.
17269 M. QUINTY: Je vous dirais que la spécificité est institutionnelle.
17270 C'est ça qui arrive quand on n’est pas côte à côte.
17271 LE PRÉSIDENT: Effectivement. Donc faut -- la prochaine fois, vous allez avoir un plan de match.
17272 M. QUINTY: Mais je dirais que la spécificité est peut-être institutionnelle parce que lorsqu’on est aux Territoires du Nord-Ouest par exemple, comme le cas de la Fédération franco-ténoise et ses organismes membres, et qu’on est réparti sur de vastes territoires, Inuvik, Hay River, Norman Wells, Yellowknife, et qu’on doit faire des rencontres de concertation sur des grandes distances et que ce sont des organismes qui souvent déjà en partant n’ont pas énormément de moyens financiers, et qui opèrent dans un milieu où les forfaits illimités à toutes fins pratiques ça existe pas, c'est difficile dans ces conditions-là de dire, « Ben, je vais me brancher à une conférence Skype puis je vais faire un Skype avec Yellowknife ».
17273 Donc je vous dirais que c'est l’aspect auquel je peux penser, et Madame la Présidente.
17274 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais c'est pas vraiment un enjeu de pauvreté ou d’abordabilité des individus. Donc j’entends pas une spécificité particulière par rapport au taux de pauvreté ou d’inabordabilité des services internet dans les communautés.
17275 Mme LANTHIER: Écoutez, moi je vous dirais que y a un enjeu -- y a des communautés où on nous dit que ça coûte vraiment cher internet. Dans les territoires, dans certaines parties de l’Alberta, y a des communautés où on nous dit que c'est vraiment ---
17276 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais c'est vrai pour tout le monde.
17277 Mme LANTHIER: Et c’est vrai partout.
17278 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
17279 Mme LANTHIER: C'est vrai pour tout le monde.
17280 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais dans ces régions-là ---
17281 Mme LANTHIER: Mais pour les communautés francophones -- pour les communautés francophones, je pense qu’il y a un enjeu particulier dans le sens où, pour ces gens-là, l’accès à des éléments de leur culture en français se ferait pas mal plus facilement si internet était abordable ou facile à obtenir.
17282 Alors, y a un enjeu je pense de vitalité francophone, de vitalité de la culture, de capacité par exemple de dire je vais aller regarder sur des sites de librairies, je vais commander des livres en français. Je vais m’informer davantage sur quels sont les films, ce genre de choses-là.
17283 Je pense que pour ce genre de choses-là, y a un enjeu véritable parce que internet et le numérique permet un meilleur accès à une certaine culture française qui n’est pas nécessairement dans son territoire mais qui nous aide à vivre en français.
17284 Et je pense aussi quand on dit par exemple que dans une région dont on parlait dans l’allocution qu’il y a des gens qui arrivent pas à se connecter aux activités éducatives de -- aux émissions éducatives de TFO dans leur région, ça ça veut dire que vous n’arrivez pas suffisamment bien à élever vos enfants en français. Et donc ça finit par avoir des impacts sur la littératie en français, la numératie en français, la capacité des enfants à être vraiment bilingues puis à connaître leurs deux langues et ne pas être assimilés à l’anglais aussi rapidement.
17285 Alors, je pense que oui, y a des enjeux de vitalité francophone qui sont fortement associés à ça, qui sont pas nécessairement des enjeux de pauvreté mais qui peuvent finir par avoir des implications sur le développement économique et social à plus long terme.
17286 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Encore une fois, à travers la lentille situation minoritaire, est-ce que vous constatez un taux d’adoption des nouvelles technologies et d’accès à la technologie qui est pas un accès physique mais un accès de compréhension de comment interagir avec les nouvelles technologies?
17287 On a parlé parfois des jeunes. Vous avez parlé des institutions d’éducation mais je pense aussi aux personnes plus âgées qui auraient de la difficulté à bien connaître les autres éléments un peu plus « soft » de la connectivité.
17288 Est-ce que c'est un enjeu particulier dans les communautés?
17289 Mme LANTHIER: Ben étant donné le vieillissement de la population, ça peut le devenir, oui, et dans des communautés où y a pas traditionnellement eu beaucoup d’accès aux larges bandes, y a peut-être du rattrapage à faire dans certaines communautés-là avec certaines populations pour les amener à comprendre davantage quels sont les moyens actuels de communication internet.
17290 LE PRÉSIDENT: Les communautés sont parfois assez bien organisées en centres communautaires parfois associés avec des écoles, comme l’école Saint-Jean à l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard et ailleurs. C'est un modèle que je connais par exemple. Des fois c'est juste des regroupements de personnes.
17291 Est-ce que c'est des sujets qui sont discutés dans ces groupes communautaires là pour justement partager les connaissances et la compréhension des éléments à mieux saisir pour assurer la connectivité au-delà de la connectivité comme telle mais pour assurer l’accessibilité? Qu’est-ce que vous avez fait pour vous prendre en main par rapport à ces enjeux?
17292 Mme LANTHIER: Écoutez, là-dessus je pense que ça vaudrait la peine qu'on recherche un peu pour nous assurer qu’on vous donne une réponse qui est vraiment très -- qui est bien informée parce qu’on a une Fédération des aînés et aînées du Canada. Par exemple, parmi nos membres, on a des organismes qui jouent un rôle communautaire là qui pourraient nous fournir des informations plus à jour sur votre question. Si on peut ajouter par la suite et vous fournir des informations, je pense que ce serait intéressant qu’on puisse le faire.
17293 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord, je veux bien.
17294 Mme LANTHIER: Juste pour nous assurer qu’on vous dit pas n’importe quoi parce que je sais -- je sais qu'on a des organismes d’aînés ou des organismes communautaires dans le secteur culturel qui vont travailler sur des enjeux comme celui-là.
17295 On a des organismes, par exemple, qui travaillent beaucoup au niveau de l’alphabétisation en français, la refrancisation en français particulièrement en milieu rural où ma compréhension c'est que l’usage des technologies aussi est abordé et enseigné.
17296 Même chose avec les nouveaux arrivants, par exemple, qui arrivent ici à qui on apprend, par exemple, à faire des curriculum vitae, à préparer leur dossier d’emploi en fonction de nos habitudes canadiennes, mais à qui aussi il faut qu’on apprenne un peu comment on fonctionne à certains autres niveaux et au niveau technologique dans notre pays.
17297 Alors, mon sentiment c'est qu’il y a probablement beaucoup de choses qui se fait mais qu’on n’a pas nécessairement en ce moment un répertoire sur l’ensemble de ce qui se fait à vous fournir.
17298 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc on apprécierait recevoir ça pour le 5 mai, si c'est possible.
17299 Mme LANTHIER: On va faire notre possible.
17301 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Et en fait, ce qui nous intéresse peut-être encore plus c'est est-ce qu’il y a des barrières ou des empêchements pour en faire plus pour assurer à un certain niveau « l'alphabétisation numérique » de la population en situation minoritaire?
17302 M. QUINTY: En fait, ce que je rajouterais, Monsieur Blais, c'est qu’on a dans notre réseau naturellement un organisme qui s’appelle RESDAC, le Réseau d’alphabétisation et d’apprentissage de compétences essentielles, et je sais que ce réseau-là existe parce que l’alphabétisme et l’apprentissage des compétences essentielles dans nos communautés est clé.
