ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing April 14, 2016
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: April 14, 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 Hamley
- Secretary: Jade Roy
- Hearing Managers:
John Macri, Christine Bailey, Sarah O’Brian
--- Upon resuming on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 9:03 a.m.
4749 LE PRÉSIDENT: Alors, s'il vous plaît, Madame la secrétaire.
4750 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. Bon matin.
4751 Nous débuterons aujourd’hui avec la présentation du député fédéral de Rimouski-Neigette--Témiscouata--Les Basques, monsieur Guy Caron.
4752 Vous pouvez débuter votre présentation. Vous avez 10 minutes. Merci.
4753 M. CARON: Merci beaucoup. Guy Caron, député fédéral pour Rimouski-Neigette--Témiscouata--Les Basques depuis 2011.
4754 Je vous remercie de me permettre de comparaître aux audiences du CRTC ce matin sur un sujet très important et qui touche de très près non seulement ma circonscription mais toute ma région.
4755 La circonscription que je représente se situe dans l’est du Québec, plus précisément au Bas-Saint-Laurent.
4756 Lorsqu’on parle des services de télécommunications, en particulier internet à large bande et cellulaire, y a des problèmes majeurs qui ne sont pas uniques à la région mais qui sont communs en fait à l'ensemble des régions hors site urbain.
4757 Le fossé numérique est bien réel. Elle entraine ou ce fossé entraine en fait des conséquences non seulement économiques mais également communautaires et démographiques pour les régions. Je vais essayer pendant le peu de temps qui m’est donné de pouvoir parler des deux composantes de l’internet à large bande, mais je veux également parler de la composante des services cellulaires.
4758 En ce qui a trait à l’internet à large bande, évidemment la plupart des municipalités -- j’en compte 39 dans ma circonscription -- sont reliées particulièrement depuis les années ’90 avec les investissements qui ont été faits tant par le gouvernement fédéral que provincial.
4759 Le projet d’Inforoute, entre autres, a pu lier les bibliothèques, a pu lier les édifices municipaux, les écoles par la fibre optique.
4760 Cependant, pour l’ensemble des initiatives qui ont été prises depuis ce temps, évidemment y a eu bien des progrès qui ont été faits mais on se contente dans les régions particulièrement de se dire qu’on donne l’accès à l’internet large bande à travers les services satellites.
4761 Lorsqu’on s’éloigne des grands axes, que ce soit l’autoroute 85 ou encore la 20 ou la 132, y a aucune possibilité de pouvoir avoir des services significatifs au niveau de l’internet à large bande et les investissements qui sont faits pour pouvoir fournir ces services le sont généralement par satellite.
4762 La dernière initiative a été entreprise en 2009 par la Conférence régionale des élus du Bas-Saint-Laurent et elle promettait en fait une couverture intégrale à l'ensemble des foyers. À ce moment-là, y en avait plus de 11,000 qui n’étaient toujours pas reliés.
4763 Le travail a été fait. Le contrat a été donné à Xplornet et aujourd’hui, à ce jour, encore une fois il y a une grande absence du nombre des foyers qui sont en fait reliés par l’internet à large bande. Ça été noté entre autres par un reportage assez exhaustif du journal Les Affaires en février 2015 et c'est quelque chose que j’ai vu personnellement et qui m’a été rapporté de façon assez régulière.
4764 Je n’ai pas de données à vous présenter ce matin plus précises. Cependant, je vais avoir un rapport exhaustif puisque nos consultations en circonscriptions se poursuivent présentement. Je sais que la date limite se trouve à être le 17 mai et à ce moment-là vous aurez un rapport plus exhaustif.
4765 Lorsqu’on parle de la couverture par satellite, elle est inadéquate pour plusieurs raisons. Le prix est plus élevé. Elle n’est pas accessible partout. J’ai même une municipalité, où ça m’a été rapporté en fait par le journal Les Affaires et par les citoyens sur place, où 96 pour cent, et c'est un nombre que je ne trouve pas exagéré, n’ont pas accès au satellite pour une municipalité de 500 ou près de 500 habitants et qui compte la plus grande mine d’ardoise au Canada qui fournit entre autres les châteaux en Europe et également l’Université Harvard, pour ne nommer que celle-là. Ils n’ont toujours pas accès de manière significative à l’internet large bande.
4766 Donc c'est plus dispendieux. C'est moins rapide également. On nous dit que les services satellites sont -- la manière de faire pour atteindre la haute vitesse, donc une vitesse de 5 mégabits par seconde, ce n’est pas le cas. Encore une fois de ce qui m’a été rapporté, bien souvent les vitesses sont réduites à 2.5, 3, et lorsqu’on a accès à des forfaits qui nous permettent des vitesses plus élevées, y a des restrictions qui font en sorte que le travail -- durant la journée par exemple, il est presqu’impossible lorsqu’on a besoin de faire des téléchargements.
4767 C'est un problème également et je ne veux pas nécessairement viser Xplornet. C'est la compagnie qui fait affaires en fait dans les circonscriptions mais j’ai eu l’occasion durant mes consultations de parler avec des citoyens et certains de ces citoyens avaient des histoires assez intéressantes.
4768 Entre autres, cet ancien haut responsable de l’Office de la protection du consommateur à la retraite qui me disait que le dossier du satellite était l’un de ceux qui entrainaient le plus grand nombre de plaintes au bureau de l’Office de la protection du consommateur.
4769 J’ai comme l’impression que le gouvernement fédéral -- et je veux pas nécessairement blâmer le CRTC mais y a quand même des directives qui sont envoyées au gouvernement fédéral. Lorsqu’il y a des éléments au niveau de l’internet à large bande, lorsqu’on veut agrandir la couverture, on a recours au satellite parce que c'est le moyen le plus expéditif. On veut se donner bonne conscience.
4770 Dans l’avenir, on -- présentement, la norme fédérale est à 5 mégabits pour la haute vitesse. Ça va être d’ailleurs significativement plus élevé à l’avenir. J’ai l’impression qu’à ce niveau-là, les milieux urbains effectivement auront accès puis là on commence à voir les branchements de fibre optique, mais les milieux ruraux vont être laissés en plan parce qu’il y aura aucun moyen de pouvoir accéder à ces vitesses plus élevées qui seront requises pour le développement des entreprises.
4771 Je vais passer rapidement au cellulaire qui est un problème que je connais assez bien. Dans ma circonscription, 39 municipalités encore une fois, huit ne sont toujours pas reliées par le cellulaire, n’ont aucune couverture cellulaire, dont une municipalité de 1,500 habitants qui est Saint-Michel-du-Squatec.
4772 La situation du cellulaire est particulière étant donné l’historique de la région. Autrefois, Québec-Téléphone desservait la grande région de Rimouski et les alentours, Bell le reste de la circonscription, donc dans le Témiscouata et Les Basques. Québec-Téléphone a été acquise par Telus. L’entente est demeurée. Donc, présentement Telus dessert Rimouski et le reste de l’est du Québec, incluant la Gaspésie. Bell se trouve du côté. Avec l'ouverture des marchés, avec la fin du monopole de Bell, évidemment on a permis à d’autres opérateurs de pouvoir venir mais ils ne viennent pas.
4773 Rogers n’a qu’une couple de tours dans la région. Vidéotron, jusqu’à tout récemment, avait sa tour sur la rive sud le plus à l’est à Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. On commence à installer des tours mais encore une fois pas dans les zones qui ne sont pas desservies. Et on a vu une annonce toute récente où il y aurait trois tours installées à Rimouski, qui est déjà bien servie en termes de couverture cellulaire.
4774 Les impacts économiques sont réels. Nous sommes dans une situation où bien des municipalités voient un dépeuplement, voient un exode qu’on parle de l’exode rural. La question de la couverture cellulaire et de la disponibilité de l’internet à large bande y joue une part, y joue une part parce que c'est extrêmement difficile dans le contexte où on n’a pas de couverture adéquate de pouvoir attirer de nouveaux investissements. Il est extrêmement difficile lorsqu’il n’y a pas de couverture adéquate de pouvoir même empêcher ces entreprises de partir si elles ne peuvent plus être concurrentielles par rapport aux grands centres.
4775 Simplement pour la question d’avoir de vidéoconférences, on requiert pratiquement 20 à 25 mégabits par seconde sur des vitesses, à l’exception de Rimouski, qui sont extrêmement difficiles à atteindre en région. Alors, une entreprise, lorsqu’elle a le choix de s’installer en région ou s’installer plus près des grands centres où ses services sont offerts, le choix est facile et malheureusement c'est à notre détriment.
4776 Il y a aussi des éléments de concurrence pour les forces de la région qui malheureusement risquent de se voir larguer du point de vue concurrentiel, entre autres l’acériculture et l’agriculture où on a de plus en plus recours à la télémétrie. Comment est-ce qu’on peut utiliser la télémétrie si les services ne sont pas adéquats, si la vitesse n'est pas au rendez-vous, si la fiabilité n'est pas non plus au rendez-vous?
4777 Y a des impacts sociaux-démographiques. Si on parle de faire venir de nouveaux investissements, on parle également de pouvoir faire venir une nouvelle famille et de pouvoir empêcher les familles qui y sont actuellement de partir, de pouvoir leur donner un intérêt de rester.
4778 J’ai eu durant mes consultations l’occasion de rencontrer, entre autres, un couple de Squatec mais qui est originaire de Laval qui est venu dans la région pour sa retraite. Qu’elle ne fut pas la surprise de voir qu’à Saint-Michel-du-Squatec en arrivant, il n’y a aucun service cellulaire. Vous vous imaginez qu’à Laval on n’avait pas de problème à ce niveau-là.
4779 J’aimerais pouvoir spécifier également qu’il est extrêmement difficile pour moi d’expliquer la situation à mes commettants et commettantes et pour une raison très simple.
4780 On me vient avec la question, « Pourquoi est-ce que nous avions accès au service filaire à l’époque où on se faisait brancher par le téléphone, mais qu’on n’a pas le même accès universel au service de cellulaire », et je leur réponds de la manière la plus rationnelle possible, bien à l’époque il y avait un monopole public dans la condition était de desservir l’ensemble des foyers au pays.
4781 Ce n’était pas nécessairement idéal. Parfois on avait des lignes partagées à trois, quatre, cinq foyers, mais il reste que c’était la réalité.
4782 Maintenant en ouvrant le marché à la concurrence on a fait un choix de société, n’importe qui peut venir s’installer, mais personne ne le fait.
4783 Il n’y a pas d’incitatif pour le faire. Il n’y a pas de -- il y a aucune raison économique pour ces entreprises-là de venir.
4784 Je comprends la situation d’un point de vue économique, je suis économiste de formation.
4785 D’un autre côté, si on avait eu la même logique au moment où on installait effectivement le téléphone fileur, au moment où on procédait au grand chantier d’électrification rurale-là, si on utilisait le même modèle pour ces dossiers que pour ce qu’on voit présentement dans le cellulaire ou encore le large bande-là, il y a fort à parier qu’il y a bien des foyers qui seraient encore allumer à la chandelle aujourd’hui.
4786 Alors j’ai des -- j’ai trois recommandations, plus généraliste. Je ne suis pas technicien, je ne suis pas ingénieur, donc je n’irai pas nécessairement dans les chiffres.
4787 Il y a présentement une dorsale qui existe, qui a été implanté au niveau de la fibre optique, de -- qui dessert l’ensemble de la municipalité.
4788 Cette dorsale est sous-utilisée. Il n’y a pas d’intérêts économiques de la part des compagnies de pouvoir utiliser cette dorsale pour étendre la couverture aux foyers aux citoyens.
4789 Le CRTC devrait considérer recommander au gouvernement de pouvoir utiliser l’infrastructure actuelle et pouvoir utiliser le potentiel qu’elle a, non seulement pour les municipalités, les écoles, les bibliothèques, mais également pour l’ensemble des communautés, là où c’est possible, bien sûr, parce qu’il y a toujours une question de faible densité de population dans les municipalités.
4790 Le deuxième point plus pertinent aux cellulaires. Il y a des solutions qui sont mises de l’avant présentement par diverses organisations, entre autre Aide Tic qui a -- qui fait beaucoup de travail au Saguenay pour le développement de tours cellulaires.
4791 C’est des organismes sans bût lucratif, qui bâtissent des structures et qui tentent d’attirer les entreprises de télécommunications.
4792 C’est une solution qui devrait être privilégiée. Bien souvent ces organisations sont en compétition avec des organismes, des entreprises à bût lucratif, qui leur offre-là au bout du compte les contrats ou les opportunités et qui au bout du compte donne des résultats qui sont bien moindre que ce comté.
4793 Et le dernier point qui touche encore le cellulaire, mais également l’internet à large bande, c’est la décision en fait de forcer, en ce qui a trait à la fibre optique, mais je crois également au niveau du cellulaire, les entreprises de télécommunications à fournir leur structure au prix du marché. Ce qu’on appelle le FTTH.
4794 C’est une décision que je comprends. D’un côté c’est une décision qui est dommageable pour les régions, parce qu’il y a -- ça retire un incitatif supplémentaire de pouvoir installer ces structures en région.
4795 Si une entreprise doit payer pour l’infrastructure et doit la fournir aux autres compagnies, il y a aucun incitatif pour aucune compagnie de pouvoir installer l’infrastructure.
4796 Alors je pense que le CRTC devrait se pencher sur cette question et sur les effets pervers qu’elle entraine pour le développement des infrastructures dans le milieu rural, dans le milieu régional, afin de ne pas -- de ne pas être laissé en arrière.
4797 Le fossé numérique existe réellement. On a l’impression que c’est une question qui semble mineure, qui semble délaisser une grande partie de la population.
4798 Je crains qu’avec l’avenir de l’économie numérique, qui est le sujet de la discussion, on en arrive effectivement à avoir un avenir plus radieux et avoir des progrès qui vont dans ce sens-là, mais où l’écart, le fossé, ce -- s’agrandira d’avantage.
4799 Et c’est une grande préoccupation non seulement pour moi, mais pour bien des députés, bien des citoyens qui vivent en région. Merci.
4800 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup, M. Caron.
4801 Premièrement j’aimerais vous féliciter pour deux choses. Un, la qualité de votre mémoire.
4802 M. CARON: M’hm.
4803 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je crois que quand j’ai fait mes commentaires d’ouverture j’ai demandé aux gens de nous apporter de la preuve concrète, des chiffres, pas seulement des opinions qui ne sont pas appuyées et donc vous l’avez fait. Bravo.
4804 Et deuxième chose, c’est que trop peu de parlementaires viennent à nos audiences pour faire valoir leur point de vue.
4805 Malheureusement on est dans un mode ou les comités parlementaires préfèrent commenter nos décisions une fois qu’on les a rendu, plutôt que de nous aider à mener une bonne décision, mais voilà.
4806 Je sais que le travail des parlementaires et parfois très occupé.
4807 J’aimerais préciser, obtenir votre point de vue, sur la nature exacte de votre -- de vos préoccupations.
4808 M. CARON: M’hm.
4809 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous mentionnez à la fois des préoccupations de développement régional, appui à des entreprises pour leur déploiement économique.
4810 M. CARON: M’hm.
4811 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc ça c’est un volet, mais vous parlez aussi des besoins des résidents plus résidentiels. Donc est-ce que votre préoccupation elle est double?
4812 M. CARON: Elle est même triple. En fait il y a un élément que je n’ai pas souligné, c’est la question de la sécurité.
4813 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4814 M. CARON: Lorsqu’on parle de grands secteurs du Bas-Saint-Laurent, par exemple. J’ai parlé de l’acériculture, j’ai parlé de l’agriculture, la forêt également.
4815 L’acériculture, un des centres de l’acériculture se trouve à être un village qui s’appelle Saint-Athanase dans le Témiscouata qui a 300 habitants, aucune couverture cellulaire. La tour la plus prêt se trouve à Pohenegamook, à peu près à 15 -- 10-15 kilomètre.
4816 C’est une petite population d’une grande étendue, couverte en grande partie d’érables. Les travailleurs vont --
4817 LE PRÉSIDENT: Dans le bois?
4818 M. CARON: -- sans le bois, au bout du compte, et se retrouve à être isolés. Ils n’ont aucune capacité de pouvoir -- de pouvoir communiquer.
4819 Même chose au niveau de la forêt, des grandes industries forestières doivent aller profondément dans le bois.
4820 Il y a absolument aucune couverture, donc des risques au niveau de la sécurité. Et il y a un cas qui s’est déroulé il n’y a pas si longtemps où un agriculteur à Sainte-Rita dans Les Basques a vu une plaque d’acier, une plaque de métal extrêmement lourde, lui tomber dessus et était restée en sur lui pendant plus d’une journée, parce qu’il n’a pas eu de moyen de -- de pouvoir communiquer.
4821 Donc il y a non seulement les impératifs de -- économiques, démographiques, mais aussi la sécurité.
4822 Et entre autre je pourrais vous dire que sur deux axes, la 232 qui mène de Rimouski jusqu’à Témiscouata-sur-le-lac et aussi entre Pohenegamook et Saint-Alexandre sur la 289, il y a des grands -- c’est une route -- des routes qui sont dangereuses, particulièrement en raison de la présence d’animaux.
4823 Pendant à peu près 30-35 minutes entre Esprit-Saint sur le dernier tour et Témiscouata-sur-le-lac, à travers une ou deux routes qui contournent le lac Témiscouata il y a aucun service cellulaire dans le centre du Parc National du Témiscouata.
4824 Et ça aussi c’est une situation qui (inaudible).
4825 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc le côté cellulaire il y a un volet sécuritaire qui est plus présent pour la large bande, j’imagine?
4826 M. CARON: Effectivement.
4827 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais pour revenir, vous préoccupations sont pour le secteur des affaires, le secteur résidentiel et le secteur institutionnel aussi?
4828 M. CARON: Secteur institutionnel je vous dirais à moins grande mesure parce que la fibre optique ---
4829 LE PRÉSIDENT: À cause du déploiement que --
4830 M. CARON: Exacte.
4831 LE PRÉSIDENT: -- et les investissements qui avaient été fait pour les écoles et les (inaudible)?
4832 M. CARON: Exactement, mais le point à ce niveau-là c’est que la dorsale a déjà été faite, mais ne dessert que les édifices municipaux.
4833 La fibre optique a un potentiel absolument incroyable. Elle est présentement sous-utilisée, mais il y a aucun incitatif, aucun effort qui est fait pour justement la déployer et s’assurer que les foyers puissent disposer de l’accès.
4834 Alors présentement elle est limitée. Simplement les citoyens doivent aller à la bibliothèque, doivent aller -- pour avoir accès au -- à la haute vitesse. Ce n’est pas une question que se posent les gens à Montréal, à Québec, à Laval.
4835 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je comprends.
4836 Et curieusement avec les moyens de communication on peut se comparer maintenant en plus sur les services offerts dans d’autres centres.
4837 M. CARON: Effectivement.
4838 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc on va parler du côté résidentiel d’affaire institutionnel. Peut-être institutionnel on peut mettre un peu de côté étant donné votre réponse.
4839 M. CARON: M’hm.
4840 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais une des questions qu’on examine c’est les normes qu’on pourrait mettre en place par rapport à des enjeux telle que la vitesse, les capacités de téléchargement et de téléversement --
4841 M. CARON: M’hm.
4842 LE PRÉSIDENT: -- et le prix.
4843 M. CARON: M’hm.
4844 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc est-ce que vous avez des recommandations plus précises à faire par rapport aux besoins qu’on devrait tenter de combler dans ces catégories-là, à la fois pour le résidentiel et le secteur des affaires?
4845 M. CARON: J’en ai quelques-unes présentement, mais elles seront plus précises lorsque j’aurai l’occasion de déposer un mémoire d’ici le 17 mai, un mémoire plus complet.
4846 Parce que je -- dans la consultation on envoie un questionnaire également.
4847 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4848 M. CARON: Et on contacte la population et le milieu des affaires.
4849 Mais dans la réponse préliminaire nous avons reçu effectivement -- lorsqu’on parle du 10 mégabits en terme de l’internet à large bande c’est maintenant, mais dans 5 ans ça ne sera plus ça.
4850 Dans cinq ans on parle -- la plupart des réponses qui parlent de l’avenir à moyen terme parlent d’avantage de 25 voire 30 mégabits secondes. Alors je pense que ça va se diriger dans cette direction.
4851 Encore une fois est-ce que c’est une vitesse à laquelle auront accès les milieux régionaux? C’est la question que je vous soumets aujourd’hui.
4852 Si on parle du prix, il y a toute la question de la règlementation du prix, mais c’est plus difficile à règlementer.
4853 Je réalise que lorsque il y a une règlementation qui a été faite, une ouverture du marché dans -- sois au niveau de l’internet, particulièrement dans le domaine de télécommunication en générale, ça été un choix de société comme je l’ai mentionné.
4854 Le choix de société ça été d’essayer de faire baisser les prix en donnant de la concurrence, mais d’un côté ça éliminait le bâton que nous avions pour Bell à l’époque pour qu’elle desserve l’ensemble des foyers comme condition de son monopole. C’est un choix qui a été fait.
4855 Maintenant si il n’y a aucun incitatif qui est porté ou encore si l’on -- si l’on se fie toujours au grand programmes gouvernementaux qui vont financer la haute vitesse aujourd’hui sans penser à ce que ça va être dans cinq, 10 ou 15 ans, il n’y a aucun moyen qu’on puisse s’en sortir.
4856 Alors ma recommandation, elle sera plus précise d’ici le 17 mai. Je réalise -- les problèmes que constitue le dernier mille; la difficulté de couvrir, disons, les 2, 3, 5 derniers pour cent de la population.
4857 Mais ces 2, 3, 5 pour cent, ils ne sont pas nécessairement tous dans le Nord canadien isolé. La population dont je vous parle se trouve à moins d’une heure de la frontière du Nouveau Brunswick, à moins d’une heure de Rimouski.
4858 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4859 M. CARON: Alors, ce sont des gens qui non seulement ne bénéficient plus des services mais lorsqu’on parle des prix, ils ne peuvent pas bénéficier des prix puisqu’ils ne bénéficient pas des services.
4860 Je comprends la réalité des gens qui bien souvent -- et j’ai travaillé un peu dans le domaine des télécommunications à l’époque où je travaillais comme économiste pour le Syndicat des communications, de l’énergie et du papier -- et les gens se plaignent du prix du cellulaire.
4861 Je suis persuadé que vous allez avoir ça durant vos audiences également, le prix même des services d’internet ---
4862 LE PRÉSIDENT: Pas seulement pendant les audiences.
4863 M. CARON: J’imagine. Mais au-delà de la question du prix, il y a la question de la disponibilité. Les gens ne peuvent pas se plaindre du prix s’il n’y a aucun service. Et c’est la situation dans laquelle nous sommes aujourd’hui.
4864 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
4865 Petite parenthèse, je comprends que votre réflexion continue mais la dernière phase, vraiment ça doit être des arguments.
4866 M. CARON: Bien sûr.
4867 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et non pas de la preuve supplémentaire au dossier.
4868 M. CARON: Oui.
4869 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc, faites attention de ne pas tenter -- parce que c’est pas équitable pour les autres parties si on ajoute de la preuve qui peut pas être testée.
4870 M. CARON: Je comprends.
4871 LE PRÉSIDENT: Cela dit, je vous inviterais par contre si vous arrivez à faire une recommandation, que ce soit 10, 15, 20, peu importe, votre réflexion continue. Puis vous allez sans doute être informé aussi par les présentations pendant les trois semaines d’audience.
4872 M. CARON: Bien sûr.
4873 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et de nous expliquer pourquoi vous préconisez ces normes-là.
4874 Je sais qu’on se concentre beaucoup sur la vitesse mais je crois aussi qu’il y a des enjeux par rapport à la latence, par rapport à -- les capacités nécessaires, parce que tout ça est relié aussi au prix.
4875 M. CARON: Bien sûr.
4876 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc pensez au sens plus large. Est-ce que je vous comprends bien que par rapport à la large bande -- on va traiter du cellulaire dans quelques secondes. Mais par rapport à la large bande, vous croyez que seule une solution filaire est appropriée?
4877 M. CARON: Une solution. Je n’ai aucune évidence qui m’a été apportée jusqu’ici, soit de la part des consommateurs, soit de la part des élus qui ont fait affaire, entre autres, avec des services satellitaires, que le satellite peut répondre aux besoins de régions qui sont peu densément peuplées.
4878 Pour les besoins de base, oui. Mais lorsqu’on entreprend les discussions à savoir au niveau de l’économie numérique, de l’achat en ligne, des services bancaires en ligne, il n’y a aucune évidence que si l’on passe à des normes plus élevées, si on passe à du 20, 25 Mégabits/seconde, que les services seront adéquats au point de vue rural.
4879 Bien des commentaires au niveau des citoyens au niveau de la consommation me disent que déjà à travers le service qu’ils ont actuellement, il y en a qui sont affiliés -- qui ont des services satellitaires, il n’y a aucun moyen de pouvoir télécharger de manière adéquate un film en ligne.
4880 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
4881 M. CARON: Il n’y a aucun moyen et vous avez -- j’ai relaté dans mon mémoire le commentaire d’un citoyen de Saint-Germain de Kamouraska, qui travaille dans le domaine du Web. Il n’a aucun moyen, à moins de télécharger durant la nuit, de pouvoir faire son travail de façon adéquate avec un service satellitaire.
4882 Je pense c’est une question de capacité par rapport à ça. Je ne mets pas le blâme sur la compagnie elle-même.
4883 Les promesses qui sont faites par les compagnies sont peut-être -- haussent peut-être trop les attentes par rapport à la population et elle se trouve désabusée, elle se trouve frustrée.
4884 Je n’ai pas vu la démonstration, et si on veut me la faire, je suis très, très ouvert, que les services satellitaires puissent représenter une solution pour l’avenir de l’économie numérique. Pas aujourd’hui où les besoins de base sont comblés mais là où on va être dans cinq, 10 ou 15 ans d’ici.
4885 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
4886 Sans doute, vous avez d’autres responsabilités de l’autre côté de la rivière. Donc, vous n’avez peut-être pas pu suivre notre audience hier; mais hier, on a eu des témoignages de la part de fournisseurs satellitaires, notamment Xplornet.
4887 M. CARON: Oui.
4888 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et vous aurez peut-être intérêt à lire leur mémoire et leur témoignage, parce qu’ils ont l’intention de déployer des nouvelles capacités qui pourraient peut-être répondre aux besoins.
4889 Donc, vous devriez peut-être -- je vous invite de prendre connaissance de ce document-là ainsi qu’une pièce -- puis la secrétaire va peut-être vous en donner une copie pour préparer vos arguments finaux. C’est un document que le CRTC a préparé sur les vitesses que nous pensons sont nécessaires pour faire des choses telles que vous avez mentionnées, les transactions bancaires et tout. Puis ça pourrait informer votre position finale sur l’élément dans vos arguments du 17 mai, je crois.
4890 Par rapport à la vitesse, on a parlé de téléchargement mais en ce qui a trait au domaine des affaires, est-ce que vous avez entendu de la part de vos commettants des préoccupations par rapport au téléversement, le « upload »?
4891 M. CARON: Jusqu’ici, quelques-uns mais assez -- pas un échantillon suffisamment élevé pour que je puisse vous l’apporter, parce que la réalité est assez diverse.
4892 J’ai une réalité dans la circonscription, 85 000 habitants mais près des deux-tiers sont à Rimouski ou aux alentours de Rimouski.
4893 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4894 M. CARON: Qui est une réalité vraiment différente. Lorsqu’on parle du monde des affaires, on parle aussi du Témiscouata, des Basques mais on parle d’une région qui est à 12 pour cent agricole, où l’agriculture joue un grand point économique.
4895 Bien des entreprises sont situées le long de la 85, l’autoroute 85, où on trouve un axe de haute vitesse qui est, somme toute, relativement décent.
4896 Dans les Basques, c’est un peu la même chose; lorsqu’on se retrouve dans les grands centres où le long de la 132, on n’a pas trop de problème.
4897 Au niveau du téléversement, le principal commentaire que j’ai eu c’est par rapport à la vitesse de vidéoconférence, qui est un élément important surtout si on veut faire du télétravail.
4898 Surtout si on veut être un travailleur autonome et qu’on veut pouvoir travailler à distance avec les grands centres, on a besoin de pouvoir avoir des moyens de communication assez rapide. Ceux qui sont avec la fibre, ceux qui sont avec la haute vitesse, qui peut dépasser même les 10, 15, 20 -- à Rimouski, on peut atteindre 25 relativement facilement si on a -- si on a l’accès, à ce moment-là ce n’est pas un problème.
