Transcript, Hearing April 18, 2016
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: April 18, 2016
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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 Monday, April 18, 2016 at 9:03 a.m.
6944 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre, s'il vous plaît. Order, please.
6945 So those of you in the room, it will be abundantly clear that we will be doing a lot of interpretation today, but those listening that are from a distance may not have noticed.
6946 So I will -- that's why I'm explaining it to you that although we normally operate with French and English interpretation, this morning we will be on top of that also working interpretation through ASL and LSQ.
6947 As a consequence, we will try and others in the room should also endeavour to keep the right pace so that nothing is lost and everything is understood.
6948 Madame la secrétaire?
6949 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci.
6950 We will now hear the presentation of Deaf Wireless Canada Committee and then we will hear the presentation of the Canadian Association of the Deaf.
6951 Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you each have 15 minutes for your presentation.
6952 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Good morning. Thank you, Madam Secretary, and good morning, Chairman, Commissioners and everyone else present here today.
6953 My name is Lisa Anderson-Kellett and I am the Chairperson of the Deaf Wireless Canada Committee. To my left is Arista Haas who is our Secretary. Next to her is Nicole Marsh and beside Nicole is Rytch Newmiller. To my right is Frank Folino, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, and to his right is Executive Director James Roots.
6954 Before we get into our presentation, there are a couple of items I’d like to address. I'd like Arista to begin with those comments.
6955 MS. HAAS: Thank you, Lisa.
6956 I’d like to ask permission to include a report entitled “Dear Wireless Survey Analysis” of April 2016. The reason we're asking for permission this morning of the Panel is to have the findings of the report included in the proceedings of which we are here today.
6957 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. We were aware of the issues because you spoke to legal counsel and we’ll take the decision as to whether to include it or not under advisement, but you can go ahead on the assumption that it is part of the proceeding.
6958 MS. HAAS: Thank you.
6959 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Thank you.
6960 There is one extra item of business that I'd like to address.
6961 I would like to ensure or clarify for everyone my role here today is clearly as part of the Deaf Wireless Canadian Committee. I am not here in my capacity as a Director of the Canadian Administrator of Video Relay Service. All information contained in this submission has been in the capacity as my role as a volunteer and not in the capacity of my position as Director of CAV.
6962 No confidential or proprietary information of CAV was used in the preparation of this or all proceeding or subsequent submissions. And any VRS related comments or queries will be deferred to other members of this committee.
6963 The mandate. Our committee, we would like to see that wireless service providers provide fair and uniform wireless data plans for all ASL and LSQ users; two, that there are cost-reasonable data plans for all ASL and LSQ users; transparent and clear advertisement of the plans offered by the wireless service providers, and fourth, decrease disparity of product and service provisions within and amongst the various wireless service providers.
6964 MR. NEWMILLER: So we'd like to focus on issues and concerns between the ASL and LSQ users. Many of them are going over their allotted monthly data limits on their bills and this is due to increased video communications which is causing significant bill shock because of the video communication platforms they are using such as FaceTime, Skype, Glide, and other future video technology that may arise.
6965 These users pay for voice minutes and plans that they don’t need. Hearing people pay for unlimited voice minutes while deaf people do not have the same functional equivalency. There are several issues with Texting 9-1-1 due to various restrictions.
6966 And within the wireless service providers, there are a number of issues. A lot of them have a wide disparity offered in the data plans that are not clear and within their own companies, they are not clear and they are not advertised specifically, and there are no fair plans available for ASL and LSQ users and customers.
6967 When we speak about audio versus video, video uses a greater bandwidth than audio which results in higher data usages or overages, i.e. the bill shock that I spoke of previously.
6968 When deaf users receive their bill, they're often shocked at the amount of the bill and did not realize that they had overseeded their data allotment.
6969 The average data plan today is 6 gigabits and most deaf users today are using Glide, FaceTime, Skype, and in the future, with the greater dependency on video conferencing, video communication, this number will rise.
6970 And so just like hearing callers and their voice plans, they have unlimited minutes, we also are promoting the same functional equivalence to have unlimited data use for video conversation communication.
6971 MS. MARSH: We conducted a Canada-wide survey which provided 905 valid responses that we could analyze.
6972 Eight-one (81) percent of the respondents were deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind.
6973 Fifty-three (53) percent of the respondents still have a house landline phone in order to communicate over their TTY so they are able to communication with 9-1-1. Eighty-four (84) percent plan to cancel their home line plans and begin using wireless technology with the next three years.
6974 Eighty-three (83) percent use video communications currently on their smart phones. Popular choices right now are Glide, FaceTime, and Skype.
6975 Sixty-eight (68) percent of the respondents currently have one or two-year contracts, 20 percent have plans or unlocked smartphones with month-to-month plans, while another 12 percent have other options.
6976 Eighty-six (86) percent are not aware of voice credited or voice removed plan options. They’re just simply unaware. Fifty-four (54) percent of the respondents required two to six gigabytes of wireless data plans to ensure their current wireless needs.
6977 The top four needs for visual communication today are texting, emailing, photo communication, and video communication.
6978 Fifty-three (53) percent of the survey respondents went over their data plan limit, while 45 percent of them were very careful and stayed within their limits, and the rest simply didn’t know. This indicates that the amount of gigabytes given do not meet the consumer needs.
6979 To date, and because of our survey findings, we wanted to propose four recommendations grouped into four categories. First, transparency; second, consumer education to ASL and LSQ users; affordability; and also accessibility.
6980 Speaking about the first recommendation, transparency, targeted marketing to ASL and SLQ users. Data plans with voice credits should be clearly advertised in ASL and LSQ with clearly written English and French. The promotion of these wireless plans need to be increased in visual -- increased in digital and print medias, as well as videos in sign language in both ASL and LSQ.
6981 Deaf Canadians prefer an unlimited data plan. To date it is not possible. And if it’s not offered they should be provided with a 10 to 12 gigabyte package without an overage penalty if they were to overcede that limit, and greater and symmetrical bandwidth for download and upload speeds with no throttling from LTE to 3G should be provided for absolute clear video communication.
6982 Our second recommendation, consumer education. Create consumer educational videos in ASL and LSQ to explain the telecommunications system, as well as a joint committee to oversee the initiative. Wireless service providers to start creating terminology in ASL and LSQ videos for users to understand and navigate their wireless service contracts.
6983 The WSPs are also suggested to co-host workshops with the Canadian Association of the Deaf to educate ASL and LSQ users such as how to file a complaint with the CCTS, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.
6984 Our third recommendation, affordability, is to create a telecommunication accessibility fund pooled by the wireless service providers. Provide those with low income smartphones and data plan packages in order to have access to video communication. Utilize the contingency fund for projects to develop educational videos to address the communication gap. And to create employment opportunities for training in ASL and LSQ using those employees to provide customer service directly in sign language.
6985 The fourth recommendation on accessibility, the existing text with 9-1-1 system. It needs to be overhauled to improve the effectiveness and efficiency for all consumers, including ASL and LSQ users. A symmetrical 10 megabytes per second for download and upload speed should be the minimum standard for all wireless communications.
6986 And wireless service providers should also invest in ASL and LSQ users to ensure that communications are received in those languages. And the options we suggest are employ ASL and LSQ users as customer service representatives or CSRs. Invest in extensive training for employees who are willing to learn new languages, specifically ASL and LSQ to provide customer service to those consumers. And also, provide sign language interpretation upon request.
6987 Again on our fourth recommendation regarding accessibility, direct video communication in ASL for our ASL and LSQ users provided by the CCTS and the CRTC in order to log complaints and queries.
6988 Through our findings and research, we noted that since 2008 different parties party to different recommendations and interventions before the CRTC have made note. And we, the Deaf Wireless Canadian Committee, are in full support of having someone deaf, ASL or LSQ, be employed and be involved at a decision-making level, to be involved in the decision-making process when navigating the future of video communication. Because after all it is 2016 and we should have those people clearly in place to help make those decisions.
6989 Part of why we say it is 2016 is because we feel that from 2008 until now there’s been many, many referrals and references to an accessibility office and that has yet to be in place. And that’s where we feel strongly that we need a person with ASL or LSQ (inaudible) experience be involved in such an office at a decision-making level.
6990 THE CHAIRPERSON: So thank you for your presentation. I’ll start off the questions for you.
6991 My first question deals with the mandate of your group.
6992 THE SECRETARY: I’m sorry, Mr. Chairman, we have another presentation to hear before.
6993 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, sorry.
6994 THE SECRETARY: We’re going to hear the presentation of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, which is sitting at the table with (inaudible).
6995 THE CHAIRPERSON: I apologize, I thought there was only one presentation.
6996 THE SECRETARY: It’s okay.
6997 You may begin, Mr. Folino.
6998 MR. FOLINO: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, legal staff, other staff, people in the audience, people who are watching, and the audience across Canada.
6999 My name is Frank Folino. I’m the President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf. As Lisa mentioned already, this is James Bruce. He's our executive director here to my right.
7000 The Canadian Association of the Deaf is a national organization. We collect and research information, we disseminate the information, we teach the community, and we do deaf advocacy across Canada. We support people who have similar interests and means.
7001 We've been established since 1940 and we promote, protect the rights and needs and concerns for those individuals who are linguistically and culturally deaf who use American Sign Language and langue des signes des québécois, or LSQ.
7002 The Canadian Association of the Deaf has made an estimate that in 2016 across Canada have approximately 350,000 culturally deaf people, and that's an increase over a few years ago.
7003 This estimate is based on a population of 35 million here in Canada and the statistic is 10 percent of the population.
7004 As the previous group mentioned, we know that there are severe financial barriers to the deaf community and to deaf Canadians to participate in the digital economy. In relation to that, there's a lack of education to LSQ and ASL users to understand what the internet packages are provided and are available in the marketplace.
7005 I want to mention that the World Federation of the Deaf and their statement on the adaption and adoption of technology and accessibility, made in October of 2014, clearly shows that deaf people are taking advantage on our early adopters on advancing technology and using it towards communication and approving the quality of living.
7006 Access to information is important to meet their needs for visual communication like YouTube with captioning; services supplied online using sign language, for example, relay services like video relay interpreting and video relay service, as well as other emerging technology.
7007 We would like to mention that video relay service -- we want to emphasize that this is a basic telecommunications service. For the -- and it's provision on a national level for ASL and LSQ users. Video relay service reduces barriers to communication that we're experiencing right now without it.
7008 We have limited ability to be part of the fabric of Canadian society and we see major benefits of having the service for deaf and hearing individuals. It will give us functional equivalency when it comes to communication in the same way that hearing people use their telephone and other methods of communication.
7009 The Canadian administrator of VRS has announced it will be internet based. They will use smart phones, apps, tablets, and other web-based technology.
7010 The reason why we emphasize that VRS is a basic communication service is it has been said it will be supported with -- it's eligible for funding in accordance with the Telecommunication Act under section 46.5 (1), which states that the Commissioner may require any telecommunication service provider to contribute subject to any conditions that the Commission may set to fund and support continuing access by Canadians to telecommunication services. So we want to add that telecommunication services should be recognized as a basic service.
7011 The issues of concern related to technology, as you are all aware, is that technology is changing very quickly. Within five years we will see many advances and Canadian infrastructure is falling behind. Steps need to be taken to catch up.
7012 Broadband internet services must be defined as a basic service, particularly for ASL and LSQ users because of the establishment of video relay service, and this is important to give us accessibility. The video communication needs will require fluid transmission.
7013 Your suggestion that the download speed and the upload speeds will not meet our needs because low speeds won't meet our needs for video transmission as well as data transmission.
7014 A perfect example of this is we tried to upload a 30 -- a video clip and it took 36 hours to upload a 10-minute video clip at 1 megabytes per second. With this, it will cause low-quality communication when it comes to VRS and VRI. We suggest that there should be no throttling on data when it comes to video communications.
7015 We also recognize that in the Northern Territories, that the technology is further behind because of the 3G networks and they don’t have access to LTE, so we're concerned that will affect our community's communication.
7016 The situation for the deaf who live in northern community means that they're very isolated, they are limited economically, they have limited access to telecommunication because of the 3G network.
7017 We call it a language deprivation because they don’t have the ability to access communication in their first and Native language, ASL or LSQ.
7018 Our recommendation, when it comes to technology and internet service, we would ask that the telecommunication service providers provide a minimum of 25 megabytes per minute -- sorry, per second, with 10 megabytes per second upload and at least 100 gigabytes of data.
7019 Because of the nature of high speed, this is necessary to provide access to VRI and VRS. We use high definition video quality and we recommend no throttling. That way, ASL and LSQ users can access communication technology.
7020 The Commission has an office called the Consumer Affairs and Strategic Planning and Social Policy Office, the SPO, so we recommend that we have the equivalent of the Disability Access Office, the DAO, that the FCC provides.
7021 So far, there are no ASL or LSQ individuals that I know of at the CRTC that have its own experience or expertise with the disability lens. We recommend that the CRTC should employ persons with disabilities and ASL and LSQ users for these positions. They can provide accessibility lenses on all its decisions, published policies, research, and regulatory framework for all accessibility issues related to telecommunication services.
7022 The last recommendation is the TAF, the Telecom Accessibility Fund. The Commission has created a number of other funds for specific purposes, some related to accessibility, such as the BAF, the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.
7023 CAD recommends that a separate fund be established as a Telecommunication Accessibility Fund, or the TAF.
7024 With the TAF we would emphasize that all telecommunications service providers, telephone providers, wireless providers should contribute to that fund in a way to grow the fund for the purpose of accessibility needs.
7025 With this fund, ASL and LSQ users would be able to access any of the providers’ services. The money should be available nationally and should meet rural and urban users, both ASL and LSQ.
7026 There should be a subsidized internet package for low-income users so they can have reasonable access to data plans and communications.
7027 And finally, that funding could also be used to develop and create educational videos in ASL and LSQ so the deaf community can understand what’s available in their first language.
7028 Thank you very much for your time for allowing us the opportunity to make a submission. And I look forward to your questions.
7029 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think I jumped the gun earlier; I apologize for that. I thought it was a joint presentation.
7030 So as I said, I’m going to have a few questions and obviously some of them are specific to each presenter and then there are others that both groups may choose to address.
7031 So my first question, though, is more specifically to the DWCC. And I notice that your mandate refers to fair and uniform wireless data plans. I mean, you’ve chosen to use the word “fair” and “uniform”, those two words, and I was wondering if you could put a little bit more meat around that bone so that we understand what you mean about “fair” and “uniform”, and specifically around the word “uniform”.
7032 As you know, we tend to put emphasis on communication that is competitive and uniformity might be seen as not quite in line with a notion of a competitive market, if everything is the same.
7033 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Sure. Thank you for that question.
7034 We certainly recognize the competition in our economy and we encourage competition. But specifically what we mean might be better displayed by example.
7035 With a number of deaf people we’re all using the same wireless service provider; we’re customers of the same provider. And we all have different gigabyte allowances. For example, some of us might have 2 gigabytes and I might pay $45 and another person may pay $65 and another person may pay $35. And someone else may actually only pay $15 by way of credit.
7036 So our point when we say “uniform” is to have the WSPs, the wireless service providers, institute a uniformity in terms of what gigabyte package and price point they’re going to give deaf persons within their same package plan. We did not mean to have all companies follow a uniform and fair package or standard for these gigabyte plans.
7037 Of course “fair’ we want to emphasize something that meets our needs as deaf users and uniformity within the company themselves.
7038 Does anyone want to add anything? And Arista is indicating she would like to add something.
7039 MS. HAAS: An example of Lisa’s example and one way to increase fairness, one company AT&T, they have established a plan that meets the needs of hard of hearing and speech impaired users. And they have one package with various options. They may have a 6-gigabyte plan at $50 per month with various options and features and then they’ll have a higher plan at 12 gigabytes, 15 gigabytes, et cetera.
7040 So deaf Americans can look at that company based on their needs and determine which package suits their needs based on the features provided. And that information is included in our findings report that we’ve included for your review.
7041 THE CHAIRPERSON: So do I take it that uniform does not mean identical?
7042 MS. HAAS: Right. I guess our point is not to have it -- we want to decrease the disparity within those plans.
7043 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And if I could add something. Within the wireless service providers when they have a specific plan, when deaf people have gone into that particular company and said, “Oh, I’ve seen you’ve advertised this plan; my friend also has this plan. I’d like to sign up for it.” But once they receive their bill they realize that what they thought they were getting isn’t actually what they received and what was offered. And so that’s one example that we’ve heard of happen to many of our constituents.
7044 THE CHAIRPERSON: When you look at the wireless service providers in the country or the wireline service providers in the country, is there one in your view that, although imperfect, is perhaps closer to what you would hope? Or should we look as a model, you mentioned AT&T; do we have to go south to find best practices?
7045 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: The last part of our survey there is a screenshot, various screenshots that compares all of the Canadian wireless service providers, showing their accessibility pages that they currently have. And then you see in very, very fine print at the bottom it says, “Deaf people can get plans.” And then we looked over to the States, AT&T, Wireless, Sprint, and the various companies they have, and they have a very clear, large spot on their website and other advertising showing the various plans specific for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. But in Canada we didn’t find any clear advertisement or display.
7046 With Manitoba Telecommunication or Telecom, MTS, they had something there. And that was the only obviously example or indication display of what type of services would be offered for the deaf community. But the others were very vague, very hard to find. So we want to see something clear, easy, and upfront that deaf people can either find within minutes, if not even seconds, on their website or the minute they walk into a company’s front door to get service. They want to be able to see that information clearly and see their various options. Right now that’s not available.
7047 MR. NEWMILLER: In addition to that, they may see something advertising and go into the store and say, “Oh, I’ve seen this plan advertised” and the staff at the various telecom providers or wireless service providers are not aware of those promotions or plans. And it seems the frontline staff need greater education or training to keep up-to-date with some of the promotions that are being offered across Canada currently. Because right now, deaf Canadians are not getting that transparent information and it’s -- they’re just not -- it’s just not working right now.
7048 THE CHAIRPERSON: Based on your knowledge, and I’m addressing this question to both groups, are there any Canadian service providers that are able to provide you currently ASL or LSQ interaction?
7049 I know, for instance, and we’ve heard in other proceedings that some major telecommunication companies obviously hire people from their local community and that means that there’s all kinds of multilingual capacity within their workforce. And sometimes those employees are called upon to help out in customer relations using that language of that individual.
7050 So I was wondering if, to your knowledge, any of the -- whether it’s the wireless providers or the wireline providers, are you aware of any one of them following a similar course?
7051 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: To answer that question, I’m unaware of any direct frontline services provided in sign language. But I am aware of some deaf individuals working at TELUS. But I haven’t seen any frontline staff within the system. Perhaps in the backend, the administration staff, they may have some deaf employees there.
7052 However, through this group I am learning more about some of the wireless service providers, indicating to us as a committee that they do intend to provide sign language interpreters as they do recognize that they need to improve their communication with their customers and also increase their advertising efforts to our community.
7053 THE CHAIRPERSON: Does the Canadian Association of the Deaf have a view on this?
7054 MR. FOLINO: Yes. To my knowledge, I haven’t seen any frontline deaf employees. Perhaps they work at headquarters, but they’re not frontline individuals. They’re not in the retail store. Out of all of the different organizations I haven’t seen any frontline staff who use sign language. But any of the telecom service providers maybe. There might be an individual or two who have a little bit of sign language, but they’re not fluent to meet our needs.
7055 We need someone who can sign fluently, someone who has that accessibility lens who can bring up our issues and to meet our needs. This is very important and we’d like to see this happen. Alternatively, you could bring an interpreter, someone who is a qualified interpreter to provide ASL or LSQ on request.
7056 THE CHAIRPERSON: When we look at consumer behaviour over time and we track it in our communication monitoring report, we’re obviously saying that people are relying more and more on wireless technology, and as a result, wireline technology is evolving. And I think you’ve made similar points here today.
7057 I was wondering, in light of that, is the TTY service still useful? And do you see that perhaps fading over time?
7058 MS. NEWMILLER: Over the years TTY has caused us so many different issues, because first of all, English being not the first language of our community and the operator handling our TTY calls, first of all, don’t have an understanding of deaf culture and they often make assumptions of what we mean instead of what we’re saying. And so that right from the get go leads to miscommunication with our telephone communications. And often we find that out later as a follow-up when we meet that person we were speaking with in person.
7059 So TTY communication is frustrating. It leads to miscommunication. And because of that and because of the emerging video communication, we have noticed much greater reduction in miscommunication when we have communicated over video and in our first language.
7060 So to answer your question, the TTY has already been on the outs, if you will, for the last 10 years. It’s not being used that much at all.
7061 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And Lisa’s saying, thank you, Rytch. I think -- well, Nicole wanted to mention something from our survey.
7062 MS. MARSH: Yes, 71 percent of the respondents said that within the last number of years, 5 years, they have decreased their use of TTY communication. And it’s just like if you look to the general population and the use of the rotary telephone, the numbers almost match up. So it’s similar -- it’s a similar trend.
7063 And also, part of our survey findings is that those who responded to our survey said within the next three years they will no longer chose to use TTY. They will adopt wireless communication for all their communication needs going forward.
7064 MS. NEWMILLER: And Rytch is also adding, to understand, you know, especially what’s coming this fall with the video relay service, we understand and know that that will increase our communication and increase the quality of our communication. So many people are just waiting for that service to be implemented and then they will no longer be using TTYs at all. They will be relying on VRS and other forms of wireless communication.
7065 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And so to summarize our response, and from our observations, senior citizens, they rely on the older system of TTYs. Where I work, in my workplace, there are a number of deaf people there that we serve -- well, I work alongside with deaf people but also our clients are deaf. And our perspective is that all options should be kept based on the individual’s preference.
7066 So of course we have wireless, soon video relay, IP relay, TTY, et cetera. But TTY is not used currently by the younger generations.
7067 MR. ROOTS: Hi, this is James. You have to remember that hard of hearing individuals are still using TTY. Those of us who are here today don’t represent the hard of hearing community. The deaf community and culturally deaf have stopped using the TTY fairly back quite some time ago. There -- okay.
7068 CAD stopped using the TTY about three years ago. And the reason being is, in the last seven years we’ve received three TTY calls and they’re all from the same individual. So we didn’t see the point in spending the money to keep the TTY up and running. We decided to cut that service. And we’re a deaf organization. Why would we get rid of the TTY? But it’s obvious that the deaf community is not using the TTY a lot.
7069 MR. FOLINO: Hi, this is Frank. And just related to that, many deaf people are looking forward to video relay service. We see this as a game changer. This is going to advance the quality of our lives. Once VRS is in place and it’s up and running in ASL and LSQ, I see our community just really growing. You’re going to see a lot of changes. I see that the TTY needs will diminish significantly.
7070 So I would ask you to consider why we’re emphasizing VRS should be considered a basic telecommunication service because we foresee this really taking off. This is going to impact the economy. This is going to make a lot of new developments in the future, and this old technology isn’t going to meet our needs. We’re looking to the future.
7071 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you for that, and I take it you’re saying to us that we should be cautious about getting rid of any of the services we have currently.
7072 Now, maybe just so I understand, many of us when we are on our wireless devices, knowing that often times going over our data caps can be quite expensive, we choose -- and it’s quite reasonable -- even with wireless devices, to use WiFi, other WiFi that we have in our home or Wi-Fi that’s available in restaurants or other businesses.
7073 And I was wondering if you could help me understand the behaviour in your community, whether it’s similar or not and to what extent you’re able to individually or collectively manage some of the limitations that you mentioned, both in terms of cost and technology to, for instance, use video communication services?
7074 MR. NEWMILLER: Well, there are some very educated individuals that have a good understanding of gigabytes and what the limitations are for using it and not.
7075 Now, just to give you an example, with senior citizens, a lot of them are not using the internet. And so some of them that are using some smartphones, they don’t have a good understanding of what WiFi is or how to use it. So therefore, they’re not using a lot.
7076 And newcomers to Canada who are deaf that start using smartphones and wireless technology, they’re just on the cusp of learning what that means, but it really varies from province to province and where you live.
7077 Some deaf individuals have a good understanding of technology and they go into the store and they say, “Okay, so when I…” -- you know, they’ll ask pertinent questions based on their day-to-day use. But often they leave the store with the understanding that it’s unlimited service.
7078 So often the advertising from the wireless service providers will say “unlimited texting,” and they understand that to mean video-communication as well because it’s not clearly defined.
7079 So they leave the store with the understanding of, you know, unlimited texting, such and such allowance of gigabytes. I doubt highly that they have a clear understanding, and I base that on the fact that the advertising isn’t clear.
7080 If there were communications in ASL and LSQ to explain what does gigabytes mean; how does this impact your monthly bill; how is it used; where can you use Wi-Fi; when should you use Wi-Fi? All those sort of questions that perhaps we take for granted, that education has not yet been made to the deaf community and it’s pertinent and important for us going forward.
7081 MS. HAAS: I want to add to Rytch’s comment -- this is Arista. A lot of deaf communities understand or have a lack of understanding between data and device -- data on their device and then data allowances.
7082 Let’s say my phone has 64 gigabytes, they understand that to be perhaps their allowance, rather than that’s the capacity of the device itself rather than the data allowance they’ll receive monthly from their wireless service provider. So that’s something I often see as misunderstood within my community and is something that truly does need to be articulated well to our community.
7083 MR. FOLINO: Can I add to that?
7084 When it comes to the device, that was a great example. When video relay service is established, I believe that we’re going to face similar experiences. Members of our community are not going to be experienced with VRS and will need to learn how it’s used.
7085 I think it’s important that training is provided to educate everyone who works at telecommunication services to understand deaf culture and perhaps for individuals to learn sign language and to be knowledgeable in answering questions when it comes to wireless products, so that there’s clear transparency to the deaf and hard of hearing users. That’s very important.
7086 THE CHAIRPERSON: The point you make in this regard for the deaf community is similar to comments we hear from the non-deaf community because it is new technology and not everybody has got their heads around how it all works and what capacity is required, and the impacts, and there’s bill-shock.
7087 So your point is well taken that there is maybe a need for building up capacity and particularly your point with respect to the rollout this September of the VRS, which is obviously -- will have a specific impact on the deaf community.
7088 I was wondering who should be responsible or what mechanisms could be used to actually the build the capacity, both in the deaf community and the broader community with respect to understanding how to optimize the use of these new technologies, which aren’t always intuitive, in terms of price and caps.
7089 MS. HAAS: Well, we’ve discussed that numerous times amongst the members of this committee and we believe that education is important. And it’s a collaborative process, an approach between the CRTC, CCTS and the TSPs and the WSPs and also us.