17303 Il y a plusieurs régions où les taux d’analphabétisme sont relativement élevés. Je sais que le RESDAC a fait des études qui datent déjà de quelques années, mais qu’il en a fait où il a installé des personne devant des ordinateurs pour voir dans quelle mesure ils étaient capables de trouver facilement sur un site Web ce qu’ils cherchaient. Donc certainement c’est des données qu’on peut aller trouver.
17304 Ce que je vous dirais également, vous avez posé la question tout à l’heure à Unifor à savoir qu’est-ce que le CRTC pourrait faire pour favoriser le plus grand taux d’adoption.
17305 Dans les -- au cours des dernières années, Emploi et développement social Canada, les compétences essentielles en français, l’apprentissage à l’âge adulte en français sont des éléments qui ont un tout petit peu soufferts notamment au niveau des compressions.
17306 Et si le CRTC devait par exemple formuler une recommandation que le ministère qui s’appelle maintenant je pense famille, développement social, quelque chose comme ça, réinvestissent au niveau de la littératie numérique en français, particulièrement pour les adultes, c’est sûr que ça pourrait être quelque chose d’intéressant.
17307 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je comprends le défi de changement de nom, moi-même j’ai encore de la difficulté à la nouvelle numérotation du Code civil du Québec qui est entré en vigueur il y a 20 ans et j’utilise encore les anciens numéros, mais voilà, on va s’habituer éventuellement.
17308 Dernière question, puis vous n’avez -- vous y avez touché un peu, mais je me demandais si vous vouliez élaborer puis c’est vraiment une question qui -- que je vous pose à travers la lentille de la partie 7 par rapport à la vitalité des communautés.
17309 Globalement, est-ce que vous avez des recommandations au-delà de ce que vous avez déjà partagé par rapport à la connectivité large-bande?
17310 Mme LANTHIER: Bien écoutez, vous posez la question à travers la partie 7 de la loi et donc vous faites appel directement aux obligations du gouvernement fédéral à prendre en compte et à encourager le développement des communautés francophones dans la mise en œuvre de tout ce qu’il fait.
17311 Alors c’est évident pour nous que tout ce qui s’appelle connectivité large-bande, accès Internet, accès haute vitesse, et cetera, ça devient un dossier intéressant prioritaire pour nos communautés et que les francophones qui vivent dans nos communautés doivent avoir accès au large-bande au même titre que les autres canadiens et quand ils sont vraiment en milieu isolé et en milieu rural et que leur connectivité est vraiment très déplorable, dans un état très déplorable, c’est d’autant plus important que le fait -- le manque de connectivité contribue à l’effritement de ces collectivités là.
17312 Et donc nous ce qu’on veut, c’est que des mesures soient mis en place pour qu’on puisse comprendre ce qui se passe, mais aussi qu’on puisse trouver des réponses concrètes aux besoins de connectivité de ces communautés pour que dans les institutions, dans les écoles, on n’a pas parlé du monde de la santé aussi, dans les hôpitaux aussi, dans nos communautés, il y a des systèmes -- il y a des soins de santé qui doivent reposer en bonne partie sur la connectivité, et cetera.
17313 Donc ces enjeux là sont importants pour nos communautés. Elles le sont d’autant plus qu’elles sont souvent éloignées ces communautés là alors il nous semble effectivement que dans tout ce que le gouvernement fédéral et le CRTC pourront mettre en place pour trouver des solutions pour l’ensemble des canadiens, tenir compte de la partie 7, c’est quelque chose d’essentiel.
17314 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Merci. Ce sont mes questions. Je regarde mes collègues. Contentieux? Non.
17315 Apparemment, il y a pas d’autres questions donc merci beaucoup Madame la Présidente, Monsieur Quinty pour avoir participé et je vous invite ardemment de nourrir le dossier public, particulièrement dans les dépôts du 25 mai et du 13 juin par rapport aux questions de la spécificité d’une façon plus concrète pour les besoins de la communauté.
17316 Puis je comprends bien là, il y a le secteur éducatif, langue, social, hospitalier et tout, toutes les institutions des communautés. Donc si vous pouvez enrichir le dossier parce que vous êtes les seuls, je crois, qui amènent ce point de vue là à l’audience, donc ce serait fort apprécié.
17317 Mme LANTHIER: Je vous remercie de nous permettre de l’amener et je vous remercie pour vos questions, Monsieur Blais, parce qu’elles nous permettent de savoir aussi quelles sont les renseignements qu’on peut vous fournir qui peuvent vous aider, vous, à prendre une décision vraiment éclairée. Alors on va faire notre gros possible pour vous fournir ce qu’on peut d’ici -- dans les échéances qui sont les vôtres.
17318 LE PRÉSIDENT: Nous l’apprécions beaucoup et vous reviendrez à nos audiences de télécom.
17319 Mme LANTHIER: Merci.
17320 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup.
17321 Je crois qu’on va prendre une courte pause jusqu’à 3h45. So take a break until 3:45.
--- Upon recessing at 3:29 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:45 p.m.
17322 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors s’il vous plaît, Madame la Secrétaire.
17323 THE SECRETARY: We will now hear the presentation of Shaw Cablesystems. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
17324 MR. MERH: Great, thank you.
17325 Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Jay Mehr, president of Shaw Communications.
17326 I’m joined by my colleagues. To my right, Peter Johnson, Executive Vice-President, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Paul Cowling, Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs, and Sanae Takahsashi, Vice President, Product and Consumer Management.
17327 To my left, Katherine Emberly, Vice President of Operations, Sarah Miller-Wright, Vice President of Customer Care, and Zoran Stakic, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.
17328 A lot has changed at Shaw since this important proceeding began a year ago. On the eve of this hearing, we emerge from two landmark back-to-back transactions are a pure-play connectivity company.
17329 What hasn’t changed is our focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences to customers within our redefined core markets. We will bring them what they need and what they want, competing for their loyalty each day.
17330 Canadians connect wherever and whenever, seamlessly and through multiple, always-on devices. Our business is connecting Canadians, and we are committed to maximizing these opportunities for our customers. That is what drove our recent transformation.
17331 Shaw’s acquisition of WIND will create a distinct network of Wi-Fi, mobile and wireline networks that can deliver the best possible experience in the years to come.
17332 It is still early days, but we’re looking at extraordinary opportunities to deliver choice and value to customers in our footprint, bringing Canada to the leading edge of the digital economy.
17333 Our unique Shaw Go Wi-Fi network, with over 75,000 access points, will play a fundamental role in our compelling, innovative alternative.
17334 As the Chair confirmed last week, broadband is vital to our economy, our society and our culture. The value of connecting has become the value of interacting with people, information and ideas. Connectivity enables us to gather, help each other, experiment, explore, create and contribute.
17335 As a connectivity company, our focus is on building and maintaining powerful and reliable networks and offering choice and innovative services at reasonable prices. This is our core mandate.
17336 We also believe that Shaw ought to play a leadership role, alongside others, to ensure that all Canadians can join our digital societies -- society, regardless of whether Shaw connects them, including Canadians in remote locations, Aboriginal communities, Canadians with low incomes and Canadians with disabilities.
17337 Shaw welcomes the Commission’s invitation to provide our input on a National Broadband Strategy that address these and other issues.
17338 At Shaw, our commitment to our customers is that they won’t miss a thing. This simple but powerful statement expresses the outcome we strive for each day. It guides our priorities, the way we work together, our judgment and how we handle problems. Our first step is to think of our commitment to customers.
17339 Shaw proposes that a similar approach be taken to a National Broadband Strategy. We begin by defining our collective commitment to Canadians by expressing the outcomes we want.