4899 Mais si on parle, encore une fois, de l’acériculture, si on parle de l’agriculture en général, si on parle de la forêt, qui sont des grands domaines économiques, il y a des problèmes. Ce sont en fait les secteurs qui me parlent de problèmes de télécommunications le plus souvent.
4900 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, y compris au niveau du téléversement.
4901 M. CARON: Effectivement.
4902 Lorsqu’on parle de télémétrie, on parle des deux.
4903 LE PRÉSIDENT: Des deux, oui. Oui, absolument.
4904 M. CARON: On parle des téléversement, téléchargement.
4905 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et j’imagine aussi des gens que j’ai déjà entendus puis vous en avez dans votre région, des gens, des créateurs qui travaillent à partir de leur maison ---
4906 M. CARON: Bien sûr.
4907 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- et eux aussi doivent faire du téléversement de leurs œuvres.
4908 M. CARON: Oui. On télécharge les éléments dont on a besoin pour pouvoir créer mais on doit les téléverser éventuellement si l’on veut pouvoir avoir les lignes de communications avec les grands centres où elles sont souvent commandées ou elles sont souvent étudiées ou analysées.
4909 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je vais me tourner un peu vers le cellulaire ici.
4910 Si je comprends bien, il y a une préoccupation -- vous voyez le cellulaire principalement par rapport -- on a parlé de l’aspect sécuritaire sur la route, dans la forêt.
4911 M. CARON: M’hm.
4912 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais est-ce que vous voyez le cellulaire comme un véhicule approprié pour fournir des services à large bande?
4913 M. CARON: C’est une -- je vous dirais, éventuellement, oui, s’il est accessible à tout le monde.
4914 Encore une fois, je mentionne, dans les huit municipalités qui n’ont pas accès au cellulaire présentement, on parle d’une population d’à peu près 5 000 habitants qui n’ont pas accès présentement.
4915 Lorsqu’on parle d’économie numérique, on parle de différents services. On a mentionné l’achat en ligne. Mais les services bancaires, on est dans une réalité présentement où ces municipalités, bien on leur ferme les Caisses populaires parce qu’il y a un mouvement de fermeture à ce niveau-là. Ils n’ont plus le moyen de pouvoir avoir un service local bancaire. On leur dit, « vous pouvez le faire en ligne. »
4916 Mais là, il n’y a pas soit d’internet à haute vitesse ou encore de cellulaire. Alors, ça devient extrêmement difficile pour eux de pouvoir compter sur une vie communautaire dynamique à ce niveau-là et de pouvoir sentir que leur communauté compte.
4917 Avant de penser si le cellulaire peut devenir un conduit pour l’internet à large bande, il va falloir vraiment s’attaquer à la question de la disponibilité du cellulaire.
4918 Et ça, de la part des compagnies, je n’ai pas vu nécessairement une grande ouverture.
4919 Comme j’ai dit, Bell, TELUS sont vraiment les gros joueurs. Et j’ai des conversations assez fréquentes. TELUS ayant son siège social au Québec, à Rimouski, j’ai des communications assez fréquentes avec elle.
4920 Le problème se trouve plus au Témiscouata qui est desservit par Bell. J’ai eu des contacts avec eux. Il y a des efforts qui sont faits mais, à ce rythme-là, je ne vois pas comment est-ce que les huit municipalités qui sont dépourvues de service cellulaire vont avoir l’accès. Et à ce moment-là, la question même de l’internet large bande devient extrêmement difficile à analyser.
4921 Ces municipalités que je vous mentionne, les huit municipalités, à l’exception des services municipaux, des écoles, des bibliothèques, n’ont pas accès non plus aux larges bandes, à part le service satellite qui est déficient pour leurs besoins.
4922 LE PRÉSIDENT: Comme vous le savez sans doute, c’est l’ancien Ministère de l’Industrie et maintenant de l’Innovation qui octroie le spectre pour le cellulaire.
4923 M. CARON: Oui.
4924 LE PRÉSIDENT : Est-ce qu’à votre connaissance, le spectre a été octroyé et non déployé ou est-ce qu’il a tout simplement pas été octroyé?
4925 M. CARON: À ma connaissance, le déploiement se fait graduellement mais encore de façon relativement faible. On avait des grands espoirs pour le 700-800 mégahertz, la dernière enchère, en raison des capacités physiques. Une des raisons pour laquelle les compagnies ou que la région n'est pas nécessairement facile à couvrir c'est qu’elle est valloneuse, elle est -- y a beaucoup d’obstacles.
4926 LE PRÉSIDENT: Accidentée, oui.
4927 M. CARON: Effectivement. On comprend ça. On avait beaucoup d’espoir que le 700-800, qui a des capacités physiques pour pouvoir contourner ces obstacles, puisse être attirant et pouvoir fournir une plus grand qualité. De mes conversations que j’ai eues entre autres avec des ingénieurs de Bell et avec TELUS également, il va y avoir une amélioration mais elle sera sensible ou inférieure à celle à laquelle on pouvait s’attendre.
4928 Alors, je peux vous dire qu’au niveau des enchères, y a un déploiement qui se fait mais encore une fois, y a bien des entreprises qui ont acquis du spectre dans la région et qui ne déploient rien du tout, et que ce soit dans cette enchère-ci ou encore l'enchère précédente.
4929 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord. Bon, le Conseil évidemment a un aspect de la réglementation du domaine cellulaire mais en grande partie, le déploiement est du ressort du ministère d'Innovation et des compagnies titulaires du spectre. Vous avez mentionné que vous avez eu déjà des conversations avec les titulaires.
4930 M. CARON: M’hm.
4931 LE PRÉSIDENT: Qu’en est-il du ministère d’Innovation pour qu’il mette une certaine pression parce qu’ils sont aussi des régulateurs dans le domaine?
4932 M. CARON: Je n’ai pas encore eu l’occasion de le faire à ce niveau-là sauf au moment où j’étais porte-parole en matière de l’industrie en 2012 et 2013 où entre autres on a annoncé -- le gouvernement de l’époque avait annoncé le programme d'internet à large bande, le dernier, en 2012.
4933 L’impression que j’en ai lorsque j’ai des discussions plus informelles c'est le fait que pourquoi est-ce qu’on s’en préoccuperait. On aura la couverture. Le cellulaire ou le satellite va pouvoir l’offrir.
4934 J’ai l'impression qu’on s’en lave un peu les mains au niveau de -- au niveau du ministère ou du gouvernement dans les sens où on se dit il faut couvrir. Le dernier mille va être extrêmement dispendieux. On va annoncer des grands investissements. Les gens vont être contents et ils auront la possibilité de l’utiliser. S’ils ne l’utilisent pas, ben on pourra toujours dire qu’ils ont l’opportunité de le faire.
4935 J’ai l’impression qu’il y a -- les gestes qui sont posés sont davantage pour se donner une bonne conscience et non pas nécessairement en termes stratégiques pour vraiment couvrir ce dernier mille, couvrir les foyers qui ne le sont toujours pas.
4936 Et si on court après ces foyers-là pour les brancher maintenant, les initiatives sont toujours en fonction des normes actuelles. Elles sont pas en fonction de là où on va être dans cinq, 10, 15 ans. C'est une infrastructure qui est constamment renouvelée. Je pense que vous allez être d’accord avec ça et lorsqu’on court après les investissements simplement pour avoir l’accès de base, ben si jamais on l'obtient l’accès de base à travers ces différents programmes, on va déjà être en arrière de ce qui -- d’autres centres disons plus densément peuplés, les centres urbains qui eux sont déjà adaptés pour les besoins de cinq à 10 ans d’ici.
4937 LE PRÉSIDENT: En ce qui a trait au cellulaire, étant donné qu’il y a d’autres joueurs sur la patinoire, est-ce que vous avez des recommandations spécifiques pour le Conseil étant donné notre champ de compétences?
4938 M. CARON: Une recommandation. D’un point de vue réglementaire, je ne sais pas si c'est une recommandation qui est adéquate mais je pense qu’il faudrait peut-être étudier la possibilité comme condition imposée aux entreprises de communications de faire en sorte qu’ils puissent fournir un consortium pour partager les coûts de la construction des infrastructures qui seront nécessaires pour ce dernier mille. Chaque entreprise individuellement n’a aucun incitatif à le faire.
4939 Les entreprises communes pourraient réserver des fonds pour pouvoir justement couvrir de manière adéquate au niveau du large bande et du cellulaire ces communautés qui ne sont desservies. Je vous dirais que c'est une condition que le CRTC pourrait considérer imposer, un peu sous le modèle qui lui est plus volontaire de CPAC où les entreprises de communications sont placées ensemble pour fournir un service télévisé qui fournit l’information politique au niveau fédéral.
4940 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k.
4941 M. CARON: Elles l’on fait à ce niveau-là. C'est volontaire et le CRTC aurait le pouvoir de faire en sorte que les compagnies de télécommunications se mettent ensemble et puissent aller de l’avant avec ça.
4942 LE PRÉSIDENT: Assurer plus de partage de l’infrastructure pour le cellulaire.
4943 M. CARON: Effectivement. Chaque compagnie individuellement dans un marché supposément concurrentiel comme on l’a présentement n’a aucun incitatif à le faire. Si elles se mettent ensemble, elles partagent les coûts, elles partagent les risques, elles partagent les avantages également, et à ce moment-là ça pourrait être une solution gagnante.
4944 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est pas une audience sur le FTTH. D'ailleurs, la décision a été prise l’an dernier mais je pense que vous venez de vous contredire par rapport à vos positions sur le FTTH.
4945 M. CARON: Dans quel sens?
4946 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce qu’on devrait partager ou non les infrastructures dans certains endroits pour des raisons?
4947 M. CARON: Tout à fait, et la raison pour laquelle la FTTH n'est pas appropriée c'est encore une fois qu’on -- présentement, si une entreprise bâtit une tour cellulaire, bâtit l’infrastructure cellulaire ou bâtit un réseau de fibre optique et elle l'opère, elle obtient les revenus. En la forçant de simplement permettre aux autres compagnies de venir utiliser au prix du marché, l’investissement -- elle retrouvera son investissement dans beaucoup plus de temps. Si on dit aux compagnies vous allez avoir un plan ensemble pour couvrir ce dernier mille, tous les risques sont partagés. Tous les avantages, les bénéfices sont partagés également.
4948 Présentement, une seule compagnie aurait à construire. Éventuellement, si les autres sont intéressées, elles pourront revenir. Donc la solution que j’ai est beaucoup plus une solution d’intérêt commun qu’une solution individualiste présentement où une compagnie aura à faire la décision et éventuellement les autres compagnies pourront peut-être venir donner un coup de main si elles sont intéressées.
4949 Je vais vous rapporter à la décision de Vidéotron par exemple. Vidéotron va installer des tours à Rimouski. Toujours pas d’intérêt d’installer des tours au Témiscouata, à ce que j’ai pu comprendre.
4950 Pourquoi est-ce que Bell irait prendre seule le risque de placer une tour au Témiscouata si par la suite elle est pas sûre que le risque va être partagé et si elle a en plus la possibilité de voir les avantages -- les avantages qu’elle pourrait y voir être partagés ou non éventuellement? Donc le risque est beaucoup moins grand si tout le monde connaît l’image.
4951 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui, sauf qu’on a vu que, par exemple, en banlieue de Toronto, dès que quelqu’un déploie dans une zone périphérique, ben les autres arrivent aussi. Donc il faut qu’il y en ait un qui décide d'y aller en premier.
4952 M. CARON: Je vous dirais que la périphérie de Toronto n’a pas grand-chose à voir là-dedans.
4953 LE PRÉSIDENT: Non, non, on parle -- non, non, mais je parle vraiment là d'une périphérie qui ressemble plus à votre région-là très rurale à l'extérieur de Toronto.
4954 M. CARON: Oui, mais il reste que le distances pour en arriver à ces périphéries sont peut-être moins grandes que celle que l’on peut observer en termes de densité de population par exemple à celles qui pourraient les séparer d’un grand centre comme Québec par exemple.
4955 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui. Tout le monde est unique.
4956 Vous êtes économiste. Combien ça couterait -- combien d’argent qu’il faudrait pour déployer les réseaux à large bande que vous préconisez pour votre région?
4957 M. CARON: Je n’ai pas de réponse encore pour vous à ce niveau-ci ou à ce moment-ci. Je compte bien vous en donner une d'ici la mi-mai. Nous sommes en train de poursuivre nos consultations et je continue de parler également avec les compagnies. Donc je vais pouvoir en arriver avec une estimation qui va être adéquate. Je préfère ne pas sortir de chiffres à ce moment-ci.
4958 LE PRÉSIDENT: Est-ce que vous avez un ordre de grandeur?
4959 M. CARON: Non plus.
4960 LE PRÉSIDENT: Non plus. Et j’espère que vous allez ajouter si -- parce que si je comprends bien votre mémoire, surtout le déploiement historique auquel vous faisiez mention dans votre mémoire, que y avait clairement un partenariat entre le secteur privé et les subventions gouvernementales.
4961 M. CARON: M’hm.
4962 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc un déploiement de plusieurs millions de dollars, sinon plus, va nécessiter la contribution des contribuables.
4963 M. CARON: Bien sûr.
4964 LE PRÉSIDENT: Quelle est la -- l’ironie c'est que les gens sont frustrés de l’abordabilité.
4965 M. CARON: Oui.
4966 LE PRÉSIDENT: Puis vous avez une -- des revenus moyens. Bon disons ---
4967 M. CARON: Ils sont bien en-dessous de la moyenne québécoise.
4968 LE PRÉSIDENT: En-dessous de la moyenne. Donc y a des gens qui sont pas aussi fortunés que d’autres régions au Québec ou au Canada. Donc évidemment, ils sont préoccupés du coût de la vie puis des taux d’imposition qui sont d’un côté. Ils sont frustrés par rapport au coût des télécommunications en présumant qu’ils ont la disponibilité.
4969 M. CARON: M’hm.
4970 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais on préconise une solution qui va aller chercher peut-être des sous de subventions mais en bout de ligne, ça revient toujours aux mêmes contribuables.
4971 M. CARON: Encore une fois, je vous ramène aux choix de société qui ont été faits. Auparavant, la discussion n’aurait pas eu lieu parce que Bell avait son monopole. Elle devait fournir l’ensemble des foyers avec le filaire. Elle encourait les risques et les coûts qui étaient refilés en termes de prix plus élevés aux consommateurs.
4972 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4973 M. CARON: Mais tout le monde avait accès.
4974 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais notre rôle quand même à l’époque où la régie pour d’autres entreprises de télécommunications qui étaient encore sous la compétence du Québec à l’époque, le Conseil s’assurait d’approuver les plans capitaux, le déploiement, puis on avait des audiences avec contre-interrogatoires qui duraient longtemps pour établir quel est le bon tarif.
4975 M. CARON: Je ne vous dis pas qu’on doit retourner à ce modèle-là. Je vous dis simplement que c'était effectivement un monopole qui était réglementé et les conditions étaient imposées, étaient surveillées, étaient supervisées.
4976 Aujourd’hui, on n’est plus là mais y avait un coût à l’époque comme il y aurait un coût maintenant. C'est le coût de l’universalité. C'est le coût de s’assurer que tous et chacun puisse avoir accès à des services qui ne sont plus vus comme étant des services -- des services connexes mais des services qui seront essentiels dans l’avenir. Si ce gens-là ne sont pas connectés, y a un coût à payer au niveau social.
4977 Maintenant, on peut avoir une discussion à savoir si les coûts qui sont présentement -- qui sont présentement assumés si vous voulez par le consommateur à travers les différentes compagnies de communications sont plus hauts ou plus bas. S’ils sont plus bas, bon on évacue encore la question de l’accessibilité pour tous et toutes. S’ils sont plus élevés ---
4978 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais si on va à un modèle mixte ou qu’il y a des subventions pour rendre le plan d’affaires plus intéressant, y a quand même un contribuable qui va payer.
4979 M. CARON: Tout à tout. Tout à fait mais y a toujours un contribuable ou un consommateur qui paye au bout du compte. C'est pas des services qui sont gratuits. Il faut ---
4980 LE PRÉSIDENT: Parfois même un citoyen.
4981 M. CARON: Pardon?
4982 LE PRÉSIDENT: Parfois même un citoyen.
4983 M. CARON: Effectivement, mais ce qu’il faut surtout au niveau du gouvernement fédéral -- ça c'est mon travail de l’autre côté de la rivière -- c'est de s’assurer qu’il y a un plan derrière, pas juste de dire on met de l’argent, on va assurer une couverture mais sans regard à savoir si la couverture va être adéquate, sans analyse à savoir si l’accessibilité va être au rendez-vous, si les prix seront au rendez-vous aussi.
4984 On n’a pas l’impression qu’il y a vraiment une analyse. On lance de l’argent en se disant on va couvrir le dernier mille mais comment est-ce qu'on va le couvrir, cette portion-là ne fait pas partie de l’équation. Et ça c'est un problème je sais qui est plus à Ottawa qu’ici.
4985 LE PRÉSIDENT: Oui.
4986 M. CARON: Mais c'est une question qui est importante.
4987 LE PRÉSIDENT: Sans doute dans votre région, y a des gens qui sont -- qui doivent obtenir en raison de leurs circonstances et ils bénéficient d’aide sociale et on a eu des conversations depuis quelques jours avec certains intervenants qui nous ont dit que, en termes de l’abordabilité pour les gens qui sont bénéficiaires de l’aide sociale, ça devrait pas être le CRTC qui s’en préoccupe mais que ça devrait être d’autres mécanismes.
4988 Par exemple, on a posé des questions à certains gouvernements et il s’avère que même dans le calcul de l’aide sociale, on n’a même -- on parle d’habitation, d’habillement et tout ça, mais y a pas un calcul attribuable aux frais de télécommunications de toutes sortes. Donc ça, ça serait un modèle.
4989 Y aurait un autre modèle d’un crédit remboursable.
4990 Est-ce que vous avez un point de vue par rapport à cet enjeu-là parce que, évidemment, quelqu’un qui est sur l’aide sociale peut quand même avoir besoin de service à large bande pour trouver un emploi, pour s’assurer que leur famille, leurs enfants ont une chance égale par rapport à l’éducation?
4991 M. CARON: Je serais tout à fait ouvert à évaluer la possibilité d’un crédit d'impôt. Ce serait un domaine d'action qui serait plus fédéral étant donné que l’aide sociale est davantage de la juridiction provinciale.
4992 Comme député fédéral, j’hésite toujours à rentrer ou à mêler les sphères de compétences mais en ce qui a trait à un crédit d'impôt ou à des incitatifs qui pourraient être faits du niveau fédéral, je suis tout à fait ouvert, même si j’ai, comme économiste, toujours certains doutes par rapport à l’efficacité de crédits d’impôt.
4993 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je vous comprends mais peut-être c'est quelque chose que vous pouvez avoir une réflexion avec vos collègues de l’autre côté de la rivière dans les semaines qui suivent.
4994 M. CARON: Tout à fait.
4995 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je vous remercie beaucoup encore une fois pour votre participation. C'est toujours très utile d’entendre de nos élus qui représentent des régions qui ne sont pas souvent présentes à nos audiences.
4996 M. CARON: Merci de m’avoir permis de comparaître.
4997 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je ne crois pas qu’il y ait des questions de mes collègues, ni du contentieux.
4998 Alors, je vous remercie beaucoup et bonne continuation.
4999 M. CARON: Merci et bonne journée.
5000 THE SECRETARY: I will now invite the Affordable Access Coalition to come to the presentation table.
--- (Short pause/Courte pause)
5001 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourself when you’re ready and your colleagues, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
5002 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
5003 Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Commission staff, my name is John Lawford and I’m Executive Director and General Counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and I’m counsel to the Affordable Access Coalition.
5004 The Affordable Access Coalition or AAC represents a range of interests from coast to coast, including low-income Canadians and seniors. Now we are the largest public interest coalition participating in this processing.
5005 With me from your left to right are Herb John, President of the National Pensioners Federation; Judy Duncan, National Head Organizer of ACORN Canada; Alysia Lau, legal to PIAC; Geoff White, also counsel to the Coalition; Edgardo Sepulveda, President of Sepulveda Consulting and an expert in universal service regimes; and Cynthia Khoo, PIAC’s articling student.
5006 The AAC is here today to help the Commission define basic telecommunication service. Broadband internet access is a basic telecommunication service. Basic broadband today means at least 10 megabits per second download and at least 1 megabits per second upload.
5007 However, many Canadians across this country still have no access or inadequate access and many low-income Canadians are struggling to afford broadband and other basic telecommunications services.
5008 The AAC proposed two funding mechanisms to fix this, the Affordability Funding Mechanism and the Broadband Deployment Funding Mechanism. These are capped, sustainable, and workable solutions that will support reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality to all Canadians, and we believe Canadians would largely support such measures.
5010 MR. WHITE: In 2016, there is no question that home broadband access is essential. Living without it is increasingly impossible.
5011 Recognizing this fact is a necessary response to Canadians’ economic and social requirements, as stated in the Telecommunications Act policy objectives.
5012 Eighty (80) percent of respondents to PIAC’s Environics survey indicated that home broadband access is essential, with 37 percent responding that it is “absolutely essential”. Eighty-four (84) percent of respondents believe that all Canadians should have home broadband access no matter where they live.
5013 As the CRTC’s EKOS report observed, there has been a dramatic increase in online engagement over the last five years, with participation in the majority of activities increasing by 50 percent, and in some cases 100 percent or more.
5015 MR. JOHN: Broadband access is vital to Canadian seniors. Seniors who have access use it to participate in society, the digital economy, learn, engage, and be far more connected than they otherwise might be.
5016 Like everyone else, seniors are increasingly required by government agencies and programs to be online to file applications, obtain information, and receive assistance. In 2013, for example, Canada Revenue Agency shut down its local inquiry and payment desks, and disallowed tax filing by telephone. And while Service Canada may have forms available for pick-up and mail in person, many of their services are not available at all locations.
5017 MS. KHOO: When Canadians are connected, they communicate, share, collaborate, and create. They not only bolster the digital economy, they enrich the fabric of Canadian culture and society in a virtuous cycle of productivity, connection, and innovation.
5018 Broadband has become an essential telecommunications service and so all Canadians should have access to at least a basic level.
5019 MR. LAWFORD: The next step is to define basic broadband.
5020 In its 2011-291 decision the Commission did not define high-speed internet access as part of the basic service objective. Instead, it set a target of 5-1 megabits per second, and hoped that those speeds would within four years be available to all Canadian homes, regardless of their geographic location, through a range of technologies. It hasn’t happened.
5021 Internet use is heavier now and users require more bandwidth. Basic broadband today should be at least 10 megabits per second download, and a functional upload speed of at least 1 megabit per second, to be determined by the Commission, among other quality of service factors. And the speed should be regularly updated.
5022 The AAC arrived at this basic speed recommendation through research, modelling of household needs, and identifying one objective rule of thumb to help the Commission define basic broadband service, the 50-80 rule.
5023 The 50-80 rule is inspired by efforts to define universal service in Europe. The rule suggests that part of determining if a telecommunications service is basic is if at least 50 percent of all households subscribe to a service, and 80 percent of those subscribers do so at a given speed.
5024 Based on the 2014 data in the 2015 Communications Monitoring Report, 10 Mbps downstream was close to 80 percent, and it very likely 80 percent now or even higher right now.
5025 The AAC also relied upon the U.S. Communications Act universal service factors to help define basic service.
5026 MR. WHITE: The AAC believes that a significant number of Canadians do not have access to this basic level of broadband at 10 or even 5 Mbps. Evidence of this appears in the CRTC coverage map and the EKOS research, which found that rural residents are concerned over lack of meaningful access to broadband, and have feelings of vulnerability due to a lack of access to health and essential services, education, economic participation, knowledge of current events, and social needs to mitigate isolation.
5027 Leaving universal broadband to market forces and targeted government funding has failed to deliver the 5/1 target to all Canadians, let alone the higher speeds needed today. Continuing that approach will fail to live up to the telecommunications policy objectives of enriching and strengthening the social and economic fabric of Canada and its regions, and rendering “reliable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada."
5028 That's why the AAC has proposed a “Broadband Deployment Funding Mechanism” to support broadband deployment in rural, remote and other underserved and unserved areas.
5029 It is designed to work with whatever speed the Commission decides is basic, and to work in coordination with any government funding, including recently announced federal budget funding.
5030 The deployment mechanism would supplement and be separate from the existing high-cost local service and video relay service subsidy regimes. Like them, however, the deployment fund would be funded from contributions based on telecommunications service revenues, which the AAC recommends expanding to include internet and paging service revenues. This deployment mechanism would cost a maximum of $190 million per year.
5031 A third-party administrator would identify designated and already subsidized areas, note, and design corresponding projects to award to service providers based on a minimum-subsidy auction approach. The winning service provider would bear an obligation to serve throughout the designated area.
5033 MS. LAU: Affordability of telecommunications services is critical to ensuring that all Canadians, including low-income Canadians, can participate in the digital economy.
5034 The 2012 StatsCan "Canada Internet Use Survey" indicates that internet access among the lowest income decile is approximately 50 percent and access among the lowest quartile is 58 percent. The average household access level is nearly 83 percent.
5036 According to the 2015 Communications Monitoring Report, using 2013 data, internet use from home among the lowest income quintile of households stands at just under 60 percent. The Canadian average for all incomes is just under 84 percent. The gap by income levels is stark.
5037 The 2015 CMR also notes that the lowest income quintile spends 8.3 percent of their income on communications.
5038 In order to shed more light on the specific challenges faced by low-income households, PIAC commissioned and filed the results of an “Affordability Survey”.
5039 The results suggest that low-income respondents highly value telecommunications services, particularly internet access: 77 percent of respondents said home internet was an important household expense, surpassing healthcare and transportation and next only to food and housing.
5040 Low-income respondents spent on average $145 per month on communications but encountered challenges in affording these services. One in two respondents have had to trade off other household expenses in order to pay their communications bills.
5041 Many of the individual testimonials filed by ACORN members, and public comments on record, point to those sacrifices.
5043 MS. DUNCAN: ACORN Canada works directly and daily with low-income Canadians. Internet access is essential to our members but they are struggling when it comes to broadband and other telecommunications services, so they make sacrifices on other essentials.
5044 The hundreds of individual, handwritten testimonials filed on behalf of ACORN Canada last August illustrate the importance of broadband to low-income Canadians for accessing government services, finding work, and for their children’s schooling, and it illustrates the need for measures to make it more affordable. This afternoon you will hear directly from 10 ACORN members about their personal struggles with affordability.
5045 The PIAC report we filed, titled "No Consumer Left Behind", noted that the lowest income quintile’s spending on all communications, about 8.4 percent of monthly income, is well above the affordability of thresholds recommended in that report, about 4 to 6 percent of monthly income. However, the report’s key recommendation was a new definition of communications affordability. Affordability should not be measured solely in economics terms (such as broadband penetration) but in personal, social costs:
5046 “Affordability” means a household has choice to meet its family’s needs and control over their household expenses and, at a minimum, that communications costs should not be so high that anyone is required to sacrifice other essentials. Yet that is exactly what the evidence indicates is happening to low-income Canadians.
5047 To address this, the AAC has proposed the Affordability Funding Mechanism. It would provide a monthly subsidy of either $10.50 which we have called the “baseline” proposal, or $20.50, the “ambitious” proposal to designated low-income households. This subsidy would apply to any telecommunications service of their choice, from any service provider, to best meet each household’s unique needs.
5048 Like the deployment fund, the affordability fund would supplement and be separate from the other funding regimes. It would be capped at either $70 million or $410 million a year, depending on which proposal was used.
5049 Finally, the Federal Communications Commission also has, as of March 31, 2016, included broadband in their comparable Lifeline subsidy regime.
5050 Mr. Sepulveda now will provide additional information on both the AAC’s proposed affordability and broadband deployment funds.
5052 MR. SEPULVEDA: Thank you, Alysia.
5053 Good morning. I will highlight a couple of the aspects of the two funds I developed.
5054 First, on the financing side, rather than attempt to develop these two funds based on demand, which is something the Commission’s data and decisions would determine, I estimated the respective caps based on a supply-side approach. In other words, I estimated what monies could sustainably be made available by the sector. Then I apportioned such monies to the new mechanisms using the relative size of comparable programs in other countries. Using the baseline version of the affordability fund, the combined size the NCF as a percentage of sector revenues, would be the same as the NCF averaged since 2001. Using the ambitious version of the affordability fund, the combined total would be the same as the USA average. This would be equivalent to contribution rates of 0.92 percent and 1.77 percent.