7090 And also with CAD, I think if there’s somehow that we can all collaborate and come together to address the best way and the approach, I think a discussion is certainly required to start that process, like a P3 approach or something, that sort of concept. But we’re certainly an advocate of a joint approach.
7091 The Canadian Association of the Deaf clearly is our national association and an organization that we look to, to lead the way. So I believe that a collaboration with CAD, CRTC, the wireless service providers, if we could come together and have a discussion to determine the best approach on how to do that, I think that would be advisable.
7092 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: And another point is we’re just a group of -- our committee, we are volunteers. We don’t have any funding or any money to provide or to put to that sort of project, but we are certainly willing to refer and work together to make that happen, certainly.
7093 MS. MARSH: Well, speaking about collaboration, that would assist CRTC and the wireless service providers to understand our community better, to increase a good rapport in a safer environment where communication is clear, understood and where sharing is open and is valued, so that we can provide the best services for our community going forward.
7094 THE CHAIRPERSON: You mentioned earlier that the packages and services available to the deaf community weren’t always as clearly identified on the various websites of the service providers.
7095 You also make comments in your presentation about better communication, whether it’s through advertisement or other ways to provide information to the community.
7096 I was curious because this can’t be the only area where you need to communicate with the deaf community to share information and developments. For instance, presumably to identify the folks that participate in your survey you had to reach out to people. And by the same token, I assume that the Canadian Association of the Deaf as well has ways of reaching out to the deaf community.
7097 And I was wondering why you think, for instance -- one of you has proposed that we use TV advertisement to help inform people which, as you can well imagine, is a very costly solution as opposed to the ways you might be reaching out to the deaf community otherwise?
7098 MS. MARSH: Well, it’s only specific -- it’s only an issue for the deaf community, but the community would access or have access to the wireless service providers who advertise on television already. And if they are to make the communications available in ASL and LSQ in all sorts of media, which they do on the internet and so forth, but on television there’s a gap there.
7099 And if we’re able to get the word out in the language of the deaf community through social media and television media, I think customers would reach out to those particular companies and utilize their service. Otherwise, they’ll be unaware of any services being offered.
7100 MR. ROOTS: Jim Roots. Your suggestion proposes that the consumer take on the responsibility to get the word out. It’s the wireless service providers to advertise and to make it known. We don’t have the resources to make an ad campaign and to promote the service providers’ products and services. They have the deep pockets. They’re already advertising to other customers in the same way. They just haven’t focused their advertising to our community yet.
7101 MR. NEWMILLER: I’d like to add something.
7102 All of us here should have a partnership with the wireless service providers. If there was a new gigabyte plan, for example, then we could collaborate with each other on how we could reach out to our community. Perhaps it would be targeted marketing within various sub-communities within our community.
7103 For example, the senior citizens; they may prefer a different type of communication conversely to our other younger population who would love to see those communications over social media but in a blog format. We have to remember too that the WSPs are already marketing to the broader community across Canada. We need targeted marketing, which the funding is available with the WSPs.
7104 And another thing to consider is a lot of them are asked to be accessible, claim to be accessible. And with that accessibility fund that we suggested earlier, that would be a way to have the targeted marketing of the advertising in ASL and LSQ that we’re speaking of be successful.
7105 MR. FOLINO: If I could just add to that.
7106 I just wanted to add it’s important to work together. And we’re here, we’re willing to do that. We’d like to work with the service providers. They obviously have the resources. We don’t have the money and the resources; that’s clear. But we’d like to partner up and work together. We have lots of ideas and suggestions. We have the expertise and the lived experience to increase accessibility. We have all kinds of different ideas. This is good for the community nationwide.
7107 We like to see videos in ASL or LSQ. Others have done it. We suggest that this be put onto different websites. We suggest that all service providers do this. Have something available on their websites that we can access the information in our first language. And that will enhance our understanding of what services are available and see which products and services will meet our needs.
7108 And that will certainly draw loyal customers. We want to make those connections to the service providers, but in order to do that we need to see information available in Sign, in our first language. We’d like to see other things as well because we can see a benefit, a win-win situation for the community and the service providers.
7109 And this also enhances the lives of hearing people too.
7110 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Something that just came to mind that I thought I should mention.
7111 In Australia their national association has partnered with a wireless service provider, and they partner to make announcements in video in Auslan sign language. And these announcements have been very successful, but they’ve announced different text plans and other wireless plans. So that’s an example to look to in Australia as to something that we’re suggesting happen here.
7112 And we have included some of that information, a screenshot with the link provided to that Auslan sign language advertisement that I just spoke of. And that’s something that we’d like to see happen here. A partnership with CAD, for example, and some of the wireless service providers.
7113 THE CHAIRPERSON: To be clear, I wasn’t suggesting to shift responsibility without resources. I was just exploring when it came to more targeted outreaches whether you’re in a partnership mode had means of doing that that may be more efficient and effective. And I think the answer is yes, and you’ve got an openness to partnering with the communication providers.
7114 Now there’s been mention of a telecom accessibility fund. And some parallels have been made with the broadcasting accessibility fund, which was financed through the specific policy and legislative framework that occurs in broadcasting.
7115 I’d like to get your sense of how you would see the telecom accessibility fund financed.
7116 MR. FOLINO: As I mentioned during my presentation, all the telecom service providers could contribute to a fund. The national contribution fund is one example that’s a possibility as well for asking for funds to establish the TAF. Or perhaps it could be another structure, a different way, or a new way of establishing a fund. But I would suggest that the telecommunication providers contribute to it.
7117 MR. NEWMILLER: I would like to add to Frank’s comment that there are some Canadians that would contribute or donate to the fund. For example, consumer bills. We could take some money, a tax if you will, or a levy on consumer bills to be specific to that fund so that way it could accommodate all disabilities. And specific monies could be put towards users who are deaf blind, for example.
7118 So I’m in support of what Frank is saying, but also we could levy some monies off consumer bills. THE CHAIRPERSON: Implicit in what you’re saying is that the source of funds should be the members of the Canadian society that are subscribers to these various communications services. Some could argue that it would be more transparent, that this need be financed through a general tax base as opposed to subscribers if it is a public good. What do you think about that?
7119 MS. MARSH: When we look at the process now, the non-deaf population don’t use video communication or text communication the way that we do. We rely on it very heavily. And in the States, there was a shift. There used to be prepaid plans but now it’s turned over to unlimited. And perhaps we’ll see a shift here too, a shift to unlimited plans that will give us more accessibility. Perhaps that’s part of the answer.
7120 And yes, I think, you know, a tax would be a solution to collect those funds necessary to create such a fund.
7121 MR. ROOTS: If I’m not mistaken, I believe that in telephone bills there’s already a levy there for the relay services, message relay service. There’s already a levy that’s been established. So we could potentially do the same thing for mobile wireless services.
7122 THE CHAIRPERSON: My last area of inquiry before I turn to my colleagues to see if they have any questions, relates to Text 9-1-1. And I’m trying to have a better understanding of your position with respect to Text 9-1-1 because there are comments that don’t align with my understanding of how Text 9-1-1 operates.
7123 There seems to be some suggestions that it’s not free, that somehow subscriber localization is not working, and that it somehow isn’t meeting the needs of the deaf community. And I just really want to understand a little bit better your preoccupation.
7124 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: There are a few issues related to texting 9-1-1. But we wanted to keep it to a minimum here because we see that there’s an upcoming opportunity to be involved in an upcoming CRTC proceeding. But I can speak to some of the concerns that we see now.
7125 What happens now within the deaf community, as we’ve mention, ASL and LSQ users are often confused. They want their voice plans removed off of their smartphone or other like devices. But the vendors, when they approach them, they know that voice plans are required in order to communicate with Text 9-1-1. So voice plans need to be part of the package plan that you subscribe to in order to have texting with 9-1-1. So that’s a barrier.
7126 A friend of mine, an anecdote if you will, had an occasion to use text with 9-1-1 -- sorry, they didn’t want the voice minutes, and went in with a provider to ask that package be removed. And then a situation occurred where they couldn’t access Text 9-1-1 because the voice plan was removed. They were unaware of that.
7127 So I’m sure that’s happened more than once. And we’ve seen other like or similar issues occur because of not having the information or understanding of what would happen by removing the voice plan and not being able to communicate with 9-1-1 in an emergency.
7128 But what we’ve seen and what we think could happen is that he wireless service providers need to articulate to the customers that voice plans are required to community by text to 9-1-1. And so in order to have the text to 9-1-1 service you have to have a voice plan. Because how it works is you have to actually dial 9-1-1 on your phone and then once you get connected you can finally text because you’re registered; you have to register in order to start using the service. However, if you haven’t registered you can’t text. So there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty on how it works.
7129 I think that whole system needs to be looked at again. And again, the education piece is quite important for our community, to have specific instructions on how to use texting with 9-1-1 and what’s required, and the dangers of removing voice plans and what that means. Because it is a barrier, if they do that, to receiving emergency services.
7130 So that’s just one example of what we’ve seen happen. At the next proceeding we’ll certainly be giving you more examples and more information about how we see that service.
7131 MR. FOLINO: If I could just make another comment? For example, when an individual punches in 9-1-1 it’s a telephone call and they have to wait. I don’t know how long the wait is but there’s a little bit of a delay before someone will text. When the text comes in that’s your opportunity to say, “Okay, this is the emergency. This is the situation.” There’s a little bit of a concern there and particularly when it’s an emergency that involves life and death.
7132 In the United States, with their 9-1-1 system what they’ve done is you text 9-1-1 and a text immediately goes to a 9-1-1 dispatcher and they reply back with a text.
7133 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you for that. And as you’ve mentioned there will be other opportunities to explore that issue a little further.
7134 Commissioner Vennard?
7135 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Thank you.
7136 At the beginning of the second presentation, reference was made to the culturally deaf and a statement also made that there are 350,000 culturally deaf Canadians in our country. I’d just like to give you the opportunity to make sure we understand what you mean by culturally deaf and also to make some comments if you like on if their needs are the same or if they are different?
7137 MR. FOLINO: Culturally deaf means the deaf person is using sign language, either ASL or LSQ. That’s their mode of communication. Non-culturally deaf are people who do not use sign language as their mode of communisation. They may be hard of hearing; they use speech. But when I refer to culturally deaf I mean those of us who use ASL or LSQ.
7138 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And in your view are there any different requirements or different considerations? Would your recommendations apply to that group of people as well or is there something else that we should be aware of and keep in mind?
7139 MR. ROOTS: It depends by what you mean by the “other group”. First of all, for example, right now here at the CRTC hearings we have opened captioning available. And we at CAD, we are involved in an initiative right now to test captioning. And it’s surprising how difficult it is to get people to participate, because the interest in captioning has diminished.
7140 Individuals, our membership, prefer to look at or watch sign language, either in ASL or LSQ. So individuals who have a hearing loss, who are deafened or who are hard of hearing, who don’t rely on signed languages, they prefer the captioning.
7141 So there are very different needs, different preferences amongst the various deaf.
7142 Does that answer your question?
7143 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes. I just wanted to make sure you had the opportunity to expand on that term that -- your term of culturally deaf. If you thought there was anything else that we needed to know, so thank you for that.
7144 MR. NEWMILLER: Thank you. Speaking about the term culturally deaf, those who identify themselves -- especially those from childhood who have been exposed to sign language, within all of those groups we all have a different reality.
7145 It could be 30 or 40 years later that a person becomes deaf and then of course their formative years, those years that they grew up they weren’t exposed to sign language, so they’re not considered culturally deaf. So they’re learning sign language much later in life.
7146 But those deaf people who were born into deaf families or go to deaf schools, who are surrounded in the culture of deafness, of ASL and SLQ, those are -- that’s where the sense of belonging come in, the sense of identity, by using the shared language.
7147 That’s where we emphasize the word culturally deaf and what we mean by that, versus someone who’s learning sign language much later in life.
7148 THE CHAIRPERSON: Vice-Chair Menzies?
7149 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. I just had a question that come up when Mr. Root spoke about TTY.
7150 Is there agreement that once -- if and when, I guess is better to put it.
7151 If and when the speeds necessary to carry a video are ubiquitous, that TTY is well probably already past its best before date, something that we need to talk about retiring peacefully?
7152 MR. ROOTS: Well for myself, I’ve been pushing for the death of the TTY for the last 20 years. Not a retirement, but it’s time, a death.
7153 Speed is not going to impact users of TTY. The speed really affects the video communication. People can’t type any faster, but they can sign at a normal rate of speed and they can sign quickly and with a lot of information.
7154 Right now the TTY users are used mostly by senior citizens and the hard of hearing. Hard of hearing I can’t speak to whether or not they will continue to want the TTY services.
7155 With seniors, in terms of our membership they’re seniors.
7156 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
7157 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’ll leave it at that then. The -- thank you very much for your presentations and your availability to answer questions.
7158 I think legal does not have any questions; those are our questions. We’ll take a short break until 10:40 which will allow a change of ---
7159 MS. ANDERSON-KELLETT: Thank you very much for having us here today.
7160 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thank you for being here. Bye bye. Ten forty then.
--- Upon recessing at 10:26 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:41 a.m.
7161 THE CHAIRPERSON: À l’ordre, s’il vous plait. Order, please.
7162 Just before I pass it on to the secretary to identify the next intervenors, I want to give everybody a head’s up that I will be making a statement before the lunch break today.
7163 So those of you that are listening in from a distance might want to pay particular attention at that point.
7164 Madame la secrétaire?
7165 THE SECRETARY: Merci. We’ll now hear the presentation of Media Access Canada. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues and you have 15 minutes.
7166 MR. TIBBS: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
7167 For the record, my name is Anthony Tibbs. I am Chair of the Board and acting CEO for Media Access Canada. To my immediate right is Gary Birch, CEO of the Neil Squire Society and Content Expert consulting for MAC in these proceedings.
7168 To Gary’s right is Kim Kilpatrick of the Canadian Council of the Blind. To my immediate left is Glenn Martin, CEO of Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
7169 Next to Glenn is Laurie Alphonse of the Disabled Women’s Network and to Laurie’s left -- oh, sorry Laurie’s right is Reza Rajabin, a MAC consultant.
7170 Commissioners, Commission staff and members of the audience, good morning.
7171 According to Statistics Canada 3.8 million Canadians suffer from some form of disability that limits their capacity to participate in social and economic activities.
7172 Around half of this number, or approximately 2 million Canadians, experience severe or very severe disabilities.
7173 Having severe disabilities has a strong negative impact on employment opportunities and disposable income.
7174 This makes it challenging for many members of our community to afford essential goods and services, including basic communication services.
7175 At the same time, affordable and reliable communication services are increasingly essential, for the ability of Canadians with disabilities to overcome diverse challenges they face and “enrich and strengthen the social and economic fabric of Canada”, as mandated under Section 7(a) of the Telecommunications Act.
7176 Media Access Canada and the Access 2020 Coalition of Stakeholders represents a variety of national disability organisations, with the objective of achieving full accessibility of media and communication services by 2020.
7177 The Access 2020 Coalition participants across a diverse spectrum of Canadians with disabilities, to include a voice for blind and low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, mobility, cognitive, intellectual and other forms of disability.
7178 Our partners include, among other organisations, Réseau d’action des femmes handicapées, Canadian Hearing Society and Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and national organisations such as March of Dimes, Easter Seals, Canadian Council of the Blind and Disabled Women’s Network.
7179 Access 2020 advocates policies that reflect the needs and concerns of all Canadians who will benefit from accessing media and communication services.
7180 To deliver with one voice, a clear and concise message that will be understood and, we hope, responded to.
7181 Today we will provide the Commission with a better perspective on access by persons with disabilities to broadband internet connectivity, which has become the most basic communications platform for all Canadians over the past two decades.
7182 To start, it is important to highlight that despite the diversity of disability communities we represent, there is significant agreement among our stakeholders about the importance of the Commission’s determinations in this proceeding for achieving access 2020 coalition’s objective of full and equal accessibility by 2020.
7183 As the record of this proceeding clearly documents, for the majority of Canadians, broadband connectivity has become a basic necessity.
7184 It is precisely for this reason that we -- that the vast majority of the submissions in this matter are urging the Commission to recognize this reality by reclassifying broadband or high speed access as a basic service under the Telecommunications Act.
7185 Only by doing so, the Commission will then be able to develop a systematic approach to ensuring that all Canadians, including those with disabilities, can access affordable and reliable, fixed and mobile internet services that are essential for participation in society and economic activities today.
7186 We submit that this proceeding offers a unique opportunity for the Commission to demonstrate its commitment to achieving the objectives of the Telecommunications Act by overcoming a missed opportunity in 2011 by excluding broadband from the basic services framework.
7187 We recognize that the regulated parties participating in this proceeding contend that reforms, such as the ones MAC and other advocates for Canadian consumers have recommended, are unnecessary.
7188 According to these parties, there is no need for the Commission to do anything as the invisible hand of market forces has already solved all concerns raised by the wide range of parties involved in this process, including rural communities, consumer advocacy groups, and others.
7190 MS. ALPHONSE: We strongly disagree with the premise of this argument. For a long time, Canadians with disabilities have expressed considerable concern about the affordability and quality of services that are available to them.
7191 Evidence submitted to the record of this proceeding by various parties, as well as the CRTC’s own published data in the 2015 Communications Monitoring report, validates the growing concerns by our stakeholders about the affordability of quality fixed mobile broadband access on which they depend to participate in social and economic activities.
7192 There are a number of reasons why broader market trends in terms of prices and service quality are of a particular concern to Canadians with disabilities.
7193 We will elaborate on these in a minute and outline the specific actions within the scope of this proceeding that the Commission can take to enhance affordability, reliability, and the quality of access to fixed and mobile broadband services and the need for deploying the wide range of information and communications technologies.
7194 To start, I would like to point out that many trends underlying the calls by various other parties in this proceeding to redefine broadband and basic service were already evident in 2011 when the Commission chose not to include high-speed access in Canada’s basic service framework.
7195 Today, five years later, broadband access and mobile networks have become more essential to Canadians, while concerns about affordability and quality have continued to grow.
7196 MR. BIRCH: The record of this proceeding clearly documents that rural and remote communities have been falling behind due to the relatively limited incentives of service providers to invest in them. While we recognize and support efforts by parties trying to improve rural connectivity, Canadians with disabilities live and work in both rural and urban Canada.
7197 Much like in rural communities, incentives of regulated parties to invest in ensuring persons with disabilities with limited financial means or special technical requirements, for example, minimum quality of service guarantees, are relatively limited.
7198 Simply put, the rate of return from serving high-cost rural communities or low-income vulnerable groups such as Canadians with disabilities are typically below what those service providers can earn from other ventures or the average consumer.
7199 Although 14 percent of Canadians in total might be dealing with the challenges from some form of disability, the range of challenges they face is diverse, which we have detailed using Statistics Canada data in our written submission.
7200 For individual network operators to invest in capacity to communicate with and serve the needs of small groups of customers with distinct needs represents a costly exercise.
7201 This helps explain why few have made substantive investments in improving accessibility of services they deliver or responding to the efforts of the disability community to enhance the capacity of regulated entities to serve consumers with disabilities.
7202 We submit that without leadership from the Commission in this matter, there is little evidence on the record of this proceeding to suggest market forces are likely to evolve in a manner that will suddenly make regulated entities invest more in accessibility or become more sensitive to the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
7203 Specific proposals submitted by MAC in this matter are intended to provide the Commission with a range of policy measures that it could adopt if it aims to ensure Canadians with disabilities can access basic communications services that are essential to their ability to overcome challenges they face and have the opportunity to participate in social and economic activities afforded by the internet.
7204 Given the fact that the federal government has promised to introduce a national Accessibilities Act, our recommendation provides the Commission with the opportunity to take the lead among federal agencies in counteracting barriers facing Canadians with disabilities, at least in terms of access to basic communications services.
7205 We submit that redefining broadband access, regardless of the technology and service delivery platform that is both fixed and mobile, as a basic service, represents a necessary first step for ensuring that all Canadians with disabilities can access and use basic communications services they need.
7206 Even though incumbent operators generally argue that there are no problems to solve and that the CRTC should continue to exclude broadband from the basic service regime, the record of this proceeding shows that the vast majority of parties agree that the Commission should take the formal step of recognizing that high-speed internet access is, in fact, the most basic form of network communications service, on top of which consumers deploy a wide range of other information and communications services and applications.
7207 We submit that high-level legal reforms such as redefining broadband access as a basic service will not in itself be sufficient to have a concrete impact on the access of Canadians with disabilities to basic services.
7208 Effective mechanisms for implementing any renewed commitments by the Commission would be necessary if the new regulatory framework is to stimulate private sector incentives to serve basic communications service needs of Canadians with disabilities.
7209 We will now focus on three key concerns of the disability community, as well as the three specific solutions that MAC/Access 2020 Coalition of Disability Stakeholders urge the Commission to adopt and implement pursuant this hearing.
7210 These problems and proposed solutions have been outlined in our first submission to the proceeding in general terms and refined in our second submission based on further feedback from our stakeholders and evidence submitted into the record of this proceeding by other parties.
7211 It is important to note that none of the other parties participating in this proceeding, including large service providers that dominate Canada’s fixed and mobile broadband markets, have submitted any arguments or evidence opposing or contradicting our proposals.
7212 This should not be surprising to the Commission since our proposals are designed to promote demand and reduce the costs that limit the incentives of service providers to improve accessibility and meet the needs of consumers with disabilities.
7213 In other words, our proposals are designed to offer a win-win solution that should be in the long term interest of both the service providers and Canadians with disabilities.
7214 MR. MARTIN: We submit that the level of leadership the Commission is willing to commit to the needs and interests of Canadians with disabilities is critical for balancing short- and long-term interests of the parties.
7215 On behalf of the diverse range of disability groups that have joined their voices through MAC/Access 2020, we urge the Commission to redefine broadband high-speed access as a basic service and then to ensure that Canadians with disabilities have opportunities to basic communications services.
7216 Our first recommendation is to adopt a National Disability Subsidy Fund, MDSF. Having a disability represents a significant and sometimes insurmountable barrier to employability and earning a living wage. This fact accentuates concerns about affordability of basic services for Canadians with low incomes, as detailed in submissions by various consumer associations with a broad policy mandate who are participating in this proceeding, such as the Affordable Access Coalition and Open Media.
7217 Much like all other Canadians, persons with disabilities increasingly rely on broadband internet access via fixed and mobile networks.
7218 However, those with relatively severe disabilities have limited ability to pay basic communications services, as do families and caretakers of those with severe disabilities, limiting opportunities for social and economic engagement.
7219 We have therefore proposed developing a National Disability Subsidy Fund, NDSF.
7220 MAC/Access 2020 has designed the proposed NDSF to reduce affordability constraints on access to and use of basic communications services by Canadians with severe or very severe disabilities with very low or no income, as detailed in paragraphs 20 to 23 of our second submission to this proceeding.
7221 Based on very conservative assumptions and strict means testing benchmarks, ensuring that Canadians with severe and very severe disabilities with limited or no income will have access to basic communications services will cost 150 to 300 million per year.
7222 This estimate includes not only fixed broadband access, but also mobile.
7223 Obviously, including mobile broadband will mean larger commitments will be required to achieve affordability objective of the Telecommunications Act with respect to Canadians with disabilities.
7224 However, in this context it is imperative to point out that advanced mobile services offer a new world of access to the outside world and possibilities for social and economic interactions previously unimaginable to persons with disabilities.
7225 We therefore submit that the benefits of including mobile access, as well as subsidies for devices that persons with disabilities with low incomes require in the basic services framework are likely to outweigh any accounting cost increases to the size of the NDSF associated with including both fixed and mobile broadband access in the basic services framework.
7226 We submit that our proposal for an NDSF represents a reasonable one for ensuring that, for Canadians with severe and very severe disabilities, affordability does not become a barrier to access and use of information technologies and communications.
7227 As a relatively prosperous country with very generous people, we submit that most Canadians would not oppose our modest proposal for an NDSF to be mandated by the Commission and funded by network providers. This is demonstrated by the fact that none of the regulated entities who are parties to this proceeding has submitted any objections to our proposal for an industry funded NDSF on the record of this proceeding.
7228 We hope the Commission recognizes that without targeted public support through programs such as the NDSF, there is no chance that market forces are going to be sufficient for ensuring that Canadians with severe disabilities and low incomes can utilize information and communications applications that require broadband internet connectivity.
7229 MS. KILPATRICK: Our second recommendation is to mandate that all regulated entities offer at least one basic service package that includes minimum service guarantees at a reasonable price.
7230 Canadians with disabilities employ telecommunications services in a variety of ways that are similar to other Canadians, but also with special needs that depend on the nature of their disability. I can give you examples later in the questions, if you want, that I use.
7231 Over the last decade, a wide range of internet applications have evolved that can enhance the quality of life and opportunities for persons with various types of disability.
7232 Oh, sorry, that's when technology.
7233 Unfortunately, the range of fixed and mobile broadband services on offer are not sufficient to meet our growing demand for these applications. The ability of Canadians with disabilities to deploy these enabling applications depends on the availability of fixed and mobile broadband networks that are able to deliver high-speed and symmetric connections with minimum service quality guarantees. Besides general purpose and specific applications designed for people with disabilities, there is a wide range of healthcare and other support mechanisms that require basic internet connectivity. These technologies have the potential to enable many of our stakeholders to live more independently and to engage in social and economic activities.
7234 Unfortunately, service providers in Canada only offer retail internet access services in the retail markets only on a “best effort” basis, i.e. “up to X mbps". This is not good enough for the basic communications needs of Canadians with disabilities.
7235 Consequently, MAC/Access 2020 Coalition recommends the Commission should mandate operators to offer at least one basic subscription package that offers service quality guarantees to end users whose particular needs require it.
7236 As we detailed in our first submission, this standard-based solution would minimize the potential for interference with market forces as the operators would be able to offer what “best effort” packages they want in addition to the basic service package the Commission mandates.
7237 MAC/Access 2020 Coalition understands that the average user may not demand minimum service quality guarantees or symmetric speeds on fixed and mobile networks and might be satisfied with “best effort” service packages and uncertain levels of service currently available.
7238 However, a wide range of advanced educational, assistive, and otherwise enabling applications that would improve the lives of our stakeholders require minimum basic service quality guarantees for their reliable and safe utilization.
7239 In our first submission, we conjectured that large service providers all have the technical capacity to use advanced network control technologies to deliver a basic service package that includes minimum service quality guarantees and meets the minimum service standards required by our stakeholders.
7240 This conjecture has now been confirmed on the record of this proceeding in responses by large operators to interrogatories by OpenMedia regarding their ability to deliver minimum service quality guarantees to end users.