17340 Shaw proposes that, in Canada: All rural and urban communities in all regions ought to have access to powerful and reliable broadband networks that can develop with the growing needs of Canadians, as well as an opportunity for choice.
17341 All Canadians ought to be empowered to use broadband, including those with low incomes, in remote areas, those that haven’t discovered the opportunity of broadband and Canadians with disabilities.
17342 To realize the outcomes above, Canadians ought to have access to current data that will allow us to assess gaps in broadband availability, promote an understanding of broadband service, and overcome barriers to digital adoption.
17343 MR. JOHNSON: We have an opportunity to look at the specific gaps that are truly holding us back from achieving the outcomes that Jay described. The lack of transport infrastructure is hindering access and choice in remote areas.
17344 Other gaps underlie the testimonials we heard from Canadians with low incomes and Canadians with disabilities. These are complex challenges affecting multiple stakeholders. The best solutions will require collaboration by all levels of government, industry, First Peoples and the Commission.
17345 The National Broadband Strategy must also recognize the importance of competition.
17346 In most of Canada we have vibrant markets with fierce inter-platform rivalry. Wholesale policies have also been designed to promote choice, and all its benefits, including lower prices, though in areas of the country with insufficient infrastructure wholesale policies have limited impact.
17347 Competition requires us to invest and these investments facilitate significant growth. Canada’s productivity and future depend on the tracks laid by the connectivity investment. Shaw has invested approximately $4 billion in our networks and customer experience since the last CRTC review of basic telecommunications.
17348 Competition demands that we be efficient. It rewards those who can best use investment dollars with rigour and creativity.
17349 Finally, but most importantly, competition forces us to provide each customer with the most valuable, reasonably priced service that best suits his or her needs.
17350 The policies from this proceeding should also reflect the importance of collaboration, competition and innovation to our digital future. Broadband should be defined as a basic telecommunications service but only to identify and remedy availability gaps.
17351 Canadians in all regions should be able to access online government, banking, educational, emergency and employment services. We support a minimum baseline for available download speeds of five megabits per second and a minimum baseline for available upload speeds of one megabit per second. Based on our experience and the Commission’s data, each of these minimums is more than sufficient for the basic needs of residential and small business customers.
17352 These speeds should be available to all Canadians as a floor but consumers and the market should decide which configurations of download and upload are actually offered.
17353 We must also look forward to what is possible in the future, allowing consumers and the market to determine the path and pace. We encourage the CRTC to set an aspirational goal of 25 megabits per second for download and three megabits per second for upload.
17354 MS. TAKAHASHI: As Peter described, competition drives us to use creativity and innovation to bring customers what they need and what they want. Our Shaw Go WiFi network is a great example. Customers wanted access to our internet services beyond their homes and offices. Within a couple of years, we built Canada’s largest, and North America’s third largest, Wi-Fi network.
17355 Shaw covers five provinces, a vast and variable geography which includes urban and remote areas. All of Shaw’s customers want value, but specific broadband needs of our customers are as diverse as the geography. Many of them are with us because they love Shaw Go WiFi. Some need higher speeds, some don’t. Each customer has an individual digital life, which is increasingly residing in the cloud and is reflected in an ever-changing connectivity profile.
17356 At Shaw, we currently do not charge for usage-based billing and all of our internet services include free access to Shaw Go WiFi. These are critical differentiators for us in the market and we need to be able to continue to offer these and other innovations in the future.
17357 MR. STAKIC: The ambitions and innovations that Jay and Sanae mention all require significant, ongoing and smart network investments.
17358 Customers want more from the internet. We see this reflected in annual traffic growth of nearly 50 percent. We have to continually invest in all segments of our existing infrastructure to support these demands. We must also invest in evolving platforms like Wi-Fi and mobile to meet the customer’s expectation of access everywhere.
17359 We are seeing exciting developments across many platforms. In the near-term, DOCSIS 3.1 will enable multi-gigabit speeds over hybrid fibre coax. High-throughput satellites, next generation Wi-Fi and fixed wireless solutions are also emerging. Mobile technologies offer enormous potential, with LTE Advanced capable of download speeds in the hundreds of megabits per second.
17360 To provide Canadians with world-class connectivity, the industry will play our part by innovating and investing in these and other technologies, but we also have to invest efficiently, and as Katherine will explain, we cannot build in the areas unless -- in the remote areas unless it is economic to do so.
17361 MS. EMBERLY: Even when local networks in remote areas successfully connect households, quality and reliability can be limited by a lack of access to transport. There is no point in building isolated pockets of local networks without connecting them to the world. Building new transport facilities to remote areas is usually uneconomic given the small population size and, in some cases, transportation or power issues.
17362 As the Let’s Talk broadband results showed, Canadians in remote communities are limiting their broadband interactions with family, employment and educational resources. The impact is worsened by the fact that these Canadians rely more heavily on connectivity because of their remote locations.
17363 Throughout the hearing Shaw heard many parties point to transport as the primary barrier to providing all regions with broadband. While each community has distinct challenges, transport often appears as the root cause.
17364 If we are to succeed in connecting these Canadians, connecting Canadian communities must be a priority.
17365 Enhanced access to transport would increase capacity and reliability and reduce operational expenses, increasing quality and decreasing prices, while reducing the risk of network disruption.
17366 It will encourage the competition that remote markets need. And it will also position our networks for the future so they can meet the traffic demands that Zoran described.
17368 All of this will bring households and businesses, as well as health, education and public safety organizations, into the digital world, driving the vitality of affected communities.
17369 Addressing the lack of reliable and affordable transport in the north and other remote areas will require huge capital investment and many years of work.
17370 For all of these reasons, Shaw believes that transport infrastructure should be a focus for any national broadband strategy.
17371 We’re pleased that the federal government committed funding to broadband, and we encourage them to consider transport as a priority. If the Commission implements its own funding mechanism, we believe the best investment would also be transport, based on the evidence of the need and the likelihood of its effectiveness.
17372 We have also heard throughout this proceeding of the struggles of Canadians who do not have the means to afford broadband and the impact this has had on their lives. This is a complex and serious issue. We see governments as being in the best position to design, fund and administer low-income assistance programs.
17373 We also believe that each industry player should develop initiatives as part of their community engagement or corporate social responsibility mandates, tailored to regional and market circumstances, and the strengths of the ISP. For Shaw’s part, through Shaw Go WiFi, we have extended free access to Shaw internet at municipal locations in over 100 urban and rural communities.
17374 MR. COWLING: If the Commission establishes a funding mechanism to ensure the availability of broadband in remote areas Shaw would encourage the use of the following principles.
17375 We envision a competitive application or reverse-auction process.
17376 Awards should be made to the lowest cost proposal that will bring one or more communities as close as possible to the aspirational target. We shouldn’t build to the minimum baseline.
17377 RFPs should vary depending on the region and the need.
17378 All technological solutions should be eligible.
17379 Funding should be directed to increasing capacity through transport.
17380 Subsidized transport should be subject to mandated wholesale access, bringing Canadians that live in remote areas closer to the benefits of competition that most Canadians enjoy.
17381 This approach is very different from the existing regime for voice. An obligation to serve and basic service objective would not be necessary as the conditions and quality should be specified in bidding and contractual arrangements.
17382 For the sake of consumers and future investments, any funding mechanism must be limited to what we can afford and should be capped. We should carefully review whether existing subsidies are necessary and whether -- and worthwhile before we layer on additional subsidies. Repurposing existing subsidies that are shown to be unnecessary is the most disciplined way to move forward.