5055 The advantage of this approach is that it is based on real-world examples of sustainable sector contributions. Further, the maximum caps promote financial certainty. Also, this approach can accommodate a range of Commission decisions with respect to the size and scope of the mechanisms. For example, within the maximum cap, the deployment fund could be calculated to just fund deployment associated with a BSO broadband target speed of 10 or 25 Mbps or any other speed.
5056 The affordability fund is also flexible. Each version can accommodate different Commission decisions related to affordability.
5057 Second, I looked at a number of countries and models to capture the key design elements of the new mechanisms to ensure that these are workable. For the affordability fund I looked at France and Spain and in particular on the “lessons learned” from the USA experience. The affordability fund already incorporates and indeed goes further than the Lifeline reforms adopted by the FCC in 2012 and again reformed again last month by the FCC.
5058 In contrast, the deployment fund is not based on the traditional high-cost programs in Canada, USA or Australia. Rather, the deployment fund is based on what I denote as a "Deployment USF Model” implemented and well-established elsewhere. These models use minimum subsidy auctions to subsidize new/incremental broadband in underserved and unserved areas.
5059 Both these new funds can be implemented relatively quickly and with reasonable administrative costs. For instance, the deployment fund is comparable in some respects to some traditional government funding programs. And the affordability fund is similar to the $158 million Ontario Electricity Support Program established in a little over a year ago to provide electricity subsidies to low-income households.
5060 MR. WHITE: To conclude, fast, affordable broadband access should be considered a basic telecommunications service. There are Canadians who are not connected to basic broadband who will not be connected in a reasonable time by market forces and government funding alone.
5061 Low-income Canadians are struggling when it comes to affording basic telecommunications services, including broadband.
5062 The AAC therefore encourages the Commission to adopt the two funding mechanisms it has proposed.
5063 They are costed, capped, sustainable, and workable programs that will support access to basic telecommunications services in Canada.
5064 PIAC’s national Environics survey indicated that the majority of Canadians would support financially contributing to such funds.
5065 The Commission, the AAC believes, has a responsibility to support universal service, and ample authority to create these funds. Doing so would not just be in keeping with the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives, but it would also support Canada’s digital economy.
5066 Thank you. We are happy to take any questions.
5067 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. We'll start off questions with Commissioner MacDonald.
5068 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Good morning and welcome.
5069 I know some of your organizations have participated extensively in CRTC proceedings in the past, but I'm not familiar with this exact grouping that brings you all together here today, so I just wonder if you can explain what the rationale was for you coming together as one voice today? And for those of your organizations that have memberships, were they involved in that decision-making process?
5070 MR. LAWFORD: I'll kick this off. Well, when this hearing was being planned and we knew it was coming long before you sent out your notice of consultation because of the three-year plan, we got in contact with various groups and we wanted to achieve a critical scale -- as we mentioned at the start of our remarks -- of social interest, so that you could see and also benefit from our cooperation.
5071 In particular, the Consumer's Association of Canada, as you mentioned, has often been with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in many proceedings. What's new this time is the inclusion -- as well as COSCO in BC, the pensioners there -- what's newer this time is Herb coming for the National Pensioners' Federation and Judy on behalf of ACORN in particular, who we've worked with in other contexts but not in CRTC now.
5072 But I'm going to pass it over to Judy and Herb just to tell you what they’ve done in terms of speaking to their organizations about this proceeding.
5073 MS. DUNCAN. Hi. Yeah, we have a history of working with PIAC when it comes to technical policy and research, and so our membership is always happy when we partner with organizations that kind of complement what we do on the ground.
5074 We're a very grassroots organization so we spend a lot of our resources going door to door in low-income communities, and we don’t have a huge research and policy division.
5075 So in terms of this partnership, we took the proposal to our national board, who are -- which is made up of local representatives that have been elected to our local chapters across the country that are accountable back to those members. So that's kind of the process we take.
5076 So then we took this to the national board. They discussed it and we're happy to have a partner like PIAC and the Coalition members to work with us on this campaign.
5077 MR. JOHN: Good morning. This is a very important issue to seniors in Canada and to our members. We've communicated this by having discussions at our national executive board, with our provincial leaderships, and they in turn have had the discussion with their members at municipal or provincial levels.
5078 We've shared this on our website, newsletters, Facebook, and a couple of other forms of communication that we use, and our members do support a direction of improving access to broadband.
5079 As mentioned in earlier comments, the important part of this is the requirement of society moving ahead and in online forms and online access to information, to medical information.
5080 This is something that seniors really need, and seniors that don’t have the income to be able to afford the access when it is available or that don’t have the access at all, it really puts them in an unfavourable position to participate in all kinds of things that are going on today in society.
5081 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay, and on the topic of consultation with your members, I note that your organization, The Pensioners' Federation, has about a million members across the country. ACORN, I believe, had about 80,000.
5082 Were they consulted in the -- with respect to the specific proposals that were put forward, or was it more general than that, that they just generally support increased access at affordable rates?
5083 MS. DUNCAN: Yeah, on the specific proposals, we had the discussion at our national board level, which again, those leaders would have spoken with the members at our local chapters’ meeting, but the discussion on like, the specifics, would happen at the national level.
5084 But as you can see from our 400 testimonials that our members submitted to the CRTC, our members are very keenly interested in affordable internet and we're really wanting to move forward with this initiative.
5085 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay, thank you.
5086 Before I get into my specific questions, I did have one point of clarification.
5087 In your original submission, in the executive summary at paragraph 36, you provided a table illustrating the download requirements for various different types of households. And I'm just wondering where that data came from, because you refer to it repeatedly throughout your submission.
5088 MR. WHITE: Excuse me, Commissioner MacDonald, could you just give us the paragraph reference?
5089 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Yes, it was E-36 in the executive summary.
5090 MR. WHITE: Yeah, this is -- so to arrive at the recommended current basic broadband speed, which is -- which we believe is 10, we have sort of a multi-prong approach. There was a (inaudible) review in terms of some other -- the expertise and some other analysis of what the minimum household needs is, but we also conducted our own -- or within the Coalition -- its own needs analysis, and that's detailed more extensively in the submission.
5091 It's also -- and it's also broken out in response to a couple of interrogatories as well. For example, we were asked to take out high-definition video and over-the-top gaming and things like that to try to bring down that number.
5092 But we modelled the needs analysis based on -- it's not unlike the CRTC's exhibit, in the sense that we looked at what the minimum bandwidth's download requirements were for certain commonly-used applications, and then we modelled that usage based on household sizes.
5093 And we -- you know, it's difficult to say what the average Canadian household is, so -- which is two and a half members, but we did it for the single, you know, person living alone; two people with a child; two people, heavy users; the so called tech-savvy household, and that's how we came up with those figures.
5094 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay, thank you.
5095 In reviewing your submission -- because we are here to talk about the basic service -- and I didn’t count the use of the word "need", but it was in there a significant amount times; that Canadians need this, a household needs that, people need access to certain applications.
5096 Nowhere did I see a comparison or any thought put around what's a need and what's a want? And we are here to talk about a basic service, so generally speaking, can you tell me if there is a line between a need and a want, and if there is, where does that lay on the scale?
5097 MR. LAWFORD: I'll start it, and Geoff might add something.
5098 It's interesting, the dichotomy that you're placing to us about needs and wants and we totally understand it's because you need to define basic telecommunication service. We're here to help -- to try to help you do that.
5099 It's not in the Telecommunications Act in those words, exactly. It's requirements of users under 7-H. So requirements of users, each user, each household can be different.
5100 So we think we took a reasonable approach in the sense of, as we said, modelling average typical households and average typical use.
5101 We've been here through the early days of this proceeding and of course, there's been some discussion of whether what's basic should be limited to certain types of behaviour, and that whole issue.
5102 Certainly, things like healthcare and education and these sorts of things are fairly uncontroversial. But at the edges it gets greyer.
5103 But I think the approach we took was, needs and wants, if you make it a really hard dichotomy, it may not reflect exactly the reality. And the word in the Telecom Act is requirements. And we were looking for the requirements of users, although we may have expressed it as needs in our submission.
5104 Do you want to say anything?
5105 MR. WHITE: Yeah.
5106 We’re not really here to talk about high-end wants and we’re not here to talk about a right to movies and entertainment. We’re here to advocate on behalf of what we construe as the legitimate daily needs of the average Canadian. But to arrive at, to calculate, to figure out what are the average basic needs of the average Canadian, we tried to avoid a sort of paternalistic approach by looking into a content analysis of all of the various things they’re doing.
5107 Now mind you, we had to do that to figure out the average speed that most Canadians are using, but we’re not trying to second-guess the use to which Canadians are putting their telecommunications services. And we couldn’t find any evidence that in the previous universal service hearings that the Commission concerned itself with the content of telephone calls either.
5108 So we’re not here to talk about high-end 100-megabit-per-second ambitions. We’re talking about what’s basic to get by. And that’s why we arrive at the 50-80 rule.
5109 And it’s a benchmarking tool to give the minority of Canadians who don’t have that access, access to the basic level that the rest of Canadians have, rather than have the majority impose its values or its views on what he minority should be doing with the telecommunications service.
5110 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And that’s a very fair statement. You know, it becomes challenging to determine whether watching a video on YouTube is educational and instructional or whether it’s entertainment.
5111 But the challenge is you’re also suggesting a subsidy in the larger number, you know, to the tune of about $70 million a year to support people’s access.
5112 And by its very nature we know people, if they have access, are going to want to use the internet for some form of entertainment. They’re going to want to watch Netflix; they’re going to want to stream a video. And some may argue that because you’re also suggesting a subsidy, that Canadians are being asked to pay to subsidize the entertainment of other Canadians.
5113 MR. WHITE: Yeah. So there’s no question that entertainment and video has been driving a lot of the investment in broadband networks and that it’s increasingly being used as a channel for entertainment. I think the Canadian Media Producers Association drives this point home in their intervention.
5114 So the fact that Canadians may consume -- and it’s not just YouTube or Netflix; it could very well be the CBC or Health Canada videos on diabetes or palliative care. It could be things like that. There may very well be a video component to that basic need.
5115 But we’re not advocating or seeking a standard that is the gold standard of connectivity, the one gig downtown service. We’re talking about a level, and it’s reflected in the needs analysis -- we’re talking about a level that lets not just one person do one application at a time on it, which would be a very limiting use of connectivity. We’re talking about the average household that may have, you know, more connected devices, kids coming home from school, hopping onto the Wi-Fi network to use that so that they can avoid the mobile bills, things like that; children doing homework with YouTube, things like that. And there’s numerous complaints about not being able to have that basic level of functionality.
5116 Again, we’re not talking about video gaming and high-end functions. We’re talking about the basic capacity going into the household for a family to get by and function.
5117 MS. LAU: Can I just add something really quickly?
5118 Just to go back to needs and wants, we do understand that distinction which the Commission has put forward. But I think it’s also important to point out needs for what? And I think the needs for what was already set up in the original notice of consultation and it was needs to be able to fully participate in the digital economy.
5119 And so in setting a specific threshold it’s not just about needs to just scrape by in your current situation, but making sure that you don’t undercut the advantages of being connected to broadband. And so I think that’s important to take into account.
5120 And then just to get back to your question, Commissioner MacDonald, about having Canadians subsidize this new fund, PIAC did conduct a national survey last summer which asked Canadians what they would be willing to pay in order to ensure that all Canadians were connected to broadband at their home and that low-income Canadians were also able to afford broadband. And we found that the majority of Canadians were willing to support those initiatives.
5121 So you can further follow up with that if you like, but we believe that Canadians are on board with these initiatives.
5122 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I will follow up. That’s just a few pages down.
5123 You’re here today in large part representing low-income Canadians and I want to just read one of the examples that you cited on paragraph 120 of your July 14th submission describing the TekSavvy household. And it reads:
5124 “You know, consider the modern connected family where each user in the household multitasks. One user is using YouTube to view a how-to cooking video for the family dinner while the IPTV system to record a television show for later viewing; one adult is following a workout video from an over-the-top video service while separately streaming different music; and a child is doing their homework on the internet while listening to streaming music and waiting for a videogame to download.”
5125 I count about eight devices there and that doesn’t necessarily strike me as the typical low-income household.
5126 So can you speak to, if by and large you’re here representing that interest group, why you’re citing examples such as this?
5127 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. Thanks for the question.
5128 We’re not here representing just low-income households. We’re also here on behalf of the Consumers Association of Canada, which is a general consumer organization. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre also takes interest positions in that regard. Seniors as well are mixed, some low-income some not.
5129 But apart from that, you’re picking out in this particular case part of an analysis that goes many paragraphs and it has different household modelling. So there’s also one with a single user and a couple as well, a number of different examples to give you a range of what we’re talking about. You’re picking a piece out of the middle of the modelling and it’s at the high end. It was to show these different scenarios. Just saying there’s 2.5 members of the average household is obviously an unrealistic thing to convey to the Panel.
5130 So we wanted the CRTC to have a bunch of different case scenarios to explain something other a dry number, “Two and half people in the household, seven devices on average, therefore the calculus is this much.” We wanted to be more realistic.
5131 So we’re not advocating for a connected home for low-income people that has that kind of usage unless there’s a special situation. We’re actually talking about something else. That’s part of the analysis if that’s a fair way to answer that.
5132 I’m not sure if I answered your question.
5133 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah. And you looked like you had something to add.
5134 MR. WHITE: I was just going to refer you, if I may, to one of the interrogatory responses that I mentioned.
5135 It was CNOC, August 14 number 3. That’s where we stripped out some of what may be considered higher-end applications. We stripped that out of our model. But we still ended up at the same basic recommendation.
5136 I’d also like to refer you to Appendix E of the 14th July intervention. We looked at how some of these service providers have been characterizing their offerings in terms of needs versus wants, and some of the marketing tools that the service providers have gone to market with in terms of figuring what speed service; “Which package should I choose?”
5137 And some of them go to this question. There’s a Rogers one, for example, which show the 5 megabit connection is the symbol of one person. Or if you go through Videotron’s package selection tool and you indicate, you know, one person, how many devices, things like that, we’ve modelled it and it’s in our appendix. We modelled the one person with a mobile phone or an iPod Touch who does one movie a week, who never plays online games, who does less than an hour of video calling a week, downloads music. And their speed recommendation from Videotron is 10 megabits per second.
5138 So that’s an example. It’s not just this coalition that’s saying 10 is sort of your entry level into a basic level of functionality. I think some of the marketing tools and materials also indicate that you need this just to get by.
5139 Some of the other analyses, there’s the Northern Communications Information Systems "Working Group" report done by Nordicity recommended a target around 9. Deloitte has observed that the average speed around the world today is 5 to 10.
5140 So this is not the high end. This is the table stakes into functional connectivity.
5141 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, thank you.
5142 You are of the opinion that market forces and targeted government funding have not worked. And some may disagree with that, and I think we can all acknowledge that between federal, provincial and territorial governments, government has invested a lot of money to try and build out these networks and improve the situation for Canadians. So the situation probably is a little bit better than it was five years ago.
5143 Can you tell me how much you think all of those collective investments have improved the situation?
5144 Because if we are saying targeted funding won't work, that in my mind also assumes that you are saying five years down the road if we continue with the targeted government funding and market forces that we still won't be able to reach the end-game, to unfold the mission, accomplish banners, if you will.
5145 MR. LAWFORD: I think that's fair. That's what we are saying that you are going to play perpetual catch-up.
5146 Perpetual catch-up if you just rely on government funding and market forces, your present 5 megabits per second map which was very helpful, thank you, to get just before the proceeding, shows that there are areas without 5/1. So if 10 is now, as Jeff puts it, the new table stakes there is a very new risk, based on our experience although we don't know the future for sure, that exactly the same result will happen. You will be showing me a map in five years and I will be back here yet again asking for a subsidy that doesn't have every area covered with 10/1 now or 10/3 or whatever it is.
5147 So that's exactly what we are proposing. We are proposing a changing model. We are asking you to do it this time, to give us a subsidy to get to those areas and it’s a build-out subsidy.
5148 And for those that are low-end income and still can't afford it even if it's at their doorstep, we are asking for an affordability subsidy.
5149 MR. WHITE: I think, Commissioner MacDonald, I would say this.
5150 If market forces were working you wouldn't need targeted government funding and if targeted government funding were working, you wouldn't have the complaints you have seen on the record. You wouldn't have heard some of the comments from the Honourable Member who presented before us and you would have reached the 5 down, 1 up target already.
5151 So I think the Coalition would be asking itself: What has changed since 2011-291? What has changed so dramatically that this time around you could very well say, "No, this is working"?
5152 Because it doesn't appear to us that the market forces government funding has worked to deliver that target speed and that target speed in the passage of time, we think, is now 10. So there is going to be a catch-up.
5153 So the approach we are recommending is effectively trust but support with the funding mechanisms we have proposed. These are not to replace market forces. They are actually designed to leverage market forces. They are designed to complement government funding. They can work in parallel and the roll-out subsidy can acknowledge and incorporate government funding.
5154 So this is just an extra level of support for those other forces that are working to get broadband to people.
5155 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: The government funding that has already been provided has been used to fund different technologies in different areas of the country, be it fibre builds, be it fixed wireless, what have you. In any of your research are you of -- have any opinion on whether Canadians care about the delivery platform or is it only the access and the quality of service that is what they care about?
5156 MR. LAWFORD: So others may want to add after I start.
5157 Obviously in principle, I don't think Canadians care at the end of the day what technology they use. They may be familiar with a particular type of technology they have had in the past but I imagine they would switch if they had something better that would work.
5158 That being said, you know, there are certain challenges in the country as you have heard from like Northern regions and stuff. You just can't run a fibre optic cable, at least not yet, up there, and so they will be satellite-dependent for some time.
5159 Yeah, it's not -- I think at the end what people want to have is this rolled out to them, get to them. They don't want to pay a tonne. We realize that when you do a subsidy it adds contribution. It adds -- takes money off revenues from the telecom companies. It costs all consumers.
5160 We do realize that so we are looking for the most efficient delivery at each location and we think that our subsidy will help promote that. So it doesn't really matter the technology.
5161 MR. WHITE: Right. Just to back that up, the funding model we propose is technology-neutral and any service provider could receive this funding and can -- as long as the service provider can live up to the basic service objective that this Commission would set, then there shouldn't be a problem but there are other realities in terms of network congestion.
5162 The reality is that satellite backhaul may be a major expense but we think the model can incorporate and accommodate some of these realities.
5163 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We heard from Xplornet yesterday and they are going to be able to provide a 25 meg down, 1 meg up service in the not too distant future, probably sooner than we would be able to realistically do an expansion of any wireline network. Does that solve the problem?
5164 MR. WHITE: It might solve the problem. But I think that we heard promises during the last basic service objective review in 2010 and it's a question of, again, trusting but verifying.
5165 And also, when you are taking a belt-and-braces approach, the model for funding support we propose, we think there is no reason to not go ahead with that to begin setting it up, to begin bringing that money online and those projects online to the extent that satellite doesn't live up to its promise. And then we get into the question which goes back to your earlier question of, well, what technology platform might Canadians prefer?
5166 Satellite does have some issues. I think the record reflects some of the issues with latency with service outages and with price and price going to overages and caps and things like that.
5167 So I would suggest you might believe that that could happen and it may be realistic. But at the same time, belt and braces, you might want to consider the experience from 2010-2011 and how far that's gotten us and start thinking about the funding models to support that.
5168 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Technology is a wonderful thing and I am always surprised as I think we all are just how quickly advancements are made and how quickly things change.
5169 So we do have this Xplornet service that is going to be coming out. Granted, we don't know how it will perform.
5170 We also heard from another group yesterday and they were speaking about high throughput satellite that is going to be launched, I believe in 2019, that's going to have the capacity to deliver 100 megs of connectivity direct to households.
5171 You are advocating for significant funding to build and I just -- to the tune of about 400 -- up to $410 million a year between the two subsidies. Are you at all concerned that that might be premature given that it would at least appear that we are very close on some of these technologies actually coming to fruition?
5172 MR. LAWFORD: Technologies may be close to coming to fruition but we don't have a perfect concept with these things. We don't know that Xplornet can cover the number of households. I think it would be a crushing number of households that would try to use them all at once if they actually did that.
5173 I don't have the technical specs on how many people each one of their birds can support, but you know contention rates with satellites are real things and although with improved latency and stuff it's supposed to be getting better quality of service-wise.
5174 Satellite just has a lot of reasons why it is expensive; slow, doesn't work for a lot of people. Our funding is meant to get to those areas where we know it won't work. It won't work in some places.
5175 And in some places our funding mechanisms, the deployment funding mechanism, Xplornet shouldn't serve them. There will be a better solution and it will be up to the third-party administrator to decide if there is an area of the country that they want to define for subsidy auction. That based on experience and the evidence that you guys will receive at the CRTC, I mean, that that's a prime area and you don't wish to serve it for satellite and there’s a lot of evidence on the record from various individuals and companies saying that, “I’ve tried satellite; it doesn’t work. Maybe it’s faster.” But their issue may not be addressed. It might be somebody who lives on a small island in the Bay of Fundy where the dish blows off into the water, who knows. But satellite is not the whole solution.
5176 MR. WHITE: Mr. MacDonald, I think the $410-million-a-year figure refers to the combined affordability of ---
5177 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Of the two ---
5178 MR. WHITE: --- the high-end affordability subsidy. The Broadband Deployment Fund is about 180 million per year.
5179 But you don’t have to spend it and that’s part of our message. If market forces and the government funding are going to do the job in the near future and that these satellites are going to give Canadians that basic level they need, you don’t have to spend it. And there would be ways to not go ahead. This idea needs to be developed a little bit more. Time will tell whether or not Xplornet can save the day.
5180 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I know you’d leave it up to the third-party administrator, but does your organization have any thoughts on how service to communities or service to individuals should be prioritized? Because unfortunately we’re not just talking about one little geography that we can tackle. It’s spread from coast to coast to coast, various different communities. There can even be situations where service is available halfway down the street but not at the end of the street.
5181 How do we triage the needs?
5182 MR. WHITE: So it’s a question of what happens if the demand for the subsidy that the Coalition is proposing outstrips the supply. If Xplornet is right, it won’t happen. But if the Coalition is right, there are still going to be unserved areas.
5183 So how would you prioritize that money? Criteria would need to be developed, obviously, but we’ve proposed that your first priority would be connecting up the completely unserved people. Then you would focus next on those who are underserved at the target speed that the Commission is set. And then you would consider things like where are you getting most value for your money, the most populations served at the lowest cost. And we’ve also acknowledged of course you can consider special community needs and the third-party administrator can factor that in to which communities and locations ought to receive service on a priority basis.
5184 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you’d take a similar approach to the way the service providers actually do it today? When they’re building their business cases they tend to gravitate towards the more densely served communities first and then continue to go down the pipe.
5185 MR. LAWFORD: No, I think you’ve got it backwards.
5186 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5187 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah. We want it to go out to places that they’re not going to serve because it’s uneconomic first.
5188 This subsidy is designed so that it will not initially, as long as the third-party administrator -- well, we’ll see what the third-party administrator might do. But our thoughts on it are that it’s going to go to the places that are uneconomic first. It’s not going to be subsidizing something that would have been built next year. That’s often a criticism.
5189 And so the last factor, maybe the factor you hooked on there, was Geoff mentioning most population, the best bang for the buck, most, you know, population ---
5190 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Of the underserved or unserved.
5191 MR. LAWFORD: --- yeah, on the underserved and unserved. That, I think, a lot of the time would be what we’ve been calling in the office ex-urban, just outside of cities who just somehow don’t seem to be connected but they’re weirdly close. Those would probably be for under the third party taking a good hard look at it. You know, they would have a better sense, region by region, of whether there was build-out plans for one of the majors or the cable company coming in and getting into that area.
5192 But you know, if there were a persistent pocket, at the end of our calculus, after covering the people who really don’t have any access or have really slow like northern areas, then yeah, maybe there would be an option of a small place because for some reason it’s persistently, weirdly not covered.
5193 So it’s hard to say from this perspective. It’s so, you know, far down the implementation road. But we did consider all those factors and they’re in our submission.
5194 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5195 You touched on it a little bit earlier and we’ve been talking a lot about bandwidth, the size of the pipe, in the proceeding so far, but what are your thoughts on the quality of service? We’ve heard that at-home workers can’t even establish a VPN connection to connect in to their office. Would you care to explore that at all? Because customers may have access to the bandwidth but it may not be reliable enough to be useful.
5196 MR. LAWFORD: Sure, I’ll start; I’m not sure if others will add.
5197 But the basic service proposal that we put before you also referenced quality service factors. And we’ve heard in this proceeding and in many of the public comments that latency is a big issue for certain applications, some real-time video things and some other applications. And jitter as well can be very frustrating if you lose frames. I noticed from, you know, the VRS operator that said if you lose frames you lose the ability to see someone signing letters.
5198 So jitter and latency, packet loss, these are the sorts of things that are quality of service issues.
5199 Your next question might be, “Well, how can we regulate that? How can we specify that?”
5200 We have been thinking about that and, you know, CISC is a wonderful resource and it would be entirely appropriate I think to send CISC with a year-long task, or less, to tell you, “So what’s the latency?”
5201 And I don’t want to put evidence on the record, but in the United States for the Connect America broadband built-out they do have a 100 millisecond latency requirement for new projects under that at the moment.
5202 So it’s possible to set a number and there may be other technical things, which I haven’t mentioned because I’m not an engineer either, that might be added to that. And I think CISC would be an ideal group to solve that for you as well as us.
5203 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you think that the Commission should be monitoring that and potentially making that public?
5204 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, because quality of service with telecommunications always matters. It’s just at a certain point, you know, how deep you want to dig in the details and how much you want to leaving it to the providers to choose the best way of achieving that. And that’s why CISC is a nice place because the providers, you know, they send their engineers and the rest of their folks and they work out something that’s workable for them. Yet, the Commission retains its ability to say, “You know, we were really asking for this and we need a standard; can you give us one?” And they say yes or no.
5205 So I think I’m just droning on here; I’ll stop.
5206 MR. WHITE: If I may just add a quick reference for the record. We were asked about this by CNOC. So CNOC, 14th of August number 5 details some recommendations in terms of quality of service and how that might be monitored and enforced by the Commission.
5207 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Can you speak to the importance of usage and data caps and allowances in relation to the importance of speed? More speed, bigger pipes are great, but if you use your entire data allowance the first week of the month, then you’re in a difficult situation; you’re facing potentially a significant overage charge.
5208 So could you explore for me just a little bit the relative importance of the two?
5209 MR. LAWFORD: Sure. I think they’re intrinsically linked. The way that usage caps, I’ll put it that way, capacity is being used by providers now is not really as an ITMP as was mentioned earlier, I think yesterday or the day before. It’s really used as a pricing mechanism. It has a direct effect on consumers because they have to now take the calculus of what’s the cap into that very attractive price, but, “No, oh, I forgot about the cap.”
5210 So they are intrinsically linked and that’s why we did recommend a high level of gigabytes -- a reasonable monthly usage, excuse me, in our basic service objective, which we put forth as the renewal of the basic service objective.
5211 I think, actually, Judy might have something to add about data caps and low-income users and the effect they have on their usage.
5212 MS. DUNCAN: Yeah, it’s a problem for many of our members when, you know, they go with a cheap program. In the early days in the Rogers program we heard reports back from people that they had a cap and people were going over and then they were being up-sold into higher packages.
5213 So I mean, it’s just something to watch out for. If there’s a heavy cap and people go over, then the salespeople can make a recommendation to adjust the plan to higher package that, you know, people are maybe not able to pay for. You know, there’s a whole world of digital debt out there where, you know, people can’t pay their cell phones and then they end up going to, like, payday lenders to get money, because they’ve lost their job, to cover their cell phone and their internet bill because their kids are in school.
5214 So all of these things are related and having caps is a big problem for many of our people, especially if you have kids in the household. And with homework and videos that they’re using to do their homework, it drives up the usage pretty quickly.
5215 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You may not be able to answer this question, but from my own education, I'm wondering how governments in various different geographies across the country, different provinces, calculate their Social Welfare programs?
5216 I mean, obviously, they take input such as shelter, such as food, such as clothing. Do any of them take communications into account?
5217 MR. LAWFORD: I think Judy might have something to add. We haven't gone systematically through the provinces to check on the amount of Social Assistance available for telecommunications. It's generally, we believe, not covered, and I think you’ve heard that from Yukon and Nunavut already.
5218 And so if that is the case, that is another reason why, our affordability funding mechanism, we're asking CRTC to step up and take this step, because no one else seems to be doing it. It is -- telecommunications is a federal sphere of jurisdiction, and we think it's within your jurisdiction to do it as part of access to basic telecommunications service, funds under 46.5 of the Telecom Act.