7241 Most of the large incumbent acknowledge that they have the technical capacity of delivering such guarantees and, in fact, many do so on demand for large customers for a price.
7242 However, the operators argue that they do not offer such guarantees to individuals and small-and-medium-sized businesses because of a purported lack of demand.
7243 Importantly, operators do not provide any evidence on the record that supports their intention about a lack of demand for service packages that include guarantees of minimum service quality operators actually deliver, versus their “best efforts”.
7244 The case of Canadians with disabilities and our needs for more symmetric and reliable basic service standards, both at home and via mobile networks, contradicts the assertion by some parties that there is no demand for them to commit to some minimum service level standards to their customers.
7245 Our proposal for addressing service quality concerns of Canadians with disabilities by extending the range of available service profiles to include one or more that include minimum service quality guarantees would not only be critical for the ability of our stakeholders to deploy internet applications they need, but should be beneficial for all consumers deploying applications that need sustained speeds and increasingly reliable and symmetric broadband connections.
7246 It is important to note that the report published by the CRTC using the SamKnows test just before this hearing is perfectly consistent with our call for the adoption of minimum service quality standards to regulated entities providers guarantee.
7247 Our proposal in this respect is very much analogous to the approach the Commission has adopted with respect to the adoption of the skinny basic TV package in terms of broadcasting.
7248 MR. TIBBS: Just to conclude, our third recommendation is to institute a disability rights office, or DRO, at the CRTC.
7249 A key barrier to the ability of Canadians with disabilities to access basic communication services is limited capacity of the service providers to communicate with our stakeholders in the absence of an independent body that facilitates communications and helps mediate disputes between Canadians with disabilities and their service providers.
7250 As detailed in our recent appearance before the Commission in the review of the structure and mandate of the CCTS, our stakeholders are of the strong opinion that establishing a DRO at the CRTC is necessary for bridging divides in customer service departments of operators and resolving disputes regarding accessibility issues among operators and consumers with disabilities.
7251 Due to demand by our stakeholders and the lack of other viable options, MAC has been engaged in trying to fill this gap. However, due to the magnitude of the problem this is not sufficient.
7252 We were, therefore, particularly disappointed that the Commission did not address our proposal for establishing a DRO in its CCTS decision, nor indicate if it is willing to initiate another proceeding to look at this important aspect.
7253 We have elaborated in our reasons for proposing establishing a DRO in our written submissions and hope the Commission uses the opportunity of this proceeding to address this important gap in access to basic communications services for Canadians with disabilities.
7254 We urge the Commission to consider the needs of the nearly four million Canadians who have a disability that limits their opportunities for social and economic participation, access to basic communication technologies that enable us to overcome these barriers.
7255 We submit that policies we have recommended to serve the interests of Canadians with disabilities in accessing basic communications services are likely to benefit all Canadians, as well as potentially service providers that choose to invest in delivering higher quality and more affordable services to our stakeholders.
7256 We would be pleased to answer your questions and elaborate on our proposals at this time.
7257 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I’ll put you in the hands of vice-chair Menzies.
7258 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
7259 A few questions. I’ll just start with a couple of things that caught my eye when reading your submissions.
7260 In your first intervention, in paragraph 23, you said there are no operators in the Canadian market that are willing to guarantee a pre-specified level of service/quality speeds to retail customers.
7261 Can you just tell me how you came to that conclusion? Because it seems to me that it would be a competitive advantage for companies to offer that.
7262 MR. TIBBS: Unless somebody has something to add, to the best of our knowledge, and this has been confirmed with the submissions that have come in afterwards, it appears that there are some providers that do offer that to large-scale customers but not in the retail market. And so far I’m not aware of any information to the contrary.
7263 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So it was just a scan of what you could see on the ---
7264 MR. TIBBS: Yeah.
7265 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- retail offerings? Okay, thank you.
7266 You speak about the need for synchronicity between download and upload speeds. Can you just help us understand why that -- that’s reasonably unique in the submissions we’ve seen. Why is that of particular importance to the communities you represent?
7267 MR. TIBBS: Thank you for the question.
7268 I think there are many examples. But the one that’s foremost in my mind right now is video relay services because it’s a two-way video conversation. And so both the upload and the download need to be symmetric so that the person signing and the person doing interpretation is symmetrical.
7269 MS. KILPATRICK: Can I just add that I used an app which helps blind people when they’re out if they -- well, it could be in their house too. It’s like a video call, where the person on the other end is sighted, and they actually tell me to point my camera a certain way. I used it this weekend to get out of a big construction site that I found myself in.
7270 So again, they need to see my phone and I need to hear them and talk to them over the video call to get the right information that I need. So I could see that being a reason as well.
7271 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. Can you just clarify; I was distracted for a minute. Did you say that was an app you used?
7272 MS. KILPATRICK: Yes. Yes, I use many apps for my accessibility. Including that one which is helping you identify objects, as well as reading ingredients on packages, cooking instructions, things like that. I use it for OCR, reading documents, also navigational apps. There are many, many apps I use which make the phone so much more than a frill.
7273 And I also have it -- I was reading this morning with it paired with my brail display as well. So I use it all the time to enhance my life. And that one app is called “Be my Eyes” and it’s one of the apps that really helps enhance independence if you’re blind.
7274 I also want to just point out that deaf-blind people would be using maybe brail displays paired with phone, and that’s an essential communication tool for them.
7275 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. Are those apps available for free?
7276 MS. KILPATRICK: Many of them are free. By my Eyes is free, I believe. And also, sighted people volunteer to assist blind people with that one.
7277 There are apps, some of the reading apps, OCR, that cost a fair bit. A lot of them don’t cost very much. Some of my colour identifier apps and my GPS apps was about $29, I think. But many of the apps are free or very minimal cost. So and they’re coming out with more all the time.
7278 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
7279 In terms of what we’re looking at here is basic service. I’m trying to get a better handle on when it comes to the technical requirements outside of your issue about synchronicity of download and upload speeds. Where are there significant variances between what would be the basic needs of your communities versus the basic needs of broader communities; what specifics do we need to consider?
7280 MS. ALPHONSE: I think what you have to realize is that the people we represent are not -- they’re not using internet and phones to -- as an augmentation of communication. It is their form of communication.
7281 For example, one of the women I know, and I’ve known her for years, grew up with her, and she is non-verbal. She uses a computer attached to her wheelchair that is attached to a desktop on her desk. For example, Bell provided her service but told her she had to get a landline phone and the internet service. She could not get just internet service. And when her internet does not work, she cannot talk. And it is -- it’s that stark a situation.
7282 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. So ---
7283 MR. BIRCH: I --
7284 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Go ahead.
7285 MR. BIRCH: -- I also think that a lot of it has to do with not just the average speed, but it’s a guarantee of a certain quality of speed that has to be there. Because these aren’t just -- in many cases it’s not just nice, it’s absolutely critical. So like if you’re in a household that’s perhaps getting a certain service but it -- there’s a number of people using it, then the person who is say deaf and is trying to use VRS must have that level of quality of service or they’re not able to communicate. And at times it can come down not -- not to just the ability to communicate, but it could have to do with safety and et cetera.
7286 So it’s the guarantee that those minimum services at all times.
7287 MR. TIBBS: And this ties back to a question that was asked by the Panel earlier today about data caps and whether people in the community could be conscious of that and rely on public Wi-Fi or -- and the like that may be available when you’re out and about. Their services in particular are generally incapable of guaranteeing any sort of quality of service, and if they’re highly congested, things like video relay in particular may just be totally impossible.
7288 So while there are public Wi-Fi spots, the quality of service you’re going to get there is probably even lower than what you can get off the cellular network.
7289 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. But in terms of speeds, the 5 and 5 you mentioned and 10 and 10, those are numbers that we could take to the bank as -- in terms of targets?
7290 MR. TIBBS: Yes, those are -- yeah.
7291 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So consistently delivered, those sorts of speeds you’re confident meet the needs of your communities. Okay.
7292 In terms of that, are you -- do you concede at any point that there might be times when usage -- times of day when there’s usage where capacity is more challenged? It’s mentioned last week, you know, similar to if you look -- if you compare it to public utilities, for instance, some folks, you know, you don’t put the dishwasher on until after 8:00 because you’re going to consume less power or you’re going to pay less and that’s just so you -- that people should consider managing their way through the day in terms of that? And understanding that from time to time outages, as with all things, whether it’s power or internet, do occur?
7293 MR. BIRCH: Yeah, I think I understand your question. And I suppose it’s possible like all consumers that to some extent because you’re right, at certain times of the day the speed, at least in my experience, deteriorates significantly. But, you know, again, I go back to the example, there’s many others, of video relay service because it’s kind of the -- one of the most dramatic ones right now. I mean, if you need to communicate and it’s 6:00 at night and it’s important, then you don’t have the luxury of putting that off.
7294 So I guess there are ways of, you know, if you have the ability to put a conversation off to later in the day or earlier in the morning, possibly that, you know, we can try to work with that. But I mean, there’s going to be times where that’s not an option.
7295 MR. RAJABIUN: Okay. There was a -- I’ll connect the two issues that you raised about the 5 and 5 and 10 and 10, the speeds and ability -- and congestion emergence and the development of the new technologies that we mentioned that have already been adopted by most of the large operators that allow them to depreciate service quality on a customer -- individual customer and even individual application level basis. And that allows them to guarantee a certain minimum level of service, even in congestion periods, for particular customers if they want to offer that level of service. And pretty much all of them have now confirmed that they have that capacity.
7296 I understand if some of the smaller operators may not be able to deliver that minimum service quality guarantees, but larger ones in Canada definitely can do it.
7297 And there is new technologies, for example, software defined networking that are emerging that allow each application service quality to be guaranteed regardless of the congestion at that particular point of time. So they have to basically segment a certain part of the network for customers that are demanding service quality, minimum service quality guarantees.
7298 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. That’s very helpful.
7299 How are the basic affordability needs of the communities, people within the communities you represent with low income different from the basic affordability needs for other low income Canadians?
7300 MR. TIBBS: In a lot of cases, these technologies, when they’re being used as a core means of communication and connectivity to the outside world, be that somebody who is deaf or non-verbal or what have you, it becomes a far more critical component that is less of a want and more of a need. And when we get to service providers who, for example, you know, the cheapest plan that has any amount of data on it might be $60, even though they don’t need a lot of the other features that come with that, but that data plan is the critical part. And they’re going to have to pay the $60.
7301 For a lot of other Canadians who have low income, they may need a phone, they may need some connectivity, but there may be other ways around it. But in this case, it’s a fundamental -- for many people with disabilities, this is a fundamental tool that’s needed for every aspect of their life. It’s not, as somebody else mentioned before, it’s not augmenting what is already available in other ways. It may be the only way.
7302 MS. KILPATRICK: I’ve been hearing very interesting things recently about the “Internet of Things” and of someone using an Amazon Echo who was a quadriplegic and was using -- had programmed his Amazon Echo so it’s all voice recognition to help him turn on lights and off and turn up and down his thermostat. And to me that seems, you know, your average Canadian would take for granted that they could just do those things, but he wasn’t able to do those things before he had technology.
7303 So again, I think it’s more than just oh something that would be good to have, it’s something that enhances independence to people with disabilities, and also helps them to find work.
7304 Often your computers are set up specifically for you. You might not be able to use a computer in a library because the technologies are set up such that you can use your specific computer, as Laurie mentioned about her friend. And in order to get work and to find work, you have to do that through your system. So I think it even helps you to get work to do all your activities of daily living.
7305 So I think it’s quite different need than average, you know, just Canadians. I mean, we all need it, but this is -- to me it look on it’s more a necessity of life.
7306 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. That sort of brings us to your national disability subsidy fund.
7307 In terms of its structure and you’ve mentioned that it would be rigorously managed, but I’m unclear on a few things. Like how would you manage qualification standards? Would anyone who self-identified as disabled qualify?
7308 MR. RAJABIUN: The way that the subsidy fund is designed it’s targeting severe and very severe -- people with severe and very severe disabilities with incomes under $15,000 a year, which is the median income for people with severe and very severe disabilities.
7309 In terms of the distribution of the funds, if you’re asking should they be given to everyone, we haven’t -- I think we sort of touched upon it, but in general, it can be distributed through existing social service agencies so you don’t have to duplicate the administrative burden that's already interacting with people with disabilities, with very severe disabilities.
7310 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So that was going to be my next point. It was on the 15,000. You mentioned that is a hardline then that it would ---
7311 MR. RAJABIUN: It's not a hardline. That's just an estimate from the Statistic Canada. This is an overall benchmark baseline. That's the -- for people with very -- for people with mild and not so severe disabilities, the income difference, the median income is pretty close. It's a little less than people without disabilities.
7312 But for people with severe and very severe disabilities, the median income collapses and is around 15,000 and I think the social services payment varies by province for people with severe disabilities that can’t work but it's generally around 10 to 12,000 maximum.
7313 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right.
7314 MR. RAJABIUN: Those are the income benchmarks that you could use but we use the 15,000 because it's a national median rather than looking at specific provinces and start to differentiate it.
7315 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you see this as being distributed through social services?
7316 MR. RAJABIUN: Well, that's one option. We haven’t really discussed this and ---
7317 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Because they had a concern the other day raised with another group was whether or not a subsidy that went through -- that went to people receiving social services might not be clawed back by social services in terms of that or simply absorbed by social services in a follow-through in the scenario you represented.
7318 Have you had any contact with social service agencies regarding how they might view this proposal?
7319 MS. ALPHONSE: Not as of yet I don’t think but the thing you have to realize is that there are mechanisms to allow for social service agencies to come on board with a proposal like this.
7320 One very recent example is the RDSP because originally when the federal government suggested it, they had to go to every social service agency and the provinces had to sign on to the fact that they wouldn’t claw it back. And I don’t believe that any social service agency, provincial provider of social services would look at this as an increase in income.
7321 And the reason I say that is because many social service providers are in the position of having to subsidize communication aids themselves. So if you're going to suggest a national model for this, I cannot see in my 25 years of working within the system that they would look unfavourably on a proposal such as this.
7322 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
7323 Going back just on the NDSF for a minute, would it be subsidizing the full cost of internet or just upgraded speeds and data that would be specifically required by members of your communities?
7324 MR. RAJABIUN: Well, those are -- the estimates you see, they don’t go into that much detail. The estimate of 150 to 300 that you have, that is basically based on $50 -- it would be half a subsidy of $25 a month for the 150 million estimate, and full subsidy of $50 a month for the full 300 million. That does not -- and I think there must have been some typo. That does not include mobile obviously. That only includes fixed because the market prices or at least revenues across different speed tiers have pretty much converged to $50 a month according to CRTC statistics. So that's the baseline they're using for that.
7325 So if you want to give $25 a month to the -- oh, another estimate that's also important is that we are assuming a take-up ratio of only half of the people with severe and very severe disabilities. That would be incomes below $15,000 a year that would be eligible for it. So we are assuming that half of the people that could technically be eligible for it would not be able to take it up. So that's another angle in that estimate.
7326 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
7327 Just to switch for a second, if your proposal was accepted and mandated, eventually would it still make sense to continue to subsidize and mandate plain old telephone service as we have because once internet connectivity is established, then VoIP and TRS are options? Do you have a view on that?
7328 You don’t have to. You can say no.
7329 MR. RAJABIUN: Well, just a quick note, make sure the internet is there before you get rid of the ---
7330 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yes, I think I was going ---
7331 MR. BIRCH: I think that was a good point going through my head too is just, yeah, I think that makes logical sense as long as it's reliable and always there and then those other things will no longer be used.
7332 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
7333 MS. KILPATRICK: I say yes. If you think about the age demographics, some seniors -- some seniors are really using a lot of technologies and internet. There are a few still who may be relying mostly on our landline phones but I think once it's all set up within the next, I don’t know, 10 years, 5 to 10 years, maybe not, because most people are using mobile technologies, internet. It's easier for me now. I used to use the subsidized 411 for looking up phone numbers but I don’t remember when the last time was that I went there because I just do it on the internet now because it's easier for me to do. So I think maybe the time is coming for that.
7334 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
7335 So back to the NDSF, where would the money come from, 150 million to $300 million? Like we don’t have any. We just have ways to access other people’s money. So whose other people’s money would you like us to go get and how?
7336 MS. MARTIN: It would be funded by the service providers.
7337 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Do you not think that might not have an impact on other -- would it be funded through the service providers by say a fee on people’s internet or communications bills, or where they ---
7338 MS. MARTIN: Our request to the Commission is to mandate the service providers to provide a subsidy to those with severe disabilities.
7339 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. You envision them doing that without passing that cap cost along to their customers?
7340 MR. BIRCH: I always assumed that it would have to be built into their business model in some way. But they in turn would be getting that revenue back as well because when they provide the service, they’d actually get the money back as well.
7341 But yes, it would have to come from either a special levy on their bill or funded in some way that I'm sure will get transferred to the other consumers using the service as well.
7342 MR. RAJABIUN: If I may on that, I think this goes back to a discussion we had a few days ago. It's crossing between short term and long term in the -- be sort of have a structure of these proposals. They're a win-win. So they actually -- they would increase revenues and demand by the disabilities communities for service providers. So they could have a positive revenue impact in the longer term.
7343 The problem is in the shorter term how you finance these kinds of programs that try to close affordability and quality gaps and improve digital inclusion, which could come just -- could be built, could be off-the-shelf financing, or could be in the bills of customers, as you heard from the -- some of the estimates that -- surveys that the Affordable Access Coalition did, the willingness to pay by Canadians for rural communities.
7344 They didn’t ask about disabilities communities, but that's an interesting question that they could ask and try to figure out what would be the willingness to pay $1 more a month or $2 more a month.
7345 But in general, that's just short-term financing, so the benefits at the end, it's either -- I would say it's not -- at the minimum, it's revenue neutral, our proposal to the service providers.
7346 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: They pay in and the money flows back to them?
7347 Okay, I'm still concerned. I mean, I want you to help me out with this concern regarding the end of the day impact on the average person's internet bill or communications costs.
7348 So in the discussion last week, which you were not at all responsible for, but the indication was that we were talking about $1.70 a month on people's bills. The fund was about the same size, and if I were to assume that this is another $1.70 that flows through -- and we're only five days into the hearing and there's other proposals, perhaps, to come -- I'm just wondering where this all goes and if there isn't some way to coordinate some of these ideals, because if -- you know what I mean?
7349 I mean, like, I don't doubt your statement that Canadians are generous people and they want to help. But if we were to come out of here saying, "Okay, folks, your internet bill's going to go up $5 or $6 a month by the time all is said and done," I'm not sure, for example, how well that might be received in let's say, Newfoundland, where, you know, the average family took a $3,000 hit on their net income last week.
7350 So how can we rationalize some of these requests and needs and communicate them to the broader public?
7351 MR. TIBBS: I'm not sure of the specifics of the other requests that have been made, but I know in a presentation earlier today it was mentioned that perhaps, in terms of video relay, you know, there may be a levy to fund -- to provide funding for that.
7352 But some of these proposals are at least overlapping in terms of their outcome. You know, guaranteed minimum service levels or bandwidth for video relay services would -- encompasses some of what we're looking at. Now, I don't know what the other specific proposals are, if anybody else does, in terms of their overlap, but hopefully, some of these things will get to the same end.
7353 MR. RAJABIUN: The case of overlap, as you see, persons with disabilities have very low incomes, so an affordability fund could touch -- a general affordability fund could touch people with disabilities, but the question becomes targeting and priorities, which the Commission must set.
7354 And also, there's a trade-off with the rural funding request, and systems to be developed that have been proposed, various ones in this procedure -- proceedings.
7355 So I guess it becomes a difficult question of balancing different interests for you.
7356 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Would your fund differentiate between rural and -- rural/remote and urban? No?
7357 MR. RAJABIUN: No.
7358 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
7359 Just to touch on your DRO request, when last we met, there was some -- I'm not sure how well-founded it was on my part -- but hope that communications on a lot of these issues between your communities and service providers might open up and improve. So how's it going?
7360 MR. BIRCH: I don't think I'm aware of any substantial improvement since the last time we met, if that is ---
7361 MS. ALPHONSE: I would have to say it has gotten worse.
7362 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No fresh dialogue?
7363 MS. ALPHONSE: Not on our end.
7364 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay.
7365 I'm going to ask you a question that I asked the group last week, because I think it's reasonably important.
7366 When we have these asks regarding -- and this is not to disrespect the need and the -- or the ask in any way -- but I asked this of ACORN, I believe.
7367 With regards to people who are on Social Assistance -- and you’ve highlighted that, in terms of for your fund -- there are 10 provincial governments and three territorial governments who are responsible for Social Services. And they are comprised of thousands of elected officials, advised by tens of thousands of social workers and child welfare workers and child care workers, and not one of them that I'm aware of -- or that has been brought to our attention here at least -- has chosen to define internet access or communications at specs as fundamental to a person's needs and to therefore fund it as part of their basic package.
7368 So -- and I'm unaware of this being a matter of vigorous debate in Parliament either, for that matter, so why would we, with no expertise in social work or child welfare work and that sort of stuff, not take their position -- how they came to it is their business -- as advice on this and say that, no, this is not a basic need, that if the people responsible for Social Services have chosen not to fund it, why would we?
7369 MS. ALPHONSE: I would have to say, sir, because I am aware of the fact that while they don’t fund it across the board, for people who are severely disabled and need augmentative communication aids, they do fund some of those costs.
7370 How particularly it flows for individuals is done on an individual basis. To answer your question as to why we think it should come from the CRTC, is because it would make it easier for people with disabilities to get the materials and the services they need.
7371 Because right now, you're right, it is not done across the board and when people have augmentative communication needs, it has to be argued on a individual basis and if you do not have the skills required for argument, which many of these folks do not, they end up coming to organizations like mine, the Disabled Women's Network, for assistance in forming those arguments.
7372 We are just suggesting that we take the need for argument out of the scenario, because we already recognize it as a need.
7373 MS. KILPATRICK: Can I just bring out too that I think a lot of education is needed to the general public and to organizations all the time about what technology does for people with disabilities.
7374 I work in the field of training people who are blind -- deaf, blind, no vision, with technologies, and I have to keep up on it all the time.
7375 But I do feel that so many times in the public I'm out and people don’t realize what I -- what you can use technology for, what you can use internet for, and perhaps the disability community needs to continue to educate service providers, internet providers, everybody about what the importance of technology. And because that’s changing so much and so fast, the education needs to be an ongoing thing.
7376 So I think sometimes they don’t realize the importance of it, which might be why they haven’t lobbied towards that. Because unless you know and until you know a lot of people using it, you probably don’t always know and it’s changing all the time and evolving.
7377 MR. MARTIN: I wanted to add to that that the reason you’re not hearing this from Social Services is because this is not a Social Services issue. This is the stakeholders in the MAC/Access 2020 Group are in fact the consumers, the individuals who are using the services provided to improve their means to communicate and to have independence in the outside world.
7378 We’re looking at a relationship between the consumers and the service providers who come under your mandate to provide the services to help them individually.
7379 MR. RAJABIUN: I may expand on that. The Social Services angle comes in only in the subsidy mechanism because we are ---
7380 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, I wanted to clarify that that was the context.
7381 MR. RAJABIUN: Yes. No, there is no -- we are consumers and most of the community works as hard as everybody else and pays their taxes. So the quality of service guarantees and the disabilities rights office are a general purpose for whether you are poor or you’re not. Its general purpose that because you are disabled and you have special needs.
7382 The subsidy mechanism is separate under Social Services. It only came out because you asked about the distribution, how you want to distribute the funds. And we are targeting it only to very low-income persons with severe disabilities who are likely to be receiving social services. So it’s a distribution mechanism so it has nothing to do with other issues.
7383 And a second more general response to your question, is that telecommunications is federally regulated so provinces can’t really mandate minimum service quality guarantees. Federal government could absolve itself of the responsibility and decentralize regulatory authority, but that’s not where we are right now so I guess it becomes a question of Canada’s constitutional arrangements.
7384 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, yeah. It could a false concern. I just do have a little bit of a concern from the discussion the other day that a subsidy would go and be counted, might be counted as income. And at the end of the day the folks who -- if there was such a thing there would be no net benefit. There would just be a lot of money moving around.
7385 MR. RAJABIUN: If they try to do that, well, shaming them into not doing that.
7386 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: It hasn’t worked so far but there you go.
7387 MS. ALPHONSE: My experience has been that in those kinds of cases the federal government works to get the provincial subsidy agencies to come on board. There is a model for having that happen.
7388 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
7389 Those are all my questions. I’ll turn it over to my colleagues, if they have any. Thank you for your interventions. It was very well put together and very professionally presented. Thanks.
7390 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’ve just polled my colleagues and legal, and apparently we have no further questions for you. But I do thank you for having participated in the proceedings so far. Thank you.
7391 I believe we have somebody on video conference?
7392 THE SECRETARY: Yes. We will connect to the Vancouver CRTC office.
7393 Welcome. We’ll now hear the presentation of BC Broadband Association. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 10 minutes for your presentation.
7394 MR. BOB ALLEN: Thank you. Can everyone hear me okay?
7395 THE SECRETARY: Yes, you may begin.
7396 MR. BOB ALLEN: My audio is working? Great.
7397 My name is Bob Allen. I’m the President of the B.C. Broadband Association, which is a Western Canadian group of ISPs. I’m also the CEO of ABC Communications, a member of that organization.
7398 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: And I’m Chris Allen. I’m on the board of directors for the BC Broadband Association, and the President of ABC Communications, an ISP.
7399 MR. BOB ALLEN: We’d like to begin our presentation by stating that the BC Broadband Association does not support a subsidy mechanism similar to the one in place for voice services to achieve Canada’s goals for broadband connectivity. The B.C. Broadband Association supports the model of targeted government funding supporting market-driven activity.
7400 A little bit of background on the B.C. Broadband Association. We have most of our members supply internet connectivity in rural communities here in British Columbia. We have 30 service providers in our organization, as well as a number of manufacturers and industry representatives.
7401 We provide similar services to our customers across our area, which is basically home internet with voice and some video services. And ABC is the largest member in that group. We’re serving about 3,000 customers, with about 45 employees.
7402 We think that our service providers are at the leading edge of delivering services, and have participated in numerous rounds of targeted subsidy funding. and have participated in the recent Connecting Canadians Program, which is underway and will run for the next two and a half years or so.
7403 And, you know, we target improving service to about 23,000 homes in British Columbia, to bring all those homes up to a five-megabit minimum standard, and in many cases more than that.