17383 MS. MILLER: This proceeding has enlightened all of us about the diverse and evolving broadband needs of Canadians. There are gaps to achieving the outcomes that Jay described, and this hearing has to look at what we are doing and assess whether it is enough or the right use of resources.
17384 At Shaw, we are committed to stepping up and excelling in our role as a customer-focused network builder and service provider. In order to give customers what they need and what they want, while ensuring their satisfaction, we need to be engaged in a constant conversation with them. We need to clearly explain to each customer what our services can do for them and what they cost. With our internet package comparison tool, customers describe their household needs and we recommend the plan that is right for them. We also have self-serve options for customers to monitor their ongoing usage of their internet service.
17385 As our dynamic industry shifts, we also need to continuously review our tools for Canadians with disabilities. In particular, we’ve heard in this proceeding that mobile technologies require more attention. At WIND, we’ve stepped up our efforts and recently launched a data only plan for Canadians who are deaf or hard of hearing.
17386 Canada’s competitive markets and its regulatory environment have succeeded in empowering almost all Canadians with world-class connectivity. However, some Canadians are being left behind. We cannot let these Canadians miss a thing, and Shaw is committed to doing its part to ensure their full participation in our dynamic digital society.
17387 Thank you. We look forward to your questions.
17388 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that. Appearing late in an oral hearing is a tactical advantage. It’s amazing sometimes people drop the ball, but you haven’t. So thank you for adjusting your comments and your presentations accordingly. Thank you.
17389 I’ll put you in the hands of Commissioner Molnar.
17390 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Good afternoon.
17391 MR. MEHR: Good afternoon.
17392 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I had a bit the same impression. It’s very clear that when you come late on Day 12 you’ve had an opportunity to hear a lot and respond and it’s great. I’ll try and keep my questions quite focused as a consequence, because you’ve been able to address much in here.
17393 MR. MEHR: Okay.
17394 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I will say that you have said something I have not heard -- I’m not sure that I’ve heard it before, and that is where you say that Shaw ought to play a leadership role, because I don’t know that I’ve heard of a lot of companies that have come before us or parties that have suggested they want to play a leadership role in getting to an end game here, so congratulations on that.
17395 Let me go right to paragraph 10 of your remarks, and I’m just going to focus my question based on your opening remarks here, so ---
17396 MR. MEHR: Thank you.
17397 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- just starting with the outcomes that you’ve defined here. You’ve packed a lot into your first bullet there of urban and rural communities, powerful, reliable, scalable and competitive. So I saw a lot of words in there, I just want to make sure in suggesting this is the outcome. When you say “All rural and urban communities”, did you mean to say “All Canadians”, or would you consider a rural municipality to be a community?
17398 MR. MEHR: Yeah, I mean I think the word choice was instructive of the different realities faced by urban and rural communities and the different economics in making this possible. I think it would be well worded if it simply said “All Canadians”, I think that gets you there too.
17399 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That’s what you meant?
17400 MR. MEHR: That’s what we meant, indeed.
17401 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. One of the words that wasn’t in there -- and I think you folks were probably very careful in choosing your words -- but let me ask about unconstrained or abundant. You say powerful and reliable, but one of the things that’s also been an issue here is the fact that people have constrained access to the internet. Would you say that part of the outcome, part of the objective should be access to abundant capacity?
17402 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17403 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I’m not -- I'm not saying at no cost or anything like that.
17404 MR. MEHR: No, understood.
17405 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But there's been many, many instances provided to us of folks who reach caps or ---
17406 MR. MEHR: Sure.
17407 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- get throttled, you know ---
17408 MR. MEHR: Sure.
17409 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- and it constrains their use.
17410 MR. MEHR: Yeah, so you're using the word constrained around the quantity of data. Is that sort of how you're thinking about it?
17411 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, they’ve been constrained in their use in large part either by -- by small caps ---
17412 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17413 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- small capacity, you know, data caps. Or in some cases, by ITMP kind of -- of management of peak periods or other things that ---
17414 MR. MEHR: Sure.
17415 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- that really feather your use of the internet if you will.
17416 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17417 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I only ask because I believe you’ve probably put a lot of thought into the words you’ve chosen, so ---
17418 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure. I mean the concept of data is an interesting one. When we talk about powerful networks and powerful customer experiences, we believe fundamentally it’s networks that are used a lot and not constrained, using your words. We don’t charge any customer for usage. And our fundamental business philosophy at Shaw is the more customers use the internet the more value they get from it, and it’s therefore in our business interest. We kind of stand alone in that position. And to be clear, I don’t know that we’ll stand alone forever.
17419 If you think about connected cars and the internet of things, and potentially amounts of data five or 10 years from now that seem 100X what we’re talking about today, which is already 10X of what we were talking about three years ago. There may be an opportunity where there will be an economic transaction for us around quantity of data as well, because we’ve got to build that in the network. But in terms of -- we can only speak to the realities that we talk about today, and we have big data caps and our data caps are really just guidelines ---
17420 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm.
17421 MR. MEHR: --- to help the people ---
17422 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I understand ---
17423 MR. MEHR: --- with the right packages.
17424 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I had understood these principles were more the outcomes we want for Canadians ---
17425 MR. MEHR: For Canadians.
17426 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- not ---
17427 MR. MEHR: Absolutely.
17428 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- not just your customers, but Canadians. And as ---
17429 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17430 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- as high level objectives.
17431 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17432 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You would want them to be able to use -- to have access ---
17433 MR. MEHR: Absolutely.
17434 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- to you for the -- for all their ---
17435 MR. MEHR: Absolutely. And behind the proposals -- if you look underneath it, the argument around transport is fundamentally what makes that possible. And usually, where those constraints come from is because of a lack of transport. So transport is actually the solution that makes possible those national powerful connections. And yeah, we absolutely believe that you can add the richness and depth of the customers’ use to that definition of what Canadians should aspire to, and we remain open on what the economics of that are.
17436 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes.
17437 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17438 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: For sure, yeah. And perhaps you could explain a little bit more your third bullet where you're talking about access to data.
17439 MR. MEHR: Yeah, I mean we believe that there -- you heard from the folks from the Kootenay, some of the things that they're struggling with even in that part of the world to try and figure out where services are available and where services are not available. And we think there's a role perhaps -- probably for the CRTC to play a role in providing that data. And our view is that the majority of Canadians are well served, and that the majority of Canadians already enjoy this or most of what we aspire to, and that this hearing is most productive to focus on the gaps. And a big part of focusing on the gaps is to identify the gaps, which requires data.
17440 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Very good. So that was -- that would be gaps. We’ve heard about different mapping of where there's unserved areas within ---
17441 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17442 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- communities, organizations that appear to be served, but you always have those outliers.
17443 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure.
17444 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And as well -- yeah, discoverability of transport, we’ve heard about that. So that’s what you were talking about?
17445 MR. MEHR: Yeah. As an example, we were sitting in the hearing listening to the communities in the Kootenays, we spent 10 or 15 minutes on our Blackberry trying to figure out where we served, at what speed, where things were, and we didn’t even have great access to the data of what the various situations are. We had not bad access and I thank the team for their help, but it would be helpful if there was a place to go to be able to understand service levels in Canada.
17446 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I see. Okay, thanks. Okay, and then you go on to say that this is about the gaps, and you're right, this hearing has been largely about the gaps. I appreciate however that you go on and talk about -- about the dynamic competitive industry that exists, and the investments and advancements because a broadband strategy would of -- would of course include all of that. Right now we’re so focused on the gaps that sometimes it feels like we’re not -- we’re not, you know, keeping our heads in the broader picture, but for sure, you know, it all has to be considered in any strategy, but we’ll go back to talking about the gaps.