5219 So we don’t know. I don't know if you have any other thoughts on this, Judy, about -- I mean, Judy may have something Ontario-specific or Canada-specific to tell you. I don't know.
5220 MS. DUNCAN: You know, I don't know the specific calculations, how they do that, but what I do know is, the amount of money people get, if you're on Disability and you can't work and the money that you get, you can barely eat.
5221 You know, people are pushed to the lowest possible margin, so if you can barely eat and then you need the internet to apply for like, Disability, like, funding and supports -- one of our members will be testifying this afternoon on this, named Blaine -- you know, it's -- if they are including it, it's not sufficient, really, for people to get by.
5222 Like, the amount the people get now is minimal, and it's a huge problem for people even just to make basic needs, especially if they can't work at all.
5223 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah, go ahead.
5224 MR. WHITE: Commissioner MacDonald, could we -- I do think the Coalition has that research, just not at hand in terms of what the other -- what the provinces and territories might have been doing in respective telecom affordability.
5225 I believe Mr. Lawford's right, but we do have a document that we could file as an undertaking.
5226 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah, if you could provide that as an undertaking, the date is May the 5th. That would be appreciated.
5228 MR. WHITE: Understood and accepted.
5229 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Given that -- and I take your comments about what's provided through Social Assistance may not be adequate to support the people's, the individual’s needs, that's obviously outside of our Mandate Here. But If We Didn’t Go The Route That You suggest with the Affordability Funding mechanism, would another potential solution be for communications services to now be included in the calculations that the various provincial and territorial governments do with respect to how they calculate communications services and potentially increasing that allotment to account for them?
5230 MR. LAWFORD: Sure, it's possible. I think asking provincial governments to increase their Welfare or their Social Assistance spending these days is a pretty tough sell, and I sure wouldn't want to have to toss it to my social advocate colleagues to say, "We lost at CRTC. Go get it."
5231 I have to say, that's going to be a very difficult thing. I'm not trying to be facetious; I'm trying to be realistic. It's very unlikely, I think, that we -- they can have these things added.
5232 Perhaps, if affordability funding and no lifeline were to be offered in Canada with a timeline of another five years, let's say, it would be a good incentive to get advocates going, but I think it would be an extremely tough sell.
5233 MS. LAU: I just -- do you mind if I ---
5234 MR. LAWFORD: No, go ahead.
5235 MS. LAU: --- add to that?
5236 So John's right. There are, you know, several possible approaches.
5237 One of the reasons we thought that our proposal in particular was something that was realistic and effective for the Commission to take on was, in addition to the fact that affordable telecommunication services is part of the telecommunications policy objectives, the Commission just has the expertise, as the telecom regulator, to ensure that the program, especially one that requires the participation and contributions of telecom service providers, is also targeted so it ensures that the subsidy provided is actually going to telecom services, which is something that's absent in Social Assistance, typically, that it is measurable, and is also transparent.
5238 So our position was that the proposal that we've made in particular, the Commission was best equipped to take on -- and I just draw a quick parallel with the Ontario Electricity Support Program, which was recently implemented by the Ontario Energy Board, so in that case I believe the Energy Minister did send a letter to the OEB to go ahead and create a report and then implement the program.
5239 And whereas there was political support for that program, it was decided that the OEB was really in the best position to be able to implement it and to monitor and to assess it.
5240 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you.
5241 And I take your point earlier about that perhaps being a difficult sell to the provincial governments, but at the end of the day someone has to pay be it taxpayers through potentially an increase in taxes in the province to fund this, or the customers of the communications companies.
5242 So at the end of the day does it -- if we're all going to end up paying, does it matter that much which route this were to take?
5243 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah, I think it does matter a great deal because I think it could be an efficiently run program through the CRTC. As Alysia mentioned, the program can be targeted to specific telecom needs and you -- this Commission is the expert regulator.
5244 I guess I'll just stop there. If we get into starting to talk about the rest of it it's, you know, the design of the affordability funding mechanism, as Edgardo will speak to later, is meant to -- we've broadened the base in our proposal to include all internet service revenues, extra -- like, basically all revenues in there, so it's spread quite wide.
5245 Telecom users are a large majority of Canadians; it's very comparable to the tax base. So it's really just a matter between those two of which entity will better steward this.
5246 And the CRTC can keep it running year over year. It's not a political animal, in the traditional sense. And so it can be continued. And as you’ve seen with Lifeline in the United States, although it's had its ups and downs, it's being reformed. At least there's been the continuity baseline there, and money has been getting to Americans to give them telecommunications service who otherwise wouldn't have it. That's what we're looking for.
5247 Perhaps it could be done by government through direct taxation, but again it's political work. And none of that groundwork, or very little of it, has been done in Canada, and we believe you're well-placed and now is the moment we could get this in place in a year, as Ontario showed with their Energy Support Program.
5248 MR. WHITE: It is -- I'm not saying you have this view. I know you're just testing our position, but is the hypothetical concern a concern over where does the money come from, or is it the concern that there is money all of a sudden being -- additional charges being imposed upon ratepayers or users?
5249 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I mean -- I guess both. You know, at the end of the day, you know, if a subsidy is put in place for low-income Canadians, if a funding mechanism is put in place to build out networks, at the end of the day, it's money that someone has to pay, be it the ratepayers or be it the taxpayers.
5250 So I was just trying to sort of flesh out a little bit more the pros and the cons of each potential route.
5251 MR. WHITE: So just very succinctly, on the -- where's the best source of the revenue? Should it be funded through general taxpayers or the CRTC?
5252 We think it should come from a CRTC-mandated program. We think that's more transparent, it's more targeted. We think it's actually your -- the Commission's responsibility to promote universal service, so we think it's in keeping with that.
5253 In terms of the overall effect on end users, how much is that going to cost? We've done costing of the programs. We've done polling in terms of Canadians' willingness to pay extra amounts on a monthly basis to support universal service and we've asked Mr. Sepulveda to cost out the monthly amount on users' bills that our proposals would result in.
5254 We could file that as an exhibit, if you would allow it, or we could provide it in an undertaking. The only thing new about the exhibit is the cost and the assumptions for how much the proposals, which are costed on the record, will end up impacting the end users.
5255 THE CHAIRPERSON: If you have it now it’s more efficient to produce it as an exhibit. So I guess we’re up to number two.
5256 Yeah, let’s not do it like the old days and do the numbering based on which parties had finance because we don’t have that many, right? So we could just do it in order. So we’ll just call it number 2.
5257 MR. WHITE: And as that’s making its way up, we could walk you through it or we can give you the high-level number of what’s this going to cost.
5258 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: A high-level number at this point is fine.
5259 MR. WHITE: So the current monthly number of Canadians who are paying to support universal telephone service is 37 cents. The Broadband Deployment Funding Mechanism plus the Baseline Affordability Mechanism would result in an additional 72 cents a month on user bills. And the more ambitious proposal, so that’s the Deployment Subsidy and the ambitious Affordability Subsidy, would results in $1.72 a month.
5260 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So $1.72?
5261 MR. WHITE: Yes.
5262 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5263 MR. LAWFORD: That’s for the most ambitious, yeah, affordability plan. So the much larger one.
5264 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And in your survey, just to remind me, what did Canadians say that they would be willing to pay?
5265 MR. LAWFORD: The mean and the median are different, but the median, which I think is more representative, Canadians were willing to spend an extra 50 cents per month so that home internet access could reach low-income Canadians and also an extra 50 cents to make the internet access reach each Canadian. And then they also were more generous, slightly, with home phone service. They said up to $1 for low-income or for access.
5266 So those are the figures the Canadians on our survey said they were willing to have added to their bill. It wasn’t zero and it’s not as much as you’re seeing here, but it is a ways towards that. And as Geoff pointed out a little earlier, not all of our subsidy money may even be used so we don’t know the exact cost just yet.
5267 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So about a buck-fifty per month?
5268 MR. WHITE: I think ---
5269 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And is that per individual or is that per account?
5270 MR. WHITE: It’s per household.
5271 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Per household, okay.
5272 We talked a little bit earlier about market forces and where they may have not come up to the mark just yet.
5273 Rogers, I guess for a while now, they have been running a pilot project in Toronto, a 9.99 per month basic internet program that people in supportive housing can access. And they’ve recently announced that they’re going to be expanding that to the country.
5274 If we’re going to mandate something, should we be mandating something along those lines as a basic low-cost internet service for low-income Canadians?
5275 MR. LAWFORD: Can I ask you a question back?
5276 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yeah.
5277 MR. LAWFORD: What are you asking me exactly? I need to know because the second part of your question I think is a different issue and it’s one that we’d like to answer separately. That’s why I’m asking.
5278 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, you’ve suggested a funding affordability subsidy ---
5279 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
5280 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- for low-income Canadians. And I’m trying to again explore if there are other ways to accomplish the goal.
5281 So private industry are taking it upon themselves without intervention, without regulatory intervention, to offer affordable services. One is that an indicator that perhaps the market is catching up the needs of Canadians; and two, if we’re going to implementing some new system, is implementing a basic entry-level package perhaps an approach worth considering instead of the Affordability Subsidy?
5282 MR. LAWFORD: Okay. I’m going to just traffic control here.
5283 There’s two parts to your question. There’s one about is private industry going to do this and is Rogers a good example of that? The second part of your question I think you’re asking about should we come up with a package. Am I right?
5284 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Yes.
5285 MR. LAWFORD: Okay, well, then I’m going to answer the package question after Geoff addresses the Rogers offer. And I think Judy may have something to add about the Rogers offer.
5286 MR. WHITE: So I think the Coalition applauds Rogers for its initiative; I think that’s great to see that come out.
5287 At the same time, it’s one service provider for one service to a restricted base of eligible customers, those who have made it through the long waitlist for social housing. And it was also brought forth on the eve of a major regulatory hearing. That leads the Coalition to say while that’s great and while we applaud it, we don’t think that’s the solution for all Canadians in terms of affordability.
5288 And what we also take from Rogers’ offering, though, is a recognition that 10 megabits per second, because that’s in their offer, that’s the entry-level broadband speed.
5289 MS. DUNCAN: Just to add something quickly to that. So yeah, in Ontario alone there’s 168,000 families on the waitlist to get into social housing. So with that model, you know, it would kind of double-penalize the people who can’t even get into social housing because then they can’t get the $10 internet and they can’t get the housing either.
5290 So it’s not as inclusive as we’d like it. It is a good step but again it’s voluntary. And our members prefer to see their rights put into law and guaranteed.
5291 MR. LAWFORD: Okay, now, for the package. This is extremely important and I want to be extremely clear about our answer as well.
5292 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5293 MR. LAWFORD: So I’ve heard the Chairman ask it; I’ve heard you ask it; I’ve heard others ask it. “What’s your deal? What’s your package for low-income people that you’re suggesting?”
5294 I think it actually would be more helpful if I offer up an exhibit on this, if you’re willing, because it does aid in the explanation. So if I can pass that down to Madam Secretary?
5295 THE CHAIRPERSON: We haven’t had a mid-morning break.
5296 MR. LAWFORD: Okay.
5297 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I think maybe that will give us a chance to actually read the document. And then you can give your explanation as we go through it. Is that okay?
5298 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you. That would be great.
5299 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, okay.
5300 So why don’t we take a 10-minute break until 11:10 and then we’ll be able to continue our conversation. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:59 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 11:11 a.m.
5301 THE CHAIRPERSON: / LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre s’il vous plaît.
5302 So let’s continue where we were at. Mr. Lawford, I think you wanted to explain this new exhibit. So please walk us through it.
5303 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
5304 And I apologize, Commissioner MacDonald, if I seem to brusque. Sometimes I get vibrating and my panel members were telling me to calm it down. So I’m sorry about that; it’s not what I intended.
5305 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Don’t worry; I’m not that sensitive.
5306 MR. LAWFORD: I appreciate that. Great.
5307 Okay, so the question, the way I hear it from you was, “Tell us if you can design a low-income package of speed, price, and capacity that consumers who are low-income might be able to use?” And that does raise some questions.
5308 So the document you have, in the first couple of points, underlines that we weren’t talking about price in our basic service objective but other issues, and to deal with the affordability issues instead rather than mandate a basic service objective or even in creating a package we designed our Affordability Funding Mechanism, which is a true subsidy, and is an explicit subsidy.
5309 So I have to explain why, on behalf of AAC, I’m very uncomfortable with creating a package the way I understand it’s been discussed so far.
5310 I’m not quite sure exactly what the package is. Is it going to be an implicit subsidy? If it’s going to be a mandated skinny-basic-like internet, we would very much oppose that because that’s an implicit subsidy and the carriers will have to -- they will have to absorb that cost and pass it on from their other operations. That immediately distorts the market. It immediately creates an incentive for the carriers not to sign people up for this because every time then it's a cost to add another person. And that is why our explicit -- our subsidy is explicit and external to that.
5311 I'm not sure from the package discussions so far in the hearing if you mean everyone can benefit from it or just those who are low-income, because if it's going to be -- for example, it may also be geographically-based like the high-cost service area. Then, for example, a rich doctor in Nunavut could have a subsidized internet offering but could afford the expensive one and the subsidy wouldn't be reaching the low-income people, only which is how ours is designed, and I don't know if the Commission intends that.
5312 I think it's fair to say the skinny basic program on the broadcasting side has been very strongly resisted by the companies, despite the fact they might say otherwise, and that that's not an experience we want to repeat.
5313 And then in terms of turning this around so that the last part of this piece of paper, this exhibit ---
5314 THE CHAIRPERSON: On that, Mr. Lawford?
5315 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah?
5316 THE CHAIRPERSON: Your assessment is not based on full evidence. We are examining whether the basic skinny package on the broadcasting side has been adopted. I think your experience may be based on what you see in the central Canadian marketplace. There are companies in this country that have embraced it.
5317 MR LAWFORD: And we are very strongly supportive of the skinny basic package and we are looking forward to having the pick and pay fully implemented in December and we think it will change the tune of all of that.
5318 But in terms of thought about creating an explicit and implicit subsidy for this large amount of money that we're proposing, our way, I think leads the Commissions away from some other problems, and if you turn to the chart now, you'll see -- if we just pick some numbers, 10-1 is the speed that we're saying should be basic right now. The capacity data cap should be 200 gigabytes is something that we put in our submission. It's meant to be high enough so that people don’t trip caps and actually get a different price.
5319 And then price in $30 per month, that's just a guess. I have no idea. That price would have to be calculated by the Commission in proceedings with Phase 2 costing and all this stuff.
5320 If that amount you're trying to seek is meant to be at cost, it will be a gigantic undertaking of the Commission, and I just want you to appreciate that.
5321 Our proposal is not to do that. If you were to take your hand and cover up the gray part of this so it's just 10 megabits per second, $230 per month, I think that's what's being discussed. That's not what would like to have.
5322 We've proposed rather the bottom, which is just the two subsidy amounts. And our proposal is that those subsidy amounts can be applied to any package, and we're hopeful that the market will try to serve the low-income people when that $20, for example, and 50 cent ambitious subsidy is waved in front of them so they will design a package that's attractive to users, but that meets the basic service objective, which will be 10-1 speeds.
5323 So if you put the two together -- so if you wish to have a low-income package, this might be a better way to create it, which again, we don’t support, but if you want to do it this way, it's a change from what we've proposed.
5324 You can have the top line, which is in white, but you also then have to subsidize it. So the top line then becomes an eligible package, like they do with the FCC.
5325 So the FCC says, "If you can meet 10-1, 200, and $30 a month, if you can create a package for that, your package is now eligible to receive subsidy."
5326 And then they apply their subsidies. In the United States, it's $9.25, comes off of the eligible amount. So the United States, they have gone through the effort of trying to find the eligible service package price speed and capacity.
5327 If you want to do that, that's okay, but you have to subtract the subsidy to get the numbers down to actually the point where people can afford it. That's the point of the subsidy.
5328 But if you just try to skip adding -- excuse me, subtracting the subsidy from this price package, I think you're into a rate-setting exercise and I'm not sure the companies who came to this hearing were expecting that. We didn’t create an affordability mechanism as a stealth price-setting effort, and so that's my very long-winded answer to why this is a very difficult question.
5329 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, so I take from that that instituting a skinny basic internet service at $30 or somewhere close to $30 does not meet your objective?
5330 MR. LAWFORD: It does not meet our objective unless that package you create and whatever rate you set for all the carriers across the country in the $30 section is then further subsidized down, unless what you're setting is below cost.
5331 So if you're setting -- because what we're talking about is below cost here. Our position is that the reason why affordability needs to be subsidized is if you trust the market, that it's working and it's setting a proxy for just and reasonable rates, then if people from ACORN and others come and tell you they can't afford it, then we have an affordability problem and it's not a just and reasonable rates problem, so we're trying to attack an affordability problem.
5332 So you can't design a rate that will be at cost and yet reach those people, if I'm making myself clear.
5333 MR. WHITE: I think if I might add, there's another fundamental problem the Coalition has with the proposal, is that it's a one size fits all attempt at a solution. No one deals with one service and it restricts the service offering from an affordability perspective. It restricts the service that the subsidy recipient can put the money towards.
5334 So it restricts household choice to a prescribed and imposed level of service that may not meet the low-income household's needs. There may very well be low-income households that have children and have greater broadband needs. There may be a low-income subscriber who is wireless only and is struggling with their wireless bills.
5335 So that's why the Coalition has a flexible subsidy proposal that can be applied to any telecom service and at any service level.
5336 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So your rationale is that because the unique needs in a particular home, they may have a requirement for a higher bandwidth service than any mandated basic service and if that home does require a higher bandwidth service, we shouldn't be restricting them to just one internet package? They should be able to apply that subsidy to a more robust internet package if that is what that household needs?
5337 MS. LAU: I'll just say, that's partially correct, but the way the AFM is designed you can also apply it to other telecom services. So if a household had decided that wireless broadband or a wireless plan might better suit their needs, then they could do that with the AFM as well.
5338 MR. LAWFORD: But in -- yes. I mean, that's part of the strength of the original proposal, for our AFM, was that it could be applied to any package that would suit the low-income person. They would have the choice and control over what they were going to pick, and if the subsidy brought it within their range of affordability, then it would be an ideal solution for them.
5339 It's possible that you could look at that and say, "You know, that may or may not happen and we don’t wish to see subsidies going too high end packages. Even if it fits for that particular household, we would like to restrict it down."
5340 I understand that and then you're getting into not leveraging the market quite as much.
5341 See, we are hopeful. We are actually hopeful that if there's a $20 subsidy dangled in front of the carriers, they will create low-income packages that serve most low-income people, the grand majority of them, with probably a more modest package, honestly. But there may be occasional or particular households that require a different type of usage and the market may have a higher plan that fits them perfectly.
5342 If the concern is that you're subsidizing premium packages, then I could see how you might wish to go more the FCC route and say, "No, no, we only want to have, you know, this capacity of package because we're talking basic service here and that can only mean this; therefore, we have to ask for an eligible package level which is only there or better."
5343 See, that's the other thing too. Companies could beat this. So they could offer 15-1 instead of 10-1. But anyway, I'm digressing.
5344 So the key thing for us is, sure, you can get the eligible service package within range, but there needs to be this subsidy and you need to actually make it affordable. You just can’t get to -- the price you pick, if you make it below cost the companies are going to be subsidized internally with that kind of effort. So if you have an external subsidy where I put it here below it, in other words subtracted from it, that’s explicit.
5345 The money comes into the company and goes out from the companies through contributions but comes back to them if they get an eligible subscriber subscribing to their service. So there should be some incentive for them to pick that up. They’ll want to do this program. We’ll be leveraging market forces to help solve affordability rather than making it something that companies wish to avoid; they don’t want to do affordability packages because it’s a burden on them.
5346 I hope that makes sense.
5347 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: It does.
5348 Just one final question on packages and affordability before I move on.
5349 If that basic package was set at a lower rate -- and I take your point that it may be below the cost to actually provide the service. But if that package was limited so that only low-income Canadians can access it, does that also meet the end goal of creating an affordability subsidy?
5350 MR. LAWFORD: It can reach the goal. It can reach the goal. But I’m sure you realize what you’re doing. So if it’s below cost you’re asking the industry to subsidize it, not transparently. And there may be some lengthy regulatory hearings to set that low rate and there may be some gaming as to what our costs are and all that stuff that we’re quite familiar with.
5351 So it seems more elegant and more efficient to make the subsidy explicit. But in theory yes, if you were to mandate a $20 package rather than, say, creating an eligible package like I’m saying and then take $10 off it, you could do either one and it would reach people who need a $20 package, absolutely.
5352 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay.
5353 Just to move on. And I take your point about a length regulatory proceeding. We’re in week one of three so we’re not afraid of those.
5354 With respect to the build fund, you’re suggesting, if I understand correctly, that any company that receives the funds should have an obligation to serve all residents in that community?
5355 MR. LAWFORD: Yes. And the way that the words “obligation to serve” are being used here right now in this context I believe are -- if you define an area for auction and the broadband deployment subsidy for that area is won by a carrier, that if there are homes that are not connected within that geographic area they have to build out to it. That’s what I mean by obligation to serve in this context.
5356 Obligation to serve gets more complicated when we’re talking about more like duty to serve and when you have lines already existing and if someone is already on the line, whether you can refuse to serve them or whether you have to build out 10 feet just to add somebody; it’s not a big deal.
5357 But in terms of the subsidy, the subsidy amount would basically come with that condition. The condition is yeah, if there’s somebody who you’ve got to build out to then you’ve got to build it into the costs that you’re going to bid for your auction bid because you know there are some communities in that geographic range that are not connected to the backbone or satellite and you’ve got to get out there, pay those capex costs and then keep running with, you know, the ongoing operating costs. So you have to build that into your bid.
5358 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you would see it as a one-time block of funding to company A to build out a specific geography and then on a go-forward basis they carry that obligation to serve? They can’t go back and access more funding for, “Hey, this house is five kilometres down the road”?
5359 MR. LAWFORD: Edgardo may add something, but it’s very likely that if your operating costs continue to be high after you’ve covered an area -- so let’s say you’ve actually connected everyone and the company that has won that subsidy realizes in year three of five, say, that “Oh, operating costs in this area are really high and we’re going to have to continue that. And if we have an obligation to serve, you know, it’s going to be difficult because we’ll be operating at a loss.”
5360 Under our model, the model continues. They can apply to yet again have a subsidy for that geographic area. And we would expect that if there’s continuing needs in areas with high operating costs that those would continue to be subsidized. And the subsidy would reduce every year because as you, you know, do the capex part then there will be fewer and fewer that have ongoing operating costs.
5361 But to be honest, there are parts of this country that will probably have operating costs for a very long time that are above the market costs. But we don’t know. We don’t know right now at this stage.
5362 Is there anything you wanted to add to that?
5363 MR. SEPULVEDA: Sure, thanks.
5364 A lot of it depends on what are the key criterias for the third-party administrator to determine what kind of project should be tendered out. There’s a series of, sort of, framework parameters. One of them is the duration of the subsidy contract.
5365 And so, you know, depending on the type of area, the kind of project that could be undertaken, you know, you could have a subsidy contract for 3 years, for 5 years, or for 10 years. The idea being that within that three or four years or whatever the contract is -- and it would be a contract between the operator and the third-party administrator or whatever entity is administering the fund -- that it is a one-time subsidy so that there wouldn’t be expectation within that contract period for further subsidies.
5366 And that’s the risk associated from the operator perspective. And that’s one of the advantages, in fact, because we know that the National Contribution Fund will not be having to further subsidize the operator within that contractual period.
5367 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Are you at all concerned that with that structure it may actually be a deterrent for companies coming forward wanting to bid? Because a service provider may not view it as a good thing to have an obligation to serve all residents of a particular geography regardless of where the house may be built two years down the road.
5368 MR. LAWFORD: Okay. I think there’s actually two questions in there.
5369 One would be is there a disincentive for a company looking to enter a geographic area to build to unconnected homes? And I think, well, hopefully someone else would bid and actually scoop up those homes with a higher amount. I mean, if the bid isn’t attracting any bidders it can be raised. It can be raised and it just takes more money out of the subsidy for that area because no one’s wanting to enter.
5370 If I think what you’re saying -- and this is a criticism that I think Bell was trying to raise -- like, why would they go in and the be stuck with a high-operating-cost area? And then little PIAC is saying, you know, “But you can’t leave.”
5371 That’s a question, you know? There normally are exit barriers when someone builds something out on public subsidy. And normally there’s a period during which you cannot leave. And normally there has to be permission sought to leave, from the Commission, and I think we would support that. And it may even be that in that case the company leaving, under Commission order would have to offer those facilities to someone else.
5372 Now, you might say, “No one else will use them because it’s a money-losing venture.” But if the original bid price, auction price is properly costed by the first applicant and they’ve looked at operating costs, it should work because the bid should go up until it hits a point where a company thinks they can stay in there sustainably and cover all the homes.
5374 MR. SEPULVEDA: And just to clarify, I mean, the way that this has been done in other places, in other countries, is that the calculation of the reference subsidy that is undertaken by the third-party administrator or the entity responsible for it, would typically not only include a calculation of the upfront capital expenditures but it would also take into operating costs from which revenues would be subtracted so that the reference subsidy that is announced, or not announced depending on, sort of, the strategy that the third-party administrator has, would already incorporate operating expenditures for the life of the project, whether it be 3, 5, or 10 years.
5375 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I just have a couple more questions because we haven’t had a chance to discuss it.
5376 Okay, we accept your proposal. The network is built.
5377 It's reliable. It's affordable. People have quality access to broadband.
5378 Is the telephone still important? Should we be continuing the subsidy for build-outs into high-cost serving areas for phone services?
5379 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, our model, as you have seen, continues the National Contribution Fund for voice service. It's declining. Fewer and fewer homes are staying on wireline only.
5380 In parts of the country, voice services heard from Northern Quebec absolutely essential. Absolutely essential and there are many reasons why certain voice services are far more reliable or for emergency services, all these sorts of things.
5381 So we kept it in. We have kept it in our model because we are in a transition phase. We are not to -- although you can do telephone that is just as good as wireline on some internet connections, on others you can't and it's not ubiquitous. We are in a transition between moving from legacy wirelines to all IP internet, which does everything and voice is just an app, but we are not quite there yet.
5382 So we are suggesting keeping both for some time of this transition period. It's hard to see how long but in our model we kept the NCF telephone subsidy for the length of what we modelled.
5383 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: So you are not saying never? You're just saying not now?
5384 MR. LAWFORD: Not now, but like short to mid-term. It's not an option really to remove voice.
5385 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay. And just my final is with respect to print directories. We have heard -- obviously we all know that you can access most telephone numbers, most government listings online.
5386 And I would like to maybe hear with respect to perhaps people with disabilities, so people with connectivity challenges or senior citizens, how important and relevant the printed directory listings still are or maybe they are not important at all in this day and age.
5387 MR. WHITE: I am just going to start off on that. I think, Herb, I will ask you to speak to the directory.
5388 But on plain old telephone service the Environics survey that the Coalition did as well indicated a very high level of support for Canadians having universal telephone access. So not never; but for now we think Canadians still believe in the importance of the telephone and for all of the reasons John listed.
5389 Herb, can you tell us a bit about the importance of directories to your constituents?
5390 MR. JOHN: If I can make a comparison with the directories to some of the communication tools that we use with our members that we constantly hear and we are trying to be more digital in our communications as well because it's less expensive, it's more efficient, a lot of our members do not want to make that transition. They do not want digital newsletters. They want mail-outs for newsletters. They want mail-outs for notifications. And so we continue to do that.
5391 Phone books are very similar. People, even some seniors that have the ability to make the transition, they are used to living a certain way and they want to have a phonebook. It is particularly challenging for people that don’t have that connectivity, don't have broadband access, without a phonebook they have no access at all.
5392 You know, the challenge becomes if I can't get on the internet to find a phone number and I don’t have a phonebook what do I do then? So it is still a very important tool, probably a shrinking percentage of the population. But like the previous issue we discussed, it's not saying never but not now.
5393 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And given that one in five Canadians have already decided to cut their home telephone, do you think wireless numbers should be included in the phone directory?
5394 MR. LAWFORD: I mean we have not considered that in enough detail to give you a really good answer. The present costs for a phone book distribution under the BSO on demand, I don't have those numbers. I don't know how much it costs right now.
5395 And I don't think we have any numbers for how much it would cost the wireless companies to create and distribute those. It has never been a regulatory requirement. I think it would be a bit of a change. It may be of assistance to some numbers of people but, not being a legacy service it would take a lot more thought.
5396 So I guess I am not willing to say start making the wireless companies put their numbers in the phonebook right now.
5397 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Okay, fair enough.