7404 I’m going to let Chris go into some details here on reasons behind our decision to not support a subsidy.
7405 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Thanks, guys.
7406 Yeah, so as Bob was saying, the BCBA overall supports targeted funding mechanisms versus an ongoing subsidy regime.
7407 And I think for one of the first times in any proceeding that I’ve been a party to the -- it’s interesting to see the large incumbents and (inaudible) as well as the smaller ISPs are all generally on the same page on this in not wanting to push into that, the ongoing subsidy type of thing that exists for voice today. And I think that’s worth noting because usually you’ll have a different mindset from the incumbents and the smaller players, but I think it’s interesting to see some harmony in that.
7408 You know, currently in rural Canada there’s actually a very thriving ISP industry. more so than in a lot of cases in the urban industry, which is often dominated by two large incumbents. There’s literally many hundreds of small internet providers, many small cable co’s, small wireless internet service providers throughout Canada, and it’s encouraging to see that kind of strength in the telecommunication sector in these areas.
7409 And these kind of operators are investing in facility-based infrastructure, which I know is a stated goal, and have made considerable investments to date in their tower infrastructure and radio equipment and cable plant throughout the country, and have worked hard to try to increase speeds and deliver better services to rural Canadians.
7410 And today we’re seeing that targeted funding having an effect. As Bob mentioned, the digital Canada 150 Connecting Canadians Program, it’s a huge initiative. I believe it expanded to $500 million, and the first round of it being $305 million. And we were recipients, our company was recipients, as were many member companies of the B.C. Broadband Association.
7411 And through that, as Bob mentioned, we were able to -- we are in a process right now if rolling out carrier-grade equipment using LTE infrastructure, which will increase speeds well beyond the five megabits per second that the Commission has stated as a goal.
7412 And in a lot of cases that kind of capital one-time investment is beyond the capabilities of the small players. So that targeted one-time hit can really help you get up to that level of equipment and service delivery and better coverage. The newer equipment can see more homes, can penetrate through tougher terrain, and improve that service delivery.
7413 So from our point-of-view, it has been very successful so far, the Digital Canada 150. And even past granting programs, both provincially and federally, that we’ve been involved in have helped us bring service to a lot of areas, that once you get that initial capital investment there is an ongoing business model there that doesn’t need continual kicks-in of more money as an ongoing subsidy kind of regime sort of would have to have.
7414 And these kind of investments that we’re making today through the Digital Canada 150 Program, they would be put into a bit of a jeopardy possibly if an ongoing subsidy regime were to be rolled out on top of that money, possibly inciting incenting incumbents to move into our territories in ways that would upset the current market conditions. So I think that’s another point that’s worth making.
7415 And ongoing subsidy programs can suffer from a time lag as well in terms of new technologies coming to the table. You know, that time lag could be seen in the fact that I think dialup is probably still an essential service, if I understand correctly.
7416 And so, you know, when you’re doing a one-time investment and you’re working with a local player, he’s going to be doing the research to make sure that the best technology is getting put there into that area.
7417 And on top of that, an ongoing subsidy regime typically has a large amount of overhead from a regulatory overhead point of view. And a lot of the smaller operators, you know, they can be sometimes a three to five-man operation. They don’t have enough kind of office power to really deal with an ongoing subsidy regime, and I think that the overhead for the government and for that small player, it’s not helping anybody in that scenario.
7418 Today, we have built some great things in our network and our peer companies, we know, have also built some great -- great technology, great service delivery. And all of our ISPs, they live and they work in these communities. They’re providing service to their neighbours. They know what their neighbours are asking them for and what the geographic challenges of the territory are.
7419 At a national level, an ongoing subsidy program could upset that by -- again, by pushing incumbents to invest in areas that they’re not maybe as familiar with. And often times, their cost overheads can be higher than smaller players and so the bang for the buck may not be there as well.
7420 That’s pretty much our point; you know, it’s that we’re -- we have invested to deliver these services into these small areas. We know these areas, and the targeted one-time investments that are going on right now are making a big impact. And the amount of homes that are being brought to a higher level is increasing through this grant program. It would be premature to do anything on top of that without seeing the impact of the DC150 and all the funding that’s being rolled out right now.
7421 I’ll turn it over to you, Bob.
7422 MR. BOB ALLEN: Okay, thanks, Chris.
7423 Those are our key points in -- you know, from our Association and we’d like to keep our presentation fairly succinct.
7424 Although in closing, I would like to add that coordination and communication within regions is very important.
7425 In British Columbia, the provincial government has a division that they named Network BC, which listens to complaints from pockets of underserved or lightly served individuals. And as fibre optics are rolled out into the fringe areas of the incumbent providers, there are stranded areas of individuals who are -- their business case becomes stranded because there’s too few of them for a fixed wireless operator to move into. If they don’t have adequate reception for satellite service, they could be stranded permanently.
7426 And I think that there is a need for -- across the regions of Canada, for organizations like Network BC to work with the public to identify these people who are just necessarily left behind by the evolution of technology.
7427 You know, we think that there’s -- a very good model has been developed in the rural areas for non-subsidy sustainable business models.
7428 So when we receive this one-time grant money, yes, that helps us advance more rapidly than we might otherwise advance, but it does not incent us to advance into areas where the operating expenses will put you into a position of permanently losing money.
7429 So because of that, there are areas where everyone puts their hands up and says, “No, I just can’t go there. Even if you’d give me money, I can’t sustain the operation.”
7430 And I think that, you know, the Commission still has to address and work with the regional organizations to try to find solutions. It’s a rather small number of people, but they are permanently stranded by this evolution.
7431 And other than that, I would like to thank the Commission for listening to the BC Broadband Association and for conducting this hearing and for all the support they’ve given our Association over the years.
7432 Thank you very much.
7433 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
7434 MR. BOB ALLEN: Any questions, of course.
7435 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
7436 So Commissioner Vennard is going to start us with the questions.
7437 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello, gentlemen. I’ll try and keep my questions succinct as well. It’s been a rather long morning and thanks for waiting for us.
7438 The first question that I have -- I have about three questions for you. The first question that I have relates to essentially what you were just talking about, the stranded groups of people that are not served.
7439 How does your organization, your Association, go about finding these groups or these people, these communities? Can you give us a little bit of background on that and tell us something about your approach to that, if indeed you do it at all or if that is the function of Network BC?
7440 MR. BOB ALLEN: Well, were are continuously aware of these individuals. They do clamour for service and they will phone everyone that they think might provide them service, if the incumbents don’t -- aren’t there.
7441 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
7442 MR. BOB ALLEN: You know, we -- you know, it’s not hard to find your local wireless ISP either.
7443 And the evolution of satellite technology over the last three or four years has made satellite into a fairly good source of internet access. It’s not as good as terrestrial or fibre optic -- terrestrial wireless, I should say, or fibre optic because of course they deliver very low latency services and can support voice and gaming and high speed interaction.
7444 But satellite is a pretty good competitor and it has provided an excellent level of service for many Canadians who otherwise would never have been served, even through a subsidy mechanism, unless it was you know massive amounts spent.
7445 So satellite has to be considered part of the picture for the very thinly spread population, where there just isn’t an economic case for terrestrial wireless and certainly not for fibre optic.
7446 But of course satellite has its issues as well and particularly in B.C., where we have hills and trees. And not all of the people are actually in a position to receive that. So you can have a shadow of a mountain, which blocks satellite service from reaching those people. They may be out of the economic model for fibre optic deployment, and they may be too thinly dispersed for a fixed wireless operator to go in and service those customers without -- you know, even with the one-time subsidy.
7447 So there are not a lot of these individuals, but they do need to be identified and the only way those areas -- they’re almost like little black holes in Canada where nobody -- eventually, no one would live there if we don’t do something to do that.
7448 Now, I don’t think we need a national subsidy mechanism, you know, which would disrupt the current healthy marketplace which has brought broadband service to rural Canada fairly cost-effectively. So that’s where a general subsidy program would not be a healthy thing for the rural consumer.
7449 But there are these pockets of individuals, and I do think that regional organizations need to identify them. And the Commission should think of perhaps some specialty situation, you know, to deal with folks who are unable to receive satellite service due to terrestrial obstacles.
7450 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes.
7451 MR. BOB ALLEN: So that’s just one minor point I’d like to put in there -- to be left at the end of this proceeding.
7452 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, we’ve heard from some of those folks that just seem to be sort of falling through the cracks and into these little dark holes.
7453 Do you think there should be an obligation for the smaller players to serve these people -- or the larger players? What are your thoughts on that? Or are they just sort of, you know, in particular circumstances that are really their own?
7454 MR. BOB ALLEN: I think sort of the obligation to serve kind of went back when you -- where the entitlement of monopoly brought you the obligation to serve.
7455 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
7456 MR. BOB ALLEN: And having removed the entitlement of monopoly from our telecommunications system, I think to its vast improvement, you know, we have to sort of drift away from the obligation to serve and move towards the incentive to serve.
7457 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
7458 MR. BOB ALLEN: And an incentive to serve program, you know, when you have something that where the operating revenues don’t cover the costs, well then an incentive to serve, you know, could be -- could be developed.
7459 And then perhaps you could have an open tendering process or a -- you know, some sort of process whereby the nearest ISP or the person with the closest facilities is obviously the most likely person to serve those additional subscribers, although they may be doing it at an operating loss.
7460 And so when you’re into those kinds of situations, then some sort of mechanism that would incent those folks to opt to serve those customers would be -- you know, that would drive them out into those areas. Whereas most ISPs have learned -- because before satellite became an effective competitor, you know, ISPs would go to great lengths to give people service. And they would go out three valleys and four radio shots to get four customers who would pay anything to get internet.
7461 But that's all changed with satellite. Those folks were quite happy with satellite, and now you're left with four radio ops and two customers.
7462 So those are the kind of situations that the rural operators, you know, don’t want to get involved in.
7463 And also, I think that these targeted subsidy programs that help the extension of fibre, when you have someone like a TELUS, who builds a rural fibre plant but concentrates mostly on the denser people, of course, you know, they're open to receiving grants to help and extend their fibre plants another few kilometres to collect a few more customers. And they don’t require an operating subsidy to continue to keep those people running, because they have the bulk of the community as a base for their business model.
7464 So I think that there's more dialogue that will come out of this that, you know, we're hopeful that you will choose the, you know, the targeted funding mechanism and not come up with a national subsidy regime, but we do think that there will be a few issues that will require this -- addressing this -- the dark holes and the small pockets of customers that are on (inaudible) to continue to serve, even with a one-time subsidy.
7465 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, so in your view then ---
7466 MR. BOB ALLEN: (Inaudible).
7467 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: In your view, the competition is working fairly well, in terms of providing infrastructure with targeted -- those funding and private investment?
7468 MR. BOB ALLEN: Oh, yes, it's very competitive in rural markets now, and as the ISPs have grown, you know, they begin to compete with each other, so in some cases, in the rural market, you have three competitors ---
7469 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
7470 MR. BOB ALLEN: --- already in the market. You have satellite and possibly two wireless internet providers, you have TELUS or the incumbents with their mobile service, where they do deliver increasingly better data packages over the mobile networks.
7471 So you know, competition is lively. It's not a slam dunk any more in the rural markets.
7472 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: I can say for our packages have consistently gone down, offered more data, and a lower monthly rate year over year for the last 15 years, basically, as the markets have added more competition and technologies and become more economically viable.
7473 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
7474 Okay, I'm just-- this question is -- I'm referring to paragraph 24 of your intervention. Your comment that you're not in favour of increasing the five-one, are -- does that mean that you are -- you oppose it or is that you simply don’t see a need for it?
7475 MR. BOB ALLEN: Well, we think that five-one -- when we offer services out to our customers, so we'll offer speeds up to 10 megabit into markets currently; that's our current level, and we can move to 25. We're preparing ourselves to move to 25, but people generally are not that interested in buying the 10 megabit packages over the 5 megabit packages, and if they do so, it's only because it includes more data, that they can generally -- generally, rural customers are -- if they can receive the full true five megabit performance, they're reasonably happy with those amounts.
7476 Now, I think that the market will push those speeds up beyond the five and one, and again, as we are in the middle of a very expensive program that all --we're all working very hard on to get to five-one, it would be very disruptive for you to change that target speed in the middle of that program. That program ends around 2017, 2018, something like that, so that would be a time range where you might actually then move the speeds up.
7477 Now, most of the constructors who are constructing are looking over their shoulder at the 25 megabit satellite products that are on the horizon and we'll be having to compete against those 25 megabit products, so 5 meg won't be good enough if you want to remain competitive against the satellite providers.
7478 So if you were going to invest in technology, such as we are investing, we invest in LTE, which is actually capable of 100 megabit if we chose to provision it to that level. But the customers' appetite is not that great at this time.
7479 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Yeah, I think it's worth pointing out that I think that at five megabits, I mean, you can stream an HD Netflix, you can have a great videoconferencing conversation with somebody, you know. The five megabits today, anyway, delivers what we need on the internet.
7480 You know, in 10 years, maybe we'll be laughing at that number, but today, the things you need to do on the internet you can do, you can do for five, no problem.
7481 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
7482 I just have a couple of questions for you before turning it over to my colleagues.
7483 One of them is, I'm wondering if you would like to comment on the needs of small businesses as compared to households. Do you see them as being quite similar?
7484 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: The needs of -- oh, the small business, like service delivery for them? Right.
7485 Now, yeah, small businesses do tend to need more bandwidth, often on the upload side more than the download. A lot of businesses now really rely on some sort of an offsite backup type of a scenario for their data, and that's what we see in the market, is that our -- a lot of business packages come with two megabit up rather than the one megabit up.
7486 We do sometimes do some custom things for people up to about five megabit up, just to try to help with that upload portion of it. The amount of data, it's surprising, a residential household, often we use a lot more data than your average small business because the amount of video streaming, which is the number one use of data.
7487 In a business, it's not there in the way that it is for a family that's watching Netflix every night.
7488 So yeah, it's been -- the needs are slightly different in terms of more upload but not in cases -- the data is not as much as you might think for a business.
7489 Businesses are able to pay a little more to have a bit more of a carrier grade type of infrastructure and are able to -- they want that higher uptime, which is the better equipment can supply.
7490 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. Also, I'm wondering if you would like to comment on if internet applications considers as entertainment, you know, the streaming and so on; should we take those into account when assessing the internet characteristics needed by Canadians?
7491 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: I think if you asked the actual citizens, then it is very important to them, especially when you're in a rural area in the winter months. I think at night, there's less things to do and streaming video is very important.
7492 Virtually all of our rural customers watch streaming video in some way, with Netflix being the biggest service, obviously, but there's lots of other ones that are coming on the market now.
7493 So I think that can be important. It may be a connection to the general popular culture in a bigger way. My -- you know, the share that you watch the same programming and things like that, with your urban friends, so I think it is entertainment, more so than necessity for life, but as our society wants to, you know, be closer on the urban/rural side, all being able to watch the same shows, the local corner store video store doesn’t exist any more in these tiny communities in most cases, so streaming videos is the only way to watch those films.
7494 So I think it is important to the consumer.
7495 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Do you think it's an essential or just a nice a nice to have?
7496 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: I think calling streaming video an essential service may be premature at this point. It is entertainment. It's certainly not needed to live, but when people's internet gets to a level where they can't watch streaming video, we certainly hear about it, and for someone that -- it feels like to them that it was an essential service.
7497 MR. BOB ALLEN: I'd like to comment too, though, that, you know, we suffer in British Columbia in our rural areas maintaining our population base because of the trend today to move to a city regardless of the price of housing.
7498 And the access to equivalent video collections of information is extremely important to youth, and they do feel disadvantaged, and to them. You know, if you ask youth whether or not access to YouTube is an essential service, they would probably say yes.
7499 And is culture an essential thing, you know, so I -- while it's not pure entertainment when it comes to maintaining rural populations. I think it's essential to Canada to have a healthy rural population, and making sure that people in rural areas have access to the same entertainment services that the urban people can enjoy, you know, such as gaming or Netflix. While they do seem to be entertainments, they are, in fact, part of balancing our population mix and maintaining our rural health of our populations.
7500 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, thank you for that.
7501 My final question has to do with choice, and I'd like you to maybe make some comments on the difference between low density rural and remote areas, compared to high density urban areas, in terms of choice, and how to encourage choice in the low density areas.
7502 Do you think it's working fairly well? You’ve alluded to choice before you said that you said that you think that the market forces are working -- competition seems to be working.
7503 Would you like to add anything further to that in terms of important differences that we should be aware of?
7504 MR. BOB ALLEN: Well, again, as I say, satellite becomes the major competitor for most ISPs in Canada, and the major satellite provider in Canada, Xplornet, also operates six wireless networks because they recognize that fixed wireless networks can deliver more data into concentrated areas and do provide a slightly better consumer experience.
7505 So head-to-head, people will choose fixed wireless over satellite, but satellite does provide a good competitive solution and it is broadly available, whereas fixed wireless tends to get poorer and poorer the farther out you go and the speeds go farther away, the incentive to invest in new gear drops away.
7506 So the satellite guys have really changed the game in the rural markets over the last four years and intend to continue doing so. So that is a good thing, I think, in terms of those markets.
7507 And again we also see the incumbents offering more data with their packages. They’re not the kind of data packages that you’d be watching a lot of Netflix on yet on your mobile service, but they do provide a competitive alternative.
7508 So an ISP operating in a rural marketplace faces two competitors in most cases. And if it’s a fairly lucrative area, he will see other ISPs moving into that territory.
7509 So we certainly see that in our area where the ISPs are somewhat bobbing up in their own community that they started in. They’ve got a business, they’re doing okay and they want to grow and the only way to grow is move into the other guy’s territory --
7510 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
7511 MR. BOB ALLEN: -- and start competing against him.
7512 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
7513 MR. BOB ALLEN: Which leads to people trying to improve their services and it’s a better deal for the consumers.
7514 So I can’t speak nationally, but I can speak in terms of provincially and in -- and competition is increasing in rural markets, I would say.
7515 Would you back me up on that, Chris?
7516 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Absolutely. Certainly between satellite from the incumbents, satellite and usually a couple of rural operators and any decent sized rural community often has poor choices, so that’s -- and sometimes even legacy ADSL plant that delivers slightly slower speeds, but it’s out there as a competitor too in some of the rural areas.
7517 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay, thank you. Those are all my questions.
7518 THE CHAIRPERSON: Vice-Chair Menzies?
7519 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I was just trying to get a sense of pricing, in terms of what you consider affordable. You’re website indicates that 5 in 1 is $100 a month for ABC Communications.
7520 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Our five -- yes, our 5 in 1 is $79.95 on a one year term. The $99 is our non-contract rate and our 10 megabits package is $99.95 on a one year term.
7521 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Is that affordable?
7522 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: I think what we found -- certainly there’s good uptake on our packages.
7523 What we found is that people are -- as they cut the cord more and they’re cancelling other video-streaming services or video services like satellite, for example, in the rural areas, that their overall telecom spend typically was at around $100 a month or $130 a month or something like that and they factored in their internet, and their T.V., and their phone.
7524 When the internet can deliver both the voice and the T.V. services they’re okay with paying $100, in that kind of range, 80 to 100 per month.
7525 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Good. Okay, that makes sense to me. Thank you.
7526 MR. BOB ALLEN: I’d just like to comment too that in the -- sorry?
7527 THE CHAIRPERSON: Go ahead.
7528 MR. BOB ALLEN: I just wanted to comment too that service rates in the urban areas are lower than in the rural areas at this time, particularly in the area of the amount of included data.
7529 The -- that has been the key differentiator, I think, in rural markets versus urban markets, is -- for many years urban markets data was unlimited.
7530 Now recently there have been limitations placed on the urban markets for those packages and peoples’ prices have risen in the urban markets as they -- as people have absorbed those additional bandwidth costs, so that has narrowed the price.
7531 As well the investments from the connecting Canadians and other -- just the investments of the telecom providers in rural spaces, have enabled them to get, you know, more bandwidth to the customer at a lower price point.
7532 I mean there is still the difficult cost of purchasing fibre optic circuits in rural areas, which is quite high.
7533 And you must recover the cost of those circuits which can be in the $1,500-2,000 a month for the -- for the fibre optic circuit that’s leading to the small town and you must recover those costs.
7534 And -- so those are things that tend to drive it up, but we do see that, as Chris mentioned, we include more traffic and our prices have dropped for those speeds.
7535 Essentially we’re holding our prices pretty much where they used to be, but including higher speeds and more traffic as time goes on.
7536 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Yeah I think the point there being that in the urban markets I think from -- on the incumbents side, we’ve actually seen the price rising up into you know your average package being in the sort of 65 range, where it used to be down in the sort of 40 range a few years ago, whereas in the rural markets we’ve continually lowered our packages. So we’re getting very close to meeting in the middle here somewhere.
7537 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you for that.
7538 So just to follow-up on your notion of stranded households, based on your knowledge of B.C., how many stranded households do you think there are?
7539 MR. BOB ALLEN: Now I don’t think that we have done a very good job of identifying, you know, these stranded households.
7540 You know we’ve identified folks who don’t have terrestrial service and call them unserved, even though they in fact do have satellite service and in many cases are quite happy with it.
7541 The methodology, to some degree, of counting the served and unserved has become a little -- a little hazy and that’s why I think that, you know, it’s important for organisations like Network BC to work with the CRTC and take on that mandate, which is very difficult for the CRTC to get out and find these.
7542 I mean the government has gone through a great exercise recently of improving the maps of coverage in Canada and a new map was brought out quite recently.
7543 And for most of Canada you can click on that map and it will tell you who is providing service in that area and in most cases you’ll find a provider, even if it’s satellite provider.
7544 So these spots where there in fact is no provider due to satellite shadowing, I don’t think they’ve been identified.
7545 And I don’t know that even the satellite companies have identified them, because they’re just a -- it’s kind of a shadowy pattern across the landscape.
7546 But, you know, that should be the focus, I think, of the next fact finding exercises, is to identify these stranded areas and those individuals who can neither receive satellite or terrestrial service.
7547 Terrestrial service because of economics and the satellite because of a geographic blocking, but I personally couldn’t give you the number of households in B.C. who are suffering from that.
7548 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: And that may be a -- if anybody had that data it probably -- or any attempt of that data it probably would be Xplornet, from people actually trying to get service and not being able to, but yes, there probably isn’t great data on just what that number is.
7549 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay well thank you very much for that. I believe those are our questions. Just checking -- yes, that is the case so thank you very much gentlemen for having participated in our hearing so far. Thank you.
7550 MR. CHRIS ALLEN: Thanks for the opportunity.
7551 MR. BOB ALLEN: We appreciate it.
7552 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
7553 MR. BOB ALLEN: Thanks for working with us. Have a good day.
7554 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
7555 So we will continue hearing intervenors after the lunch, but as I mentioned earlier, I have a statement to read.
7556 Those of you who are familiar with CRTC proceedings will appreciate it is unusual for Chairs to make formal remarks beyond those made at the beginning of the oral hearing, but this is an exceptional hearing in many ways.
7557 Exceptional in terms of its scope, the level of public participation and the importance broadband will play in Canada’s future economic and social development.
7558 So I ask you to pay careful attention to what I’m about to say. The timing of these remarks is key, because it is right before we start hearing from the largest internet service providers, such as TELUS, Bell, Rogers, CCSA, MTS, Cogeco, SaskTel, Shaw, Eastlink, Quebecor and CNOC, so it seems important to take stock at this time.
7559 Like many things Canadian, my reflections start with the weather. It was a particularly warm and sunny spring weekend in the Ottawa region over the past two days.
7560 Although I had to go into the office yesterday afternoon in order to prepare for this week’s hearing, like many others in Southern Canada I embraced the clear blue skies and sunny weather that accompanies this first real spring weekend.
7561 In this part of the country, winter began late this year and it decided to overstay its welcome.
7562 Curiously Christmas was green and Easter was white, but we are making progressive advancements to warmer and sunnier days and we are finally putting behind many weeks of winter that seemed, at times, more like 10 years of darkness.
7563 As I busied myself removing winter protections on plants, bringing out deck furniture and raking up the vestiges of winter I had time to reflect. I’d like to share with you those reflections over the last week and set the course for our conversation over the next two weeks of hearing.
7564 Overall, in a nutshell, witnesses that appeared so far have agreed to a self-evident truth. Today, in Canada, broadband is vital.
7565 Dictionaries define “vital” as being essential to life, to the existence of a thing, to the matter at hand, and to success more broadly.
7566 So unless you disagree with this conclusion, let us not spend more hearing time on this self-evident truth. We have other more important things to focus on.
7567 My second reflection relates to what we appear to have heard so far, including this morning, which is particularly striking.
7568 Individual Canadians came to testify that they did not choose to face life in poverty or challenged by physical or mental disabilities. Yet governments at all levels have chosen to ask these citizens to seek government services through digital platforms.
7569 I myself witnessed departments propose cost-saving business cases while I was at Treasury Port Secretariat, premised on shifting citizenship -- citizen engagement from physical offices and telephone contacts to online. This has had consequences.
7570 Vulnerable individuals burdened by social and economic insecurity came to testify that the calculation for the level of social assistance available from governance does not take into consideration the cost of connectivity that is nevertheless essential to schedule medical appointments, ensure success in school for their children, facilitate searching for a job, and to do many of the online activities many of the rest of us take for granted.
7571 Officials from Nunavut testified that they do not have the capacity to deal with the unique broadband challenge facing the north.
7572 As a result, for instance, broadband capacity used for Government of Nunavut activity during the day lies idle at the end of the business day and cannot be redirected to the general population in the evening. There seems to be no clear way forward.
7573 The Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation advanced that there should be one point of contact for Arctic broadband policy pointing out that the Canadian governance model is unclear. On broadband matters they have had to deal with the CRTC, CanNor, Infrastructure Canada and the former Industry Canada.
7574 In their view, a single federal entity needed to take the lead and coordinate a coherent Arctic broadband strategy to chart a clear way forward. They pointed to a 2012 broadband report of the International Telecommunication Union that identified thinking beyond electoral cycles as a best practice.
7575 Municipal and other government witnesses, many of them elected officials and therefore very close to the population, shared their frustration of lack of leadership, the lack of coordination and information, and their own lack of capacity to address the broadband needs of their local residents, businesses and institutions -- of their local residents’ businesses and institutions.
7576 One could not help but be struck by the uneven level of capacity in various regions to tackle these very modern and complex issues. Those that had made investments and advanced projects were also left wondering if they had made the right choices. As a result, there is a distributed patchwork of problems and solutions across the country.