17447 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure. And if we could -- we believe that’s really well said, because the challenges -- the goal is not to lower the bar in 2020 to where we can get the gaps to today.
17448 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
17449 MR. MEHR: The goal is to create an environment and a national broadband strategy in Canada where investment continues, where the gigabit internet is available for 95, 98, 99, ideally 100 percent Canadians. We’ll see what's -- what's possible as you work through the exercise.
17450 So I think it’s important not to, in service of the gaps, limit what's possible in terms of the innovation and creativity of what will be possible in 2018 or 2020.
17451 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M'hm, M'hm.
17452 Without limiting what is possible, particularly where markets supported, and going back to our gaps, and you've identified them, you know, there's accessibility gaps ---
17453 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17454 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- some affordability -- you know, some -- for specific Canadians. You say that it requires:
17455 "...collaboration by all levels of government, industry, First Peoples and the Commission."
17456 And we've certainly heard that before, but I personally would say I still don't have a clear view as to how that collaboration occurs.
17457 Have you thought about that?
17458 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure.
17459 I think as you come out of a process like this, I think increasingly the industry is absolutely prepared to rally around something where we can all participate in. We were pleased with the actions of the new federal government to allocate money into this area and will be interested to see how that evolves.
17460 For sure, there's a role for industry to play as well, and we've heard other members of industry suggest ideas on ways that we can work together to close the gaps, and we're certainly committed to working on that.
17461 We've heard discussion of a advisory group that might be able to coordinate some industry efforts and work together. We'd be delighted to participate in that if the opportunity presents itself.
17462 I think all of us can help, but the task is too big for any one of us to do on our own. So we'd like to find a way forward.
17463 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right, and what's clear is there is many different interests and stakeholders who have all been working towards this goal.
17464 MR. MEHR: M'hm.
17465 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: What isn't clear is that there is collaboration amongst them to focus the energy and resources, particularly, you know, in an area of priority. And I think that, to me, appears to be one of the questions.
17466 Okay, so now how do you get all these stakeholders that have the interest together ---
17467 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17468 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- so that it's a coordinated?
17469 MR. MEHR: Right.
17470 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So an advisory council is what you would say, something like that?
17471 MR. MEHR: Yeah, and we're happy to participate in any format that is deemed possible. I mean, we like clear direction; right. And so if the direction is access, if the direction is to say let's get Canadians access to the aspirational goal of 25 megs down and 3 megs up, and let's start by addressing those communities and those Canadians who don't have access to at least 5, because you've got to start somewhere, there's all kinds of ways we can collectively solve that.
17472 I mean, Paul made some suggestions about a process in terms of getting transport built on a competitive process, and our view is once transport is built that the last mile is quite -- it's relatively easy. I don't mean to overstate the easiness of it, but I think there will be a competitive process there.
17473 And to the extent that transport has built the communities in Western Canada that we don't serve, we would be quite open to performing a last mile function in a number of communities and participating on that basis.
17474 There's also opportunities for those of us who don't have infrastructure to build infrastructure into certain parts of the country. We don't have a great solution of how to coordinate each of us to do so, but I think we're open to a model that would allow us to do so.
17475 We like the opportunity. We think in a rich country like Canada, Canadians should have access. We like that the Commission has stepped forward with the potential of a national broadband strategy and we certainly are excited to work with others to step into whatever role we can play.
17476 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, and just to confirm what you just said.
17477 So your notion of an aspirational goal is that would be what would -- the next sort of wave of investment would be towards achieving 25/3 for those unserved or underserved today ---
17478 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17479 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- and begin with those that are at or less than 5?
17480 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17481 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That's kind of the approach?
17482 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17483 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So the 5 is a basic service or a 25/3 becomes the basic service?
17484 MR. MEHR: Yeah, I think ---
17485 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I'm a bit confused about those two numbers here.
17486 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure.
17487 Happy to share our point of view. The -- because we have spent some time trying to figure out how to make this work. And I get lost in some of the naming and the word of basic and what it means in the various regulatory languages. So if we just sort of focus on the what and then we can figure out the naming afterwards.
17488 If we think of having access to 5 meg in the download and 1 meg in the upload, is really a definition of do you have access to a minimum level service; and therefore, if you don't, there's an opportunity to intervene in some way, whether it's through federal funding, whether it's through some kind of model that the CRTC comes up with, we think that should be the bar.
17489 For sure, if you build anything we should be building it to at least 25/3. If there's money from somewhere that isn't 100 percent private investment, there's no advantage at this point to building the 5 and 1.
17490 And as an example, we built a tremendous amount of fibre in the Kootenay's -- to the previous presentation -- and everywhere we built, we built to 60 and 6; 60 in the downstream and 6 in the upstream, including some very small communities.
17491 The challenge is, you could argue, that we've even exacerbated the have's and have not's in the region by making that investment, but anytime you build we think you should be building at least to that aspirational target.
17492 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You make a point of your investment in wind and the opportunities with LTE advanced capable of download speeds in the hundreds of megabytes. How do you see mobile LTE fitting into closing the gaps, if at all?
17493 MR. MEHR: Yeah, we absolutely see mobile technologies as playing an important role.
17494 We understand the view is that mobile technologies, and LTE in particular, is able to produce quite strong speeds but isn't able to produce the amount of volume that most consumers want.
17495 To be fair, the amount of volume that lots of consumers want can be filled by an LTE network, and we were struck by a U.S. Census survey last week that said 1 in 5 Americans had gone to mobile only in terms of their data service. And so we think there's a portion of the market that can be served that.
17496 As you think about 5G, 5G really's ultimate (inaudible) is fibre-like speeds, and maybe in the wireless world that's 20/20 in terms of handsets, but certainly AT&T and Verizon are increasingly using 5G technology perhaps as soon as next year for their last mile in lieu of fibre to the home.
17497 So we think any outcomes that we take as part of our national broadband strategy should enable whatever the best technology is to enable our goals. And in some instances, it'll be wireless, either LTE or 5G, in some instances, it may well be satellite, in some instances it may be DOCSIS 3.1.
17498 We don't think the strategy should pick a platform, we think it should pick an outcome.
17499 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And you are consistent with everyone in saying this should not be about choosing a technology, but I just personally do have an interest in whether or not where the gaps exist, not within major urban markets, but where the gaps exist today, whether or not mobile technology could be one of those viable alternatives. And if you're saying it is, you're the first to say it is.
17500 MR. MEHR: Yeah, here -- I mean, this is the challenge we struggle in our business every day is how much of you hear, and read, and see at conferences is noise and how much is real.
17501 If -- are we prepared to say that 5G is a meaningful last mile substitution for the future? I don't think I'm prepared to say that. Am I prepared to say that it's not? You know, when you look at the way AT&T and Verizon are talking about making that investment as soon as next year, I'm certainly not prepared to bet against it.
17502 The -- it's a challenge. In any scenario, it doesn't matter. Wireless is only powerful if it's powerfully wired behind it. So in any event, even if 5G is a solution to -- it may well be a solution to those folks, Mr. Gay and the Kootenay's presentation, talked about those communities just outside of Cranbrook. It may well be the solution for those communities, but it still needs to be connected to fibre in Cranbrook in order to get somewhere, so we still think the primary solution is transport and the fibre that will connect the wired, whether it’s 4G or 5G.