5398 Those are my questions for today. I will leave you in the hands of my colleagues.
5399 THE CHAIRPERSON: Vice-Chair Menzies?
5400 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5401 I have a couple of questions. The first one may be for Mr. White because you were the most determined on this.
5402 In terms of the combination of market forces and targeted government funding being ineffective, I am just looking at data from our Communications Monitoring Report and for the years between 2010 and 2014, the percentage of Canadian households that had access to download speeds between 5 and 9.9 grew from 86 to 94 percent. Between 10 and 15.9 it grew from 81 to 85; from 16 to 24.9 from 77 to 84 from 25 to 29.9 it grew from 70 to 82 and from 30 to 49.9 it grew from 66 to 81 percent. Just a couple more, from 50 to 99.9 it grew from 58 to 79 percent and for 100-plus it grew from 16 percent to 71 percent.
5403 But if we just go back to the 5 to 9.9 that's a little less than 2, probably a bit more, probably about 1.6 percent a year of growth, right. Then when you start getting into the 90s, it's adding growth and that's up to 2014.
5404 It might not have changed, but I am going to speculate that it's probably up another point from there to sort of 95 percent. I mean if that trend were to continue for the next five years, albeit that that might be two slow for folks, it would have worked. It would be at 100 percent given that trend, and given that there is probably always going to be as we have seen with cable in the past or things like that, 2 to 4 percent of people who -- and this is about availability but who may not use it even if it is available.
5405 So dispossess me of the notion that we have to do something else that it actually hasn't been working and appears to be continuing to get towards that target.
5406 MR. WHITE: Of course. That data that you listed tells the Coalition one thing. Progress has been made towards an insufficient goal. It's towards a goal that we say is insufficient because it's the 5 standard and the Coalition is talking about the 10 standard.
5407 But it does indicate that some progress has happened but you still have people at the 5 target. You still have households that aren't served and we speculate that you have far more Canadians who are unserved at the level that they will actually need to participate in digital society and the digital economy.
5408 And I believe you have heard from some service providers saying every cent of government funding -- the reason are -- every cent of government funding, poof, goes away into satellite transponder costs or the reason we can't make it cheaper is this.
5409 I mean there are persistent problems in serving certain areas and that's why we think the market forces and the government funding have been working to provide too little, too late and that's just going to be a five-year cycle of the Commission trying to play catch-up at a goal that may be too low.
5410 So I don't know if I have disabused you of your view but the Coalition feels strongly that the 5 is not enough and that if we leave it to the market forces alone it won't be sufficient.
5411 MS. LAU: Can I just add that I believe the Chairman in recent press releases had said that communications for services are becoming more and more important to the everyday lives of Canadians and that the public comments in this proceeding have really shown that many, many Canadians are saying we need this and we need broadband and we need it now.
5412 And while the numbers you have cited have shown that, you know, the speeds meeting a different portion of the population have been growing, the fund which we have proposed is really to fill that gap and to fill it, we think, in the most efficient and effective way as possible. And I think it’s also important to note that the fund is there to meet the need. And so if, you know, at some point all Canadians are served, that fund no longer needs to operate.
5413 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
5414 The other question is more specific to the concept of a specific low-income subsidy. And I will frame this concern by saying that of course we all wish to be as charitable as we can be to people who are on the downside of life’s advantages.
5415 At the same time, provincial governments have primarily been responsible for that care. And none of us here are social workers. We don’t have a staff of social workers and childcare workers. And rightly or wrongly through negligence or choice, it would appear that thousands of elected officials, advised by tens of thousands of social workers and childcare workers, have not deemed internet to be a basic need.
5416 And I am concerned about us deeming that to be a basic need, based on our level of expertise in those areas when they have chosen not to, based on their level of expertise in those areas. So to me, that’s an area of significant concern.
5417 And so, Mr. Lawford, take a deep breath and particularly I’d like to hear ACORN’s response to that. I have a concern as well, that I’ll just throw out right now, because I’m unfamiliar with these matters, that should there be a subsidy, is there any risk that it might just get clawed back in terms of provincial Welfare payments or something like that? So that’s a more specific question. Thank you.
5418 MR. LAWFORD: No, thank you for the question and I’ll start.
5419 Unfortunately or fortunately, we think very fortunately, the Commission does have a pretty strong social mandate.
5420 The policy objectives, I’m not going to read them to you, but A, B, and H are very clear, talking about social and economic fabric; making sure that communications are reliable and affordable for all Canadians, rural and urban; responding to economic and social requirements of users.
5421 You’ve got a social mandate. It’s hard; it’s hard work. The nice thing about having CRC look after this is we’re talking about telecommunications and you’re the telecommunications regulator with a social aspect. You could give it to the social people and ask them to deal with the telecommunications aspect. So it’s a little bit either way.
5422 But for whatever reason, there is a large part of inertia on the Social Services side in the provincial side to get this going. I think you’ve asked some questions about Social Services from some of the provincial governments and they didn’t have a lot to tell you.
5423 That’s unfortunate. So part of the reason why our group got together was we see an opportunity, an opportunity for the Commission to make a real advance here. And it does fit within the mandate that we believe you have. We believe you have the tool as well to create the fund in 46.5 to, as long as it’s basic service, help people continue to have access to it.
5424 So you have the power. Whether you should do it or not, we’re asking obviously that you do, the way it will roll out -- I do want to underline one small item. We’re not just talking about Social Assistance here. Our Affordability Funding Mechanism is also meant to reach people on low-income who may be working poor as well. And they’re struggling and no one with social programs is reaching them. And yet, from our evidence on the record and individual complaints that came in directly to you, that struggle is reflected there.
5425 So I think Judy may have something to say about clawback. I believe with the Ontario Energy Support Program, because at least it’s a provincial program, it does not get clawed back.
5426 I don’t know, Judy, if know you know anything further about clawbacks and any of this?
5427 MS. DUNCAN: Well, to address your question first on is it a basic need. So many of our members use the internet or want to use an internet for having their kids do homework, looking for work, accessing government services, applying for disability supports. These are needs in people’s lives.
5428 And especially with the education, children who don’t have internet at home because their parents can’t afford it are going to the library to have to do their homework. So imagine a single mom who has a 10-year-old and a 2-year-old. So then they have to go to the public library so the 10-year-old can do their homework, lugging a 2-year-old on the bus in a low-income neighbourhood.
5429 It’s a basic need and I’m glad our members are going to get to come down this afternoon to talk about that because I think hearing from them it will help really express the importance of it in people’s everyday lives. Like, many of our members are disabled looking for things and services online.
5430 And looking for work. How do people apply for jobs these days? It’s not through looking through the newspapers and walking around with résumés. They apply online; you look online. So it puts low-income people at a further disadvantage because then they have to go to the library to do this. The library has restricted hours; they have a restricted number of computers that people can use; they have a restricted amount of time you can spend at a computer terminal.
5431 I’m sure that you guys have looked over the 400 testimonials, but those outline the details around how this is a basic need.
5432 In terms of the clawback, I’m not 100 percent sure if this would be clawed back. I mean, I don’t think it would be put it’s always a risk and we could look into that and get back to you.
5433 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, that would be helpful if you could. Can you undertake to do that?
5434 MR. DUNCAN: Sure with John.
5435 MR. LAWFORD: I have to answer. But that’s okay; yes, we will take that undertaking.
5437 THE CHAIRPERSON: To the extent you can in the timeframe, right?
5438 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, it will be our best effort.
5439 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks. And just one more thing.
5440 Rogers suggested in their intervention that their program, their $10, 9.99 offering, that the pickup on that for qualified individuals was only 16 percent. What’s your view on that? Because it suggests that the issues are a little bit more complicated perhaps than just the price of an internet package.
5441 MR. LAWFORD: Yeah, that’s a special situation, a particular situation. I think Judy has some information on how it rolled out of Toronto because her members have been recipients at certain times.
5442 I think a better comparable so far is the Ontario Energy Support Program, which is showing higher numbers than that.
5443 I think your question is, “If we build it will they come?” Am I right?
5444 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Well, yeah. I mean, there’s the cost of an internet package; there’s the cost of equipment, right? To be able to access it. And maybe there are other features as well which I at least am unaware.
5445 So that’s what I was trying to get at. If you’re dealing with -- because there’s been some discussion this week about adoption as well, right? And it’s one thing to make things available, but if people aren’t adopting it, if that’s a concern, which has been expressed here, it might be more complicated than just the price of the internet package. And understanding those other factors would be useful in trying to address the issue.
5446 MR. LAWFORD: Affordability does have adoption often overlapping with it. And it is part of the problem. I agree that getting at the part of adoption, part of what we’re calling adoption, that is digital literacy or the part of adoption that is disinterest, is a different issue. And it’s something that would be very difficult for the CRTC to reach with a subsidy alone. And well, we said it’s outside of your jurisdiction to set up education programs for digital literacy so it’s something that wouldn’t be addressed.
5447 But when we take a look at our evidence in our second poll -- was it the second poll -- has asked people why they hadn't signed up and it was -- a large part of non-adoption is still cost. It may not be the majority, but it's a large plurality. It's like, 40 percent, if -- I can't get the number for you right this second.
5448 So there is a part you can carve off with a subsidy that will work, and then in terms of how you get the uptake grade of each individual subsidized service to be higher, there are ways to do it. Advertising it and how you roll it out and how well it meets the needs of people, whether it's set at the right price, are all factors, but adoption is a slightly different thing.
5449 But just because there may some adoption problems, like, that doesn’t mean there isn't a big cost problem and affordability problem and that's an excuse for not addressing that.
5450 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It's okay. I mean, it's not necessarily -- if you can't, you can't because these things are complicated, but I just wanted to see if there was an answer.
5451 MS. LAU: M'hm. Yeah, I'll briefly address adoption, because adoption, I think, does conflate the affordability issue a little bit. So there are those who haven't adopted broadband yet and our affordability survey showed that for those who wanted to subscribe to a new communication service, 84 percent of the respondents said that cost was their main barrier to subscribing to it.
5452 So cost, I think, consistently comes up to a key barrier to adoption and the Pew Home Broadband report, the 2015 one, also found that cost is the main reason for the main barrier to home internet adoption, and they actually split out between monthly service and equipment, and monthly service, I think, was the biggest barrier.
5453 Affordability is also about those who have already subscribed to the service because they felt that they needed it and it was essential to their household, but not -- are not necessarily able to afford it, and that's why the proposal we've made attempts to address both concerns.
5454 I hope that helps answer your question.
5455 MR. WHITE: And may I, Commissioner Menzies?
5456 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Why not?
5457 MR. WHITE: The concept of affordability that the Coalition has defined is one of having to forego other things, and I'm not sure we have enough information to judge the success of the Rogers program on that 16 percent figure and derive anything from that.
5458 The fact that 16 percent -- it sounds like 16 percent of the social housing residents have subscribed to the Rogers' 10 down, 1 up plan, and I don't think that statistic can be used to demonstrate that there is not an affordability problem because it may very well be that 80 percent of residents have internet service and it may be at a higher speed. They may have made different choices, but I don’t think that the perceived lack of popularity of the program suggests that there isn't a problem
5459 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, okay, and we can ask them. Thanks.
5460 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just -- you’ve been very helpful, thank you, and constructive and just a few more questions. I believe I'm the only one who has still questions at this stage.
5461 Commissioner Menzies asked you, you know, a question about the role of other levels of government in the CRTC and Mr. Lawford, you gave an answer that addressed the legality of the Commission's jurisdiction and courts have given us broad jurisdiction to get involved in things.
5462 I'd ask you to address the legitimacy issue, which is slightly different than the legality issue, and you know, I can deal with editorialists who never show up at our hearings but apparently have very strong views. They personalize it as well. Fair enough; that's part of the game.
5463 But the legitimacy goes beyond what certain opinion leaders might think. It goes to a broader population base. And you know, you've made the argument and I'm not going to dispute it, that we have broad jurisdiction to do what you're proposing.
5464 I'll let you address the legitimacy issue.
5465 MR. LAWFORD: Certainly. I’ll make this a little bit personal in the sense that from our group's point of view, we've been looking to find an affordability mechanism of some kind since the 1990s. We wanted lifeline back then as the '96 decision and in '99 kind of cut the legs out for a few -- well, almost 20 years, til here we're back.
5466 So all of the work that we have done with other social agencies and with low-income groups continues to point to affordability of telecommunications as being a problem.
5467 And the need, which is unmet since then, and it's just crying out -- it’s crying out for someone to be their champion, and so we are saying, "You have the tools, we have the opportunity right here, the Commission has looked at it and avoided the issue in the nineties, looked at in 2010 and also didn’t think it was a good idea, and now we're back because the need is so great.
5468 I mean, Canadians would hug you. They wouldn't think that you had no legitimacy if you were able to bring something in that brought internet into their homes.
5469 In the absence of political backing for you, which you don’t have, there's no national broadband plan. So I guess you're wondering if the politicians won't get behind us, why should we stick our necks out?
5470 Because Canadians really want you to stick you to stick their necks out. They really do. They want their internet and they need a champion and you're in the right place and the government's not stepping up, so that's my answer.
5471 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that, but these are the issues that keep me up at night.
5472 MR. WHITE: Can I help put you to sleep?
5473 THE CHAIRPERSON: A few more sort of legalistic issues, just so I get your view on it.
5474 There's no doubt that some parties are advocating that we create a national aspirational goal, and I guess there's some benefit to that because it sets benchmarks for future bills and so forth, but setting that aside, I'm actually asking you a question on a normative BSO with respect to broadband.
5475 What would your view be if the BSO, rather than being pan national was more targeted to -- and these are just for instance and there's definitional issues -- the north or unserved areas?
5476 So that breaks down into two aspects: A) do you think that's a good idea? And B) do you think we have the jurisdiction to define a BSO of less than the pan national level?
5477 MR. LAWFORD: Deep breath. What is the source of the BSO jurisdiction kind of tells you. I know it's informed by the policy objectives and they're pretty clear, saying, "You try to be equitable if not perfectly equal between regions."
5478 And previously, the Commission's been very careful about saying the basic service objective is to haul up people who have bad service up to at least a basic level. So it kind of doesn’t make sense to haul them up to different levels.
5479 And if we think of the basic service objective as having its route in 27-2, then the unjust discrimination -- I suppose you could have some just discrimination and a little bit of unjust discrimination if you had a really hard problem with the north, for example. But in terms of setting a floor, the value of the BSO is stronger there. Other policy tools or subsidies or whatever can assist with the hard cases, I think.
5480 THE CHAIRPERSON: Your answer has an unarticulated assumption that the question was aiming at doing a lower level in certain regions. I was trying to get something else, more of the -- to the extent the market forces are addressing service level. Set aside affordability. That's a separate matter and a valid matter, but a separate one.
5481 Assuming market forces in large urban centres is achieving the outcomes, could we set a BSO where market forces might not be doing as good a job, plus or minus government subsidies?
5482 MR. LAWFORD: Oh, could you set one that's above the present -- what the market’s presently delivering in urban centres right now? You mean like, say, 25 megabits per second or something, or ---
5483 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not talking about an aspirational goal, but if you're going to like, jump in and say there is a BSO ---
5484 MR. LAWFORD: Right.
5485 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- it may not be necessary to define one for, let's say, downtown Toronto, so but could you define one for other places that are underserved as a normative standard with obligatory input.
5486 MR. LAWFORD: I’m going to start and Jeff is going to finish this.
5487 MR. LAWFORD: Sorry I’m going to just intermediate what I’m hearing. Like, are you saying that in urban areas you’re going to forbear from the BSO and then in other areas you’re going to put the obligation in because they need to have a BSO?
5488 THE CHAIRMAN: I wouldn’t have used quite those words but, you know, to the concept, yes.
5489 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, because in 2010-43, all of a sudden we have no BSO in price forborne areas, which is a mistake.
5490 THE CHAIRMAN: M’hm.
5491 MR. LAWFORD: It’s a mistake. So when you go to upgrade the BSO now you have to kind of reregulate them.
5492 We want you to re-regulate them, because there may be pockets of Toronto that have, I think we’ve heard it already in the hearing, maybe not, that have problems with getting to whatever you set it at, 10/1, 5/1, whatever.
5493 I’m not quite sure if I can be of much more assistance then that. Maybe -- did you want to add anything?
5494 THE CHAIRMAN: That certainly addresses whether it’s a good idea. You haven’t addressed the legal issue of whether we would have jurisdiction to do so.
5495 MR. LAWFORD: You do still have jurisdiction.
5496 The -- when you -- when you forbear from an area under 34, you always keep 27/2. So if I’m right and the source of BSO is 27/2 and maybe conditions pursuant to forbearance under 24, yes you can do it.
5497 THE CHAIRPERSON: And a standard can be different at a less than national basis, which is really the issue.
5498 MR. LAWFORD: A standard can be different at less than the national basis?
5499 THE CHAIRPERSON: Everybody (inaudible) --
5500 MR. LAWFORD: (inaudible)
5501 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- so is the national standard and I’m asking can it be legally less than --
5502 MR. LAWFORD: A national standard.
5503 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- standard.
5504 MR. LAWFORD: Gets tricky if -- whether you’re using 27/2, which is more equal or whether you’re going to do it all under 24, because then it’s conditions that fit every company’s terms of forbearance.
5505 That’s sort of an answer. Best I can do. THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you have anything to add?
5506 MR. LAWFORD: I think we’ll stop there. What?
5507 MR. WHITE: No thank you.
5508 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You seemed wanting to add something. Anyways, there’s -- there will be other opportunities for you to address this down the road.
5509 I’m not saying we’ve decided any particular way. I just -- I’m always mindful that sometimes if we’re going to jump into something maybe we only need to jump in where we absolutely have to. That’s the underlying philosophy.
5510 MR. WHITE: If I may jump in? The 50/80 benchmark we proposed doesn’t ignore what’s happening in downtown Toronto, but it -- it’s descriptive and prescriptive of the floor that we say people outside of Toronto and in the north need to function.
5511 So we’re not here to say -- there’s a lot of things we’re not saying and we don’t want you to take it away.
5512 We’re not saying internet access is a human right. We’re not saying please make everyone have access to high-definition video gaming.
5513 We’re talking about the floor, the basic functionality, and that has to be defined.
5514 When you’re looking nationally and you’re looking at the interest of users, you can’t ignore what’s happening at the minimum level in Toronto and so that’s where we say it is relevant.
5515 In terms of could there be -- could there be an argument and I’m not -- I’m not making -- taking a position for the Coalition, could there be an argument for a lower standard elsewhere?
5516 Perhaps, if you -- if you hang your hat on looking out for the interest of all users.
5517 And we -- there is some evidence in the EKOS survey in terms of pricing, in terms of Canadians views on whether or not it makes sense that there would be slightly higher prices in rural areas.
5518 So there’s a recognition, I think, in your constituency base that there may have to be some differences, but I think with the 50/80 rule and what the coalition is asking for is it -- it’s the floor. It’s the baseline standard. It should be -- go across the country, pan-national.
5519 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thanks for that.
5520 Under your proposal you seem to, if I understand correctly, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you -- it would apply to both regulated and currently forborne areas and that -- that’s correct; right?
5521 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
5522 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that you’d require all TSPs to provide both voice and broadband? So that would even include TSPs that are currently voice only?
5523 So would they have to offer some of -- some voice equivalent functionality, in your view?
5524 MR. LAWFORD: Yes and we said it could be satisfied by VoIP, as long as a VoIP application would run. It doesn’t have to be offered by the provider.
5525 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it could be a third party’s VOIP application?
5526 MR. LAWFORD: Exactly.
5527 THE CHAIRPERSON: Like a Skype?
5528 MR. LAWFORD: That’s the way we solve that one and then if you’re going to turn it around and ask about, what about wireline providers who don’t offer internet that’s a different problem.
5529 And in that case we said service improvement plans, because if you’re going to set basic service to be this is basic service you –- that’s basic service. They have to offer it.
5530 However, we recognize just like small telephone companies that have two and four party service back in ’99, they need time.
5531 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
5532 MR. LAWFORD: And it might be four years, it might be two years, it might be 10 years. I don’t know. They’ll have to come up with a service improvement plan to eventually get there.
5533 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you consider that approach to be consistent with the policy directive?
5534 MR. LAWFORD: Yes, if what you’re doing is -- it’s minimally intrusive to achieve the policy goals and I’m back to 7A, B and H.
5535 So if you -- if you’re designing a BSO to meet that, those goals in there, then it’s minimally intrusive as long as you apply it to everybody equally. It’s social regulation.
5536 THE CHAIRPERSON: And how would we enforce it?
5537 MR. LAWFORD: Same way as the service improvement plans, which were maybe a little lax, but anyway.
5538 The last time, you say please file your service improvement report, where is your service improvement report, can we have it more frequently if people don’t seem to be doing something.
5539 The Commission now has lots of other powers which are very interesting, all the way up into and including fining, if you have to. But I don’t think you’ll get anywhere near there. I don’t want to scare providers.
5540 The AUC(Ph) is trying to say we want all Canadians to have an internet connection near them and if a company is unwilling to move up to that standard that you say is now the telecommunication service standard, they have to be brought along.
5541 But I suspect the Commission will use its many tools from the soft end to the more hard end to encourage them to do that in a really reasonable way.
5542 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay my final question relates to you’ve referred to mechanisms that occur -- that are used in other jurisdictions.
5543 Could you, through an undertaking, probably most efficient, help us understand the underlying statutory jurisdictions under which those programs are done, specifically France, U.S. and Spain?
5544 Just so we can follow whether there’s notable changes in legislative jurisdiction.
5545 MR. LAWFORD: Yes.
5546 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you. Those are my questions. I think those are the Panel’s questions and legal does not appear to have any questions.
5547 So there we are. Thank you very much. I appreciate your contribution and I think we will hear from the next -- Madame Secretary. So thank you.
5548 MR. LAWFORD: Thank you.
5549 THE SECRETARY: We will now connect by videoconference to the CRTC Montreal office. Bonjour Madame Lambert-Racine. Vous m’entendez bien?
5550 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Bonjour, oui.
5551 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Le son n’est pas fort. Pouvez-vous parler un petit peu -- parfait. Je pense qu’on va bien vous entendre.
5552 Nous entendrons maintenant la présentation de Union des consommateurs. Vous pouvez débuter. Vous avez 15 minutes pour votre présentation.
5553 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Merci. Donc bonjour à tous. Je suis Sophy Lambert-Racine, analyste en matière de télécommunications pour Union des consommateurs.
5554 Permettez-moi d’entrer de but en blanc dans le cœur du sujet. Qu’est-ce qu’un service de télécommunication de base?
5555 Comment s’assurer que l’ensemble des consommateurs ait accès à des services qui répondent à leurs besoins?
5556 Il s’agit évidemment de questions extrêmement larges, comme le démontrent les milliers de pages au dossier public.
5557 Les besoins des consommateurs à travers les régions sont variés et il peut s’avérer complexe de déterminer quels services doivent absolument leur être rendus accessibles et à quelles conditions.
5558 Nous avons tiré quelques constats des résultats à ce jour, ainsi que de nos propres recherches.
5559 Premièrement, il est clair que l’encadrement de l’accès aux services de téléphonie filaire doit demeurer.
5560 Ils sont utilisés par près de 80 pourcent des ménages et ils constituent une, sinon la manière de communiquer la plus accessible pour de nombreux ménages.
5561 Les tarifs, bien qu’ils soient de moins en moins abordables doivent rester le plus stable possible.
5562 LE PRÉSIDENT: Un instant-là. On a peut-être ---
5563 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Les services sans fil ---
5564 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k. un instant. Il y a peut-être un problème d’interprétation. Je veux que tout le monde vous entendent bien.
5565 Bon. Continuez puis on va vérifier que c’est -- ça fonctionne. Allez-y.
5566 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Les services sans fil, incluant les services sans fil prépayés actuellement offerts sur le marché, ne constituent pas la manière la plus facile et abordable de communiquer pour l’ensemble des ménages.
5567 Deuxièmement, les services d’accès à internet haute vitesse ne sont plus un luxe mais une nécessité, et ce, depuis plusieurs années déjà. L’accès à internet est adopté par 82 pour cent des ménages. Cependant, le libre jeu du marché n’a pas permis de faire disparaître la fracture numérique qui comporte encore aujourd’hui de multiples facettes.
5568 La présente consultation constitue une occasion idéale pour le Conseil de s’assurer que les consommateurs de toutes les régions, urbaines et rurales, aient accès aux services de télécommunications de qualité et abordables dont ils ont besoin, à des conditions qui leur permettent de profiter de l’ensemble des services et contenus novateurs qui sont dorénavant à leur disposition.
5569 Troisièmement, il existe peu de solutions intéressantes et durables pour les consommateurs à faible revenu ou en situation de précarité en vue d’avoir accès à des tarifs réduits. Ces consommateurs sont d’ailleurs abonnés à des services d’accès à internet dans une proportion moindre que le reste de la population.
5570 Cinquante-neuf virgule sept (59,7) pour cent des ménages de quintile de revenu le plus bas utilise internet à domicile, par rapport à 98 pour cent des ménages avec les revenus les plus élevés, selon Statistique Canada.
5571 Or, plusieurs juridictions étrangères offrent, en matière de télécommunications, des solutions intéressantes en vue de lutter contre l’exclusion liée à la pauvreté. Nous y reviendrons plus loin.
5572 Insistons par contre immédiatement sur un point: le Conseil a le pouvoir ainsi que tous les outils nécessaires à sa disposition pour réduire cette barrière à l’accès. Une intervention en ce sens apportera des bénéfices de toutes sortes, économiques, politiques, sociaux, aux populations vulnérables qui sont freinés par des prix prohibitifs et, plus largement, à l’ensemble de la société.
5573 Quelques mots sur la fracture numérique et la pauvreté. Certains intervenants ont insinué que, parce que certains consommateurs décident par choix personnel de ne pas s’abonner à des services d’accès à internet, il faudrait prioriser les initiatives éducatives en vue de les inciter à utiliser ces services plutôt.
5574 Ou que, puisque les conséquences de la pauvreté ne touchent pas seulement les télécommunications, il faudrait plutôt se tourner vers les gouvernements pour lutter et appliquer des solutions.
5575 Il s’agit d’arguments qu’il faut à notre avis rejeter d’emblée.
5576 Nous invitons le Conseil à faire rapport au gouvernement fédéral des preuves présentes au dossier public qui indiquent que les citoyens pourraient effectivement avoir besoin de davantage de ressources pour améliorer leurs compétences numériques.
5577 Mais ne tirons surtout pas de conclusions hâtives sur les motivations des consommateurs qui choisissent de se priver d’un accès à internet. Reconnaissons plutôt que les besoins des consommateurs sont divers et que le Conseil pourra intervenir sur certains de ces besoins, dont la politique canadienne des télécommunications impose de tenir compte, notamment des services sûrs, abordables et de qualité dans toutes les régions.
5578 N’utilisons pas le prétexte de la complexité des problématiques liées à la fracture numérique ou de la lutte à la pauvreté pour tenter de justifier un statu quo. Le Conseil peut et se doit de contribuer à lutter contre la pauvreté dans le cadre de ses compétences.
5579 Une nouvelle cible de vitesse permettra de mettre la table pour l’usage numérique de demain. Une proportion importante d’intervenants juge que la cible de développement de large bande du Conseil, soit 5 mégabits par seconde pour 2015, est insuffisante. À notre avis ils ont entièrement raison.
5580 Quarante-et-un virgule six (41,6) pour cent des abonnés canadiens ont accès à des vitesses supérieures à 16 mégabits par seconde. La vitesse moyenne pondérée de téléchargement s’élève à plus de 21 mégabits par seconde.
5581 La majorité des consommateurs est donc abonnée à des vitesses déjà bien supérieures à celles de la cible actuelle du Conseil. Sur le plan des écarts entre les vitesses d’accès, le bât blesse en particulier dans les régions rurales où 63 pour cent des ménages n’ont pas accès à des services de plus de 10 mégabits par seconde, alors que 96 pour cent des ménages en région urbaine ont accès à des services de plus de 100 mégabits par seconde et même 1 gigabits par seconde dans certains cas, des vitesses dignes de celles qui sont accessibles notamment au Japon.
5582 Ces disparités géographiques doivent cesser. Les services d’accès à internet sont utiles et utilisés à des fins très diverses, comme on le voit au dossier public: la navigation Web, les achats et le paiement de facture en ligne, la communication vocale et vidéo, le divertissement, l’accès à des services gouvernementaux, mais aussi l’infonuagique, le télétravail, la télésanté, l’éducation en ligne.
5583 Ils sont utiles pour la sécurité publique et pour les entreprises. Ils réduisent l’isolement des populations éloignées et des minorités linguistiques. Ils facilitent la communication des personnes qui présentent certains types de handicaps.