7577 Ces représentants municipaux ont mentionné aussi l’écart considérable au chapitre de la couverture mobile sans fil. La couverture universelle qui est disponible dans certaines parties du pays est irrégulière ou inexistante dans leur région.
7578 Lesquelles dans certains cas, se trouvent à peine quelques kilomètres des grands centres urbains. Voilà qui soulèvent des préoccupations en ce qui concerne la sécurité du public sur les routes et les autoroutes, ainsi que sur les chantiers en forêt et là où se trouvent des installations liées aux ressources naturelles.
7579 Outre les préoccupations en matière de sécurité du public, à leur avis, les plateformes mobiles sont incapables d’offrir des alternatives abordables pour la large bande.
7580 Other witnesses acknowledged that the future deployment will require some sort of public private partnership. The metrics of success for private companies are at odds sometimes with the deployment of broadband connectivity and meeting the expectations of Canadians in unserved and underserved regions.
7581 In areas of low population density, the economics of market forces are challenged. Companies are rightly mindful of such things as RPO and dividends and the return to bondholders and shareholder value and the return on investments on projects.
7582 What was less clear was when and where such public private incentives were required and how they can, in certain circumstances, have unexpected consequences.
7583 As you can see, the acknowledgement of broadband being vital to economic, social, democratic and cultural success of individuals and collectivities is a given. However, this only brings us so far. Three other questions must be asked.
7584 First, where are the gaps to access to connectivity? And when I speak of access to connectivity, I think of it through a number of lenses, including geographic access to broadband connectivity; that is, the actual reach of broadband over the entire Canadian territory. Technological attributes of access to broadband connectivity; that is, the kind of characteristics broadband should have in terms of speed and capacity, latency, jitter, et cetera. Economic access to broadband connectivity, including, in its most extreme form, issues of unaffordability. Skill access to broadband connectivity, including issues of digital literacy and the capacity to make informed choices in a complex digital marketplace for the uninformed, the ill-informed or the folks who are simply overwhelmed.
7585 The second question is, given those gaps, what are the best strategies in order to close or eliminate them?
7586 And finally, who is in the best position to implement those strategies?
7587 Clearly, the CRTC has work to do under its jurisdiction. This is the purpose of this proceeding. We will consider such things as basic service objectives and the potential use of redefined subsidy mechanisms.
7588 But beyond the CRTC, is there a role for others? Government. What level of government? The private sector through pure market forces, or a combination of all or some of these? And how do we bring coherence and coordination to the actions of many?
7589 This all brings us to the most important question to be asked. Does Canada currently have a national broadband strategy?
7590 Un fonctionnaire m’a dit qu’un membre d’une délégation étrangère avait vu le document sur la stratégie Canada Numérique 150.
7591 De toute évidence cette personne a été impressionnée et a demandée obtenir les détails de la stratégie, dont elle avait pris connaissance dans la brochure laquelle visait clairement à présenter un résumé.
7592 Le représentant a dû le décevoir en lui indiquant qu’il n’existait pas de docus, de tel document plus détaillé, que la brochure en telle était en fait la stratégie numérique.
7593 As a non-public -- a non-partisan public servants for nearly 22 years as of next month, I’ve been trained to observe carefully platforms during elections. In our system of government platforms define priorities. I note that broadband deployment and the issue of national -- of a national broadband strategy got very little, if any, attention in the platforms of the major national political parties. Pity.
7594 There were some proposed for government investments. But who would disagree that just throwing money at a problem, whether in the area of broadcasting, telecom or any other area of private or public endeavour, without a carefully crafted and integrated strategy is like pouring money into sand. It quickly dissipates, provides little real growth or measurable results and is simply not sustainable.
7595 I note the Telecommunication Act states, and I quote:
7596 “It is hereby affirmed that telecommunications performs an essential role in the maintenance of Canada’s identity and sovereignty. And that the Canadian telecommunications policy has as its objectives, among other things, a) to facilitate the orderly development throughout Canada of a telecommunication system that serves to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the social and economic fabric of Canada and its regions; b) to render reliable and affordable telecommunication services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada; and h) to respond to the economic and social requirements of users of telecommunication services.”
7597 Nous devons également se rappeler d’autres éléments qui définissent le cadre juridique. Notamment, l’alinéa 7(f) de la loi qui stipule que nous devons favoriser de plus en plus le libre jeu du marché et assurer l’efficacité de la règlementation dans le cas où celle-ci est nécessaire, de même que les instructions de 2006.
7598 The Commission must be mindful of these objectives when it carries out its legislative mandate. To my knowledge, no policy direction specific to broadband has been issued by the government pursuant to Section 8 of the Telecommunications Act.
7599 Similarly, I’m not aware of any government initiative, speech from the throne priority, or other mandate letter suggesting any proposed change to our legislative mandate. So again, that legislative mandate must be taken as a given. And the Act, as it stands, will shape the course ahead.
7600 Speaking of mandate letters, I note that the mandate letter of the new Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development asks him to:
7601 “Increase high-speed broadband coverage and work to support competition, choice, and availability of services, and foster a strong investment environment for telecommunication services to keep Canada at the leading edge of the digital economy.”
7602 The federal government has also proposed funding for broadband in its most recent budget. That being said, this funding doesn’t appear to be tied to a clear policy on broadband and its deployment in Canada.
7603 There have been partnerships in the past between the CRTC and various government departments that allowed us jointly to meet policy objectives.
7604 Ladies and gentlemen, in light of all this, it strikes us that this proceeding launched over 12 months ago may very well be the last best chance to get it right. A chance to create together a coherent national broadband strategy through an open and transparent process based on evidence from all Canadians, achieve to the extent possible through consensus, and implement it through shared responsibility.
7605 Coordinated strategies can be successful. One need only look back at the work done in the 1990s under the shared action of the CRTC, TELCOs, and Industry Canada then under the leadership of their Deputy Minister the Honourable Kevin Lynch, who went on to be clerk of the Privy Council.
7606 As a result, Canada developed a robust converged communication strategy that ensured for instance that a significant number of households in Canada could choose to be served by at least two wired communication service providers, a result envied by many foreign jurisdictions. Canadians benefited greatly from this.
7607 Should we wait for others to act, to launch their own consultation? Perhaps. But the speed of the internet is relentless and time is not on our side for long quiet reflection.
7608 Every hour that goes by without a more robust Canadian broadcasting strategy means unconnected Canadian citizens being disenfranchised from democratic debates, which are now ever present on digital platforms.
7609 Every day that goes by without a more robust Canadian broadband strategy means a Canadian who is socially and economically vulnerable continue to be profoundly disadvantaged.
7610 Every week that goes by without a more robust Canadian broadband strategy means many regions in this country are unable to attract or keep residents and businesses to ensure social progress as well as economic prosperity and growth.
7611 Every month that goes by without a more robust Canadian broadband strategy means Canada is competitively disadvantaged as other countries move ahead and advance on their digital productivity, innovation, and competitiveness.
7612 We are heading quickly, if we are not already there, towards a digital society and a digital knowledge-based economy, the society of algorithms. Canada needs a plan.
7613 Which brings me back to the weather and my weekend activities. One of the chores was to bring out spring bulbs, which I force indoors over the winter in my garage. To get daffodils and tulips to bloom ahead of my neighbours requires planning. I’m admittedly a tad competitive in this regard.
7614 The bulbs must be purchased in October when they are still available. Stored to prevent freezing. Planted in pots in late January or February, early enough for them to take root but not too early so they break ground when it is too cold to set them outside. This takes planning. Lessons learned from past experience, a micro strategy of sorts.
7615 One wonders if we are ready to develop over the next two weeks and the subsequent stages in this proceeding our Canadian broadband garden.
7616 To be clear, while the CRTC may be taking some leadership on defining the strategy, it will not be alone implementing and financing it. The important part of the discussion over the remaining days will be to understand the role of various players, citizens, governments, industry, and the CRTC.
7617 So these are our thoughts at this stage. I speak on behalf of the entire Panel. If you disagree with our preliminary conclusions and thoughts please let us know. Our minds are still open. Nothing has been prejudged. After all, we have yet to hear all of the evidence and the arguments.
7618 If the Twitterverse gets excited about what I just said so be it. Join the conversation in the manner indicated in my opening remarks. Nevertheless, intervenors should take good note that we are reframing where we will be putting our priorities over the next couple of weeks. If you want to raise other priorities in your presentations you may, but don’t be surprised if our questions are on the subjects I just laid out.
7619 Thank you very much. We will be adjourned until two o’clock. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 12:43 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 2:05 p.m.
7620 THE CHAIRPERSON: À l’ordre. Order please.
7621 Madame la secrétaire?
7622 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
7623 We’ll now hear the presentation of Thetis Island Resident’s Association. Mr. Frankel is appearing by teleconference.
7624 Mr. Frankel, can you hear me correctly?
7625 MR. FRANKEL: Yes, I can. I have you on speakerphone; can you hear me?
7626 THE SECRETARY: Yes, perfectly.
7627 You may begin your five-minutes presentation.
7628 MR. FRANKEL: Thank you.
7629 First of all, thanks for the opportunity to be heard. I’m representing a number of residents through the residents’ association on Thetis Island. I’m one of the members of the executive.
7630 I believe that you have copies of my submission; is that correct?
7631 THE SECRETARY: Yes, we do.
7632 MR. FRANKEL: Okay. So I really don’t want to waste the Panel’s time with going over and rereading what I’ve already got, but I’ll just give you some highlights of what’s been going on here.
7633 We’ve been trying to get a dialogue going, meaningful dialogue going with TELUS for over eight years. And obviously we haven’t gotten any -- we haven’t had any progress with that. That’s why we’re having this discussion.
7634 The main situation here is that we are stuck with one option and one option only, and that’s satellite with Xplornet. I’m not complaining about the service for Xplornet but the cost is extremely high, as you’re probably all aware.
7635 The other aspect of this whole thing, and one of the highlights, is that in trying to get a dialogue going with TELUS asking them to look at and investigate ways of possibly getting high speed to the 60 residences or properties that are on North Pilkey Point Road has also been fruitless for us.
7636 The property -- the high-speed connection via TELUS actually ends at a property that’s in walking distance from our home on Pilkey Point Road. We’ve asked them to investigate ways of looking at aspects of the wiring, the upgrading, which they claim is going to cost them $100,000.
7637 Having said that, we’re the only area on Thetis Island, the only road that doesn’t have access to high-speed internet service.
7638 You know, other aspects of this lack of dialogue with TELUS is the fact that they considered our issue and our complaints closed. They won’t have a dialogue with us anymore and this I've heard from management.
7639 So the whole communication and relationship between the TELUS Corporation and us here has kind of deteriorated into a moot point, no dialogue in other words. And we're trying to figure out with all this advanced technology and all the other areas that do get high speed service, from fibre optics relay systems, relay stations, we're wondering why this is such a, shall I say, challenging situation to TELUS other than the fact they say it's going to cost them $100,000 which has been questioned by a number of people here.
7640 I could take your time going through this letter, paragraph and sentence by sentence but I think you already have the crux of what I have said and all the information and all the documentation and prior references to the correspondence over the last eight years, from 2008 to the present.
7641 So I'm not sure where I should go from here or do you want more information other than what you have in front of you?
7642 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, what we can do -- this is Jean-Pierre Blais, the Chairperson. What we can do is if you don’t have any other things to say, we can move to asking you some questions.
7643 MR. FRANKEL: Sure. I mean I could repeat a lot of the stuff. It's just redundant and, as I said, you’ve already got the information in front of you and, as I said, I think it was Jade (ph) before that. It's like a PowerPoint presentation. It's already in front of you. I don’t want to have to read to you folks.
7644 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough, fair enough.
7645 MR. FRANKEL: I could read it to you but ---
7646 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, no, fair enough. We do have it. So maybe what I'll suggest is I'll invite Commissioner MacDonald to ask you some questions.
7647 MR. FRANKEL: Sure.
7648 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Good day and thank you for joining the proceeding here today.
7649 I do have a few questions just so I understand the situation on the Island a little bit better.
7650 MR. FRANKEL: Sure.
7651 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You said that TELUS is the predominant service provider but that yours is the only street without access to high speed internet. Does TELUS provide high speed to everyone else on the island except your one road?
7652 MR. FRANKEL: That's right. Now, you can -- as I said, we now -- you know, we have access to satellite which we now have but the cost of satellite and the service of satellite is not the same, as you know, as high-speed service through a telephone company or another company. TELUS is the only phone provider on the island. We don’t have access to Shaw or Rogers here.
7653 And yet, the only road that doesn’t have high-speed access is North Pilkey Point Road and from our place on, there's about 60 properties that don’t have access to it.
7654 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And I was on the website and I see there's about 350 full-time residents of the Island.
7655 MR. FRANKEL: That's right.
7656 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And you said there's about 60 homes on your street. Are those occupied year round or are they more seasonal properties?
7657 MR. FRANKEL: No. As a matter of fact, I think I failed to put that in the letter and I apologize but retirees is a large portion of the population and many of those retirees are part-time residents but a lot of the properties on Pilkey Point Road where we are, the 60 properties, they are part-time residents. So yeah, you are right that they come up intermittently or they spend the summers here, spring and summer. It varies.
7658 During the warmer season, the population can be as high as, oh I don’t know, 11 or 1,200 folks here as it is on most of the Gulf Islands. The spring, summer and fall time, the population increases substantially, but full time, 350.
7659 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And obviously at one point I know TELUS is telling you today that it will cost about $100,000 to run facilities along the road, which they're citing as the reason as to why they don’t want to do that. But obviously at one time, the rest of the Island was built out for service and I'm looking at a map and Pilkey Point Road doesn’t look to be overly remote in relation to some of the other roads on the Island.
7660 So do you have any other information as to why that road was left off of an initial build that would have happened some time ago?
7661 MR. FRANKEL: You know, it's a very, very good question. We have actually asked the technicians and repair folks who have come here and I don’t certainly want to mention a name but the repair staff at TELUS are terrific. They have even said to us, “We don’t know why this can’t be done. It's not a major technological problem.”
7662 So we don’t know why it was left off other than their statement to us was, “Well, we're not obligated to provide this service as long as you have options”, and that was a quote from -- “You know, we have options here. You have Xplornet. You have a device that we can sell you which is a Stick device with an amplifier on it”, which -- and most of the case, it hasn’t worked and proved that it wasn't worthy of purchasing.
7663 So their response has been, “You have options. It's going to cost us $100,000.” They're talking about a situation where they have to wire or upgrade the wire to provide high speed and why -- why that's an issue, I can't say other than I think I wrote in that letter and I don’t mean to be spewing my spleen and ranting against TELUS. I mean that hasn't served us any purpose but when we try to have a dialogue, we said, “Why can’t you do this or do this or provide a line”, the last -- one of the last comments to us was, “We're not in the business to provide charity”.
7664 So that's kind of that and the situation where they said to us, “This is a closed complaint as far as we're concerned”, basically car-bust any kind of further communication with the management. But in short answer to you, I don’t know why that in reply anyway they didn't -- you know, that they didn't add that.
7665 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: To the best of your knowledge, has your Island or TELUS or even the satellite service provider been provided with any federal or provincial funding to support the cost of deploying broadband to the Island residents?
7666 MR. FRANKEL: It's another very good question. You're real good. I believe that Xplornet was given grants and I think that it has specifically to do with the equipment, you know, i.e. the dish and -- hello?
7667 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: We're still here.
7668 MR. FRANKEL: I’m sorry. I believe it has to do with a grant for the dish and the (off mic) but that's a good question because we were wondering, well, if they can -- if they're giving grants to satellite companies, why wouldn’t they give a grant to TELUS to put -- upgrade the wiring? It would probably be a lot -- I don’t know if it would be cheaper, maybe not. I don’t have that information but I don’t know -- I do know the satellite companies are getting grants but as far as I know, TELUS hasn't been given, that we know of, any grants to address this situation.
7669 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Earlier today we heard from the British Columbia Broadband Association and they indicated that most people in rural areas were quite happy with the current satellite service that they are receiving.
7670 Would you care to share your thoughts on how pleased you are with the current services, whether it's -- you've mentioned pricing but whether it's actually a stable service for you?
7671 MR. FRANKEL: Well, the service in general is way better than dial-up. But one the main issues with that is the cost which is considerable. You know, you're looking at for a basic service minimum is a $1,000 a year, especially if you have students at home, students at university or school.
7672 The other thing is it depends on the -- in rural areas, especially on Gulf Islands, where you are service-wise. So yes, you can get access to things but the service sometimes can be interrupted. I guess any service can be interrupted. You have -- it's not as quick but that's not a major issue.
7673 There are interruptions, as I said. Sometimes you have to reconnect more than you would with high speed, but overall, I would say it's a good service, way better than what we had, which was nothing.
7674 So the only thing I can compare it to, really, is dial-up service, and in that regards, you know, it's way better, except for the cost.
7675 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Your thoughts on the cost and what the pricing should be, if -- Xplornet was in here last week and they were talking about new services they're going to be launching that are at higher speeds than they're currently able to provide.
7676 Do you feel that if you were getting more speed and more bandwidth that the price you're paying may be justified?
7677 MR. FRANKEL: You know, I guess there's a fine line of -- and that's, I guess, a very personal preference to what your needs are, as a family, individually. Our needs are not that great, as far as -- we're both retired. Our son, yes, is in university, but he's back and forth, so how much you want and how much you need is, you know, it varies from place to place, and how much you're willing to pay for that also varies.
7678 I mean, we're not -- we realize this is a costly operation, but there's also a fine line that we'd be willing to go over for this kind of service.
7679 Now, I'm sure other people will be willing to pay more, pay -- you know, pay what they're paying for improved service before it gets to a point where you say, "Well, how much do we continue to pay no matter what you're getting?"
7680 So in my mind -- I mean, if this is all we could get and the cost was more reasonable, so be it. We'd be fine with that.
7681 COMMISISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that. Just one final question before I ---
7682 MR. FRANKEL: Sure.
7683 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: --- hand you back over to my colleagues.
7684 MR. FRANKEL: M'hm.
7685 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: If the cost is in around $100,000 to deliver improved services to your street, what's your opinion on whose responsibility it should be to pay for that? Should it be from a taxpayer revenue in the form of a targeted government grant to build out service? Should it be financed through general revenues from your service provider, TELUS? Or should we perhaps look to all Canadians to kick in a couple of bucks on their monthly bills to help fund some of these more rural bills?
7686 Do you have any thoughts on that?
7687 MR. FRANKEL: Sure. Canadians would love that, but I guess it depends on your politics. You know, personally speaking, and I know you could be cheeky about that, but I believe -- and I'm speaking for myself, not to anyone else, and my wife, too -- that there are certain essential services, and communication is an essential service like fire response, medical, education. You know, it's -- I mean, in this world today, you can't live without the technology.
7688 And it's such an essential service, I think that the government should be largely responsible for that. And whether it means grants or increased tax to (inaudible) levelling out the playing field more level, whether you are, you know, living in the boondocks or you're living in Vancouver, Victoria -- and by the way, we used to live -- we were long-term residents at Victoria.
7689 And I guess you could be saying, "Well, you know, you guys are the ones who decided to go to the boondocks."
7690 Yeah, that's true, but you know, the boondocks is part of the country, and I think that, you know, whether it's a small population, rural -- in today's world, the 21st century, we should all be connected with the most efficient, you know, best service.
7691 But I do believe the government has a large part to play in this, and I guess that's why you guys are involved with the hearings.
7692 It's just an aside, interesting. When I started to rant about this eight or nine years ago to the CRTC, the first letter I got back was, "This isn't under our jurisdiction."
7693 And that was the end of that until fairly recently, when the CRTC, I guess, decided to get involved with this. That's just an aside, you know?
7694 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well, thank you very much again for answering our questions, and being part of this today. I'll hand you back over to the Chairman.
7695 MR. FRANKEL: Thank you.
7696 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, just looking at my colleagues to see if they had any questions, and apparently you’ve -- we've completed our questions at this point, so I repeat what Commissioner MacDonald said, and thank you for having participated in the hearing, and hope that you continue to follow it and participate in the future (inaudible).
7697 MR. FRANKEL: I'd be happy to participate in (inaudible) further meetings on this.
7698 I also want to thank you for letting me bend your ears there. I know you guys are busy, busy, so thank you for hearing me and all the best with the hearings.
7699 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you very much, and you're the reason why we do what we do, so we're happy to hear from you. So thank you very much.
7700 MR. FRANKEL: Thank you very much.
7701 THE CHAIRPEROSN: Thank you.
7702 Madame la secrétaire.
7703 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. We'll now connect to the Vancouver CRTC office.
7704 Hi, Mrs. Susan Lowell. How are you? Can you hear us well?
7705 MS. LOWELL: I'm good, thank you.
7706 THE SECRETARY: Perfect, thank you.
7707 MS. LOWELL: Yes, I'm here.
7708 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. You may begin your presentation. You have five minutes.
7709 MS. LOWELL: Thank you very much, and thank you very much for the opportunity to appear at this important and relevant hearing.
7710 I don't want to talk about the necessity of internet. I think you’ve heard enough about that, but I would like to focus my input on how the current system of letting market forces alone dictate who has access to the internet.
7711 Effectively, it's created pockets or islands of areas that could conceivably never receive access.
7712 To participate in this hearing, I have had to travel to Vancouver because I don’t have a fast enough link at my house, either by telephone or by internet, in order to do this.
7713 And I am here on my own. I'm not on behalf of any organization. Many of my neighbours do have the same views as I have, so I sort of speak for them, but I'm not here on anybody's behalf.
7714 I have also looked at the information that's available on your websites for the -- if areas are supposedly connected to broadband internet as defined, and I can confirm that I located, you know, our street, but our street is not served by broadband, so that's a -- maybe a flaw in the data, I'm not sure.
7715 I also looked at the map that's available on the Network B.C. Connectivity map, and it also has what I believe is erroneous data. Our household is not connected.
7716 And I can speak very authoritatively on that. I did a survey with a neighbour a couple of years ago when TELUS was doing one of their installs, an we identified over 60 households in our neighbourhood as being interested in connecting to a wider service, and we are not available to.
7717 So just to give you a little bit more, I've included a map in my presentation, which I believe you have before you. And the map shows -- it's just -- it's more of a sketch than a map, but it does show the red line, which is where the wired network works its way along the highway from the -- along the Sunshine Coast area. And the connection stops about two kilometres south of our house and then the wired connections start again about four kilometres north.
7718 And if you look at the map, and you can see on the line, it's -- we're not isolated, we're not remote, we're not at the end of a road, we're just an area that's been skipped over by the connection.
7719 And I've estimated it and identified by looking at some sources through our municipality, that there's 134 houses along that section of road that are not connected to wires.
7720 But -- and I will say that I understand and I fully appreciate that both TELUS and Eastlink, who are the operators in the area, they are for-profit companies, and as such, they can and do choose where they wish to service, and they have criteria on how they want to use their capital and their responsibility to their shareholders is to maximize the return on their capital, so I understand that.
7721 And I also agree that the density within our neighbourhood is not high. It's lower than other areas, but it's certainly not the lowest density for areas that either of those companies have provided service. It's the business decisions of both of those companies that resulted in our island being left out as -- we call it an island; one of our neighbours calls it -- he feels like the hole in the donut.
7722 But we're left out. We're too small of a market for a third party to enter as a stand-alone, yet deemed too sparse for the incumbents.
7723 And so just to add the extra complexity to that, our situation is also affected by the local geography. We're in a forested area. We're on the side of the Coastal Mountain Range, so we're left with the two wireless opportunities. One is the mobile hub or the -- I think the telephone companies call it the mobile internet solution and the other is satellites, which I know has been talked about a lot. And we find ourselves at our particular house in the unenviable position of not being able to site a satellite dish. You have to point the -- as you know, you have to point the satellite dish at the satellite and you can’t see it from our house for to what I’ve described as having to build a 10-metre tower attached to our house or cutting down the trees. And they’re not even our trees that would have to be cut down in order to be able to see the satellite.
7724 So as I said, we are left with this mobile internet or cellphone technology and that is what we do use. It’s expensive, it’s slow, and it’s spotty, and our connection are constantly dropping. Hence why I didn’t want to risk trying to connect into the hearing from my home because I had to -- I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t lose the signal partway through the conversation.
7725 We have had many conversations with both of the wired providers and they’re just not able to get past their formula to extend the service into our area.
7726 And I don’t have the expertise to critique their system designs, but I can say that the distance to the nearest fibre hub where the -- and I know this is TELUS’ hub, is less than 10 kilometres from our house. And it’s measured along the trunk line and the fibre trunk line runs right across the end of our road. So I believe that the technology is not an issue, that the distance is well within the range.
7727 I also had explored with our municipal representative some opportunities from grants because I do understand there are grants from government agencies.
7728 And when looking at our situation as we are actually close to the infrastructure, the -- you know, the line runs past the end of our road or close to a hub, it seems and apparent that the wired service is really the optimal and obvious solution.
7729 And there is funding in B.C. available, but from what I understand, that funding can’t be applied to connect us into a TELUS fibre. It’s really aimed at third party providers coming in to bring in -- such as the Broadband B.C. Association companies. But those companies rely on radio signals and you can’t see through the rocks in order to get your radio signal. So the geography plays an important role in our situation.
7730 And I can’t help but draw back to the parallel with party lines and telephone communication. For years the telephone company said, “We can’t afford to do this. We’ll all go out of business.” Well, I don’t think any of them went out of business when there was intervention from the government and the rural communities now have private telephone lines. So I believe we’re at a similar juncture where there’s some intervention required.
7731 So just wanted to summarize that the current practice for internet providers is to pick and choose where they wish to service. They focus on high return areas and that effectively creates islands or pockets that are not serviced. There’s no requirement for them to service low return areas.
7732 So I think our neighbourhood, for one, has fallen through the cracks and we’ll be left unserviced without some kind of intervention or support from the CRTC or another government agency.
7733 And the overwhelming response -- I did participate in the survey and I read the results of the survey. And I would say that there was, you know, an overwhelming response to support unserved and rural customers by the rest of Canadians.
7734 So I just wanted to just raise the point that there are some of us out there that we’re not remote, we’re not far away from anything. We’ve just been bypassed by the current operators.
7735 Thank you very much.
7736 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, Ms. Lowell. Commissioner Vennard will start the questioning.
7737 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Good afternoon.
7738 I’m wondering if you can tell me, of the 134 houses, how many of them are unserved and how many are under-served?
7739 MS. LOWELL: Well, I don’t have the -- I can’t answer that question because, from what I understand, the differentiation would be who has satellite and who doesn’t. And I don’t know that. But none of those 134 are connected to wires. I can say that.
7740 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: But do they have -- do they have internet?