17503 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: M’hm. Okay.
17504 You have made your point now three or four times that the focus should be on transport.
17505 So we have heard about the challenges in remote communities and, you know, the far north and some others, so I understand that. What was a bit confusing or surprising to me is the fact that you felt it was so very simple to manage the last mile.
17506 Certainly the other -- some of the groups that we heard from yesterday there was a woman in Manitoba who farmed in Manitoba, the SILEC’s came talking about within their area and, you know, outside of the donut it becomes pretty expensive, pretty costly to serve. We had the wireless service providers here today all focused on the last mile and all indicating challenges.
17507 So why is it you feel it’s so easy to serve and that it doesn’t require the same amount of focus as transport?
17508 MR. MEHR: I think in the long run it won’t require the same amount of macro-economic dollars. That doesn’t mean the economics are any easier.
17509 And so when you think about the last mile -- look, if you’re in an apartment building, or an MDU, or a single family subdivision which is a 50-foot frontage and there’s another home beside you, serving those communities are not hard. We all do it. There’s a cost to doing it but the return on that investment is easily paid for through your triple-play $100 RPU. It’s economics that can make sense.
17510 Where you have the struggle in the last mile is as you get to wherever your network ends. And I think you’ve heard that from a number of people. But typically your network doesn’t end that you have house 42 on a street and house 44 right beside it isn’t served, typically that last mile is four or five residents over the next three or four miles, often on acreage or multi-acreage properties, and so that’s what changes those economics.
17511 We focused our comments much more on the north and places where there just aren’t easy solutions and we think probably government money has to be part of the solution.
17512 On some of those solutions there ought to be ways to adjust those economics enough that somebody can figure out how to build that plant.
17513 So we don’t minimize that the end of it -- we don’t minimize that the end of that is not currently being done.
17514 And, you know, it’s interesting -- not the last mile, but if you do the 10-mile radius of served Canadians, you know, where networks end in the next 10 miles, I bet that’s a good portion of unserved Canadians.
17515 So we are open that we maybe should spend a little bit more time figuring out solutions to those Canadians.
17516 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, if it could have been done I expect you and the other folks would have done it. Your networks wouldn’t have ended if there was a business case to serve the next one.
17517 MR. MEHR: For sure.
17518 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And, you know, then we had the other alternate technologies like the wireless and satellite step in, but they certainly have indicated issues with capacity, with cost, oversubscription, you know, many issues.
17519 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17520 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And so ---
17521 MR. MEHR: Yeah, and ---
17522 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And maybe I need to step back. One of the questions I didn’t ask you and I should have, when you’re talking about your strategy and you’re talking to first focus on transport, what kind of timelines are you speaking of in achieving the outcomes you’ve put forward? Like when is it you think that there will be solutions for last mile?
17523 MR. MEHR: Yeah, so -- I mean, we’ll take both of those questions.
17524 In terms of transport, you know, civil construction long-distance build is likely an 18-month horizon from when the money is available.
17525 We struggle -- so here we’re talking about serving communities, so it’s a line where you go to somewhere and then there’s people there in a relatively dense way. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people but there’s a community there, right. And so -- I mean, it’s pure economics.
17526 A community like Flin Flon we serve on a video only basis. We’ve looked at building fibre to Flin Flon. It’s $20 million to build fibre to Flin Flon, and we don’t really pass all that much on the way. So there’s no economic case -- we have about 1,200 video customers in Flin Flon. There’s no economic case for us to get a return from that $20 million. So the only way to offer service in Flin Flon is if somebody connects Flin Flon.
17527 In terms of last mile technologies, you’re correct ---
17528 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: If I could just ---
17529 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17530 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- before you go on.
17531 MR. MEHR: Please.
17532 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’ve had the opportunity to speak with the President of the Chamber of Commerce in Flin Flon and ---
17533 MR. MEHR: Oh, great.
17534 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- she would be really, really happy if you could figure out how to get fibre there.
17535 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17536 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And just because I drove there I’d be really happy if WIND connected it.
17537 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17538 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Because it’s a really dark hole with no cell service.
17539 MR. MEHR: Well, there’s that too. There is that too, yeah.
17540 No, it is a -- and that is a challenge, and I -- and, I mean, Flin Flon isn’t the north but I suspect it’s an even bigger challenge in the north where you have these long distances, that there isn’t a technology besides fibre.
17541 In terms of the last mile, you’re correct, every year in our budget meeting -- and I’ve been through 20 of them now -- every year in our budget meeting we look through plant expansions and where we can build plant and get a return on capital to build plant, and we knew -- we do build plant extensions every year where we’re getting to that next house and the house beyond it. The economics get tougher and tougher and so we don’t have a great solution of how you would change that spreadsheet.
17542 For sure, the quantum to change that spreadsheet is way easier, you know, if there was some kind of fund or money available, as Paul describes. That’s way easier than connecting Flin Flon because it’s not -- you know, $20 million would get you thousands, and thousands, and thousands of homes on plant extensions. So the economics aren’t as big. It’s equally difficult in that it requires -- it doesn’t make sense in a pure economic form.
17543 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just following your presentation, you speak in paragraph 30 about what you consider to be the role of the industry as it regards affordability. So noting first off that government is in the best position to design, fund and administer low income assistance programs, you go on to say that you think every industry player should develop initiatives.
17544 Could you explain to me what your thinking was there, that every industry player should design initiatives to address issues of affordability?
17545 MR. MEHR: Yeah, thank you.
17546 We -- the Canadian system has provided us all with great places to live and great places to raise families and to build businesses, and as part of that we all have a responsibility to do our part.
17547 And, you know, we’ve seen various proposals around connecting Canadians that have low incomes. Clearly a gap exists, just as it exists for other household needs like groceries and transit passes. We’d love there to be an industry initiative to address at least basic levels of connectivity so that Canadians could maybe not stream Show Me at 8:00 o’clock at night but could access job postings, and kids homework assignments, and we think that’s within -- we think it’s quite realistic for industry to do that.
17548 If a clear consensus comes out of this hearing on something to do we’d be happy to participate and if not we certainly will step up and do something on our own.
17549 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, thank you for all initiatives you take on this matter.
17550 My question really is if industry does not step up -- I mean, you bring up here the issues of community engagement or corporate social responsibility. I think it was Bell who sat there and said “Well our issue is mental health”.
17551 MR. MEHR: M’hm.
17552 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So from a corporate responsibility position it -- and I’m pleased that you would say your issue is engaging, you know, increasing adoption and addressing issues of affordability within your -- within the Internet broadband file, but how would we ever coordinate or require other industry players to do the same?
17553 MR. MEHR: Yeah. I -- first of all, we applaud Bell’s work on mental health. We think they have actually got scale and they’re able to do something that has consequence.
17554 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I’m not ---
17555 MR. MEHR: Understood.
17556 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah.
17557 MR. MEHR: Yeah. Totally understood.
17558 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It was just the position stated.
17559 MR. MEHR: Yeah, no. Totally understood.
17560 It’s what we can do too and we do a lot of things in terms of kids in our communities and our various initiatives as well. There is room for all of us to play a role here. There has been talk in this hearing about an advisory council and potentially getting some CEOs involved in it. We think it’s a terrific challenge to ask that organization how we can work together.
17561 And we don’t mind if we all work independently. Rogers made a proposal on social housing I think. If that’s the model that we all want to do, then let’s get behind something like that. If there’s a better way to do it, we’re open to having that conversation as well.