5584 Il est difficile d’accepter, au nom de l’équité et en vertu des objectifs de la Loi, que l’accès à ces services ne soit pas universel et que les habitants des régions doivent accepter un accès restreint.
5585 Parmi ceux qui considèrent suffisante la cible de 5 mégabits par seconde, on retrouve plusieurs intervenants qui tentent de hiérarchiser les usages faits par les consommateurs, minimisant l’importance de certaines fonctions gourmandes en données, comme la lecture de vidéo en transit, alors qu’il s’agit de l’une des utilisations pour lesquelles on compte depuis plusieurs années une demande de plus en plus grande, et celle qui consomme le plus de bande passante en aval.
5586 Il faut éviter les approches paternalistes en matière d’accès et viser plutôt à ce que les consommateurs aient accès à toutes les fonctions novatrices d’internet, incluant celles qui exigent beaucoup de bande passante, même si certaines de ces fonctions sont fréquemment, mais pas exclusivement, utilisées pour des fins de divertissement.
5587 Une cible nationale ambitieuse permettrait d’assurer que les consommateurs de toutes les régions aient accès à des services qui répondent à leurs attentes, présentes et futures. Cet objectif devrait, selon nous, être déterminant.
5588 Une vitesse suffisante contribue aussi indirectement à protéger la neutralité du Net puisqu’elle permet un accès efficient à tous les contenus Web, ce qui n’est malheureusement pas acquis dans les régions autres qu'urbaines comme le démontrent les nombreux témoignages au dossier public.
5589 Il faut également tenir compte du fait qu’un ménage canadien est composé en moyenne d’au moins deux personnes. Nous considérons logique et raisonnable que plus d’une personne sous un même toit peuvent vouloir un accès à toutes les fonctions du Net.
5590 La politique canadienne de télécommunication n’indique pas que les accès des Canadiens doivent être limités du fait de la taille de leur ménage.
5591 Une cible à la fois ambitieuse et réaliste permettrait de régler plus rapidement l’écart entre la qualité des services en région urbaine et rurale. Si la plus grande partie des ménages sont abonnés à des vitesses qui dépassent 16 mégabits par seconde, en quoi serait-il socialement acceptable de ne permettre aux populations qui habitent les régions éloignées que l’accès à des vitesses inférieures?
5592 Pour répondre aux besoins divers, actuels et futurs des consommateurs de toutes les régions en matière de large bande, UC propose une cible de téléchargement en aval d’au moins 25 mégabits par seconde sur l’ensemble du territoire, une cible qui pourrait être atteinte d’ici cinq ans.
5593 Soulignons que les disparités régionales en matière de vitesse pourraient être réglées rapidement si la nouvelle cible du Conseil était incluse à l’obligation de service de base.
5594 Évidemment, les fournisseurs qui devront fournir des vitesses plus rapides méritent une compensation lorsque le développement de cet accès est déficitaire. Nous y reviendrons.
5595 Au sujet des limites de transfert de données, afin de minimiser le risque de discrimination économique, nous recommandons au Conseil de reconnaître avec grande parcimonie le droit d’imposer des limites de téléchargement aux consommateurs à l’obligation de service de base, en particulier lorsque celles-ci mènent à l’imposition systématique de frais d’utilisation supplémentaires.
5596 Une limite mensuelle d’utilisation n’est pas une pratique qui vise à limiter la congestion, qui peut se produire sporadiquement et brièvement aux heures de grand achalandage. C’est une pratique de commerce visant à maximiser les revenus des fournisseurs qui imposent des tarifs au gigaoctet qui n’ont aucune commune mesure avec les coûts engendrés par la fourniture de l’accès au service.
5597 Nous avons indiqué dans le cadre de cette instance qu’il serait préférable de ne pas prévoir de limite mensuelle de téléchargement à l’obligation de service de base. Nous maintenons fermement cette position.
5598 Les consommateurs de toutes les régions devraient avoir accès à un éventail de services, incluant des services sans limite mensuelle de transfert de données.
5599 Cela dit, si le Conseil devait malgré tout choisir d’imposer une limite mensuelle d’utilisation au service de base, elle devrait être fixée à un niveau qui ne nuira pas aux consommateurs et qui sera indexé régulièrement en fonction de la hausse de demande en bande passante.
5600 Une telle avenue serait un bien moindre mal que de laisser au marché le soin d’imposer le seuil des limites de téléchargement appliquées au service de base.
5601 Au sujet de la lutte à la pauvreté, le dossier de la présente instance aura aussi démontré que la fracture numérique n’est évidemment pas seulement géographique. Certains consommateurs font le choix de ne pas s’abonner à des services d’accès à internet, mais d’autres mentionnent spécifiquement les prix prohibitifs des services, 30 pour cent selon une étude du PIAC notamment.
5602 Les données mentionnées plus tôt de Statistique Canada indiquent que les ménages à plus faible revenu sont moins souvent abonnés à internet.
5603 Plusieurs juridictions étrangères sont intervenues en vue d’offrir des réductions aux consommateurs en situation de précarité financière. L’application d’un rabais sur les frais mensuels du forfait de télécommunications, ou sur une partie des coûts fixes, sont des mesures couramment utilisées.
5604 Un tel rabais devrait être accessible à ceux dont le revenu est égal, inférieur, ou légèrement supérieur au seuil du faible revenu.
5605 UC invite le Conseil à adopter un modèle semblable pour le Canada applicable aux services de téléphonie résidentielle, aux services d’accès à internet haute vitesse et aux services sans fil mobile, qui sont tous des services essentiels pour différents segments de la population. Le tarif social devrait être accessible pour tous les forfaits.
5606 Cependant, si le Conseil devait définir les caractéristiques des forfaits éligibles au tarif social, il serait à tout le moins intéressant que les consommateurs aient accès à au moins un service qui les mette à l’abri des frais d’utilisation supplémentaire.
5607 De plus, les consommateurs qui se prévalent du tarif social devraient évidemment avoir accès à des vitesses comparables à celles utilisées par la majorité des ménages canadiens.
5608 Sur le plan du financement, le développement obligatoire des infrastructures et l’offre d’un service à tarif réduit pourraient engendrer un besoin de subventions, dans l’éventualité où la fourniture de ces nouveaux services était déficitaire.
5609 L’ajout d’une cotisation au Fonds de contribution nationale sur la base des revenus de services internet, ainsi qu'une légère augmentation du seuil perçu pour l’ensemble des revenus admissibles pourraient être envisagés.
5610 Évidemment, les sommes qui ont été annoncées par le Gouvernement Fédéral pour le développement d’internet haute vitesse vont contribuer à l’effort de développement. Les sources de financement seraient vraisemblablement diverses.
5611 Évidemment, le financement qui serait octroyé en vue d’étendre l’accès à internet haute vitesse en région devrait être tributaire d’un contrôle des prix, de sorte de réduire l’écart entre les régions rurales et les zones plus densément peuplées.
5612 La présente consultation est un gage d’espoir. Il est permis de croire que de nouvelles cibles de développement qui permettront de répondre aux besoins des consommateurs d’aujourd’hui et de demain seront fixées.
5613 Un choix d’une cible ambitieuse pourrait permettre au Canada de redevenir un chef de file en matière d’accès à internet.
5614 L’adoption d’un tarif social faciliterait pour sa part l’accès des consommateurs à faible revenu à la vie numérique, et permettrait également au Conseil de faire un pas de plus en vue de lutter contre la pauvreté.
5615 Le taux d’abonnement à internet pourrait de ce fait augmenter. Les dollars épargnés par certains ménages à faible revenu déjà abonnés leur donneraient du répit et contribueraient à améliorer un tant soit peu leur qualité de vie.
5616 De telles mesures permettraient ultimement de contribuer à ce que les populations vulnérables puissent profiter plus aisément des services de télécommunications modernes.
5617 En conclusion, nous recommandons la mise en place d’une cible obligatoire de développement d’internet haute vitesse à 25 mégabits en aval et une révision au plus tard dans cinq ans.
5618 Le maintien des obligations de services de base et de l’obligation de servir, avec l’ajout de l’internet -- de l’accès à internet haute vitesse.
5619 Le maintien de l’obligation de servir pour les services de téléphonie; composé d’appels locaux illimités à un tarif mensuel fixe, sous réserve d’un prix plafond et de l’accès à un choix de fournisseurs de services interurbains.
5620 L’adoption d’un tarif social disponible, pour les services de téléphonie filaire, de services sans fil mobile et de service d’accès à internet, aux consommateurs à faible revenu.
5621 Le contrôle de l’imposition de limites de téléchargement et des frais d’utilisation supplémentaire, qui pourraient s’appliquer au service de base et aux services touchés par le tarif social, le cas échéant.
5622 Je suis maintenant à votre disposition pour répondre à vos questions.
5623 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci beaucoup, Madame Lambert-Racine.
5624 Comme d’habitude vous êtes toujours très bien préparée et toujours très claire et puis vous avez écouté en plus les discussions, donc vous avez anticipé mes questions, puis vous les avez déjà traité dans votre présentation, donc ça va raccourcir le nombre de questions que j’ai à vous poser aujourd’hui.
5625 Juste pour les fins du dossier, je vous pose la question dans d’autres instances, mais bien que vous avez l’intérêt des consommateurs en général à cœur, vos interventions ciblent particulièrement les populations moins fortunées, plus vulnérables et bon disons que ce n’est pas -- vous avez une attention particulière pour les moins fortunés; est-ce que c’est exacte?
5626 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui, mais évidemment notre mandat de base c’est de prendre les droits, les intérêts des consommateurs, en prenant une considération particulière pour les consommateurs à faible revenu. Essentiellement sur le territoire du Québec, mais aussi pour l’ensemble du pays.
5627 Les groupes de consommateurs qui font partis de notre regroupement sont principalement du Québec, mais -- maintenant et de la région d’Ottawa.
5628 LE PRÉSIDENT: Excellent. Est-ce que vous êtes actifs? Parce qu’on a -- plus tôt cette semaine on a eu des conversations avec des gens qui sont présents dans le Nord Québécois, par exemple.
5629 Est-ce que vous avez des liens, des associations, des échanges avec -- pas le nord de Montréal, mais le grand nord Québécois?
5630 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Plusieurs de nos ACEF membres servent des consommateurs qui habitent dans des régions éloignées. Dans le grand nord Québécois, malheureusement on n’a pas de -- d’ACEF de membres qui sont de cette région-là.
5631 Donc on a des points de vue de personnes qui peuvent habiter à plusieurs heures de grands centres comme Montréal et Québec, mais par exemple -- autour par exemple de la Baie James ou de la Baie d’Ungava c’est un petit loin, donc on a moins de témoignages pour les usagers de ces régions.
5632 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je comprends bien.
5633 Bon vous avez proposé une vitesse de téléchargement de 25. Si je comprends bien vous -- contrairement à d’autres vous êtes, vous nous -- votre analyse n’a pas été basé sur -- de regarder quelles sont les vitesses requises pour certaines applications et multiplier le nombre probable d’appareils connectés en même temps.
5634 Est-ce que votre méthodologie est plutôt de regarder quels sont les moyennes et baser sur ces moyennes-là et les tendances lourdes d’augmentation de baser votre cible sur cette analyse? Est-ce que c’est exact?
5635 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui, mais en fait les différents éléments duquel on a tenu compte pour choisir cette cible, évidemment comme plusieurs autres intervenants, il y a le fait que bon l’AFIC(Ph) a choisi cette cible de vitesse, mais il y a aussi le fait évidemment que la moyenne des vitesses des abonnés semble être actuellement, selon le rapport de surveillance des communications, déjà supérieurs à 20 mégabits par secondes.
5636 Donc si on veut assurer un accès équivalent à l’ensemble des régions il faut évidemment tenir compte de ce qui est accessible déjà aux consommateurs en région urbaines et de voir de quelle manière les services les plus équivalents possibles pourraient être offerts en régions rurales.
5637 On a aussi remarqué que les vitesses moyennes pondérées de téléchargement utilisées par les usagers ont augmentées assez rapidement par les dernières années.
5638 Par exemple en 2010 on était à 7 mégabits par seconde, là on est rendu à 21. Donc ça augmenté de plusieurs fois en quelques années seulement.
5639 Donc on considère que cette cible-là de 25 mégabits par seconde pour les prochaines années est même assez conservatrice.
5640 Surtout lorsqu’on se compare à d’autres cibles à l’étranger, par rapport en Europe ou on vise 30 mégabits par seconde d’ici 2020 ou 100 mégabits par seconde pour la moitié des logis. En Belgique même on vise un gigabit par seconde pour 50 pourcent des foyers d’ici 2020.
5641 Évidemment il y a le fait aussi, comme vous avez mentionné, que plusieurs ménages peuvent accéder au service en même temps.
5642 Nous on n’a pas nécessairement fait des -- on a fait certains calculs. Évidemment plus le nombre de personnes dans un ménage est élevé, plus les besoins sont présents.
5643 Donc il semblerait que pour une famille, par exemple, un accès de 25 mégabits par seconde est assez conservateur, surtout si plusieurs personnes font de la lecture de vidéo, de -- par exemple de musique en transit ou si il y a des jeux en ligne.
5644 Et puis -- et puis voilà.
5645 LE PRÉSIDENT: Normalement, mais pas toujours, vous êtes parfois alignés avec la position que peut prendre les groupes comme PIAC ou les Affordable Access Coalition.
5646 Dans ce cas-ci par rapport à les vitesses normatives obligatoires, vous êtes un peu moins alignés.
5647 Pouvez-vous m’expliquer pourquoi vous pensez que votre norme est meilleure que celle proposée par vos collègues?
5648 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Là vous faites référence à la définition de large bande qui devrait se retrouver à l’objectif du service de base?
5649 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est -- exactement, oui.
5650 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Bien en fait on n’est pas nécessairement contre une vitesse plus basse.
5651 Évidemment c’est que en principe on considère que on devrait viser des services équivalent sur l’ensemble du territoire, même dans les zones qui ne sont pas nécessairement rentables ou pour lesquelles, par exemple, on n’avait pas accès à 5 mégabits par seconde ou que parfois on n’avait pas accès à la large-bande.
5652 Évidemment on est conscient que certaines zones peuvent être particulièrement difficiles à desservir.
5653 Dans certaines juridictions étrangères, notamment aux États-Unis ou en Australie il y a des cibles plus basses pour les régions éloignées, donc de 10 ou 12 mégabits par seconde, par exemple, qui peuvent faire l’objet de développement de financement.
5654 C’est certain que c’est un -- moindrement d’avoir des services, des vitesses plus basses, de financer des vitesses qui sont inférieures à l’objectif de développement visé que de rien faire du tout.
5655 Donc malheureusement c’est certain qu’à partir du moment on choisit une cible inférieure pour les régions rurales, on reconnait de manière peut-être permanente ou à long terme, que ces régions-là vont avoir accès à des services inférieurs pour une longue durée.
5656 Donc évidemment on visait une vitesse plus ambitieuse de 25 mégabits par seconde pour l’ensemble du territoire, mais ça pourrait évidemment dans les régions très difficiles d’accès où on ne peut offrir le service que par satellite à des cibles un peu plus basses.
5657 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci.
5658 Donc il y a un -- vous admettez qu’il y a un -- on doit être aussi pragmatique en terme des limitations technologiques, par exemple satellitaires ou d’autres réalités sur le terrain?
5659 Ce n’est pas idéal mais c’est la réalité?
5660 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui bien -- oui bien nous on a fait le choix de présenter la cible ambitieuse au CRTC, puis on se dit après que ça reviens à l’autorité en la matière de déterminer si on doit faire ce type de discrimination-là pour tenir compte de d’autres intérêts, évidemment, comme les intérêts économiques.
5661 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
5662 Qu’en est-il de cibles possibles par rapport au téléversement? Vous faites un argument à l’effet que le téléchargement a évolué beaucoup depuis la dernière fois que le Conseil a regardé ça dans le marché, mais je note que vous n’avez pas abordé la question du téléversement.
5663 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Je ne l’ai pas abordé dans la présentation mais on l’a abordé dans certaines soumissions écrites. On suggérait notamment une cible de téléversement de 10 mégabits par seconde basée sur le fait que les principaux fournisseurs en région urbaine au Québec peuvent offrir des vitesses de téléversement de 10 mégabits par seconde pour des vitesses en aval entre 15 et 60 mégabits par seconde.
5664 LE PRÉSIDENT: D’accord.
5665 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Donc c'est encore avec cet objectif-là d’avoir la même cible « coast-to-coast ». On devrait viser ce qui est déjà offert dans les régions urbaines.
5666 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je sais que vos interventions dans la phase orale sont pas accidentelles. Donc j’avais noté que vous l’aviez mentionné dans votre présentation écrite. Donc y a eu un choix de pas le mentionner ce matin. Donc c'est pour ça que je voulais poser la question.
5667 Est-ce que c'est parce que c'est du point de vue des consommateurs que vous représentez c'est un élément qui est moins important?
5668 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Non, pas nécessairement. C'était peut-être seulement un choix en vertu de -- pour avoir une intervention suffisamment courte pour le temps qui nous était alloué. Mais il est certain que les applications qui gagnent en popularité en ce moment requièrent des vitesses de déchargement particulièrement élevées.
5669 Pour le téléversement, ça peut être utile, par exemple, pour les applications comme les conférences par Skype, par vidéo qui peuvent exiger des vitesses de téléversement autour de 1,5 mégabit par seconde. Mais, par exemple, la lecture de vidéo en transit va nécessiter des sites de téléchargement qui sont vraiment supérieurs au téléversement.
5670 LE PRÉSIDENT: Merci. Qu’en est-il de d’autres paramètres techniques tels que la latence? Est-ce que -- encore une fois, vous n’avez pas traité de cet enjeu dans votre présentation ce matin. Est-ce que c'est un moindre -- un domaine de moindre importance pour vous et vos membres?
5671 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Mais en fait c'est qu’on a entendu certains témoignages au dossier public qui semblent démontrer justement que pour la latence, il peut y avoir particulièrement -- ça peut être problématique. Encore une fois, je crois pour les abonnés qui dépendent de service par satellite, nous on a moins de données brutes ou de témoignages, de commentaires particuliers sur la latence qui nous ont été transmis.
5672 Donc ce n'est pas que ce n’est pas un enjeu mais il semble aussi quand on regardait le rapport de surveillance du CRTC que la latence pour les technologies qui étaient évaluées n’était pas un problème. Mais encore une fois, ce programme-là n’évaluait pas la qualité des services par satellite. Donc c'est peut-être davantage par manque de données à ce sujet-là qu’on n’a pas fait de recommandations relativement à la latence.
5673 LE PRÉSIDENT: Au paragraphe 17 de votre présentation, vous avez -- vous êtes revenue là sur la notion des limites mensuelles de téléchargement. Vous notez qu’effectivement ces limites peut-être à leur origine étaient créées pour maximiser la fonctionnalité des réseaux et que, avec le temps, ç'a quelque peu évolué pour être une stratégie de mise en marché et de commercialisation.
5674 Je comprends que votre préférence est que le service de base ne comporte pas de limite sur le transfert de données dans la définition, mais ça me surprend quelque peu parce que les limites par rapport au transfert de données parfois peuvent avoir un impact direct sur le prix et donc l’abordabilité du service. Et puisque vous représentez quand même des consommateurs entre autres qui sont plus vulnérables financièrement ou autre, que cette position me surprend quelque peu.
5675 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Ben en fait, peut-être le paragraphe était pas suffisamment clair mais en principe ce qu'on vise c'est que les consommateurs de toutes les régions aient accès à au moins un service pour lequel il n’y aura pas de frais d’utilisation supplémentaire, donc un service d’accès internet illimité.
5676 Notre but n'est pas que -- selon nous, c'est là qu’on a essayé de faire une précision. C'est si le Conseil devait choisir une cible, s'il ne peut pas arriver à cet objectif-là, ça devrait être suffisamment élevé pour répondre aux besoins de la majorité des consommateurs. Donc là n'est pas l’idée que dans le service de base il ne faut absolument pas avoir de limite de téléchargement.
5677 En fait, on croit qu'on devrait avoir accès à un service illimité. Si pour se faire et que c'est impossible dans certaines régions d’avoir accès à des services illimités et il faut une limite de transfert de données, on veut qu’elle soit suffisamment élevée pour éviter que les consommateurs ne puissent plus avoir accès à partir de la moitié du mois à leur service d’accès à internet ou qu’ils aient systématiquement à payer des frais d’utilisation supplémentaire prohibitifs.
5678 Donc on n'est pas nécessairement 100 pour cent contre une limite de transfert de données au service de base mais il faut vraiment qu’elle soit suffisamment élevée. Le pire selon nous se serait évidemment de laisser au marché le soin d’imposer un seuil de limite de téléchargement. Donc pour le CRTC de ne pas du tout réglementer cette question-là ça pourrait être problématique.
5679 Comme on l'a vu dans certaines régions, il peut y avoir des histoires de famille qui s’abonne à plusieurs services d’accès à internet pour essayer d’augmenter leur limite mensuelle. Donc ça, à notre avis, on devrait éviter ça à tout prix.
5680 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k. Donc je comprends mieux mais ça soulève la question immédiatement quelle serait donc la limite appropriée dans ce cas-ci puisque vous avez quand même une préoccupation d’abordabilité, si nous allions vers une norme-là qui est pas illimitée quand même?
5681 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Évidemment, quand on regarde les statistiques dans le rapport de surveillance des communications à ce sujet-là, on peut voir que les limites -- du moins les limites qui sont aux principaux abonnements des consommateurs, donc les limites moyennes pondérées de téléversement et téléchargement ont augmenté aussi beaucoup au cours des dernières années.
5682 En 2014, on voit que c'est 118,27 gigaoctets. Donc évidemment il faudrait que ça soit au-dessus de 100 gigaoctets. La suggestion par exemple du PIAC qui je crois était de 200 gigaoctets serait, à notre avis, raisonnable et pourrait tenir compte des besoins qui vont aller en augmentant pour les consommateurs.
5683 LE PRÉSIDENT: En utilisant une méthodologie semblable à celle que vous avez utilisée pour les vitesses de téléchargement et de téléversement, c'est-à-dire dire de regarder à l’heure actuelle quelles seraient les moyennes pondérées et de se servir de cette moyenne-là pour extrapoler une norme. C'est ça?
5684 Mme LAMBERT-RACINE: Oui, exactement.
5685 LE PRÉSIDENT: O.k., c'est bien.
5686 Ce sont mes questions. Je me tourne vers mes collègues pour voir s’ils ont des questions; non plus. Le contentieux non plus.
5687 Donc, voilà. Merci encore et c'est pas par manque d’intérêt. Je pense c'est le tributaire de votre préparation que les questions sont plus ciblées ce matin. Donc merci beaucoup.
5688 Donc, Madame la secrétaire, je crois que nous allons prendre une pause pour le déjeuner jusqu’à on va dire 1h45.
5689 So we're on break till 1:45. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 12:41 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:46 p.m.
5690 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
5691 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please. À l’ordre, s'il vous plaît.
5692 So I see there's a large group from ACORN here. We'll be with you in a moment but we are going to have somebody first who is appearing from our Dartmouth office.
5693 Madame la secrétaire?
5694 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci.
5695 We’ll now hear the presentation of Mr. Daniel Sokolov who is appearing by videoconference from the Dartmouth office.
5696 Welcome, Mr. Sokolov. You may begin your presentation. Thank you.
5697 MR. SOKOLOV: Bonjour. Good afternoon. Thanks for having me. I will cut straight to the point. It’s an honour to be here.
5698 I would like to talk about TTY and how we could leverage using the existing base TTY. These are text telephones also known as TDD, telecommunications device for the deaf, where people can type on one end and it comes out as written text on the other end. So basically a very old form of text chat.
5699 And as I had to find out in my own experience, there is no app for that and there is no web interface for that and I would hope that you, the CRTC, could help along to change that.
5700 My personal experience was that last year, I had a sudden onset of a strong case of laryngitis. That means I could not talk for several weeks. I could have done a 911 call but I was unable to. The doctor said don’t speak and it was really hard to do that and I was going to some conferences which of course I had to cancel because there’s no point in, you know, going if you can’t talk.
5701 So I had to cancel flights, hotels, rental cars, things like that. I had to talk to the insurance and credit card companies for cancellation insurance et cetera. And as I found out, a lot of these institutions refused the same level of service they give you when you want to give them money.
5702 So for example, it was easy to book a flight online but when I had to cancel I had to call them. Also with the credit card company I had some questions, “Can they go on the online banking and send it?” They said, “No, you have to call us.”
5703 So I write back, “Sorry, I’m unable to talk.” They say, “We’re sort to hear. Please call us.” It’s like talking to a parrot.
5704 At the same time, a lot of these institutions have TTY lines. So the banks, the airlines, the government already have existing TTY installations. But it is very expensive to get one. I would have had to get a landline first, then buy one of these devices from the 1970s; they’re big and I’ve heard $2000 or something. It takes weeks to get it all done and then I have to cancel my flight now, today, right?
5705 I talked to the local organization for the deaf and hard of hearing here in Nova Scotia. They said, “Well, try IP relay.” It turned out it was unavailable to me.
5706 Now, my cell phone is with Koodo so I thought their parents TELUS, they have an IP relay service. But it’s unavailable because I must have a TELUS landline to be eligible for their IP relay. And also, as I hear from the user feedback that you have on the CRTC website, the IP relay service has a pretty bad record from its users.
5707 The solution, however, that I will propose is pretty easy. There needs to be a server. It has some telephone lines going out and users could connect to that server through a web interface or an app, tell the server which TTY number to call. The server would call it and what you type in on your phone or computer would then be translated to the TTY code and this way you could initiate a conversation with your bank, with the government. For example, at that time I also had questions with the Canada Revenue Agency; don’t get me started on that one. It’s complicated.
5708 So they have the TTY lines but I was unable to use them.
5709 The advantages of that would be that it’s immediate; it’s a very, very fast deployment; it’s updateable. If there is a new protocol you could update the service. It could also be multi protocols so you could call international numbers. Some countries have other technical protocols for TTY and if you have a machine that does the Canadian one and maybe doesn’t do the, I don’t know, Italian one.
5710 It’s much cheaper than IP relay because you don’t need agents in between. It’s available 24/7. There’s less that gets lost in translation. And you have no privacy implications. It’s sometimes not nice, you know, some random call-centre agent doing an IP relay you have to tell them your financial or your health issues. Even family members, that’s what I got to, friends and family members, to make these calls to cancel my flights and file my insurance claims.
5711 But that’s a hassle to them; things get lost in translation and they have to call them again. Everything is a frustration. And I was very surprised that there is no simple way today to have a virtual TTY device.
5712 I hope you can help bring that on and I’m looking forward to your questions.
5713 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you very much.
5714 Commissioner Vennard will start us off.
5715 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello. Thank you very much for appearing with us today. And I can certainly sympathize with the situation you were in having experienced that myself about 10 years ago. So there’s nothing like a personal experience for us to understand things that we take for granted that other people deal with every day.
5716 Now, a couple of things I want to ask you about and then I want to talk about a couple of other things after that too.
5717 First of all, you talked a little bit about an app, that you think an app would be useful and would be a good solution for this?
5718 MR. SOKOLOV: Yeah. Yeah, I believe it would be both, a web interface where you can use a keyboard or an app on a phone because then you’re mobile; you can do it anywhere. You don’t need to go home to your computer.
5719 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. Who do you think should be responsible for that? I mean, it would be great if something like that were there, but somebody has to actually put it in and so on. So could you maybe give us a bit of feedback on how you think that could happen from a practical, just a purely pragmatic point of view?
5720 MR. SOKOLOV: I think it should be someone who has experience either with telecommunications or IT stuff. I think if there was a call seeing who comes forward, it could be a telecommunications company; it could be someone like Google. It could maybe be an organization that has a user base in the deaf and hard of hearing community.
5721 It’s not super difficult so I don’t think that’s really so important who does it. Someone who’s reliable and who would not sell, you know, your data or what you type in and disclose that.
5722 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: You mentioned that you contacted a deaf and hard of hearing society where you live. Do you think that you might want to approach them with this sort of an idea?
5723 MR. SOKOLOV: Well, I have but -- well, I discussed it with them but yeah, I don’t think they themselves can do it.
5724 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. What about within a medical context too? Because oftentimes when we’re faced with unexpected medical conditions there is a temporary or in some cases permanent assistance that is provided to people who are in situations like that. Is there anything like that that you could have gone after?
5725 MR. SOKOLOV: I’m unaware of that.
5726 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. The reason I mention these two things is that we’re doing the hearing on the basic service objective. And I can appreciate that, you know, maybe we should be thinking about something like this. But in terms of solving the actual practical problem there’s maybe a few other organizations that might be able to do something with that as well.