7741 MS. LOWELL: I believe they may have satellite internet. They may have the mobile internet hub that we use through the cell phone service.
7742 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
7743 MS. LOWELL: But they’re not connected to wires.
7744 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. So your main focus is you want to be connected to wires, fibre optic? You don’t want a wireless solution for --
7745 MS. LOWELL: Well --
7746 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- your area?
7747 MS. LOWELL: -- I would love to be connected to the internet with a speed that I could utilize, you know, whether you call it the five megabytes per second. And if we could connect with a satellite easily from our house, we would have done that. I’ve had the satellite technician out four times trying to figure out where we could put up the dish and we just can’t be able to site one. And so our -- the solution that we’re left with is at a much slower speed.
7748 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: What sort of speed do you think you would need? And I’m presuming you’re speaking for this --
7749 MS. LOWELL: Well, I think the --
7750 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- unserved area.
7751 MS. LOWELL: -- I think the five megabytes would be fine. I mean, if we could get that -- we’re less -- we’re much less than one now and I run those little speed tests quite often. And it’s usually less than one megabyte a second. On occasion it gets up to over two, but I’ve never seen anything higher than that.
7752 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. I’m wondering, do you have people that operate small businesses from their homes and so on in your -- within your unserved area?
7753 MS. LOWELL: Yes, we do. Yes, we do. We have bed and breakfasts. There’s several of those. There’s a real working facility. I know there’s another gentleman that runs a tour boat and he runs the -- the office is in his house.
7754 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: So the businesses then would be affected by this as well from a digital economy point of view in this area. It’s not just residentials that we’re talking about.
7755 MS. LOWELL: Yes, I would agree with that. And I would also say that it limits the growth of new businesses, you know, the people that may want to relocate and move to, you know, a nicer, smaller community away from the city. And they couldn’t locate a business in our area because of the connectivity issues.
7756 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. And it -- so in that sense, it’s limiting in terms of economic development, as well as your residential use and what it -- whatever it is that you would use it for. What sort of applications do you think would be useful, would be used and what sort of speed?
7757 MS. LOWELL: So could you repeat that question?
7758 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, I’m wondering about your perception of the applications and the uses and the speeds that would be required in your area.
7759 MS. LOWELL: I don’t know I -- that I could specifically say that. I mean, what we like to do is just to be researching options on the internet, like when we’re going on a vacation just, you know, looking to be booking accommodations. I actually, kind of ironically, I tried to do a lot of research for this hearing from my house and I couldn’t do it from my house. I had to go to other people’s homes in order to do it because the bill time on the websites it just couldn’t do it. It just wouldn’t -- it would never bill. So I -- you know, and just basic research like that. It seems to be using it more and more -- requiring higher speeds to just to do anything.
7760 So I mean, we have -- my kids laugh at me, but we have a no streaming rule in our house because you just can’t stream -- you know, we can watch the odd YouTube vide, but that’s about it. You know, the concept of using it for entertainment are -- is completely off the books in our house.
7761 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah. That was going to be my -- you anticipated my next question was to ask about the value of --
7762 MS. LOWELL: Oh.
7763 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- entertainment and how you perceive that within your household and those around you. Is that something that you think of as essential --
7764 MS. LOWELL: I --
7765 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- or nice to have or?
7766 MS. LOWELL: -- I would say that I think entertainment is nice to have. I would have difficulty myself calling it essential. But I do find that I feel like we’re falling behind. And we’re just falling behind and being left out I guess is where I feel that we are. It’s extremely frustrating to know that just a short two kilometres from our house, you know, one of those neighbours has the full fibre optics suite from TELUS.
7767 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
7768 MS. LOWELL: And it’s just where they, you know, their economic model said they’re going to stop and that’s where they stopped.
7769 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
7770 MS. LOWELL: And so it’s just that -- there is that degree of frustration. But I would have personally have difficulties calling it an essential service --
7771 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay. What about --
7772 MS. LOWELL: -- for entertainment.
7773 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- what about in terms of cost, how much are you paying for your service now?
7774 MS. LOWELL: Right now we average about $100 a month. And for that $100 a month we get 6 gigabytes of data. If we go over -- I think this 6 or 7 is usually what we use and that costs us $100 a month.
7775 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: M’hm.
7776 MS. LOWELL: It’s basically the additional data charge is $10 a gigabyte if I wanted to download a big file, et cetera. So for instance, when I bought a new computer I had to set it up online because everything is done online now. I had to take my computer to somebody’s home to do that because I can’t do it from my house. It would just be exorbitantly expensive and chances are the signal would have dropped partway to it, and I would have had to start over anyways.
7777 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
7778 What I’m wondering about now is whose responsibility do you think it is to serve your area, to put a service in that suitable -- that’s acceptable to you; whose responsibility do you think that is?
7779 You mentioned possibly CRTC or some other government agency. Can you maybe just expand on how -- you have a problem obviously and other people in your area. How does that problem get solved? What do you see is a fix for it, a solution?
7780 MS. LOWELL: I think that it should be a shared responsibility for the solution. I think there could be a role for some government funding, whether it be -- you know, a targeted grant or something to close these gaps.
7781 I think there could also be some responsibility borne by the companies that provide the services. They -- I mean, their words to me, you know, “We choose where we spend our capital, and we have chosen not to spend it on your area.”
7782 So I think they do have choices. I think they -- you know, if they had added our area into a larger net, it could have been averaged in, and I think the cost would have been negligible per household.
7783 But because they’re now viewing us as a stranded standalone area that doesn’t have service, the cost just sort of go through the roof. And that’s just because of the model that they -- they borne.
7784 So I do believe it’s a shared responsibility. I’m not sure that it goes all the way to being a subsidy on the internet for every household in Canada to bear the brunt for, you know, rural pockets, but I think it shouldn’t be borne entirely by the rural pockets themselves.
7785 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: But do you think that -- do you think that you have some responsibility for that as well, to share in that responsibility?
7786 Because it almost sounds like ---
7787 MS. LOWELL: Yes ---
7788 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: And I guess I’m wondering how much do you think all of this would cost to fix this problem and how should that be apportioned to the people that have interest in it?
7789 MS. LOWELL: I do believe -- and I will support that we should pay part of the cost. I mean I have no argument to that.
7790 I don’t have any information on how much it would cost to fill this gap, but I’m guessing it’s, you know, tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars according to -- to do so.
7791 So for that to be borne by the small number of residents, I think it’s -- I think that would be a little bit too much.
7792 I keep coming back to when I look at the area in which we live and all of the other areas that they have serviced along the way, and some areas with densities of the same as ours, but they -- TELUS decided to service those areas but they left us out.
7793 So I can’t reconcile that it should be totally borne by the residents when the company has demonstrated that they wouldn’t go into lower density areas on their own at any rate.
7794 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes. I just have one final question for you before I pass you back over to my colleagues.
7795 Were you aware of this situation before you moved to your residence? Have you lived there a long time or is this something that happened afterwards or did you move in with a set of expectations?
7796 MS. LOWELL: No, we moved in, knowing that the area did not have service. We’ve lived there for six years now. I guess we also moved in with the view of looking at other areas that were sparsely populated as well, and they were ultimately brought service, so thinking that, at some point along the line, we would get served.
7797 It was about three years or two and a half years ago, when TELUS made their announcement that they were going to bring in fibre optics to the Sunshine Coast. And the understanding that we got initially was they were going to work their way up the highway and provide it to all the neighbourhoods along the way. And so we thought, okay, great, you know, it will finally come to pass.
7798 But at first, there were no promises. And then, as the -- you know, the expansion build went out, they decided to leave out our neighbourhood.
7799 I personally believe that they had data that said there were fewer people living in the area than there truly are. And based on that data, they decided not to service our area. And now, you know, it’s the proverbial train left the station, and they had already designed the system and we were not included in it.
7800 So now, trying to do it as a retrofit, it comes out to be standalone and potentially more costly.
7801 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Okay.
7802 MS. LOWELL: But to answer your question, no, we did not have an expectation that we would get internet. I guess, it’s just so close but yet so far.
7803 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, okay.
7804 Thank you, those are all my questions.
7805 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I was just polling our colleagues here to see if there were any other questions and apparently not.
7806 So thank you very much, Ms. Lowell, for participating in our proceeding. It’s very much appreciated, and I hope you have a safe journey back home. So thank you.
7807 MS. LOWELL: Thank you very much.
7808 THE CHAIRPERSON: The next panel is really big; well, not extraordinarily big but it’s just a larger panel, so it takes a little bit of time to move in and out.
7809 So why don’t we take a short 10-minute break to set that up? So come back at five minutes to 3:00. Thanks.
--- Upon recessing at 2:44 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 2:57 p.m.
7810 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good afternoon, gentlemen.
7811 Madame la secrétaire.
7812 LA SECRÉTAIRE: Merci.
7813 We will now hear the presentation of TELUS Communications Company. Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
7814 MR. WOODHEAD: Mr. Chairman, we heard and acknowledge the statement that you made on behalf of the Panel prior to the lunch break. And in our oral presentation, in response to the questions you and the Panel may have, we would endeavour to address some of the issues and concerns that you brought forward.
7815 Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chair Menzies and Commissioners. My name is Ted Woodhead, Senior Vice President, Federal Government and Regulatory Affairs, at TELUS.
7816 With me today on our panel are some of my colleagues from TELUS, as well as two telecommunications policy experts. Starting at my far left, Chris Langdon, Vice President, Consumer Products and Services; Clément Audet, Vice-président, Marché consommateurs et Centres de contact client TELUS Québec; and Stephen Schmidt, Vice President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel.
7817 And on my right, Eros Spadotto, Executive Vice President, Technology Strategy; Dr. Richard Schultz, James McGill Professor, McGill University; and Dr. Robert Crandall, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution.
7818 And behind me, from my left to right, Orest Romaniuk, Vice President and Controller; Alan Hamilton, Director, Regulatory Affairs; and Bob Sinclair, TELUS Fellow, Technology Strategy.
7819 There is little controversy that voice and ancillary services are important to Canadians and that they should be basic telecommunications services for all providers and across all platforms.
7820 What has preoccupied this proceeding, however, is broadband. The debate in this proceeding is about how to provide as many Canadians as possible with access to high quality broadband at reasonable rates.
7821 Chairman Blais, last week at the outset of this hearing, you challenged parties to provide evidence to underpin their submissions. This is what we have done to date.
7822 Our remarks will proceed in five parts. First, an overview of Canada’s performance on a comparative, international basis. Second, our submissions on availability, affordability, and adoption of broadband internet service in Canada. Third, the issue of subsidies for basic telecommunications services. Fourth, the history of universal service in Canada as it relates to this proceeding. Fifth and finally, a brief response to some of the points that other parties have made to date.
7823 Dr. Crandall’s evidence shows that when compared with other developed countries, Canada’s broadband performance is remarkable, despite the acute challenges posed by the country’s vast size, challenging topography, and very low population density.
7824 Canada’s broadband penetration is among the highest in the world, and it is above the median in Table 1, despite the fact that Canada’s population density is far below all but two countries in the table.
7825 Capital expenditure on Canadian communications infrastructure has been substantial when compared to other developed countries. OECD data on communications sector capital spending per access path show that Canadian carriers have spent more than their U.S. counterparts and about twice as much as E.U. carriers per access path since 2007 as illustrated in Figure 1.
7826 DR. CRANDALL: Broadband speeds in Canada have also increased steadily. The growth and availability of broadband access at 100 megabits per second or more has been particularly rapid, climbing from just 16 percent of Canadian households in 2010 to 71 percent in 2014, as shown in Figure 2.
7827 The 2015 Communications Monitoring Report also shows internet access at download speeds of 5 megabits per second or more is available to 96 percent of Canadians. And Xplornet also indicates it can now offer speeds of 5 megabits per second ---
7828 THE SECRETARY: Sorry, can you just please slow down?
7829 DR. CRANDALL: Okay. Five megabits per second to 100 percent of Canadians at present.
7830 MR. WOODHEAD: TELUS proposes that broadband internet at 5 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabit per second upstream be a basic telecommunications service.
7831 The Commission’s analysis in CRTC Exhibit 1, Industry Canada’s Digital Canada 150 report, and the FCC data reported by Dr. Crandall all agree that basic functions on the internet -- email, web surfing, basic streaming of video -- even with three users in a household conducting these activities simultaneously only requires a download speed of 1 to 2 megabits per second, and that 4 megabits per second is more than sufficient for even most high-definition products.
7832 DR. CRANDALL: Canadian broadband prices are low to moderate by international standards despite the obvious high costs of providing such services in Canada’s low population density environment.
7833 The FCC’s International Broadband Report shows that the price per megabit per second of broadband download speed for standalone broadband service declined in Canada from $6.22 in U.S. dollars in 2001 to $4.16 in 2013. This was lower than the average of $4.33 cents per megabit per second for the 37 countries for which data were reported.
7834 MR. WOODHEAD: Nonetheless, we recognize that some low income residential customers have difficulty paying for broadband services, just as they have a problem paying for other goods and services. Federal and provincial governments are in the best position to address income issues by means of tax policy and other initiatives.
7835 The Commission has a limited ability to address income problems through price reductions for the services it regulates, and such policies, if implemented, are likely to be costly, difficult to administer, and ultimately of limited impact because the problem of poverty is far vaster than the price of any one good or service.
7836 For its part, TELUS has developed its own pilot program and has been in discussions with various government departments, including the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Employment and Social Development Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Computers for Success program, and various library associations to develop and implement a more affordable internet package targeted to low income families with children, priced at 9.95 a month.
7837 This program, pilot program, would also address other key barriers to broadband adoption by providing qualifying households with a low cost or free computing device, digital literacy training, and software from other local agencies including TELUS.
7838 Having access to broadband and actually using it are two different issues. We know from the 2015 CRTC Communications Monitoring Report that while 99 percent of Canadian households have a broadband connection available to them only 82 percent of Canadian households have a broadband subscription. It is this 17 percent gap that represents the major digital economy opportunity for both government and the private sector in Canada.
7839 DR. CRANDALL: Empirical surveys in both Canada and other developed countries demonstrate that people who are younger, better educated, and earn a higher income are more likely to use broadband. These same surveys demonstrate that price is not a significant barrier to adoption. Lowering the price of broadband will not, on its own, increase adoption perceptibly where these other barriers exist.
7840 It is difficult for the Commission to address these major drivers of adoption, age, income, and education. But one important thing the Commission can do is refrain from unbundling Canadian broadband networks. Multi-country empirical studies have shown that jurisdictions with wholesale forbearance and platform competition have higher broadband adoption than jurisdictions that emphasize the unbundling of networks. MR. WOODHEAD: That said, the Commission can give focus and direction to adoption initiatives in Canada because it will be the only agency conducting and coordinating research in this area.
7841 DR. CRANDALL: Proponents of new subsidy schemes advocate programs for broadband expansion that are unnecessary, are not based on sound analysis, and are likely to be ineffective and costly.
7842 With respect to the Affordable Access Coalition’s low-income affordability program, their expert Mr. Sepulveda uses the United States, France, and Spain to establish a benchmark range of funding. But Mr. Sepulveda does not explain why these countries’ policies provide a useful benchmark. Why should Canada strive to spend a similar share of telecommunications revenues on a similar program?
7843 With respect to the broadband deployment subsidy, Mr. Sepulveda uses the average of spending on high-cost subsidy programs as a percentage of telecommunications revenues in Australia and the United States. Once again, he provides no rationale for suggesting that Canada should spend a similar proportion of revenues on a new broadband deployment subsidy. In fact, the evidence from the United States is that its high-cost universal service program has not yielded measurable benefits.
7844 Mr. Sepulveda fails to provide any estimate of the benefits and the full cost of these two proposed programs.
7845 Before we leave the issue of subsidies, I would like to mention Bell’s proposal to end the subsidy regime in Rate Bands E and F. This proposal is unprincipled, based on faulty analysis and may jeopardize telephone service to Canadians in high cost serving areas. The proposal is based on the same reports of alleged bias in the Phase II costing methodology that they presented to the Commission in 2010. I have fully explained this in my evidence in this proceeding.
7846 DR. SCHULTZ: Some of the submissions before you premise their proposals for extensive and expensive subsidy programs on the claim that Canadian telecommunications policy has had a longstanding public policy of universal service. However, this is not the case. While Canada did develop what is considered to be universal telephone service, this was done not through regulatory intervention but as a result of corporate practice. It arose simply and solely as a result of federally regulated telephone companies employing pricing to make telephone service available as widely as possible.
7847 If these parties want to justify their proposals, instead of relying on a false restatement of the history of universal service, they instead need to look at what they will do, how they will implement it, and what it will cost. And they need to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits exceed the economic costs.
7848 DR. CRANDALL: I would like to briefly address some of the testimony heard last week from Dr. Winseck of the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. Dr. Winseck’s testimony is at best misleading and in several cases simply wrong. I would be happy to address Dr. Winseck’s errors in detail should the Commission so request, but here are the three most egregious of his misstatements.
7849 First, Dr. Winseck said that the FCC adopted a new standard of 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload to be available to all Americans in a timely fashion. That is not true. The FCC did not establish a new standard of 25/3. It simply defined advanced services, not basic services, as those requiring 25/3.
7850 Second, Dr. Winseck said that all Europeans will have access above 30 megabits by 2020, and at least half of all households will subscribe to the internet connections above 100 megabits by 2020. This is not true. Most EU countries have not committed to a set of policies that will get them to these goals, and the European Commission now openly admits that its policies have suppressed broadband investment, greatly impeding the ability of countries to achieve these goals. Third, Dr. Winseck said that Canada ranks at the bottom of the pack in terms of average monthly prices and the cost of a gigabyte of data. This is also untrue. With respect to the OECD data that Dr. Winseck cites, he misses the point entirely. The OECD data report only one provider per country for each broadband service and thus not representative of the country as a whole. The data for Canada are drawn only from Bell and Shaw and each observation is drawn from either Bell or Shaw; twelve (12) from Bell and 3 from Shaw.
7851 In all but 7 countries, the OECD data are drawn only from one new entrant that often only serves major metropolitan areas.
7852 Obviously, these carriers have lower costs and lower prices than ILECs can offer throughout the country.
7853 Finally, they advertise speeds vary substantially within each of the OECD’s 18 categories, making comparisons even more difficult.
7854 MR. WOODHEAD: Canada has achieved -- excuse-me -- Canada has achieved a remarkable level of broadband performance despite geographical challenges. Three decisions, in particular, are foundational.
7855 The public policy decision to choose competitive supply over unitary supply as the basic model for telecommunications in Canada; the Commission’s decision to focus on competing networks, platform competition, as opposed to unbundling and resale of a single monopoly network as the basis for achieving competition; the decision to substantially forbear from retail regulation in favour of market forces as the primary basis for determining prices, quality and terms and conditions for the provision of services.
7856 The continuation of Canada’s strong relative broadband performance depends on maintaining a commitment to these foundational decisions.
7857 To the extent that there are challenges with broadband availability, affordability or adoption, they are focused ones.
7858 The Commission’s remedies should be similarly focused and proportional. TELUS makes the following three recommendations.
7859 Continue to monitor broadband availability to support other government initiatives by providing the information that can underpin governmental programs.
7860 Maintain a robust commitment to facilities-based competition policies by limiting mandatory unbundling of broadband networks and thirdly, but in some ways most importantly, develop a blueprint that that identifies adoption issues, responsible actors, and relevant problems to inform and focus subsequent action.
7861 Thank you for allowing us for the opportunity to speak to you.
7862 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Commissioner Molnar will start us off.
7863 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Good afternoon. I don’t normally make these comments, but it is a bit intimidating for me to look at 10 men in suits, so.
7864 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So I’ll be kind with my questions, you be kind with your answers and we’ll work together to solutions hopefully here.
7865 And if you heard the -- and I know you did hear the comments of our Chair just before lunch and really what we’re trying to do now is really focus our hearing here on solutions as to where there may be gaps.
7866 You’ve made a statement here at the end that there is a lot of success in the broadband performance and hopefully you would agree there are also some gaps.
7867 MR. WOODHEAD: That we would agree, yes.
7868 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right so, I’m going to try and focus my questions on that and as you heard, looking for concrete sort of directions as to what’s the best way to address those.
7869 So you had structured the remarks going into here in “we need to define the basic telecom service”, “we need to define the need” and then you went through unavailability, affordability and adoption.
7870 Your comments here follow that same flow. Would you say if we were talking about a broadband strategy that we should be considering other key items that ---
7871 ` MR. WOODHEAD: I think -- I think those are the key ones. The -- you know, there might be sub-chapters to some of these topics because for example -- or sort of a forward looking view of where technology is going.
7872 I mean today, you know, in the hearing thus far we’ve heard about satellite and fixed wireless and other terrestrial networks and so on and so forth.
7873 But a view of the forward looking place for technology in solving some of these solutions might be -- might be helpful, but I think those are the big three rocks that we need to collectively move.
7874 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Very good and you’ll probably be here for a while, while we’re asking you questions, so maybe we can even go back.
7875 You know, there are a number of you and I know that, you know, it’s quite close after lunch. So if you think of something that you say, you know, here’s another element that should really be a focus of a broadband strategy.
7876 And we’re not talking about a full digital strategy, we’re talking about a broadband strategy, so if you think of something well we’ll maybe loop back to that.
7877 MR. WOODHEAD: Fair enough, yes.
7878 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And your point about technology road maps and how they might fit in here is certainly something I’d like to talk to you about. I know you have a technical expert here that I was hoping to ask that question to, so.
7879 So let’s begin. As you began your evidence to us in -- you had basic principles that said well you first need to define what’s basic telecom service; define the need, if you will.
7880 In your definition of BTS, you said:
7881 “It’s a service recognized to be of critical importance to the economic and social welfare of Canadian citizens, that universal access to such service at affordable rates is necessary for meaningful participation in the digital economy.”
7882 MR. WOODHEAD: That’s right.
7883 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I know we also use the term “digital economy”, but how do you think we should better define that?
7884 You know, in the Chair’s remarks on here he spoke to economic, social, democratic and cultural needs or cultural success. Would you say that’s broadly the definition we should be looking at?
7885 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
7886 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes, okay. Okay.
7887 And you have stated in here you consider 5/1 to be meeting the basic needs?
7888 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
7889 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And would you say that meets the basic needs for the expanded definition to the economic, social, democratic and cultural success?
7890 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
7891 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Of a household?
7892 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
7893 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
7894 MR. WOODHEAD: And, you know, it could -- of a household or a small business depending on what it is.
7895 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So you view that meets the needs of a small business?
7896 MR. WOODHEAD: Depending on what the small business is, yes.
7897 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Did you test it at all?
7898 MR. WOODHEAD: No, but ---
7899 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I’m just saying, I mean the one upload sometimes could be an issue for small business.
7900 MR. WOODHEAD: That’s why I said for some small businesses. For businesses that required greater upload capacity, that might not serve them.
7901 It might not be basic, number one, but -- and therefore given what the data in the communications monitoring report, one of the other speed tiers or whatever would be available to them, but -- for as a basic service that is not going to necessarily satisfy each and every small, medium sized business, but I think in -- to a large extent it would.
7902 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Maybe I should just clarify here as we’re speaking of this -- I mean we all know when you provided evidence that many Canadians, particularly in urban communities, have access to speeds both up and down that far exceed this kind of --
7903 MR. WOOHEAD: Correct.
7904 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- of a range and, you know, so they’re speed requirements have been met by the market.
7905 They’re speed requirements and, you know, people may argue whether or not their price requirements have been met or their capacity data requirements have been met, but the speed requirements have been met.
7906 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
7907 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So, as we talk about this we’re really talking about in those areas where the market has not -- has not potentially met the needs of Canadians.
7908 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes and I -- although I would suggest that those areas are few and based on the evidence you heard from Xplornet, increasingly, you know, declining to zero, if the performance claims based on their two new satellites were to bear out.
7909 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, so after you heard Xplornet you heard everybody who came last week? I’m sure you folks were following the hearing.
7910 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, we were.
7911 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So after listening to everything last week you believe that that target will be met?
7912 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, I do.
7913 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Everywhere?
7914 MR. WOODHEAD: Virtually everywhere.
7915 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Nunavut?
7916 MR. WOODHEAD: There -- obviously, there are going to be homes and people in Nunavut just simply by the, you know, where it sits on the planet that are not going to get that level of service, but -- and there may be -- I heard the witness earlier talking about there's going to be people who live in the shadow of the Coastal Mountains who are -- that's not going to work for them.
7917 So when I say we should come up with targeted solutions to those things, it's those gaps that I think are the ones that should be the focus.
7918 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Fair enough. So if there's not satellite capacity sufficient to serve everybody who's unserved today, that should be the focus? If there's communities with community needs such as needs of business that may not be met with minimal upload speeds, that should be the focus?
7919 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
7920 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And the process of identifying that should be how?
7921 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I mean, the programs that we've heard about -- Connecting Canadians, there's other programs that have operated in Quebec that Mr. Day can speak to. These programs are based on mapping and information from providers that show their collective, you know, service levels in those areas and what they're able to provide or if they provide at all.
7922 And that is targeted funding to areas that are underserved or unserved, so you know, there's been nearly a billion dollars applied into that over the last number of years, just in the federal program, and you know, that ---
7923 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, let me ask, instead of talking about what was spent before -- and we know that there is still -- there's now a large envelope of money has been announced. How is it we would be confident that all Canadians would be served with their minimum requirements at the end of that?
7924 Like, on what basis do you have confidence? What is the structure that tells you that -- I think her name was Ms. Lowell who was here right before you ---
7925 MR. WOODHEAD: M'hm.
7926 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- is going to be covered by that program? What's the discipline? Is it there? Does it need to be created? Is there a role for the CRTC in it?
7927 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, oh, absolutely. I think that's one of the monitoring roles that I would suggest is -- the CRTC is uniquely qualified to undertake.
7928 I mean, when you asked me the question about Nunavut, will there always be pockets? There may be pockets of this country that may never be served, frankly, but at least we should focus on, to the extent that technology can address those underserved areas and potentially unserved areas today -- and I'm just going by what Xplornet said and I have no reason to disbelieve them.
7929 Assuming there is progress made there in relatively short order, then whatever's left over, I think, is where the focus of all of our attention should be, because that -- those are the people who I think get potentially left behind in all of this, because there's things going on by Private Sector Act, there's Public Sector Act. Who's to address the vast majority of the rest of it?
7930 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Can I ask maybe that you just undertake to provide me this information I'm going to ask now ---
7931 MR. WOODHEAD: Sure.
7932 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- because I have been struggling. I know your position in here was wait until after 2017 because there's money to be spent, there is initiatives underway.