17562 For sure there’s an opportunity for industry to participate and make a difference. And it’s only a small portion of the gap that we’re talking about is the National Broadband Strategy. So there must also be a role for the federal government and others in filling some of the other gaps.
17563 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, for sure.
17564 Another are I guess I talked to a couple companies about filling for industry was the issue of literacy as leaders, just given that many of the issues surrounding literacy are really issues you should care about with your customers. You know, not only would it increase adoption, but ensuring they’re safe, you know, and private and all of that.
17565 So would you see that to be another issue that would be well led by industry?
17566 MR. MEHR: Yeah, we think it’s an important topic. Maybe I’ll have Katherine talk a little bit about her thoughts on this.
17567 MS. EMBERLY: Sure. Thanks, Jay.
17568 You know, at the very core, it’s in our best interests that more Canadians use and actually love the Internet. And for many years we’ve supported a number of groups in the community such as the Centre for Child Protection MediaSmarts. And we’ve recently worked with Calgary Police Service on the Shaw Centre for digital wellness and leadership. And so we’re tremendously proud of all of these.
17569 We ourselves aren’t experts in digital literacy. But we’re certainly happy to support and partner with the experts.
17570 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
17571 So the next area that you addressed in your opening remarks were principles for broadband availability funding. And you begin the section saying if the Commission establishes a funding mechanism.
17572 You have not taken a position on should the Commission establish a funding mechanism. It’s quite a significant hole, if you will.
17573 MR. MEHR: Sure.
17574 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: It’s missing a position here.
17575 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17576 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Should we or shouldn’t we? Is it necessary? Is it not? Is it later?
17577 MR. MEHR: For sure. We do have some comments on the record from our submission. I’ll let Paul talk to them. You know, obviously, as the focus of the hearing changed so did our remarks a little bit. But perhaps we can talk about ---
17578 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And that’s why I didn’t go back. I have your --
17579 MR. MEHR: Yeah.
17580 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- submission here. But --
17581 MR. MEHR: Yes.
17582 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- things have evolved so.
17583 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure. No, that makes a lot of sense. Paul, do you want to ---
17584 MR. COWLING: I think we still see a primary role for government in terms of closing the availability gaps that have been identified. And there is now an announcement from the federal government of a significant amount of funding.
17585 So when we looked at the opportunities from this hearing to close those gaps and the scope of the issue around transport, we see the potential for a combination of the federal funding and some supplemental compliment to that through an industry funded CRTC overseen subsidy mechanism.
17586 So I think the short answer to your question is we would support a CRTC initiative to expand the scope of funding to address the transport issue.
17587 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. I’m a bit surprised by that, but fair enough.
17588 Would you say that it should be done in coordination with the 500 million federal announcement or should that be set and established in any sort of required funding through a CRTC mechanism follow?
17589 MR. COWLING: I think it’d be on the coordination side because we’d want to maximize these dollars. And I think to the data point, the first step would really to be to establish the priorities in the country looking at the country from a holistic connectivity perspective. Where are the biggest gaps and how can we most efficiently address those gaps?
17590 So that is a conversation, if you will, with ISED and making sure that their funding is not contradictory or not overlapping with any funding that the CRTC would undertake and that the dollars are being maximized.
17591 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And in what timeframe?
17592 MR. COWLING: Well, you’d build back I think from, you know, Jay’s timeframe in terms of the deployment of the network. And then you’d need to take appropriate time to actually do that assessment through a gathering of that data. That would take some time. I would -- sorry.
17593 MR. MEHR: Yeah, no, for sure. For sure. And I think the first thing is this -- like anything is the start; right? It’s not about serving 100 percent of Canadians at the aspirational target immediately, you know, instructive to listen to the amount of money that the terrific group from the Kootenays has put into creating transport in that part. I mean, it’s a big region, but it’s a small part of Canada and sort of the millions and millions of dollars that have gone into it. There’s lots of complexity, as you heard from their description of the work to be done.
17594 And it’s our view that there’s potentially a movement, and I know it’s controversial, around subsidies that are currently on voice as a lifeline service and being able to use that to partially fund some opportunities on the broadband side. Clearly, this is a multi-year approach and that the important part and the government has started by allocating funding on this as well. The important part is that we all get started.
17595 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. You mentioned reallocating subsidies from voice. And I actually wasn’t going to even bother asking you because it’s very clear there’s hard lines drawn between those who pay and those who receive. And, you know, the positions are quite clear.
17596 So if it was determined that the money could be reallocated, would you see that happening in a transitional measure?
17597 MR. MEHR: Let me start and then I’ll pass to Paul. It’s not clear to me, and maybe it’s order of magnitudes. It’s not clear to me that we either pay or receive in a huge magnitude one that would affect our position on this fund. But you can talk about mechanics of it.
17598 MR. COWLING: We see a transition. I think for us it’s a question of investment. And there’s certainly -- there’s some other parties have called into question whether the costs should be reviewed. Based on our review, in a lot of these exchanges there are lower cost alternatives, whether it be voice or wireless, and there’s also fibre builds.
17599 So I think the question is really just whether these investment dollars still make sense. And in our view that there is a case that they don’t. And so that is an opportunity to redeploy that funding. But that review would need to take place. Again, we’ve looked at a lot of these exchanges and we see lower cost alternatives. So we would encourage the CRTC to look at that and then repurpose accordingly.
17600 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So did you hear MTS? You had an opportunity to hear them and they said that their amount of funding -- I might get the number wrong, but I think they said it was something like 35 percent, their amount of funding declined as customers chose alternatives, whether that be wireless or a VoIP solution.
17601 Do you consider that would be a reasonable way? Because if the solutions are there and the customers are willing to take those solutions, the funding naturally -- it would -- you know, in the past the amount of subsidy declined in totality, but that could be redirected in that way? Or are you seeing something a bit more abrupt?
17602 MR. COWLING: No, I think that sounds like a reasonable approach.
17603 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That’s what you’re talking about, okay. Thank you. I just have a couple more questions and then I will pass it to my colleagues here.
17604 You have been listening and you’ve answered so many of the questions, you know, we have -- we’ve asked not just about filling the gaps, but empowering the customer base, your full customer base with greater knowledge and tools and so on and you’ve identified what tools your provide to your customers.
17605 Would you be able to undertake to provide us with information regarding the top three complaints that you receive from your customers?
17606 MS. MILLER-WRIGHT: Yes, we can take that undertaking.
17607 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. And do you have contracts?
17608 MS. MILLER-WRIGHT: We do. We have service agreements.
17609 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Would you be able to provide us a copy?
17610 MS. MILLER-WRIGHT: Yes, we can.
17611 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
17612 MR. MEHR: Just for a complete answer on that question. We don’t have service agreements on Internet alone. We do have service agreements on bundled packages, which are largely in place in order to give customer free video hardware, but we’re happy to provide the information on all of those.
17613 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you.
17614 You have also identified that work you’re doing, that Wind is doing, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in your new data-only plan.
17615 If you had an opportunity to hear some of the different customers who came forward with ability issues, there was for example Mr. John Rae and he was talking about his experience and frustration when he’s dealing with some of the frontline staff.
17616 He’s not in your market, but can you tell me what sort of training or support you provide to your frontline staff to dealing with people with disability issues?
17617 MS. MILLER-WRIGHT: Sure, I’d be happy to.
17618 We train all of our customer-facing staff on the various options that we have for our customers with disabilities. So for things such as offering bills in brail or different equipment options, our agents do learn about that.