5727 MR. SOKOLOV: I think it should be approached from the telecommunications or IT side. I don’t see it really as a medical service.
5728 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So you see this as being something that should be, like, under our domain, CRTC?
5729 MR. SOKOLOV: Yes. Yes, I would think so. And you have an existing base of TTY devices out there. So far the focus is usually on the deaf and hard of hearing, but there’s also a large group of people who have speech impairments of various kinds who could make use of that.
5730 And all that’s missing is really the technical link. It’s not so much of a social service or medical service thing.
5731 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, I take that. Thank you very much for brining that to our attention.
5732 In your submission you also talk about a directory and how you would like to be listed in a directory?
5733 MR. SOKOLOV: Oh yeah, that was part of my written submissions yes, a telephone directory.
5734 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes.
5735 MR. SOKOLOV: Yeah, it would be nice to be in there.
5736 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Would you give us your viewpoint on that and maybe some suggestions for us on what we should think about?
5737 MR. SOKOLOV: Well, I was given the go-around. As I mentioned, I have a Koodo cell phone and when I signed up for that I was expecting that to be an easy thing, to tick a box instead or, you know, choose, do I want to be in the directory or not? But it seems that the default is you are not.
5738 And I asked Koodo and they said, “You have to go to Bell Aliant because they’re in your local area.” And I went to Bell Aliant and they said, “Well, you’re not one of our customers so go to your provider,” which was Koodo. So you know, I did that twice back and forth and eventually I gave up. And five years down the road I still don’t have entry in the telephone directory.
5739 I think there should be one company responsible for compiling the date, from drawing it from the various providers, and also offering it to anyone who wants to print or publish electronically a telephone directory at a reasonable price.
5740 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. In addition to your own mobile phone number and so on, what other information do you think would be useful to have in a directory?
5741 MR. SOKOLOV: I think it should be up to the individual citizen or user what they want to have in there. But there should be an option to put in an address, maybe just the town you’re in or the exact address. I’ve seen some countries also put in professions mentioned in the telephone directory.
5742 And then I think there could be updates that you pay for, like a highlighted entry, something with colours, something with a picture. But that would not be something I would expect to be mandated. I think the extras and add-ons, that would be between the user and the actual publisher of a directory if they want to offer that.
5743 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. What other information do you think might be useful, for example, how to register on the national do-not-call list and that sort of thing? What other numbers do you think would be useful to be in an online directory?
5744 MR. SOKOLOV: Email addresses if the user wants to have it in there.
5745 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
5746 MR. SOKOLOV: Yeah. I think there is a lot of things you can provide in a telephone directory; maps of the area, but I don't think that those things like, I don't think, they need to be mandated. That could be up to the ingenuity of the publisher of the telephone directory what things they want to add on.
5747 I think the basic thing is that every Canadian has a telephone and they want to be in a directory it should be possible.
5748 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Do you think ---
5749 MR. SOKOLOV: We shouldn't be sent around because we are with the wrong provider. Because if I had gone with Bell Aliant that would have been easy to be in there.
5750 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, and the other situation might have been handled differently too and you might have had a different resolution to that as well.
5751 Can you make some comments on whether or not you think a printed directory is a useful item to still have?
5752 MR. SOKOLOV: I think it is useful, yes. I don’t think that anybody must get one.
5753 I have seen where some other countries they send you a postcard and so if you want to have a telephone printout -- telephone directory -- just return the postcard with your address on it, similar to the information you get from the biller registration before the election. You just put it back in the mailbox and then they will send you a printed telephone directory.
5754 If you don't want a telephone directory you just discard that card that they send you. That way people who want it will get one, and those people who don’t would not get one.
5755 Here in my area it's we get them delivered, a whole stack once a year. They put that in the lobby of the apartment building and then whoever wants one, takes one.
5756 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
5757 MR. SOKOLOV: But I don't know if that's -- what is more cost-efficient.
5758 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. A question now that I am going to put to you wasn't in your submission but it's relevant to what our hearing is about.
5759 And here I want to ask you, to what extent do you think that applications on a -- that are used through the internet such as entertainment services should be taken into account when assessing the internet characteristics needed by Canadians?
5760 MR. SOKOLOV: I think it's very hard to draw a strict line between what is information and what is entertainment.
5761 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
5762 MR. SOKOLOV: So I think that is -- I think it should be taken into account because you just can't simply say this is where information ends and this is where entertainment begins.
5763 Just as an example, I have been watching the client base and it was a fun thing for them in Quebec in French which mocked news and it was animated. It was very entertaining but it also gave a lot of information on current political things that were going on.
5764 And then I think entertainment is also a very human thing. It's something that makes us human. So just to ignore that, I don't think it would be wise.
5765 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, thank you. Those are my questions and I will pass you over to my colleagues.
5766 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I was checking with my colleagues if there were any questions. So you were quite clear. So thank you very much. There are no further questions for you.
5767 Thank you for having participated.
5768 MR. SOKOLOV: Okay, thanks. Have a good hearing. Thank you.
5769 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
5770 Madame la secrétaire?
5771 THE SECRETARY: Merci. We will now hear the presentations by five ACORN members. Three members are appearing from here in Gatineau and two from the Toronto CRTC office. We will hear all five presentations which will then be followed by questions from the members.
5772 Please introduce yourselves before beginning and you will each have 5 minutes for your presentation. We will start with the presentation by Diane Rochon.
5773 Ms. Rochon, you may begin.
PRESENTATION / PRÉSENTATION
5774 Mme ROCHON: Bonjour, merci pour m’écouter. Je suis sur le board -- le National Board et j’aimerais vous parlez à quel point l’internet est inabordable pour moi.
5775 Je vis dans un logement subventionné et je reçois de POSPH, qui est le programme de soutiens au programme -- aux personnes handicapées de l’Ontario.
5776 Je reçois 879,76$ par mois du POSPH. De ce montant je paie 139$ pour mon loyer, 68$ est alloué pour mon régime alimentaire spécial pour lequel j’ai dû me battre.
5777 Ma facture de téléphone est de 57,85$, mon assurance location de 21,84$ et ma facture d’internet est de 47$. Ce ne sont que quelques-unes de mes dépenses.
5778 Je dois aussi prendre des suppléments et j’ai -- qui c’est -- qui ne sont pas subventionnés et j’ai aussi besoin d’un shampoing spécial, parce que j’ai des problèmes avec ma peau.
5779 J’ai la protection de découvert avec ma banque qui me permet une avance de 200$ sur le prochain chèque, mais je suis toujours dans le trou.
5780 Toutes mes dépenses continues à augmenter. Mes problèmes de santé exigent une nutrition seine. Ceci est ma priorité numéro un.
5781 Souvent je dois prendre de l’argent de mon budget alimentaire ou vestimentaire afin de payer ma facture internet.
5782 J’ai toujours peur que ma facture d’internet soit trop élevée, donc je me prive de l’utiliser. J’ai déjà dépassé ma limite de données sur mon téléphone portable, ce qui me cause beaucoup d’anxiété.
5783 Si j’avais l’internet à un prix abordable je pourrais l’utiliser plus souvent et me créer un site web pour vendre mes chapeaux et autres articles que je fais. Cela contribuerait à augmenter mon faible revenu.
5784 Je pourrais améliorer le contact avec ma famille qui vivent à Mont-Tremblant et je serais en mesure de Skyper sans me soucier de frais excédentaire.
5785 Rester en contact avec ma famille en ligne pourrait aider à promouvoir mon entreprise car ils vivent dans une région touristique.
5786 J’utilise l’internet pour être connectée avec le monde et suivre les nouvelles. Je n’ose pas écoutez en ligne à cause de mon forfait limité et je ne peux pas me permettre des frais supplémentaires.
5787 Si j’avais -- vous pouvez lire -- voyons, excusez-moi-là. Si j’avais l’internet abordable, je serais en mesure de regarder les nouvelles ou les programmes éducatifs qui aideront avec mon handicap et les questions de santé me causent une anxiété terrible, aggravée par ma pauvreté.
5788 Vous pouvez lire sur le visage des gens quand ils savent que vous êtes handicapé. Vous sentez leur jugement. L’internet abordable m’aiderait à me garder connectée avec le monde, mieux gérer mon stress financier, avoir une qualité de vie et m’investir dans mon entreprise.
5789 Merci pour m’avoir écouté.
5790 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci. Nous entendrons maintenant -- we will now hear the presentation of Blaine Cameron.
5791 MR. CAMERON: Thanks for having me. My name is Blaine Cameron. I am an ACORN member. I am here to talk to you about the cost of internet for low-income people like myself.
5792 I am a resident of Ottawa and have been so for most of my adult life. My income is from Ontario Disability Support Program and CPP Disability. About 70 percent of my income is devoted to shelter, leaving only about 30 percent of my income for bill payments and food.
5793 My income is of such a low rate that I have to rely on family to help supplement me or supplement it. I know I am -- I know of many others in my community who are not as fortunate as I and their physical and mental health suffers greatly for it. People like that and myself are most in need of access to the patchwork of community and government services, services which are now mostly accessed online.
5794 Right now -- sorry -- being disabled as you can see, is often a barrier to physically accessing these resources and it is primarily through the internet that I can -- I and others have access to them.
5795 Right now I am applying for direct funding which is a self-managed attendant service for the disabled. I access this program and communicate with the staff online and by phone. Without internet I would not have been able to easily find the program and the program itself will assist me in day to day tasks that make -- that I would otherwise be able to do if it were not for my disability such as showering, dressing, food preparation; housekeeping.
5796 With this program I now have more ability or I would have more ability to participate in the community, society and employment. But being self-managed would mean I am required to file taxes and benefits from my employees. Remittances would occur each month and having access to online resources is quite necessary.
5797 In terms of transportation, my only form of transportation is through public transit.
5798 Having access to the internet allows me to easily plan my bus trips so I can attend doctors’ appointments, get my wheelchair serviced, participate in power chair sports, socialize, and fully participate in organizations like ACORN.
5799 Having the access to internet allows me to be an informed individual and citizen. I am able to follow city, provincial, federal, and world issues and often can get in-depth knowledge.
5800 In regards to my internet costs, I’m fortunate to share it with a roommate and pay approximately $20 a month. Now, the only reason I do have a roommate is because I cannot afford to have my own place. Most one bedroom apartments are $1,000 a month, which is basically my entire cheque.
5801 Living in poverty and being disabled forces me to make choices I don’t want to and having a roommate allows me to scrape together some funds from my budget to pay for this utility and connect to the outside world.
5802 Because I’m disabled and poor I’m denied certain things. I didn’t choose to be poor and disabled and many other people don’t choose to be poor.
5803 For me, affordable internet means being connected to places I cannot access and it connects me to programs that help reduce the day-to-day barriers that I face.
5804 Being poor and having to pay for exorbitant internet costs makes me feel that people like myself don’t matter much and don’t deserve consideration. I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without the internet; it’s my access to the world as a disabled person.
5805 Thanks for your time.
5806 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
5807 We’ll now hear the presentation of Tina Ford.
5808 MS. FORD: Hello. My name is Tina Ford and I am a low-income person and I am a member of ACORN Canada. I am here to tell you why we need affordable internet.
5809 I recently lost my job and I am currently looking for work, which is very difficult. I am a trained Housing First worker. I have skills working with the homeless population in Ottawa but finding work is hard.
5810 I need the internet at home so I can access different employment centres. I have to apply for jobs online. No employer accepts paper résumés and everything has to be by email.
5811 I am a single parents and I have two boys who also need the internet. They are looking for jobs and registering for college courses. They also need to continue to upgrade their computer skills at home to be successful in the world.
5812 My income now is $700 a month. I am on Ontario Works until May when my EI kicks in. My internet bill last month was $170 and I could only pay half of it.
5813 Because I paid this bill I could not buy fruits or vegetables or meat for my family. I am taking money out of my food budget so I can for the internet to find a job and support my family. It’s now a constant struggle every month.
5814 I will have to pay some of the bill again this month, and if I will, I’ll have to go to Money Mart to borrow money to pay the bill and feed my kids.
5815 The internet also helps me to check the status of the report of my EI and plan my budget. Otherwise I would have to walk to the employment centre, which is 20 to 30 minutes away since now I can’t afford a bus pass I have to walk there.
5816 I am able to easily see the progress and changes to my file or makes on my claim online and I really enjoy doing that. And I really need to have internet to do things like that.
5817 If I cannot find work I will go back to school and upgrade my skills and still I need the internet to succeed. And like, I can’t not get anywhere; it’s really hindering me. If I don’t have internet I can’t move forward anyway. So it’s really, really hard.
5818 The internet, lastly, allows me to stay connected to news and civic events since I cannot afford cable or basic information networks.
5819 Internet is a necessity for me and I would like to have affordable internet so I can get a job, manage my bills, and so I don’t have to take Welfare.
5820 If I had affordable internet rates it would allow me to buy healthy food, balance my budget, prevent me from going to the payday lender, or buy a bus pass.
5821 I am not alone in this struggle and there are many families that need affordable internet to improve their lives. Internet is a need; it is not something that we just want. It’s a need for low-income people and single parents and for youth that are coming from low-income families.
5822 Thank you for listening to my story.
5823 THE SECRETARY: We will now hear the presentation of Kelly Lalonde from the Toronto CRTC office.
5824 MS. LALONDE: Hello. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about how I think the internet is essential in people’s lives.
5825 It is something that matters very deeply to me. My name is Kelly Lalonde. I am a renter in East York here in Toronto. I live on a fixed income with Ontario Disability Support Program and I pick up jobs on the side to increase that income.
5826 It is very difficult for me to get by and money is very tight. I half-support my son who now lives on his own. He just turned 32 yesterday. We both struggle to stay online, but I feel it is a necessity in our everyday lives.
5827 How is the internet a need and not a want? Well, let me explain. My son and I need the internet so we can try to find jobs. These days all the jobs are online and very few are found on paper.
5828 My son and I use a website called Indeed.com to find work. We have our résumé on file with them and they send me job postings to my email.
5829 If we were not online we would not be able to apply for these jobs in a timely manner. It’s hard enough to get work when I am online; imagine how hard it would be if I wasn’t.
5830 Next reason, internet is essential in enabling me to volunteer.
5831 I believe in volunteering to make my community a better place to live. I volunteer at Michael Garron General Hospital, which was formerly Toronto East General Hospital. They like to correspond with me through emails to tell me about my shift work, give me updates, and tell me if they need extra help and so on.
5832 The Ontario Disability Support Program encourages me to volunteer at the hospital because they feel it gets me prepared to join the workforce. And without the internet I would not be able to do and that’s what my worker at ODSP wants me to do.
5833 I also volunteer at ACORN. I am the co-chair of the East York chapter and really enjoy my time working there. Really, it is a community for me and without the internet at home I would not be connected with them. And that is truly very, very important to me.
5834 I come from an emotional abusive marriage, which my son grew up in. After enduring a lot of pain we found the courage to escape the marriage. It left us emotionally scarred and socially isolated with very low self-esteem. It was very hard on both of us.
5835 In the last few years by volunteering at the hospital and with ACORN this has changed and I feel that I do matter. Being able to give this testimony here today is proof of that.
5836 My growth as a person would not have been possible without the internet access. Internet is not a want but internet access is a need.
5837 That is why I choose to spend $50 a month on the internet. It’s essential. But it does cut into my budget and it makes it harder for me to buy nutritious food.
5838 Both me and my son have epilepsy and doctors tell us we need to have three nutritious meals in order for us not to have our seizures.
5839 With our fixed incomes this is hard and the cost of internet cuts directly into my food budget, which can put my (inaudible) risk.
5840 The last thing I wanted to add is I participated in the ACORN survey. I helped get people in my community to help fill it out. But looking at the results of this survey I would have to say that my story is much too common here in Toronto and across Canada. Something needs to be done to make sure that the internet is affordable for low-income people like me.
5841 Thank you for your time.
5842 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
5843 We will now hear the presentation of Rob Leiver.
5844 MR. LEIVER: How are you? My name is Robert Leiver. Thanks for allowing me to talk here today.
5845 Why don’t I let you know why I think internet is essential for people? I’m a single father as well; I’ve raised my son his whole life. And from junior high on he’s had teachers where he’s had to hand his homework in online because it’s emailed in. So if we didn’t have access to the internet it wouldn’t be possible.
5846 He’s now 20 years old and he’s applied for York University. He had to do that online.
5847 I am on ODSP myself, which is Disability. I had to apply for that online.
5848 For us to get jobs, my son has gone to businesses to hand in a résumé and they’ve been told, “We don’t accept résumés. You have to apply online” which makes it -- it's essential to have online, so it's essential to have internet. You can't function any more. Our system is changing; the entire system is changing. Everything's online.
5849 Plus, if you want to find out where you are -- like, we moved to Toronto six years ago. I didn’t know my way around. The only way I could figure that out was going online.
5850 I spend $110 a month on internet. I get $1,500 a month to live. My rent's $1,000 and I just -- and I look after my son who's 20, going to university.
5851 So it's -- if I want to get off of Disability, I either have to retrain myself, which means I'd have to go back to school, which means I'd have to have internet access for that or if I can find something that I can do as I broke -- I'm a journeyman carpenter. I broke my back, so I can't do my trade any more. My doctors told me I can never go back to my trade, so I have to get retrained or find something that I can do. To do either one of those, I need internet access.
5852 And when it takes so much money out of your daily living, it's tough. It's tough to eat, it's tough to do anything. You don’t have no social life except the internet. That's how you get a hold of your family, that's how you find jobs, that's how you do your homework if you're young or you have children. That's the way it is.
5853 It's -- the cost is outrageous. Something's got to be done. It's just banking -- like, I would have to walk to the bank if I couldn't do online banking to pay my bills. I have a broken back. It's not really comfortable walking for a mile down the road to go and pay a bill that takes 10 seconds online.
5854 Anyway, that's all I got to say. Thanks. Thanks for your time.
5855 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for participating in the hearing and courageously sharing very personal stories.
5856 Vice-Chair Menzies will have some questions for you.
5857 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you, and thank you as well for making your presentations and coming here before us.
5858 I have a quick question for each of you, and if you want to go in the same order in answering it -- so I understand all your communications needs. Other than the internet, what other services do you have, like, a phone or, you know, a landline or a cell phone, cable, over the ear TV, radio?
5859 MS. ROCHON: Okay, what I have is, I have the internet.
5860 LE PRÉSIDENT: Vous pouvez répondre ne français, madame, si vous vous sentez plus à l’aise. On a de l’interprétation. Inquiétiez-vous pas.
5861 Mme ROCHON: J'ai l’internet et puis mon cellulaire. J’ai pas le cable parce que j’ai pas -- je trouve ça ridicule de payer -- j’ai pas les moyens de payer ça là. Je veux dire j’ai juste l'internet sur mon laptop et puis mon cellulaire. C'est tout.
5862 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
5863 MR. CAMERON: I myself, I have a cell phone plan with Bell and that's about $40 a month, and I have internet access at home, of course. And my particular situation, my roommate has a landline as well.
5864 MS. LALONDE: I myself have a bundle with Rogers. My son also has a bundle with Rogers and it's about $50, $60 a month.
5865 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
5866 Ms. Ford?
5867 MS. FORD: Well, I have a cell phone. It's just a little (inaudible) mobile phone and I have a landline. And I had cable. I just got laid off in February so I had all of that, but now I don’t have cable because I can't afford nothing. I'm on EI now so that's what I have for now. But I think I'll be disconnecting the landline too soon because it's too expensive. I need the internet to look for jobs, so I'm going to keep that.
5868 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Mr. Diener?
5869 THE CHAIRPERSON: Leiver.
5870 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Mr. Leiver, go ahead.
5871 MR. LEIVER: Hi. I have one cell phone for both me and my son. I don’t have a landline. I have -- like, my bundle is cable and internet together and it's $110 a month and no landline, one cell phone.
5872 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks. That helps me understand your internet bill a bit better.
5873 Next question is, for each of you, I'm going to assume you have data caps of some kind, in terms of the amount of time you can spend on the internet in a month.
5874 I would like to know to what extent that's an issue for you and how you manage it when you have to manage it, how you would prioritize your usage of the internet in order to stay -- not get extra charges on your -- for your usage.
5875 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame Rochon?
5876 Mme ROCHON: Moi, comme c'est là, j’utilise l’internet seulement pour être connectée avec ACORN. Je l’utilise pas pour autre chose parce que je veux pas prendre de chance pour dépasser mon -- le coût que ça me coûte chaque mois. Alors, je l’utilise pas pour autre chose.
5877 MR. CAMERON: In all honesty, I don’t -- I have yet to reach the cap. The internet that I have access to, again, is shared and as to those specifics, I'm not aware, so it's not an issue for myself.
5878 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Ms. Ford?
5879 MS. FORD: Yes, I have two sons at home so they're on internet 24/7 all the time. They go over and so I just regulate that end of the month and try -- I try not to be on it as much. But usually we go over it and I don't know how to do that. I don't know want to cancel my internet though, you know?
5880 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Go ahead, Toronto.
5881 MS. LALONDE: I've gone over quite a few times and I do not appreciate that, and -- but like I said, I need the internet for literally all things that I'm doing, especially for my work with ACORN.
5882 MR. LEIVER: Robert Leiver. I too have gone over times to the point where -- well, I pay $110 a month and most of that's for the internet because I get unlimited internet access so I don’t go over it because they'll double the bill on you or triple the bill. It's ridiculous.
5883 So that's -- I pay for unlimited access so that they don’t do that to me. It hurts when they do it. It costs a lot of money.
5884 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
5885 And I have one other issue because we need your help. And part of what we're trying to do here -- you may have -- if you've been following -- is we're trying to help understand what people's basic needs are and define that in terms of possibly designating the internet as a basic telecommunications service.
5886 So there's the basic, and so -- which we've been using all week as "need", and then there's want.
5887 So I read all of the submissions made on behalf of ACORN and I kind of, reasonably unscientifically, but I went through and made a little chart for myself of sort of the categories they fell into, and I took kind of three examples of each one.
5888 The first group was people who said they -- and on the first one I picked from Surrey, B.C. -- they were all from B.C., the ones I picked, as it turned out. It's from somebody who says they can't afford the internet and if they could, they could do job search and enjoy other services like search engines, games, and Facebook.
5889 It was obvious this person is challenged financially and job search is a need, but some people might categorize games and Facebook as wants and you know, because many people function in society without them.
5890 The next one was somebody who says the price is too high and they can't afford it, but because they need it, they take money out of their recreation and other spending. They don’t indicate they need to economize on food, as some of you have, which is obviously a basic need.
5891 They indicate that if they could easily afford high-speed internet, they would be able to -- and this is different from anything you folks have said -- save money for other things.
5892 Some people might say that if that person was accessing an internet subsidy, money that could go to other people with different needs, perhaps more pressing, what they would be just doing is giving that person more money to save for other things that weren't necessarily basic, as your needs are.
5893 And the third example is from someone who thinks costs are too high, but can’t afford it. And they use the internet for email, socializing, researching, playing games, watching videos and pictures.
5894 They indicate that they hope to see internet and Wi-Fi available in all part of the world with access everywhere and that it should be free. And some people might say this person has expressed very little need and a great deal of want.
5895 So I need, we need, to sort of take that apart and understand what would be defined as need and what would be defined as want.
5896 The first group, people who thought it was too expensive but could afford it without economizing, that was a little less than probably 20 percent of the submissions. The other one, people who were -- it was too expensive but they had to have it so they had to economize, that was probably a third of them. And then the other, almost half, were people who simply couldn’t afford it but needed to have it. So there’s obviously those three categories.
5897 So I would like your advice on how I should or should not separate those.
5898 MR. CAMERON: I’m trying to process everything that you’ve said. Like, a want and a need, like the previous presenter said, like to do a defined line of that is a pretty difficult task. Yeah, honestly I don’t know how to answer that.
5899 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: That’s okay. You don’t need to.
5900 Mme ROCHON: J’aimerais dire bien comme organisme ACORN nous autres on est là pour les gens qui sont vraiment défavorisés.
5901 Les -- ce qu’on a besoin et puis -- the wants and the need, les besoins sont plus important pour la plupart de nos membres que ce qu’ils veulent. Alors les besoins sont vraiment drastiques.
5902 Je veux dire c’est au sujet de se trouver des emplois, d’avoir sa propre entreprise, d’aller à l’école et puis toutes ces choses-là.
5903 Pour ce qui est des -- ce qu’ils veulent, je veux dire c’est sûr que quand on ne peut pas -- j’essaie d’expliquer ça.
5904 Si on avait un programme pour avoir l’internet abordable, c’est sûr que les gens ils peuvent aller regarder des films et des choses comme ça. Ça pas à nous autres à juger qu’est-ce qu’ils vont faire.
5905 Mais l’important, le plus important, c’est qu’ils soient capables de se trouver des emplois, qu’ils soient capables d’aller à l’école. De partir leur entreprise.
5906 Puis comme si ils ont du temps d’extra, bien ce qu’ils font avec leur internet bon bien c’est -- tout le monde a besoin de se divertir là en quelque part là.
5907 Alors moi mes priorités c’est ces choses-là que je regarde. C’est qu’est-ce que les gens ont besoin. Merci.
5908 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Merci.
5909 MR. FORD: My opinion is that it is a need and it’s all Canadian’s needs. That’s what mostly a lot of the youth need. If you want young people to go to school and go to university and get jobs and get educated and get off Welfare, it’s a need. They need to be out working. With those computer skills they need to do university. And those people that suffer are the ones that are low and moderate-income people and kids from those families where people are struggling. And they really need it. It’s a need; it’s not a desire or something like that.
5910 And even it’s a need for all Canadians. It’s a need for abused women and homeless people. Homeless people would not be homeless if they had access and they could find housing. Like, there’s a whole broad social thing. That’s where I work with.
5911 And so you see all these people. Like, some people don’t find housing. The only reason why they are homeless is because they don’t have access to internet, right? They’re really smart people but they’re homeless people. And if they had that access, then their life circumstances would change.
5912 And I think that’s just my opinion. It’s a need for everybody if you want people in Canada to prosper.
5913 It’s a need for our First Nations people, Aboriginal people. I’m from Labrador myself and those people up there don’t even have a lot of internet. And we want people to be educated and get work?
5914 So that’s the way I look at it. Thank you.
5915 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5916 MS. LALONDE: I believe it’s a need also.
5917 As I said, my son and I both have epilepsy and we need to have nutritious food. And we also need to have transportation to get to my volunteer work and also to have internet to find work and to communicate with my friends because of the epilepsy again.
5918 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5919 MR. LEIVER: Robert Leiver. The implication is that Facebook is a want and not a need. I consider talking to my family a need not a want. I talk to them on Facebook. I don’t play games on Facebook; I talk to my friends and family. And I need to do that. I don’t want to do it; I need to do it.
5920 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
5921 Those are all my questions for you for this panel. Thank you again. You articulated yourselves very well and we’re aware of the fact that it can be vaguely intimidating coming into these rooms. And I appreciate your presentations. Thank you very much.
5922 My colleagues may have some questions.
5923 THE CHAIRPERSON: I have a question for you and it was based on my colleague’s initial question about your various telecommunications services or communications services you have. And you know, each household is different and your needs are different in terms of home of you having different services.
5924 And I’ll be perfectly blunt, even in my case sometimes I don’t know how much capacity gets absorbed by things. And we all struggle with this; it’s relatively new as a phenomenon, right? It’s not something that’s been around since my birth. In fact, they often describe technology as something that arises after you get born. So for, I guess, my grandfather the car was technology; for my parents it was probably television; and for me it’s the internet.
5925 And it’s not always clear how much things cost, how it gets consumed; are there ways to minimize the pressure on the household budget? In your case I appreciate that.
5926 So I was wondering if you could help me. To whom do you turn to get some practical advice on how to manage your telecommunications services to get the right package that fits your needs and your budgets? And I take your point that there’s not enough money to go around. But I’m just wondering what’s the support? Does ACORN do that as an association for the members? Do the programs that you benefit from, the Social Assistance program, do they help you out in trying to manage?
5927 So I’m seeing people nodding, “No.” So do I take it that that’s not a service that’s available anywhere?
5928 MR. CAMERON: Yeah, no, it’s basically learn as you go and there’s sometimes really hard lessons when you go over and you’re completely unaware and then that bill comes it’s like, “Boom” and it just hits you.
5929 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And when you’re tight that’s even worse because --
5930 MR. CAMERON: Yeah.
5931 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah.