7933 Could you undertake to provide me a picture as to what all you see going on between now and the end of 2017 that provides you that assurance the problem will be solved or virtually solved?
7934 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, I can do that.
7936 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You know, I feel that you know something perhaps I don’t, that you know, how that 500 million is going to be allocated appropriately so that unserved and underserved come up to a basic level.
7937 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, I can undertake to do that. So you want -- I mean, I'm -- I've been listening to the hearing just like lots of other people, and the -- you know, I'll tell you right now, one of the things that I heard, and I had, you know, I'm just taking what I heard, satellite will be a part of this. There's a bunch of other technologies that will be a part of this.
7938 We're making massive investments. Others are making massive investments to expand service. We're taking advantage of pooling provincial, federal, and municipal money to serve unserved areas, so there's stuff going on.
7939 And then in addition ---
7940 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: There's always been stuff going on, and this is ---
7941 MR. WOODHEAD: That's how we got to 90 ---
7942 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Exactly. Exactly, for sure, and ---
7943 MR. WOODHEAD: So I'm focusing ---
7944 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- I, for one ---
7945 MR. WOODHEAD: --- on the three.
7946 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Exactly, and I, for one, don’t want to discount in any way the great initiatives that went on to get us to where we are today. I just haven't yet seen the plan that says the others will be served, and so in 2017, there's no problem left.
7947 MR. WOODHEAD: Right.
7948 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I know you used that as your date, but I don’t know what magic is going to happen outside of -- I mean, I also ---
7949 MR. WOODHEAD: Do you want me to explain why I used that (inaudible)?
7950 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I also heard Xplornet, if that was the basis, if that ---
7951 MR. WOODHEAD: No, no, no, it's not the Xplornet.
7952 COMMISIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
7953 MR. WOODHEAD. It's the -- when all of the funding over the last round of Connecting Canadians comes out, but the -- or actually, is spent -- but the Xplornet thing would be just on top of that.
7954 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, so you will undertake to provide that?
7955 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
7956 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And if we look and think that perhaps a gap may still be there or ---
7957 MR. WOODHEAD: M'hm.
7958 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- I'm -- if there is still a gap there, then would you see a role for the Commission in ---
7959 MR. WOODHEAD: In filling it?
7960 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- in filling it?
7961 MR. WOODHEAD: Potentially, and I say that only because one of the things which coincidentally, I particularly thought was helpful in the Panel's statement prior to lunch, is that I think, coming out of this process, because the record is so voluminous and there are so many interesting comments that have been made by all sorts of parties on this record, that there are a number of -- and between when the statement was made prior to lunch, I haven't had all that much time to kind of noodle that over.
7962 But there's certainly a lot of recommendations, I think, off the top of my head, that the Commission could make around coordinating funding, simplifying funding, you know, applications, simplifying the mapping so everybody knows what's going on.
7963 Those are just some, only because I have some familiarity with the Connecting Canadians Program.
7964 And then in this -- you also, if I may, alluded to the budget promise for $500 million over four years, I think it is, which is fantastic, because I think this program is actually quite inspired.
7965 And -- but we don’t know yet what the focus of that funding will be. The early sort of indications are it will be for backhaul, which I also, in this hearing -- I mean, there's another thing, since you gave me the opportunity to come back.
7966 There's clearly a problem, something that may require some sort of targeted funding, government or otherwise, towards particularly maybe in the north.
7967 But -- so backhaul, high speed to remote medical facilities, funding for that, and then access, more access, so to resolve Pilkey Point's problem on Thetis Island, for example.
7968 COMMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I want to go back to before we fund it, one of the values that we can deliver is perhaps, a fulsome definition of what we consider basic. And we talked about the 5-1. You didn’t talk about whether or not you think that there would be value in defining quality, the quality at service so that there's some equity across the -- you know, as these funds go in place that there would be some kind of equitable standards as to what somebody can expect from their service as it relates to the quality and reliability.
7969 MR. WOODHEAD: Some -- I mean I'll ask some of my fellow panel members to respond here but my initial sense, Commissioner, would be there is -- I am unaware of any evidence that the quality of networks and the quality of service that people are provided with, short of gaps where the service is below the basic service -- basic telecom level that we've talked about for broadband anyway, I am unaware of, frankly, any profound quality problem that needs setting of those kinds of standards.
7970 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Certainly we've heard from those reliant on satellite that there were issues with latency, that there's potentially issues with oversubscription.
7971 MR. WOODHEAD: Perhaps I'd ask Mr. Spadotto to ---
7972 MR. SPADOTTO: Allow me to chime in, Commissioner. Thank you for asking the question.
7973 You know, I think when we take a look at various technologies, all the technologies have their pluses and minuses. So it's, you know, unfortunate kind of human behaviour to pull out, you know, things that don’t often work well. So satellite does have some issues like latency.
7974 Unfortunately or fortunately, when you take a look at what we consider to be basic services, those latency requirements don’t really impede them. So, you know, if you think about what we want out of our society, that is the ability for Okshoger (ph) to be connected, that is the ability for us to, you know, participate in applying for jobs and things of that nature, none of those basic needs are impeded by latency.
7975 So while that impediment exists, it is not an impediment towards basic services.
7976 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. So let me go then away from sort of the quality of the connection to elements such as mean time to repair for example. I mean if you're -- should there be basics as to when somebody is provided a basic service, its availability? I mean if it's taking three or four days to get it back up?
7977 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, if by that you mean -- I mean certainly it shouldn’t an obligation just an ILEC.
7978 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I'm not talking just an ILEC.
7979 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
7980 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: We're talking ---
7981 MR. WOODHEAD: I mean I think where you're going to ---
7982 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- overall. We're talking here as we started, you know, here's the base knowing that many Canadians today are able to have access to services far above this base. Here's the minimum that every Canadian should be able to expect of their communication system.
7983 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay. So I'm referring now to your MTTR comment. I think the difficulty we'd have there is because again we have -- we for ourselves have next-day appointment, like this is not -- this is like a fairly finely-tuned machine at TELUS but I think you're going to have a problem setting any kind of basic standard unless you split it out by technology, or you split it out by technology plus location, or you split it out by technology, location and topography, because there is some technologies and, you know, where the amount of windshield time that you're going to have to spend to do that is determined by all kinds of external factors, including distance, topography, whatever.
7984 MR. SPADOTTO: Yeah, exactly. I think, Commissioner, this is exactly what I was going to chime in as well. I would hazard if you take a look at our statistics or any operator’s statistics on their meantime to restore, the predominance of it is going to be windshield time, the time to actually get to the particular component that has failed and to repair it.
7985 And so therefore, you have to kind of take a look at, in many ways, the vastness of Canada and what we've subscribed to or what the individuals subscribe to and how difficult it is to actually get there to repair that particular part.
7986 So I think if we were to look at -- as a community to take a look at what can we do on that, I think we have to be aware of exactly that, where these areas are and what's the reality of us actually -- whoever the party may be getting there to, you know, execute a repair.
7987 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah, and I actually have a little bit of experience in that part of the business and I'm not disputing that there's a windshield time. There is fly time. You know, in some of the remote, it's fly time and the cost of both providing and maintaining that service is relative to how you define it, right?
7988 MR. WOODHEAD: Right.
7989 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So all I'm asking is do you think it is fair to define quality elements into that service?
7990 I mean if all you say is you can have basic services 5/1, it can be oversubscribed. It can -- you know, it can have all kinds of technical components. It can be out for a week before you fly somebody in on the next provisioning day or whatever it is. I don’t know if you've really given -- you know, some of these being subsidized to provide a service of that quality, one should assume there's a quality to that service.
7991 MR. SPADOTTO: Yes, and I would -- you know, I'd answer the question of MTTR. You know, the natural backstop against MTTR is MTBF which is mean time between failure. So, you know, for many of us in the technology world and I would echo your experience, you've lived in this world, technology choice is often made to have very great MTBF.
7992 So in those instances where you do unfortunately have something that's gone awry, it is far -- you know, very far between. And so you kind of engineer and build the networks in that instance. And I think that's the same -- again, if we're thinking this is a community question, that's the same for all of us that participate in these technologies. That's part of what we do. It doesn’t matter if we're a telco operator, a cable operator, a satellite operator or, you know, a fixed wireless operator, that kind of enters our thinking.
7993 MR. WOODHEAD: And if I may, Commissioner, I mean of course you could do that. I guess what my question would be, is there a need to do that or answering the question why are we doing that because the -- I mean I think the market actually works quite well in that respect but -- and to acknowledge that the Commission has stepped back from retail quality service based on the fact that it's a competitive market for a number of years.
7994 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I think you're very concerned about something I perhaps am not even thinking about. I haven’t considered in my question -- when I was asking the question, I wasn’t considering imposing Q of S standards on forborne markets as much as I was thinking about, as we're closing the gaps for Canadians where market forces are not there to provide them with service, how should that service be defined?
7995 MR. WOODHEAD: Fair enough. I misapprehended with ---
7996 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You're very worried and I wasn't trying to worry you.
7997 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m not worried. I wasn't worried. I was just confused apparently.
7998 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: No, no, sorry. I'm at this point talking about closing the gaps and I'm prepared to not have, in this discussion, challenged you on the availability of service in forborne markets -- or no, I can’t say that well because -- or in markets where there's competitive supply.
7999 MR. SCHMIDT: To try to assist you on your more focused question, ma’am, I think it's reasonable and it would be entirely opened to a public authority funding broadband expansion to set all sorts of specifications. It's a contracting process. So people are voluntarily taking funding and the public authority funding could conceivably voluntarily set those standards. And in a more generalized basis, it's not obvious as we seem to agree the evidence leads us to some broadband QoS regime.
8000 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. So who do you think is in the best position to set those standards?
8001 MR. WOODHEAD: I actually -- I actually think that you folks might be and in terms of -- as Stephen said, in terms of these monies that are being expanded, I am told that in that past, past iterations of, for example, the Connecting Canadians program at the -- as the outcome was achieved, the outcome didn’t appear to look like what outcome was promised at the beginning. So it might actually, to be honest, be useful to establish or to set, say like, you know, when you’re running these funding programs the outcome needs to look something like what was promised at the outset. And it needs to perform like this, this, this and this and needs little subcategories.
8002 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Could I ask that you would undertake to provide the suggested quality of service metrics?
8003 MR. WOODHEAD: To be used within a contracting process like that and how that would work?
8004 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. Well, I don’t know if you have to go so far as to tell us how it would work, but define the --
8005 MR. WOODHEAD: Certain types of --
8006 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- what the metrics would --
8007 MR. WOODHEAD: -- industry ---
8008 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- be to say, you know, if you’re going out contracting, it’s both speed, reliability. Here’s how you define reliability. Here’s the -- here’s what you want to get back.
8009 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8010 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Here’s what you want to measure against.
8011 MR. WOODHEAD: I think we could do that.
8012 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
8014 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Before I get off of the issue of speed, and this is taking me longer than I should. These folks are going to be here a long time. Would you see any value in setting aspirational targets?
8015 I mean, one of the dangers as we’re speaking of, you know, contracting to fill the gaps, you want to build to future needs. You don’t want to build to present needs when you’re making long-term capital investments. So do you think it’s reasonable to look at five one for unserved and underserved? Like to build to that level? Or should it be building to a future level?
8016 MR. WOODHEAD: Sorry, I got confused there. I thought you were going to --
8017 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’m still talking ---
8018 MR. WOODHEAD: -- ask me about an aspirational target and now, sorry ---
8019 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I am really. I guess maybe I said that wrongly then.
8020 MR. WOODHEAD: Or maybe I just ---
8021 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But what I was thinking, I mean, if we were to say -- and I don’t know what the outcome, but lots of people are proposing five and one. If we were to say if you’re not achieving five and one with significant, you know, reliability and so on, you are underserved, and therefore, the -- you know, the focus is on filling the gaps. As you fill those gaps, as you inject capital and investment to fill those gaps, should you be building that for future capacity?
8022 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay. In terms of a general aspirational target, I don’t think -- I -- you know, you can do that. I don’t think it hurts anybody. But it isn’t going to -- to be perfectly honest with you, it isn’t going to really drive investment decisions that Mr. Spadotto makes. Where I -- where we -- when we receive funding for connecting Canadians or the other programs where we’ve received funding and we upgrade services in areas, that’s exactly what happens.
8023 So you go from a 5, 1 profile to capability of 15 or 25 megabytes because the money has gone to that. So that happens kind of naturally. But as a general matter ---
8024 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So could you potentially just say that it -- a requirement is that it be scalable? That whatever technology --
8025 MR. WOODHEAD: Oh, yeah.
8026 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- is in place ---
8027 MR. WOODHEAD: In terms of -- in -- sure. Sure.
8028 MR. SPADOTTO: If I could chime in, Commissioner. I think one of the things that, you know, if we take a look at the way we make our investments -- and we’ve chatted about this in the past, so I don’t want to repeat myself in how we do it. But we obviously look at the future and what’s, you know, what’s going to be required in the future.
8029 I think if we set aspirational goals though -- and again, I’m thinking from the perspective of us as a community. If we set aspirational goals, I think then we need to start defining how basic needs evolve over time. What are the basic needs? And if we actually get a view for basic needs as they evolve over time, then we can start aspirationally looking at how can we fulfil them with our different technology choices as they move along?
8030 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: What are you provisioning to today within your ---
8031 MR. SPADOTTO: It depends where; right? So what are we provisioning to depends where in our network.
8032 So you take a cross-section of our fibre network, depending on what people are subscribing to, you can get, you know, upwards of 100 megabytes per second. You go into our copper network, depending on where people are getting the service, they may get 50 megabytes per second. You go on our wireless network, again, depending on where people are situated, they may get 1, 2, 5, 10, depends on -- depending on the wire.
8033 So the decisions on investments are made on cross-sections and where those networks are and what the capabilities are.
8034 M. AUDET: La raison pour laquelle -- oui. La raison pour laquelle on disait tantôt qu’on était relativement confiant qu’on se dirige vers cette couverture-là à 100 pour cent, si vous prenez les derniers programmes de partenariat qu’on a eus y a à peu près une dizaine d’années avec le Gouvernement du Québec dans les programmes Communautés rurales branchées ou même avec Industrie Canada, à l’époque les standards n’étaient pas les mêmes et on a fait des projets d’innovation sur des technologies HSPA.
8035 À ce moment-là, les montants qui étaient attribués dans les programmes de subventions, qui étaient éligibles le coût par résidence ou le coût par « home pass » comme on dit souvent, étaient plus bas à ce moment-là dans les subventions.
8036 Aujourd’hui, Industrie Canada cette année, les montants étaient plus élevés. Alors, on a été en mesure de faire des études de cas maintenant et toutes les communautés qu’on a soumises, on les fait en fibre optique. Donc quand le programme lui aussi est adapté à être prêt à dépenser des sommes plus grandes, assurément que les services qu’on peut servir vont être de qualité supérieure.
8037 Et si vous regardez aujourd'hui, on va étendre dans 40 communautés de l’est du Québec et près d’une cinquantaine de l’Alberta puis de la Colombie-Britannique, on va étendre de la fibre optique dans des régions où y en n’avait pas. Et ces programmes-là n’étaient pas possible il y a sept, huit ans.
8038 Donc selon les programmes qui seront mis en place pour les communautés qui seront ciblées, il est possible d’atteindre des objectifs.
8039 Par contre, là où y aura toujours une limitation comme le disent mes collègues, lorsque vous arrivez dans une route rurale par exemple, y a des rangs au Québec. Y a plein d’endroits où vous avez le long des littorales comme la route 132, vous avez parfois trois, quatre, cinq maisons au kilomètre linéaire. Mais à ce moment-là, même si vous mettez des programmes de subvention à quatre, cinq ou $6,000 par habitant, on sera pas en mesure d’aller faire parce que nos technologies peuvent pas desservir des aussi petites densités linéaires.
8040 Donc y aura toujours inévitablement des régions qui seront servies par d’autres technologies qui seront soit du LTE, soit du satellite, mais bien sûr que si les programmes que vous mettez en place ont des cibles aspirationelles et qui viennent avec les subventions et les montants que nous ici on mettra de l’avant, ben y aura un coût économique à ça. C'est ça la différence.
8041 Donc c'est à quel point on est prêt tous ensemble à mettre le coût économique pour atteindre les objectifs que vous allez fixer.
8042 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Fair enough. And maybe it’s how much money do we need to serve all Canadians.
8043 Can I ask a particular question about LTE? Because we hear satellite LTE. If we were -- actually, I’m not speaking for anybody else. This is just me. So don’t be afraid. But I’ve wondered sometimes, particularly for rural areas, and a number of parties have come forward, you know, Xplornet’s using LTE, the B.C. Broadband Association has partners that are using LTE. Do you use LTE to serve any broadband customers, particularly broadband?
8044 MR. SPADOTTO: So as Mr. Audet already mentioned that we’ve taken on a -- call it -- it started off as a call it as an experiment in the Gaspésie when we used HSPA to provide HSA-type services over a wireless network. Those HSPA networks are being upgraded to LTE for all the obvious reasons because LTE has, you know, greater throughput for the spectrum to utilize.
8045 So the, you know, the quick answer is, yes, we are and we are going to continue doing that.
8046 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So the reason I ask is we have a large record. There’s many Canadians have given their views. And I’m sure you’re aware that there’s been a lot of focus on broadband, but there’s also been a lot of focus on mobility, both on the voice and data side. And Canadians want ubiquitous mobile service. And Canadians want universal broadband service. And if there’s a technology that could help to deliver both, is that not a preferred technology? If you’re creating a broadband strategy, would it make sense -- I know you folks want to be technology agnostic, but is there a preferred technology?
8047 MR. SPADOTTO: Commissioner, I don’t think we want to be technology agnostic for the sake of being agnostic. We want to be technology agnostic because there are different technologies that are better suited to deliver speeds in different areas.
8048 So when you get into high densities, you are by definition more desirous of having a fixed terrestrial type plant.
8049 As you get involved ---
8050 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But if it’s high density, you’d served it?
8051 MR. SPADOTTO: We have but again, even when you get out into the rural areas called the “underserved areas”, then you have to have a density of cell sites in order to support them, in order to be able to affect the speeds that we’re talking about.
8052 And that density is often very difficult, in particular, in some parts of Canada, not only because of backhaul, as Mr. Woodhead has talked about, but often times we work in areas where there just isn’t even power; where, you know, we can send along some really incredible pictures of LTE sites that we have. They’re sitting on tops of mountains that are prime powered. There is no power there. We actually, you know, have to go and bring fuel up to those locations.
8053 When the winter comes, we kind of have to kiss them goodbye for the winter. We’ll see you in the springtime. Very, very difficult areas to cover in Canada.
8054 And so there isn’t a singular solution because of that.
8055 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Fair enough.
8056 I guess I was wondering if it could be a preferred solution because there’s ancillary benefits to many Canadians.
8057 MR. SPADOTTO: Again for me, I would shy away from preferential treatments because I think then it could cause us to -- it could cause the community to misinterpret what is meant by “preferred” and then not use or not be able to use or decide against using technologies that are more suited for a particular application.
8058 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So we’ve actually talked about -- I have a page full of questions that I kind of shot at you now and then.
8059 So I’m almost through, but I was on the area of availability and I had -- I have one question here that I haven’t asked. And so it’s a little sitting out there, but I’ll ask it just to sort of close off on this.
8060 As we were talking about earlier -- about subsidy programs or directing government investment and what we might do to assist in directing that, providing guidance or so on. What’s your experience on how prices have been established within the government programs, the price to consumer?
8061 MR. WOODHEAD: You -- in the “Connecting Canadians” one, we had to state, I believe Clément may know better than I, what the price that we would offer the service at, so they ---
8062 M. AUDET: Oui, si je peux vous rassurer -- excusez-moi.
8063 Dans le programme « Connecting Canadians » et même plus large que le programme, je vous dirais présentement, dans notre philosophie chez TELUS, et c’est aussi vrai en Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique, on a décidé présentement d’avoir les mêmes tarifs pour l’ensemble de nos clients. Si bien que pour les clients qu’on dessert -- moi, je suis dans -- on est dans l’oeil du Québec, du côté de TELUS Québec. Alors, on dessert aussi bien la Gaspésie, le Bas Saint-Laurent, la Côte-Nord, la région de la Beauce; donc des grands territoires ruraux.
8064 Et partout où on déploie, le réseau « Connecting Canadians », on donne aux gens les mêmes tarifs qu’on donne dans nos centres urbains. Et là, bien sûr, nos centres urbains, nous, en région, c’est pas Montréal. C’est quand même des villes comme Mont-Joli, Amqui, Matane. Mais si vous allez voir sur le Web, on a des prix qui sont tout à fait compétitifs, même parfois meilleurs, que ceux de Vidéotron à Montréal.
8065 Donc, présentement, le jeu de la concurrence fait très bien son jeu. Et nous, lorsqu’on prend des programmes de subvention, comme image corporative, on a pris la décision d’offrir les mêmes tarifs à tous nos clients.
8066 Donc ça, dans ce cas-là, du côté de « Connecting Canadians », on n’avait pas d’obligation de le faire.
8067 Dans un autre programme qu’on a eu avec le provincial qui était dans le cadre de « Villes et Villages branchés, » où on a fait justement ce réseau-là en Gaspésie, dans ce projet-là, dans notre proposition, on s’était engagé à avoir toujours des tarifs qui allaient être comparables à nos prix réguliers.
8068 Donc, c’est possible de le faire à l’intérieur des programmes. Et de ce côté-là aussi, je ne le sais pas pour les autres organisations mais dans notre cas, on a toujours décidé d’appliquer les mêmes tarifs aux endroits qu’on déployait avec subvention.
8069 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So in your situation, if you’re going into a subsidized pocket, those consumers are lucky enough, I guess, because of your economies of scale and so on, and your pricing practices, to have the same prices as non-subsidized areas.
8070 I didn’t get that from everybody who’s come before us, in how prices are set to where those prices are the same as in more urban areas. ---
8071 MR. WOODHEAD: Our ---
8072 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But you set the price?
8073 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8074 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You go into that bidding process?
8075 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah. And so what happens -- and so what happens in terms of the program administrators, who evaluate the various proposals, is they look at what -- you know, I don’t know if this is all of the factors -- but they would look at what’s the end product? What are you going to provide consumers with, in terms of speed and capability? What price are you going to do it at? What is the cost and how many homes or households are you going to serve? Those are four of the big ones anyway.
8076 And then they evaluate them on that basis.
8077 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’m going to ask the question, even though I know -- I expect I know your answer.
8078 Would you say there would be a role for the Commission in establishing what that price perhaps could or should be for areas that are subsidized through government funding?
8079 MR. WOODHEAD: No. I think if government funding is involved, they should be set at some -- you know, based on market prices.
8080 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: There’s no market where government funding is ---
8081 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m sorry?
8082 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: What market prices are you speaking of, where government funding is involved?
8083 MR. WOODHEAD: Well I -- we get, we get government funding and, you know, in community A, either there’s service already or -- and to extend service to outward homes in the same community, they get the same prices as everybody in that market.
8084 MR. SCHMIDT: The provision of the service in the end, pursuant to the public program, may look like a practical monopoly, but the funnel to get in there is competitive because it’s a bidding process. So people have the opportunity to compete on the cost of it, on the features of the end process, et cetera.
8085 And you have other things hovering around like satellite that are conditioning your pricing ultimately or you won’t get access to the funds.
8086 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right. So today, you’re competing on -- on cost, on price.
8087 I mean, you’re seeking -- you’re competing for the subsidy amount but in determining what subsidy amount you need -- and it’s not you, I mean, it’s any service provider -- you are considering what price the market can bear; how you would define the service; what kind of usage and data might go; what speed; what subscription ratio.
8088 So you’re defining all kinds of elements to come to what that shortfall might be that you’re seeking subsidy for?
8089 MR. SCHMIDT: Yes.
8090 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Including deciding the price?
8091 MR. SCHMIDT: Yes.
8092 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, and in our case, as Clément said, we don’t price differently within provinces. Others may ---
8093 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Is that a reasonable principle for extending service to unserved areas?
8094 MR. WOODHEAD: No, I ---
8095 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That it should be priced ---
8096 MR. WOODHEAD: I mean prices -- that is our decision to have done that, but prices should follow, you know, the cost. And if there’s a higher cost to a particularly remote area, I think it should be open to a provider.
8097 I mean, what you would be setting yourself up for there, potentially, is failure, to me. Because if somebody is trying to get subsidy dollars and is trying to promise a price below what they can actually do it, then I don’t think the long-term success of that is going to be very good.
8098 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I wasn’t really thinking about the time when they were promising a lower price, they could do it. I mean, you size the amount of subsidy required based on that shortfall.
8099 I was thinking more the end where there are areas that are subsidized at relatively high rates. Nunavut, for example, I think it’s $80 for they’re going to have three meg. You know, that’s the other end of it. That was a determined price. Someone determined that price.
8100 So I’ll go on. I want to move on to the area of affordability. So you have something in here that I wasn’t aware of, and I’m very interested in knowing more about this pilot program that you mention in paragraph 18 of your remarks here. Could you just tell me a little bit more about that program; what you’re doing?
8101 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, we’ve been working on it for quite some time. And what the idea was was to get at the sort of heart of what the affordability question is because many -- you have heard from many who simply think this is a function of price. And yet, the literature -- and I may ask Dr. Crandall to comment on this -- the literature doesn’t indicate that in fact it is only about price.
8102 It may a bit about price but it’s also other factors. Price not just of the service but price of the internet appliance or device. It may be about more broadly digital literacy and a variety of other considerations.
8103 So what we were trying to do was -- or what we’re in the process of trying to do -- is to run a pilot for a year using devices from Computers for Success, which used to be called Computers for Schools but their mandate has been broadened by Innovation, Science and Economic Development to go broader.
8104 And so 5,000 individuals, urban, rural, all meeting the low income criteria. They’re all families, low-income families so they’re in receipt of the Canada Child Benefit, below $34,000 a year. And see what the data shows in terms of efficacy, what the people who are using it actually think of it, and then we were going to share that with whoever is interested.
8105 And if that determined that, you know, this would be something to do or this would be a model to do because it more effectively meets the needs of this particular group then we would probably be coming looking to you folks to figure out a way to roll it out.
8106 And the intent was to try and do this nationally based on the fact that poverty is a national problem. And potentially we could do this with the rest of the industry and address this issue.
8107 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Did you initiate this?
8108 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8109 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: This was initiated by TELUS?
8110 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8111 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: And you administer it?