17619 The volume that they might receive is quite low so we also maintain a very robust internal knowledge base that all of our agents have access to that contains all the information that they might need.
17620 So if they do get an inquiry from a customer who has a disability, then they can easily access that information.
17621 We also offer options for some of our customers who might be challenged in visiting say a retail location or calling us through our online chat and e-care options as well where they can reach customer-facing representative who is equally as capable and knowledgeable as one of our representatives on the phone or in one of our retail locations.
17622 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. I’m going to pass you on to my colleagues.
17623 THE CHAIRMAN: Before I pass it on to the Vice-Chair, just I misunderstood the point about contracts existing or not. So if it’s standalone Internet arrangement, what do you do, what is the -- how -- what are the -- what’s the contractual -- it may not be a contract in a classic sense, but what’s the contractual relationship?
17624 MR. MEHR: The -- any -- there are terms and conditions, which we’ll file as part of the undertaking.
17625 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay.
17626 MR. MEHR: We hear a point of view that that is a contract, but a customer can cancel at any time on their Internet service.
17627 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay.
17628 MR. MEHR: It’s only if you bundle the services do you take a time commitment in order to get free equipment.
17629 THE CHAIRMAN: Right, okay. And just going back to first-year law as to what a contract is or isn’t, but there is a relationship there that is set by certain terms and conditions?
17630 MR. MEHR: For sure. And we’ll submit the terms and conditions ---
17631 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay.
17632 MR. MEHR: --- because we would also argue they’re a contract.
17633 THE CHAIRMAN: Yeah, well my first-year law professor would have -- contract law professor would have argued that as well, so thank you.
17634 Vice-Chair Menzies.
17635 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Hi, thanks.
17636 I just want to, if you could, to expand a little with -- just help us -- me, at least, understand how you would see, and this is just an extension of the question Commissioner Molner asked, a funding for transport working?
17637 So I’m guessing because you were talking about it that Flin Flon doesn’t have fibre, for instance. So how would -- basically how would it work? Would you start with the reverse auction or bidding or how do you see it working?
17638 Have you unpacked it that far? It’s okay if you haven’t, but I’d like some recommendations on what you think is the most -- have been the most effective tools you’ve seen.
17639 MR. COWLING: Yeah, I’ll unpack it a bit.
17640 So there would be an RFP design process. And I think we heard from a number of community groups in interviews from the north along similar lines, they would suggest that affected communities, municipal governments, maybe a community aggregator who might be affected would actually be participating in the design of the RFP. With any RFP, you kind of go out and you test the market. So what’s the demand and what’s the prospective supply.
17641 Then you put -- you know, and you could do things -- we envision a public-private partnership model so that you would have the private company come forward and build the infrastructure and a certain percentage of it would be in their control and they would therefore have an incentive to build out the local access network.
17642 The other percentage would be wholesale access and open and the terms and conditions of that access would be part of the bid. So once you sort of nailed down the RFP, then you’d have an open bid.
17643 Whether it’s a reverse auction, i.e. lowest cost no matter what, or a more balanced assessment of various metrics, I don’t think we have a strong view either way on those two choices, but you would -- you’d want to ensure that you get the maximum payoff for the dollars in terms of hitting the aspirational speeds, hitting as many communities or as many Canadians as possible and doing so with the lowest cost subsidy.
17644 So in some scenarios, you’d have 25 percent subsidy because that’s what the competitive bidding process yielded. In some cases, you might have an 80 percent subsidy where there’s less interest and you need to create more of an incentive to invest. So those are ---
17645 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That’s helpful, thank you. The other question, some have suggested and used examples elsewhere of sort of tiered targets and, I mean, these numbers are just for purpose of example, but do you think it would be appropriate coming out of this if we did set targets for -- I give you sort of an example, if we said 100 percent at 5 and 1 in all satellite served communities, I don’t know, 100 percent at 10 and 1 or something in all terrestrial communities by X date, 80 percent at 25 and 70 percent at 50 or something along that line.
17646 I mean, I’m hesitant to throw things out with -- because I’m just making it up right now, more or less. Would it be appropriate to do that sort of thing and maybe have targets for, you know, fewer satellite served, if you know what I mean, things along those lines because of the nature of Canada and the extreme differences in some of these areas?
17647 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, we think that’s a reasonable approach and we also like some thought process of increasing service over time because clearly the one thing we know for sure is customers in 2020, even those that are well served in 2016, won’t be happy with the Internet they’re getting in 2016 or the broadband that they’re getting in 2016. So we think that’s helpful.
17648 Our one caution would as you cross that line from served to under -- from underserved to served, it is quite a step change in service. 98 percent of customers that are served by Shaw or that we can serve, that past households have access to 60 megahertz down and 6 megahertz up, so that’s almost 10 million Canadians have access to that from Shaw.
17649 So the challenge is when you solve transport, when you solve the last mile, you really should be aspiring for bigger numbers. We aspire to a lot more than 60 for those 10 million Canadians that have access to our service.
17650 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I just didn’t want to get anybody too excited.
17651 MR. MEHR: Yeah exactly. So we like the step. I think when you actually are in the wireline area and you build the fibre and you go the last mile in place, you know, it’s even faster speeds, it quickly becomes possible.
17652 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. Those are all my questions.
17653 THE CHAIRMAN: Checking with colleagues? No. So just a couple of questions for me, I asked this of others, and I wasn't sure whether -- well, I'll give you an opportunity to answer.
17654 Do you use the Alberta SuperNet as -- for transport facilities?
17655 MR. MEHR: Yes, we think Alberta SuperNet's a terrific model and has generated lots of different ISPs in competition. We use the SuperNet as backbone in three communities, Stettler, Barrhead and Drayton Valley -- thank you. So we use it in three communities in Alberta.
17656 THE CHAIRPERSON: We've also heard and had some discussion about the use of power companies' fibre. Are -- have you done that anywhere on your territory?
17657 MR. STAKIC: We did have conversations in that space and we absolutely welcome the ideas of shared infrastructure.
17658 THE CHAIRPERSON: And there's -- well, there's maybe a negotiation required, but there's no barrier to -- for that being used; is there?
17659 MR. STAKIC: We don't see any barriers at this point.
17660 THE CHAIRPERSON: And should we go down the road of subsidizing transport, what happens to wholesale rates? Does the Commission oversee those?
17661 MR. MEHR: Yeah, it's a great question. We -- it's -- we're pleased that you raised wholesale rates because we actually think the wholesale rate model is very successful and actually addresses affordability in competition very effectively in Canada where there is infrastructure today. And of course, the gap with the wholesale model is it doesn't help anywhere there's nothing to wholesale.
17662 For sure, we believe that if transport is funded by something else, otherwise -- other than private investment, that transport should be made open. And whether that's through a wholesale structure or whether through the terms of the RFP itself, we think however that gets built, everybody should have access to that transporting. And using that model, you also should get vigorous competition in the markets after those markets are connected.
17663 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, and so over time, the wholesale regulation may not be required, but once you have a few public dollars in there of same nature ---
17664 MR. MEHR: Yeah, for sure.
17665 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- you need that?
17666 MR. MEHR: I think that makes sense.
17667 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, understood.
17668 I think, echoing my comments at the beginning, the brevity of your appearance is more a testimony of your preparation than the lack of interest on the part of the Commission with your position. So thank you. I think those are all our questions. I thank you very much.
17669 MR. MEHR: Thank you.
17670 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we will be adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
17671 Alors, nous sommes en ajournement jusqu’à 9h00 demain matin. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 4:53 p.m.
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