5932 MR. CAMERON: Yeah. And it’s no fun having to lean on family for assistance that way.
5933 AUDIENCE MEMBER: You can also tell him that it’s not included in the Ontario Works program. It’s not considered a ---
5934 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, okay. Sir, yes, you’re not at the mic but I’ll repeat what you said just so we have it on the record. And that was a question I was asking of other groups as to whether the cost of telecommunications or communications services is generally not part of the calculation of the amounts, the payments you get, social supportive, one way or the other, right? No. Okay. Good.
5935 The folks from the previous group is going to give us some better sense of what’s happening in each province and territory. So let’s appreciate that.
5936 Okay, thank you.
5937 What we’ll do now, I think the folks in Toronto -- well, did you want to add?
5938 Sorry, you reached for it. Go ahead; we’re listening. In Toronto.
5939 MR. LEIVER: No, I was just -- you know, I think the biggest thing with internet and stuff is downloads, right? That's where a lot of the -- your gigabytes go and they -- usually they give you a gigabyte with your plan, which lasts -- never lasts a month.
5940 You know, you have to also realize that computers update themselves, and that's -- so the computer itself will download the information it needs. So then it's -- you really have no control of your -- you don’t know and you never get warned that you're going to be going over your time. It just -- and you can't tell. You never know how big the download your computer's going to need to update itself so it can use whatever it needs to use. So it's kind of out of your control. You don’t really know.
5941 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5942 MR. LEIVER: And you know, and then the bills are predatory after that anyway, so ---
5943 THE CHAIRPERSON: I fully appreciate. I've been there as well, not being able to always assess how much capacity you're absorbing with any given application. So I appreciate that and -- well, if you -- no, it's actually better if you come at the table. Come on up. Can you -- oh, you have a mobility issue. Okay. We'll be patient. Come on up.
5944 And so we've got to be able to hear you well for the transcript, right, so ---
5945 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: There you go.
5946 MS. ROWLAND: Thank you very much.
5947 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not at all.
5948 MS. ROWLAND: The question that you asked, I just had an experience with that this week so I wanted to use my unique experience that I had.
5949 Rogers does offer an email to you telling you when you're 75 percent -- when you’ve used 75 percent of your bandwidth.
5950 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5951 MS. ROWLAND: However, you have to have a certain type of relatively high level above the basic level of package in order to get that.
5952 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5953 MS. ROWLAND: And the one that fit my needs, when I called, because my contract was ending. I called to find out if I could get a really cheap one that would meet my needs for -- I teach English online as a second language and they -- I ended up not getting a cheaper one but I got one by way of the chat customer service that they don’t offer; they don’t advertise it, nor do they even tell anyone about it in the general advertisements for their packages.
5954 So I was able to get one. It didn’t end up being cheaper but it had a much -- more than double the bandwidth that I had been using for the last two years and occasionally having to just cut my everything off about the 20th of the month to make sure I didn’t go over. I find out that they have something they're not even telling anybody about. But you can only find out about it by way of the internet.
5955 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5956 MS. ROWLAND: So in regard to whether -- it's a struggle to afford it, but without it, you can't even find ways to make ends meet.
5957 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5958 MS. ROWLAND: So it's kind of like a self-fulfilling or a cycle that you get trapped into and there's no getting out. It's very hard to -- especially when you're a disabled person -- to differentiate between a want and a need because we have mental health needs that people who are able-bodied and who have viable incomes can satisfy easily just in their normal ability to function in society with money and physical health.
5959 So if I budget more than 50 percent of what's needed beyond my rent and utilities, what I have left over after rent and utilities are paid, and that the rest of that -- if I take what's really for food and 50 percent of it, $110 -- $120 and apply it to my internet and cable, I don’t consider the want. I don’t consider the luxury. You know, I consider the necessity because I would -- there are weeks when I don’t even speak or hear another human voice except for my TV.
5960 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
5961 MS. ROWLAND: You know?
5962 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
5963 MS. ROWLAND: And so forth and so on. So I just ---
5964 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you.
5965 MS. ROWLAND: --- wanted to share that with you.
5966 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for that. By the way, just so we can identify you in the transcripts, could you identify yourself, Ma'am, your name please?
5967 MS. ROWLAND: My name is Michelle Rowland. I'm a member of ACORN in south Ottawa.
5968 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
5969 So we have other folks who are waiting in other video conference centres, I believe, in Calgary and Halifax. It's my understanding that that means we'll cut you off in Toronto, so thank you very much for having participated so far in this.
5970 Alors, Madame la secrétaire, si on peut -- if we could put the folks through.
5971 THE SECRETARY: Yes. We will connect to Vancouver and Dartmouth and we have someone on the phone in Calgary.
5972 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, Dartmouth, not Halifax. I always make that mistake.
5973 MR. AHPUMA: Hello?
5974 THE SECRETARY: Hello. How are you? Welcome.
5975 We will now hear the presentation of five ACORN members. Two are appearing from the Vancouver CRTC office, two from the Dartmouth CRTC office, and one person is appearing by teleconference in Calgary.
5976 We will hear all five presentations, which will then be followed by questions from the members.
5977 Please introduce yourselves before beginning, and you will each have five minutes for your presentation.
5978 We will start with the presentation by Pascualle Ahpuma, appearing by teleconference. You may begin. Thank you.
5979 MR. AHPUMA: Hi everyone. My names are Pascualle Ahpuma and I'm from Calgary and I'm an ACORN member but I will talk from my own point of experience as a person why internet is a need.
5980 I need affordable internet because when I came in to Canada as a new immigrant, I had challenges and I still have challenges because all application forms are being done online, and being online, so that's an internet issue. And for that, (inaudible) a need to pay more money for you to stay connected.
5981 So anytime I go to CIC office, I'm given a website, then I'm told, "Okay, go online, go on this website and then open up the application, fill them out online."
5982 And also EI, Employment Insurance is done online. As an immigrant, I need a job and all the jobs, you are given websites. You go to a job office where they tell you, "Okay."
5983 They give you a list of all the companies who need jobs, contracts, and all that is done online. And if you don’t have internet, really you can't survive.
5984 And currently, I have a part-time job but I don’t have an internet. My roommate has an internet and I contribute to that, but I can't afford an internet on my own (inaudible).
5985 (Inaudible) being a new immigrant, people who come here, they come with a family. If you have a family you have a need to take care of your family. You need them to have a better life. That's why you sacrifice so much to come here (inaudible).
5986 But as a family, you need to stay in touch. If your kids go to school, then they need to learn how to go online. All the assignments are given -- they have to be done online.
5987 And (inaudible) another thing is privacy. You need to maintain the privacy of your family. When you go like, accessing (inaudible) at your public library, you are not actually private there, and you can't carry all your family to the library, and so it is limited. And sometimes you have to wait (inaudible) to get a computer.
5988 So that's why we are asking as members and (inaudible) that affordable internet is a need for all people, for all services require internet, even now and even forever.
5989 So as an ACORN member (inaudible) I will say that internet is a need and it should be affordable for all. That's why we are asking $10; it's quite a (inaudible) amount (inaudible) from other people who share who I have been talking to. Other countries have done so, so why can’t we? And they have the optics cable (inaudible) and then we have the wireless. So that’s why we’re asking the companies in charge, “(Inaudible) did you consider it to provide us that need.” That way we can’t keep in touch with our families.
5990 For me personally back home, I have to call my people. I have to use the internet. And if I don’t have the internet easily I can’t be in touch with them and I can’t be able to know how they are doing and they can’t be able to know how I am. So internet is everything.
5991 And we can’t really ignore this because everything is going online. You need to buy a car? Go online. You need to sell a car? Take pictures and put it online. You need to access anything? Just go online. That means if you don’t have internet you can’t be able to do anything (inaudible). That’s why we are asking that internet should be affordable for all people. (Inaudible).
5992 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
5993 We will now here the presentation of Christine Holland-Downing in Dartmouth. You may begin.
5994 MS. HOLLAND-DOWNING: Thank you.
5995 Yes, I’m Christine Holland-Downing. I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m a mother of 8 and a grandmother of 13. I am a proud member of ACORN but today I’m not here on behalf of ACORN. I’m here on behalf of myself and my personal experience of not being able to afford internet on a limited income.
5996 I’ve worked just about all of my life while raising eight children. I recently lost my job and I had to apply for EI. And after my EI benefits ran out I had no other choice; I couldn’t find a job by that time, and I had to go on Income Assistance.
5997 I’m still looking for work but I find it extremely difficult because I don’t have access to internet or a phone. From Social Services I receive $553 a month. That’s for rent, power, groceries, necessities. And I believe the internet here is around $85 a month depending on the provider. And let me tell you also, Social Services doesn’t allow money for transportation to go out and look for a job here in Nova Scotia.
5998 And this is a major problem for me and I’m sure other people in my situation. And because I don’t have resources to access the internet to access job searching to send out résumés and even to email potential employers -- I also can’t afford a phone to receive potential interviews.
5999 Also, I have a lot of family that live outside of Canada and outside of Nova Scotia. Without the internet access I’m unable to keep in regular contact with my children, my grandchildren, and other family members.
6000 Also, when my children had school assignments they would have to do their research at a library because even though I was working I still couldn’t afford internet because I had children to feed, you know? So they had to go to the library and wait for a computer, because, you know, there’s limited computers in a library, in order to do their homework sometimes for the next day.
6001 I do know that public housing tenants in Toronto already have internet access and I believe it’s $10 a month. And I believe the provider is Rogers. We don’t have Rogers here in Nova Scotia.
6002 So I believe that having affordable internet would improve my situation significantly and other people that are also in the same situation I’m in.
6003 So with that, I just thank you for listening to my personal story and if you have any questions I’d like to answer them.
6004 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
6005 We’ll now here the presentation of Skylar Aaron-Richard.
6006 MR. AARON-RICHARD: Hey, I’m Skylar Aaron-Richard. I am a member of Nova Scotia ACORN and I’m here to talk today about why I personally feel that internet is not so much a want but a need. And I think that that need and necessity differs for everybody. But to include one person should be to include all.
6007 I feel I should start off by saying that I am person with both physical and mental issues. I have arthritis, which makes it really hard, if not impossible, some days for me to be able to walk. And even on my good days, walking more than a block at a time is a problem.
6008 I’m also very hard of hearing and I have several mental health conditions that limit my ability to have in-personal social interactions with other people on most days.
6009 I should secondly state that I’m on Social Assistance and that does not include the internet in my monthly supplement amounts. I’m on Disability, Income Assistance for Nova Scotia and I receive $675, I believe at this point, a month and that has to include my rent, that is $410, and it has to include my power and my food. And I am on several special diets.
6010 To be able to have the internet it makes me have to take money from that food and other places to be able to pay for it. If I didn’t have a Visa, to be honest I probably wouldn’t survive. But again, that’s only borrowed money and I do owe it back, which causes problems on its own. But you know, I need the internet.
6011 I need the internet to communicate because I can’t fully hear on the phone. I need it to run ASL, because I don’t have the money to pay for classes, and also to reach out to community. Without the internet I would not be able to find help, make appointments, order food, or just talking to people.
6012 And besides even that, I need the internet to be able to have support systems to keep my mental health stable. And I can’t have that if I can’t look up resources or talk to people in the mental health community.
6013 As humans we’re very social creatures and require a certain level of stimuli to remain healthy. I know I do. Which makes me feel like I need to make a point of saying the internet for entertainment is also a need. And I know that there could be a lot of argument made against that.
6014 But please hear me out. When people don’t have the ability to get up and walk and go places or, you know, they’re lacking the funds to just be able to go do this, or maybe they have a mental condition; maybe they’re agoraphobic and they can’t leave their house, they need some kind of external stimuli. They need something because being left alone with your own thoughts causes a lot of destructive things to happen.
6015 We need to be able to communicate with other people as well as just if we can’t reach out to others, to even just be alone with other sound or something that moves that involves us in community. And we lack that if we can’t have the internet to get it.
6016 I should say that Income Assistance here in Nova Scotia allows, if you’re on Disability, for a phone but only $35 a month. So I can’t even get data on a phone because without data on my phone -- my phone bill right now is -- the cheapest I could find because I had to get a new phone because mine broke and I need certain programs on it -- is $51 a month and I don’t have data. So even putting that’s too much.
6017 I would also like to state that free internet at places like the library is just not an option most days because one, I can’t walk, and I don’t get a bus pass and I don’t have enough tickets for anything but appointments. But two, because places like that have limited amount of time that you can be there. So great. And you have no privacy. So you’re going to deal with your public things out in the open with everybody? And for me that includes talking and I can’t bring cameras into the library to have Skype conversations.
6018 It requires a whole other level of something that you just get. You get deprived from life with these things.
6019 Right now my internet is $85 a month and it’s one of the cheapest for our two big providers. And I split this with a roommate, which puts it down to 42.50 for me alone a month. This is still too much.
6020 We have a right to the things we need and we need affordable internet now.
6021 Thank you.
6022 THE SECRETARY: We will now here the presentation of Monica McGovern in Vancouver.
6023 Sorry. I think you just muted.
6024 MS. McGOVERN: Am I all right now?
6025 THE SECRETARY: Perfect. Yeah.
6026 MS. McGOVERN: I'm Monica McGovern. Thank you for having us to present at your hearing. I am the ACORN Chair of Burnaby, B.C.
6027 I'll tell you about myself. I am a mother of three with nine grandchildren and I am a parent to two of my grandchildren, aged 10 and 14.
6028 I am on fixed income. I am a senior. It is a hardship to pay the $65 for high-speed internet that I have. I have had times where I haven't had internet and it was a big hardship on my children. When they go to the library, like you say you have to wait when you get the computer. You are only allowed to have one hour and you can't save anything from the computer. You can't -- you just have to quickly look through and try to do your homework.
6029 Sometimes I didn't want to send my kids in the dark -- I have mobility issues -- to take a bus to go to the library and then to come back. It's not safe. So I got -- you know, I do have the internet now and my children are really happy because as soon as they come home they are on the internet. They do all their projects, all their research and they use it for entertainment as a side.
6030 I have used it because I am in the home. I am involved with ACORN things and in researching things and communicating. I have to send emails to people when we have campaigns and things and I wouldn't be able to do that without the internet. And also it is broadening my horizons to be able to talk with people, with my family in other provinces.
6031 So for our family it's a necessity and even though I am on a fixed income it is squeezing me. It is squeezing me to take away money I could use for leisure with the kids or for a better diet for the kids.
6032 I'll tell you a little bit more. I worked for 10 years as a youth and childcare worker and I worked with very disadvantaged children showing mental health and emotional problems. Most felt like outsiders as they fell behind in their peers, particularly in education among other disadvantages.
6033 I also worked for 30 years for several Single Mum Support Groups so I got to know my single mums and what their issues were.
6034 At the same time I worked for 20 years as a family counsellor in a parenting program where I worked in the homes of the families. For each family I worked for six months to 12 months -- six to 12 months visiting five hours weekly with the family. The majority were low-income families referred to Social Services and Aboriginal Social Service offices of the Ministry of Children and Family.
6035 But most -- these children a lot were acting out against their parents and their situation living in poverty. Some of them aspired to go into foster home where they would get more. They suffered poor self-esteem and they felt social separation from children in higher income brackets.
6036 Most children did not do well educationally and most of them did not have the internet to access and faced the same problems with the library. Sometimes the parents couldn't even afford the bus pass for their children to go to the library. So they fall behind. Nowadays it's a necessity, particularly regarding children's emotional needs and educational and life skill needs.
6037 Most children in middle to high-class income families have internet and even pre-schoolers are using iPads and laptops to learn and explore information. But even when they play games they are learning.
6038 By school age they have easy access to do their homework. They are very familiar with the internet from very little age. So they have -- they have their internet at home. They can access any school project. You know they are confined to one hour somewhere, like you say, in public where you can't save the information.
6039 They can explore information and they can save it for their projects. They score higher than their low-income counterparts in school and pursue post-secondary education in larger numbers. That's a proven fact.
6040 The lack of educational success due to poverty and the lack -- and related to also the lack of high-speed income (sic) leads to repeated social and emotional issues and a big economic divide that equals low-income families -- to get better jobs because they haven't -- they don't have the higher education that their counterparts have.
6041 So what happens is, and it’s a known fact, there is a repeated effect, like a cycle of poverty where these children that grow up in those homes that don't have access to educational opportunities, they in turn recycle into poverty. They get low-paying jobs or they end up on income assistance and the cycle just continues.
6042 And I believe this is -- and it's a fact. This is a big economic disadvantage to the federal government because these kids are going to -- the cost is in social issues and in the low-income issues.
6043 And even in -- the new UNICEF report came out in equality in children. Canada rated -- I think it's 27 out of 35, 27 out of 35 in providing equal opportunities for children of poverty, children of low income. So we have to do something and I think that given the internet -- will help stop the divide between the income levels and help equalize the playing field and reduce social costs and economical costs to the government.
6044 So that's my say.
6045 THE SECRETARY: Thank you very much.
6046 We will now hear the presentation of Linda Tetlock.
6047 MS. TETLOCK: Hello. My name is Linda Tetlock. I live in New Westminster. I am a low-income senior ACORN member currently employed on-call in housekeeping caring position and I am a part-time building maintenance worker still struggling to meet my subsidies.
6048 I am not able to buy any natural vitamin supplements to help with my chronic back and leg pain, stomach problems, also brain function that I really need to improve the deterioration in my learning and very poor memory that is increasing.
6049 Having such a difficult time -- oh, excuse me.
6050 MS. McGOVERN: Sorry. She has become very overwhelmed emotionally reviewing her personal history so hopefully she will -- give her a minute?
6051 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, absolutely, take your time. Might want to have a drink of water there, and when you are ready. No rush.
6052 --- (Short pause/Courte pause)
6053 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ma'am, you really -- if you would rather not share your personal story that's fine. We don't want to force you to ---
6054 MS. TETLOCK: I would like to read it. THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, then go ahead then. That's fine.
6055 MS. TETLOCK: I'd like to, thank you.
6056 Having such a difficult time learning, remembering new things brings me to tears so I require activities I can do at home to help me. This all hinders me greatly from performing the work duties and tasks that are required of me. Plus, everything is so expensive, even purchasing fruit and vegetables. That's a real treat for me when I get to have any, if there is a little entertainment money. Being a person of disability trying to help myself and I cannot afford to have internet services, which would be very beneficial to me. I’m here today to impress upon you the importance of this basic necessity.
6057 The reasons I require internet are being able to keep in contact with, you know, family members and friends living at a long distance I don’t see.
6058 Very important to me is being able to search for a part-time employment more easily. My only method now is dropping off résumés by walking around, accessing bus and SkyTrain, also word of mouth, which is very time-consuming, tiring, and it really aggravates one’s disability causing me much pain, which extends from my neck down my back, all down my legs that swell. And I can barely walk. This is very stressful to me, having just to get around to find employment. Plus, not all employers accept résumés in person; you must go online to apply -- all this shortens my list for possible employment.
6059 I have very limited job opportunities and resources such as housing information; knowing tenants rights; what qualifications are required; searching various areas of availability -- this is difficult as newspapers offer very little -- and any low-income housing, if any; also government services; accessing various medical information, new breakthroughs; government forms and different programs offered to assist me in helping my disability.
6060 Therefore, low-income persons as myself should not be priced out of this basic needed service I truly need. And I thank you and I appreciate your attention.
6061 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, thank you very much. As with the other panel, Vice-Chair Menzies will be asking you some questions.
6062 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
6063 I’ll start with a different one this time. Could you tell me -- and just a little bit of context. I’m struck by the range of costs that people have told us about that they pay for internet. Dartmouth there, Skylar you told us of $80 a month. And I did a quick check on the internet here and saw that that was probably around Eastlink’s price and Bell Aliant is 75, which I assume after taxes would be up by there. I took a look at TELUS in Vancouver and they have a price for around $30 for a 15-meg service.
6064 So it seems to me that, unless there’s something technological that I don’t understand, that providers are capable of providing a range of prices that may or may not be accessible.
6065 So could each of you in the same order, starting with you, Mr. Ahpuma -- who we’ll try not to forget about because we can’t see you -- tell us what you think a reasonable price is to pay for basic services on the internet.
6066 MR. AHPUMA: I think for me personally a reasonable price would be $10 for me to be able to access all the services that I need.
6067 All people that have spoken in this before me have talked about how people are being affected. Like, I have a client who had to need to buy a bus pass and the cost to maintain the internet.
6068 But for me personally, from a personal point of experience, $10 would be good enough at least for people to have high-speed affordable internet, for all people.
6069 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
6070 I think we’re going to Ms. Holland-Downing in Dartmouth now?
6071 MS. HOLLAND-DOWNING: Hello?
6072 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Hello. What do you think would be a reasonable price to pay for internet?
6073 MS. HOLLAND-DOWNING: From my own personal experience and what I live on right now, it would be maybe $10 -- $10, $15.
6074 I don’t have a phone at the present time, I don’t have internet, and I don’t have cable. I can’t afford anything. The only thing I have is a radio to listen to to keep me up to date in what’s going on in the world. Other than that I have nothing because I can’t afford it.
6075 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Understood.
6076 MS. HOLLAND-DOWNING: And our prices here in Nova Scotia seem to be a lot larger or higher than places we’ve been hearing from here.
6077 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It does. Okay.
6078 Mr. Aaron-Richard? You’re paying 80-something now?
6079 MR. AARON-RICHARD: Yeah, I pay $85 and I’m will Bell Aliant.
6080 I’d probably say the same, around $10, $15 would be affordable for where I’m at because even paying half of that, because my roommate pays half of that, at $42 is just too much money. I don’t have it. Our bus passes here in Nova Scotia cost pretty much the same amount of money as our internet bill, maybe the difference of $5 to $10 and that’s a little ridiculous. Either way we’re screwed.
6081 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
6082 And the folks in Vancouver?
6083 MS. McGOVERN: Ah, yes. I’m kind of interested in the $30. I pay 65 to TELUS for, you know, high-speed internet. We had the low speed but it was really kind of aggravating to the kids. It was hard to get on; it would take a long time, you know, for something to load.
6084 So I pay $65 and I think in the case of low-income people $10 or free should be good because I know these companies are making billions of dollars and I think they can afford it. And I think it’s an investment in our children, like I said before, to be able to succeed educationally, take themselves out of poverty.
6085 So I think, you know, $10 or free in some cases because in B.C. some people think everybody low-income lives in subsidized housing. The majority of people do not live in subsidized housing.
6086 I know in Vancouver there’s a 5,000-people list waiting to get into social housing and many more that don’t even bother. So what happens is, we’re in a high-rent area and similar to what the people in Nova Scotia get, a single person gets around 550 to live on and, say, a person with a child gets about 600. If you’re on Disability you get 900 to live on.
6087 But if you consider having to go and rent a place, you don’t have any money left for internet or for even, like people said, the proper food, you know? So I think that lowering the cost of internet or making it free, going by a level of income, I think that’s what we need. So that’s my point.
6088 Here you want to talk now?
6089 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, that’s fine.
6090 I don’t know if any of you were listening earlier in the day but I made a point, in asking somebody else, in regards to the fact that Social Service agencies are generally in the business of caring for people’s basic needs. And I’ve heard some from you folks about a school system that assigns children work on the internet and that sort of stuff.
6091 But I haven’t heard anybody indicate that they’ve ever had any assistance in gaining access to the internet from Social Services or any provision from any school system to assist children whose job it is for them to educate in getting access to this.
6092 Have any of you had any experience with any of the people who have responsibility for caring for your basic needs and your children’s basic education -- have any of you had any assistance from anyone in those sectors?
6093 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: No, sir. It’s not (inaudible).
6094 MS. McGOVERN: Probably not. I hadn’t thought of it.
6095 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: And have you ever ---
6096 MS. McGOVERN: Myself, no.
6097 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Have you asked? And what have you been told when you asked?
6098 MS. McGOVERN: Well if there was something available I’m sure they would mention it.
6099 I’m to the point with Social Services I just need a job. I just want to get out there, because if you ask them for anything it’s like you’re begging them for something.
6100 If they don’t give you things like a bus pass to help you to go out there and look for a job, they’re not going to -- I mean if they don’t allow you money for a phone for emergencies, you know, or just a basic phone need, they’re not going to give you internet, because that’s a luxury to them.
6101 A phone is a luxury here in Nova Scotia to our Social Services offices, but yes. So it would -- you could ask, but it’s not going to happen. There’s no way it’s going to happen.
6102 If they won’t assist me and other people in trying to help us find proper jobs to get out of the situation we’re in, that -- I’m sure, you know, I live better on E.I. then I’m doing on Social Services, but yes I’m pretty sure that won’t happen, but I could ask, but I know the answer would be no.
6103 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I don’t have any kids ---
6104 MS. HOLLAND-DOWNING: I’d like to say ---
6105 UNKNOWN: Oh sorry, go ahead.
6106 MR. AARON: I don’t have any kids, but I can say from somebody who’s been -- who is going to go back to college and who has been in college previously that –- and just graduated from -- even back in 2008 from school and it being a requirement, that everything be done online and we applied for classes and stuff online.
6107 It was the recommendation of the school that I either come to the school and do it or go to the library and Social Assistance didn’t deem it necessary that I should have to have the internet.
6108 That if that was a thing then it should fall on the schools; was essentially Social Assistance’s view on that.
6109 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. Go ahead Vancouver.
6110 MS. McGOVERN: Yes, I’d just like to say that in -- because I work with many low income people and also people in my -- in our ACORN group, the way it works is the ministry decides that they give you your cheque all together, but they decide that this much is for support and this much is for shelter.
6111 And that -- say if the shelter -- if you’re in B.C. and single they say it’s 375 for shelter. Any -- another 125 or so for support.
6112 A family is also in a very low income park and I’ve worked with them where it’s a hassle to get a phone.
6113 What they say is out of your shelter you should also pay your heat and your electricity. That’s the only things they consider a necessity, but they don’t give you a separate payment for that.
6114 It’s included in that very low shelter amount and most people are paying over 50 percent for shelter and not even having enough money for food.
6115 And there’s no -- they don’t care about internet. They’re not going to pay for internet separately and when it comes to the schools, they can’t afford to do it.
6116 We have our local schools that are signing on that they believe that there should be a $10 low cost internet available for the students, but the school boards here are suffering. They’re cutting things right and left and there’s no money for internet.
6117 So sorry, that’s my input. Thank you, sir.
6118 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. Some of you -- a question the Chairman asked the previous group. I’m struck by the size of some of the bills you guys are faced with.
6119 I’ve heard several mentions of cell phone bills that are -- that you’re paying more than I am for mine and cable prices or internet prices that you’re paying more than I am.
6120 And I guess the question is, is there through ACORN or any other agency, is there any one place where you can go to get some advice on where to get the most affordable plans or how to manage some of these issues?
6121 Like I mean I understand Ms. Holland-Downing you don’t have anything so there’s nothing to manage, but for those of you who do have something, are you aware of any place where you can go where there’s some coaching available, or where there’s some rates available or assistance through let’s say non-government NGO Social Service agencies? Anything at all?
6122 MR. AARON: Not here -- not here no. We haven’t been made aware of it. As far as I know, at least, ACORN what we know here, we don’t know any through that and haven’t been ---
6123 I’ve asked through Social Assistance if they could direct me in any particular direction that would make this easier for costs, because I think the prices are a little ridiculous for things like even a phone, but they didn’t have any ideas of where to send either.
6124 Whether or not they did or not and didn’t care is I guess a little bit of a moot point, but ---
6125 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: M’hm.
6126 MR. AARON: There’s no, as far as I know, in Nova Scotia any real like small individual places offering some special kind of deal because we’re -- have less money. No one seems to have -- they’re like well find a way to work it.
6127 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you. Those are my questions. My colleagues may have some more.
6128 I’d like to thank you. I thought that you articulated yourselves well and for some of you at least you summoned considerable moral courage to do so.
6129 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I’m just checking my colleagues, apparently those are our questions.
6130 But, you know, I do want to say that normally our hearings are populated by lawyers, economists, accountants, public relation firms and it was certainly refreshing for you to be here to remind us and to keep us real.
6131 I once said to a reporter that –- who asked me about average Canadians and I told them average Canadians only live in surveys. I only deal with individual Canadians, so it was very good for you to participate in this.
6132 And I know that -- well I think you’re all very courageous. I know that some of you it was quite difficult because of mobility issues and other issues to participate in this but we appreciate your participation.
6133 I only hope that there are other people listening, CEOs and decision makers in this country. I’d suggest you give up on pompous editorial boards; I have.
6134 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I know as well you’ll be anxious to have some answers. Unfortunately we have to go through a process, but your contribution was invaluable, so thank you very much.
6135 We will be adjourned at this point, because I think we’ve gone through the intervenors for today and tomorrow exceptionally, listen, we’re reconvening at 1:00 p.m.
6136 Donc nous sommes en ajournement jusqu’à 13h00 demain. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 3:25 p.m.
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