Opening remarks by Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
At the public hearing in Inuvik
Inuvik, Northwest Territories
June 17, 2013
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Good morning, and welcome to this public hearing.
We are holding this hearing as part of a holistic review of the telecommunications services provided by Northwestel, as well as the regulations that the company must follow. The hearing will continue in Whitehorse on June 19.
In 2011, the CRTC expressed concern with the level of network investment by the company and the level, quality and reliability of telecommunications services available in the North. We required Northwestel to develop a plan to address these concerns and to modernize its aging network for the benefit of all northern Canadians.
The company has since filed a plan in which it proposes to invest over $200 million in capital expenditures during the next four years to:
- upgrade equipment in order to support enhanced calling services, such as call display and call waiting, as well as local number portability and local network interconnection
- upgrade and expand its high-speed Internet service offering
- extend wireless services to many additional communities
- replace its satellite voice network with an Internet Protocol-based network, and
- make various other improvements to its network.
As we study Northwestel’s modernization plan, the hearing panel will be looking at the degree to which it will provide northern Canadians with access to services that are comparable to the rest of the country. We will also want to make sure that the modernization plan can be implemented in a timely manner, so that the company’s customers can benefit from improvements to choice, quality and reliability, as soon as possible.
Also in 2011, the CRTC opened the North to local telephone competition in order to give residents a choice of service providers. The panel will consider the current status of local competition and how it may be expected to develop.
In particular, competitors purchase services from Northwestel in order to serve their customers at the retail level. We will examine whether any changes to the services used by Northwestel’s competitors are needed to ensure sustainable competition in the coming years.
We will also examine the infrastructure needed by all providers to transport traffic across the North. These transport services are used not only by Northwestel, but also assist competitors in the delivery of services, and ultimately in providing greater choice to Canadians.
Finally, we will review the regulatory framework that applies to Northwestel for its services, including basic telephone service, and whether any changes should be made.
This will include a review of the existing subsidies that Northwestel receives to provide local telephone service in areas where costs are higher, such as in small and remote communities. The panel will also review the need for subsidies for other services, such as transport and broadband, as suggested by several parties.
Before we begin, I would like to thank you for the hospitality you have shown us. We are glad to have this opportunity to meet with northern Canadians and to hear from you directly. Many of the submissions we received in advance of the hearing were very clear. As a result, we may not have questions for everyone.
The CRTC recognizes the importance of reliable, affordable and high-quality communication services for northern Canadians given your unique challenges and the many opportunities for economic growth. This review will attempt to strike the right balance between market forces, network investment and regulatory intervention to meet these goals for the North.
I would also like to provide a few introductions.
The panel for this hearing consists of:
- Peter Menzies, Regional Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories
- Elizabeth Duncan, Regional Commissioner for the Atlantic and Nunavut
- Stephen Simpson, Regional Commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon
- Candice Molnar, Regional Commissioner for Manitoba and Saskatchewan
- and myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The Commission team assisting us includes:
- Christine Bailey, the Hearing Manager
- John Macri, Director, Telecommunications Policy
- Emilia de Somma, Legal Counsel, and
- Jade Roy and Lynda Roy, the Hearing Secretaries and Public Hearings Supervisors.
I would now invite Jade Roy, the Hearing Secretary for this portion of the hearing, to explain the procedures we will be following. Madam Secretary…
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