8112 MR. WOODHEAD: The actual -- this becomes an important, a very important question. We actually provision the service. The people who would do the verification and authentication of the recipients would be Computers for Success.
8113 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Remind me ---
8114 MR. WOODHEAD: Computers for ---
8115 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: I’m going to say it Computers for School because that’s how I know them.
8116 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, you can just call it that.
8117 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: So you say ---
8118 MR. WOODHEAD: But they’ve rebranded.
8119 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Right. And remind me who’s behind that organization?
8120 MR. WOODHEAD: It’s run as a not-for-profit and it’s run under a mandate from Industry Canada. Or sorry, Industry Canada, ISEC.
8121 THE CHAIRPERSON: A lot of rebranding going on.
8122 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m sorry?
8123 THE CHAIRPERSON: There’s a lot of rebranding going on.
8124 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, a lot of rebranding.
8125 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: So in talking affordability here, I appreciate right now as we’re talking we are talking not about whether rates overall are just unreasonable or affordable or whatever Dr. Crandall would argue, but that there are still individuals, low income, those with disabilities or so on that, you know, whose incomes are challenged. But even what most citizens would consider a just and reasonable price is simply unaffordable. And so those are the individuals you are targeting here. You took this on by yourself.
8126 MR. WOODHEAD: A subset of those individuals, families, low income, below threshold.
8127 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: How did you decide that?
8128 MR. WOODHEAD: How did we decide that?
8129 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: How did you decide on the subset?
8130 MR. WOODHEAD: Sorry, how did we decide to choose that as the threshold?
8131 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Yeah. You said it’s a subset of those individuals. So who defined this program?
8132 MR. WOODHEAD: We did it. We chose that because it was the simplest way to identify the group that we were seeking to have pilot the project; low-income families with children.
8133 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: So ---
8134 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, obviously in receipt of the benefit.
8135 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: You know, you have done this in conjunction with a number of groups and, you know, congratulations.
8136 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, we haven’t actually started the pilot yet.
8137 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Oh, you haven’t.
8138 MR. WOODHEAD: We’re still in discussions with them to launch it.
8139 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Okay. Well, you’ve had discussions with a number of groups, which CRTC not one of those. And yet, you said if it was to be successful you would come to us. So why would you come to us? Why would you not ---
8140 MR. WOODHEAD: Because in the way we kind of designed this it was to pilot this and determine, as I said, whether it actually is something that works. And if it were to work and we felt strongly that it was something that should be rolled out, we would want some overarching authority with jurisdiction to make that actually a national kind of program that the industry would support, and develop funding mechanisms for it, and all kinds of things.
8141 DR. CRANDALL: Can I say something?
8142 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8143 DR. CRANDALL: I think it’s important to look at these pilot programs and encourage more of them. And you even have on the record, I believe, here some discussion by Scott Wallsten in the filing with Rogers of the U.S. pilot programs that were launched prior to the change of the Lifeline program, the low income program in the United States.
8144 I think there’s something like 14 of these pilot programs, and most of them were very unsuccessful. That is, it was very -- different carriers tried different techniques to get people interested in signing up for programs and digital literacy, for signing up for broadband at lower prices. It might involve providing them with some equipment. And all but about two of them were quite unsuccessful.
8145 So (inaudible) you could learn from what has failed, and maybe hopefully what succeeds with TELUS if you wish to go down the road of helping to design a low income affordability program.
8146 COMMISSIONER MOLNER: Well, I like how you said that because you said “helping to design a program.” I think one of the questions we have here is if broadband is unaffordable to a segment of Canadians what needs to be done, who should do it, what are the next steps?
8147 MR. WOODHEAD: Right. And there may be a variety of actors, as we said, in identifying who they might be. The purpose of the pilot was simply -- like, it was our best attempt at addressing what we understand to be the main drivers of the adoption issue. So we were trying to get data that we could then share that said, “Okay, this is what we found; what do you think?”
8148 But I think Chris had something he wanted to say there.
8149 MR. LANGDON: Thanks, Ted.
8150 I would just say the program really, the genesis of it, TELUS has a long history of giving back to communities, whether through charitable things that the employees do, whether it’s supporting education, which we do. So a constituent of low-income people actually came to one of our offices and talked to us about the problem. And our head of community affairs, a woman by the name of Jill Schnarr listened to them and said, “Do you know what? Maybe we can help.” And as they started to unpeel the problem, they quickly realized it wasn’t necessarily a -- it was an affordability issue but that wasn’t -- that was maybe a necessary condition but not sufficient. There were things about how do I get access to a computer; right? The upfront cost to that. There was things how do I use a computer and load software? What software should I have on it?
8151 So these other components of the program were actually there to help us learn. And then, you know, once we understand, you know, okay, what components are really going to work and how do you authenticate or validate that someone’s eligible; right? Very complex problems.
8152 So we said, “Hey, let’s make a pilot. Let’s learn a little bit from it.” And thus the size, the 5,000 person pilot.
8153 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So is your pilot limited to individuals -- or not individuals, households that have not subscribed to internet?
8154 MR. WOODHEAD: No.
8155 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So you’re trying to ---
8156 MR. WOODHEAD: No.
8157 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: No. So you’re not increasing adoption. You’re dealing with ---
8158 MR. WOODHEAD: I mean, people would be capable of applying who were not served, but ---
8159 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Right.
8160 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8161 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But that’s not what you’re targeting. Yeah.
8162 And fair enough. And many, most of the individuals that we have heard from who’ve had issues regarding affordability have, in fact, adopted. It’s just -- I’m sure you’ve heard --
8163 MR. WOODHEAD: M’hm.
8164 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- you’ve heard them as well; right? They’re making hard choices.
8165 MR. WOODHEAD: But to clarify, we didn’t -- the reason why we weren’t excluding people who met the other criteria, in other words, they were families below the income threshold in receipt of the child -- Canada Child benefit, we didn’t want them to feel like, well, why are you giving -- allowing these people to take advantage of this and not me, who is an existing customer. That’s the only reason.
8166 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Fair enough. And I -- you know, I understand that this is in design and it has not been implemented. And I also heard Dr. Crandall say that there’s other programs out there. There’s, you know, experience in other states. And I’m going to go back to sort of the broader question I think I said to you. You know what? Ultimately what we would be interested in is, what are the steps? What’s next? Who should be involved? How do we proceed in addressing the issue of affordability for that segment?
8167 I mean, you’ve got a pilot. We know that Rogers has something going on. What are the next steps? Who all should be involved? Who are the departments that should be involved? Who are the players that should be involved? What responsibilities should be placed on the internet service providers?
8168 As you mentioned, TELUS is big on corporate social responsibility. I mean, all the ISPs should be. So what’s the role of the ISPs? What are the next steps? And maybe that’s an undertaking because I understand you didn’t come in looking to talk about that. But if we’re moving this --
8169 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, that’s fine. We can ---
8170 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- strategy forward, we need those.
8171 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8173 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I’m going to talk now, not about the sub-segment of low income Canadians, but of all Canadians within the market who have challenges with broadband and the prices of broadband and data usage caps and all that, and just understanding the complexities of broadband service. And there are, because you talked speed, you talked caps. You hit your cap you have to upgrade your speed to get a bigger cap. It’s all quite confusing.
8174 So could you tell me, what is the most affordable package that you provide in each of the provinces, Alberta, B.C. and Quebec?
8175 MR. WOODHEAD: I’d ask Chris and Clement to take that one.
8176 MR. LANGDON: I’ll speak for B.C. and Alberta and then my colleague Clement will speak for Quebec.
8177 Our cheapest internet package is $53. And that includes 150 gigabytes of data. We also have unlimited add-ons for to address overage. So clients can subscribe to that for as low as $15 and then get unlimited usage on those plans.
8178 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Just to confirm, and that is everywhere throughout Alberta and B.C.?
8179 MR. LANGDON: That is correct.
8180 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That’s why Ms. Lowell wanted you guys to serve her in B.C.
8181 Okay. Quebec.
8182 MR. AUDET: And in Quebec, for internet six; okay? Because we have also internet lite but it’s a regular pricing. It’s $49 a month. But it comes with less capacity. It’s 40 gigabytes.
8183 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And what’s the speed?
8184 MR. AUDET: The speed is six megabytes per second.
8185 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Sorry. Yeah.
8186 MR. AUDET: And it goes up to -- we have plans at 15, 25, 50 and 100.
8187 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
8188 And can you tell me, what kind of tools do you provide your customers to enable them to make smart choices and choose what would be the most affordable option for them?
8189 MR. LANGDON: It starts in the store, in our websites, in our call centres. So we make sure that all of our front facing team members are armed with, you know, information on our plans and the overages. And then also communicate to clients how they can manage their tools or manage their usage.
8190 So we’ve spent a fair bit on our website showing various usages scenarios. So if you’re a heavy user of email and web browsing all the way to, you know, you’re doing lots of file sharing and, you know, the whole family’s watching Netflix for, you know, multiple, multiple hours. So we then guide people to not only the right speed profile for that, but also the right usage bucket.
8191 So as I alluded to before, in some cases, clients may be more advantaged to go on an unlimited plan. So we offer that.
8192 Now in terms of once the client is actually using the service, we offered a series of notifications. So at 75 percent, 90 percent on our fixed line side. And they can go onto the website and actually see that. We will in the next -- actually, it’s the next week or so, that notification on how much they’ve used will actually be available on their self-serve account within 20 to 30 minutes. So near real time so they don’t have to worry about oh, I didn’t -- I used it. How much did I use? How much do I have left?
8193 So these notifications combined with the availability and on our website through self-serve tools will give them visibility into what they’re using.
8194 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: If a customer was routinely using less than the size of package that they had, would you notify them in any way?
8195 MR. LANGDON: They would see on their self-serve account how much they used relative to their cap. It’s actually very simple graphical tools like a doughnut. It shows you how much ---
8196 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don’t think that was the question.
8197 MR. LANGDON: No, we do not show them -- well, no, we do show them. We just don’t notify them. So is showing on a website notifying?
8198 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: But it was the answer and the answer was no.
8199 MR. LANGDON: Yes.
8200 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay. Thank you.
8201 A couple things that probably are best done by undertaking just to fill in the record here. Could we get information on your practices as it regards your -- how you deal with customers if they have confusion around their contract terms? And would you be able to provide a copy of your contract for us?
8202 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8204 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Could you also provide the number one complaint that you receive about your contracts? Would you know that?
8205 MR. WOODHEAD: We would know it.
8206 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You would know it. So you can undertake to provide that?
8207 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8208 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you.
8210 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
8212 MR. WOODHEAD: Any associated policy -- like including?
8213 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Documents that you would reference within your contract.
8214 MR. WOODHEAD: Oh, okay.
8215 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That you’re referencing --
8216 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8217 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- within your contract that are --
8218 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8219 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- supporting that.
8220 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, we can do -- we can provide that, Commissioner.
8221 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Like terms of service, some I think have acceptable use policies, whatever that might be.
8222 MR. WOODHEAD: We can provide all of that.
8223 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. Thank you.
8225 MR. AUDET: And if I may, maybe one last comment, but maybe it’s obvious, but you were asking about pricing. When we also support our customers, we're also presenting our price in bundle, because many, many times if you have services with TELUS for mobility and the voice and long distance, also your prices are a lot lower because every time you are adding product and services, you have rebates.
8226 So also, we are guiding our customers through that path, so it brings at the end of the day, their entire bill more affordable.
8227 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you. Specific question as it relates to the deaf community; I think they spoke of themselves as "culturally deaf".
8228 MR. AUDET: M'hm.
8229 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: That will be using VRS. They were speaking and actually the other part or panel that came before us as well were speaking of a desire to have wireless -- did only plans for wireless.
8230 Where are you folks on that? Do you provide that?
8231 MR. WOODHEAD: No. We give a discount of $15. The -- one of the witnesses referenced the problem for Text 9-1-1 without a voice plan, so in respect of the fact that the voice component is less useful, obviously, to them, we provide a discount of $15 per month.
8232 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And you have no plan to change that? You have to be a registered user in -- I mean, it hasn’t gone into place yet, VRS, so even with VRS, I mean, I think the other thing they were asking was for higher usage plans as well.
8233 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, okay.
8234 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Are you looking -- let me ask ---
8235 MR. WOODHEAD: We ---
8236 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I've got a question and you can answer. Are you looking at designing any plans to meet the needs of those who will be using the VRS?
8237 MR. WOODHEAD: It will be a new service and certainly we could look at doing something like that, but we have not. We felt that the $15 discount in respect to the voice plan seemed to realize the issue, and ---
8238 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So what information would you need to look at that?
8239 MR. WOODHEAD: To look at?
8240 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Well, you said, "Well, we felt that giving them $15 off would probably be sufficient to meet their needs," and I think the people in front of us said they didn’t -- their entire issue wasn’t that they had to buy voice with data; their other issue was the data packages on the mobility plans simply would not be sufficient for their needs or they were very costly, given that that would be their sole means of communications.
8241 MR. WOODHEAD: Through VRS?
8242 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Through VRS.
8243 MR. WOODHEAD: I would -- I mean, I would suggest -- I'd actually was -- I was having difficulty understanding that particular aspect, because the VRS application, as I understand it, doesn’t require -- when we trialled it, I think it ran on -- it ran into 156 kilobit streams.
8244 And then I believe I saw one calculation; I believe it was from the VRS administrator that sort of grossed it up for this and that and the other thing and said it would need 700 kilobits.
8245 But our base plan in B.C. and Alberta and a lot of them in Quebec is 150 gigabytes, and ---
8246 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: They were talking about using mobility.
8247 MR. WOODHEAD: Oh, I'm sorry so ---
8248 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Mobility services.
8249 MR. WOODHEAD: --- mobility, because it's ---
8250 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: I think what I'm hearing -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is at this point, there's no work underway to develop plans specifically to meet the needs of this group as VRS gets rolled out?
8251 MR. WOODHEAD: Not currently underway, but ---
8252 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Not currently.
8253 MR. WOODHEAD: --- I think it would -- it's, you know, I take your point and I think we could look into doing that. It's a new service. I can't really ---
8254 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yeah. I guess I'd like to be able to -- I think it's great that you think you could look into it, but would it be improper of me to ask for your commitment that before VRS is rolled out that you would meet with the disability community and just understand their needs and ---
8255 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, we would happily do that.
8256 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: You know, you can send something in some way to say, "We've had this meeting and here's what we're doing"?
8257 MR. WOODHEAD: I'd be happy to do that. We can do that.
8258 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you very much.
8260 So I have one more area, and I know I've taken a lot of your time and I'm sure my colleagues also want to ask you questions, but I just want to cover off on the area of adoption.
8261 And you have highlighted this as an area where you think that there is a bit of a vacuum, a leadership vacuum on this area today, if I understand your comments correctly?
8262 MR. WOODHEAD: M'hm.
8263 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: So could you explain what you would see to be the appropriate role of the Commission in moving forward the whole issue of adoption?
8264 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I think, you know, to be honest with you, as I said, coming out of this process as you consider the record and you enter your deliberations, to me, it may well be evident to you that there are various issues with adoption or that further study on adoption should be undertaken.
8265 And potentially one recommendation would be that a sort of cross-departmental effort be undertaken.
8266 You know, I hate to borrow the term from you, but you know, the Discoverability Summit, but you know, it's an adoption summit. And let's -- between various actors in the federal government, and I -- you know, I could think of a few, and probably some provincial folks and then people from the academic community, who study such things and potentially plays in the industry, I think that the CRTC could play a significant role in convening that as -- and as one of the potential actors, going forward in whatever recommendations would come out about dealing with it.
8267 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, and I know that we have hit you first with our, you know, our ---
8268 MR. WOODHEAD: That's right.
8269 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- goal of looking at a broadband strategy, so I am also going to ask if you would undertake to provide us further initiatives that you can think of that we could pursue, just because we haven't given you a lot of time to look at this. And others, I'm sure, will be able to answer.
8270 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I'll have to ---
8271 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: And I do have one more thing that -- because I was ---
8272 MR. WOODHEAD: If I could just ---
8273 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- struck ---
8274 MR. WOODHEAD: If I could just tell you right now ---
8275 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay.
8276 MR. WOODHEAD: --- one that is kind of near and dear to my heart? If the CRTC could endeavour to encourage or whatever the right word would be, or recommend that more government funding go to digital literacy programs, I think that would be a really terrific contribution.
8277 I mean, I know that sounds kind of not that great, but I think it's -- I personally believe that that is a significant piece of this issue, and it's often overlooked and it's ill-funded.
8278 We fund, and others fund, the Media Smarts Organization that's been around, but nonetheless, I think research and actual on-the-ground programming around digital literacy would be a definite positive.
8279 Sorry, I know you wanted to ask me something different, but that was my little five-second speech.
8280 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: No, that's okay. You can have your speech and I did want to ask you, because I was really struck by your answer to my last question when I asked the role of the Commission and you spoke of a summit, and you said, "and potentially industry participants".
8281 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I started ---
8282 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Because ---
8283 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay, sorry.
8284 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: --- I would think in something like adoption, industry could be the leaders. You know, you said we should be the leaders, but it is of value, it is of commercial value to you to increase adoption on -- of your products and services.
8285 You have mentioned your corporate social responsibility and that, you know, TELUS is very proud of its corporate social responsibility.
8286 So there’s two very tight links to your corporation and so I was a bit struck and a little bit disappointed that you would have said, you know, the CRTC should lead. We should get together all the government and potentially industry.
8287 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay ---
8288 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Don’t you think industry is a full partner in this thing?
8289 MR. WOODHEAD: You’re reading into my words, not unnecessarily given that you’ve just read them back to me.
8290 MR. WOODHEAD: The whole point of that program I was talking to you about, that we’d been working on, trying to develop and fine-tune and so on and so forth, was to do precisely that.
8291 And to figure out if it -- if the data comes back that this is something that’s actually useful, to actually get the industry to grapple -- they’re -- as you said Rogers has a program and potentially others have a program -- and programs.
8292 And whatever these programs, the data they show, if we as an industry were able to come sit down and actually figure this out that might be -- that would be the great way to do it, but I’m sorry I -- what I said I wasn’t meaning to leave out the industry.
8293 I was -- I had started out my answer to your question by the CRTC could take a leading role in across departmental initiative, around what government actors are relevant to this.
8294 That could be federally, provincially, even frankly even municipally, because some of this could relate to, as you’ve heard, social assistance programs and it deals with a vexing problem of poverty and so on and so forth. It’s a national problem that involves all governments.
8295 But that’s not to suggest -- and if I -- if that’s what I said I apologize, but it’s not to suggest we wouldn’t want to participate, but it was more from the point of view of can the right governmental actors figure out ---
8296 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Now is there any way the industry could lead it instead of participate in it?
8297 I mean you’ve suggested we lead it. What if I suggested the industry lead it? Could you coordinate ---
8298 MR. WOODHEAD: I wouldn’t have an issue with that. I think it’s ---
8299 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Do you think it’s viable for you to coordinate together to lead an initiative on adoption?
8300 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8301 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Yes?
8302 MR. WOODHEAD: Why wouldn’t it be?
8303 I mean people, you know, also -- you know, as much as I hate to admit it, I mean, people may view something -- and I’m not negative about it.
8304 Actually I would love that challenge, to be honest with you, and I think TELUS we would love to take on that challenge.
8305 But, you know, people may view ‘oh well that’s just going to be about some, you know, marketing thing of the industry and it’s not going to do anything’. You folks don’t, you know, have that issue.
8306 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Okay, thank you. Those are my questions and I did hear you said TELUS would love to take on the challenge of --
8307 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, I’m -- listen ---
8308 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: -- of adoption?
8309 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m all -- I’ll take a whirly at that.
8310 COMMISSIONER MOLNAR: Thank you very much. Those are my questions.
8311 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Vice-Chair Menzies?
8312 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: All right, thank you.
8313 My eyes are still adjusting and it’s not your fault necessarily, but you guys look a lot different from the last panels I’ve been talking to the last few days, so -- entirely different context.
8314 So, earlier today the Media Access Coalition made the case for a synchronicity in terms of speeds to meet their needs of 5 in 5 or 10 in 10. They said to meet their needs to be able to access VRS and other streaming; comment? Are they right?
8315 You’re saying 5 in 1; they’re saying they need better upload speeds in order to be able to use VRS and other accessibility programs.
8316 MR. SPADOTTO: Why don’t I try that first, Mister -- Ted? Commissioner, let me try to answer that.
8317 I think the issue is of course -- is the difficulty for the technologies to actually achieve that.
8318 Many of our technologies by their very nature are not synchronous in nature. They’re built to be faster on the downloads then they are on the upload and we simply cannot achieve that goal with the technologies that we have at play. Not all of them.
8319 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Are they wrong about the need?
8320 MR. SPADOTTO: I’m going to pass that along to my good friend Mr. Woodhead.
8321 MR. WOODHEAD: My understanding is yes. The requirement and the functionality of using it -- and I appreciate that they were talking about wireless and wireline.
8322 The application doesn’t require that level of upstream speed to work perfectly fine.
8323 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So would you mind undertaking to give us a technical analysis of that, so that we’d have that on the record?
8324 MR. WOODHEAD: I believe -- yes.
8325 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Unless you already ---
8326 MR. WOODHEAD: Most certainly. I believe there is an interrogatory response outlining the requirements.
8327 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. If there already is it’s there, that’s fine, but ---
8328 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8329 And there’s the results of our VRS trial, of course, but ---
8330 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, but you’re undertaking could at least point to where the -- you believe the answer is already on the record?
8331 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, absolutely.
8332 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
8333 I was struck by Richard Schultz’ comments in paragraphs 28 and 29 of your oral presentation, which sort of concluded in paragraph 29 “if these parties want to…” -- you were -- you’re saying you’re talking about universal service and that sort of stuff, but it was the comment:
8334 “If these parties want to justify their proposals instead of relying on a false restatement of the history of universal service, they instead need to look at what they will do, how they will implement it and what it will cost and they need to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits exceed the economic costs.”
8335 Now I’m not exactly sure that’s precisely who you were aiming at there. It’s -- it comes across as a little bit of a drive-by shooting.
8336 But I will refer -- because some groups last week from the north referred to the Northern Communications Information Systems working group report, which is -- the “Arctic Communications Infrastructure of the 21st Century” is the report.
8337 And that, as I recall, because I observed at some of the meetings on it was chaired by the Department of National Defense and involved a number of stakeholders throughout the region which DND admirably herded into one room.
8338 And I just want to read from you that like if this doesn’t justify it the opening comments from their report which was titled “a matter of survival”.
8339 “The Arctic must have reliable communications networks to establish and maintain Canada’s sovereignty and to meet international obligations for ensuring safe passage for road, sea and air traffic.”
8340 And it goes on and it talks about fundamentals of sovereignty, security and public safety. Are those not reasonable economic and social benefits that would require subsidy on the part of the people of Canada?
8341 DR. SCHULTZ: Yes they are. Two questions -- two comments. There’s nothing in my submission that denies the potential for subsidy.
8342 The second point is that my introductory comments in this submission and my presentation were based on my reading of several of the initial submissions to the Commission.
8343 And in particular the one from Dr. Winseck and the interrogatories and some of the comments in the submission from the Affordable Access Coalition; those were what I was referring to.
8344 And my concern was, and it still holds, that -- excuse me, if we want to include basic broadband as a basic telecommunication service, we should justify that on its own merits and not under the guise of a traditional assumption of universal service.
8345 One of my concerns with them, with particularly Dr. Winseck’s proposals, which gets us into a range of 10 to 50 billion, if I recall him correctly last week, and also the Affordable Access Coalition, is that they are proposing an implicit in going back to the original submission.
8346 It’s based on the concept of just extending universal -- the traditional universal service objective. They’re proposing what I would regard as an unprecedented adventure for the Commission into social policy engineering, in which they use a benign statement of a third party administrator when in fact they should be talking about either a third party or a CRTC administration that would develop criteria, monitor, verify, monitor the continued acceptability for people.
8347 So that was my concern. It wasn’t just a question in the north.
8348 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Well, at least I know who you were shooting at now so thanks for clarifying.
8349 I was also struck for a moment, and it may have been off the cuff so just correct me, Mr. Woodhead. You mentioned -- there was a couple of comments to my colleague Commissioner Molnar that said in your view there would always be pockets in Canada that were unserved and areas that would be unserved.
8350 And that might not be an unreasonable thing to say, but for us we don’t actually get to think that way. Because the Telecommunications Act is very clear that we have to see to it that reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality are accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada are there.
8351 So just from our point of view, we have to work forward to fill in these gaps. And I’d just like you to clarify again for me where you think we can be most effective in seeing to it or facilitating that those gaps are filled.
8352 MR. WOODHEAD: Sure. So first point I think would be the telecom policy objectives are not just the CRTC’s objectives, they’re Canada’s telecom policy objectives so various actors operate under them.
8353 But even under for plain old telephone service today, there are people that are not served. There are tariffs in place to deal with construction expenses beyond the end of the networks. And the obligation on the incumbent telephone company -- because we are the only ones today that hold an obligation in respect of any of this -- require that we absorb the first $2,500 of extension and the rest is up to the subscriber. So there are places in Canada today that get -- that don’t have phone service.
8354 So that’s what I’m getting at. I wasn’t trying to be glib or sort of throw people under the bus. I’m just saying that there may always be places where the cost of serving is, even with some subsidy scheme, that will not get service.
8355 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right, okay. That’s in context because it is -- I mean, it’s a stretch for us from time to time when you’re listening at one end of the spectrum to people ---
8356 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, sure.
8357 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- who don’t understand ---
8358 MR. WOODHEAD: I wasn’t trying to be (inaudible) minded about it. I was just trying to ---
8359 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- (inaudible) service. And meanwhile, very recently we were talking about system modernization in the north, and that involved getting call display in Gjoa Haven. So there’s obviously some work to do.
8360 I too was pleased, although somewhat surprised, to hear about your pilot project in terms of that and all the other parties who are working on it. I think it’s really the first we’d heard of it, which probably goes to some of the Chairman’s remarks earlier today, but I’ll leave that to him. I wouldn’t want to prejudge.
8361 When did that start?
8362 MR. WOODHEAD: Us developing the pilot program?
8363 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah.
8364 MR. WOODHEAD: It was about three and a half years ago.
8365 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you didn’t think -- I was just curious. Like, this process is now 15 months old and there’s been a lot of affordability discussions as part of the discussions. So did you just miss it through the first couple of rounds? Because it would have been helpful. To be honest, it would have been a useful thing to talk to people about last week ---
8366 MR. WOODHEAD: Right.
8367 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: --- in terms of that.
8368 MR. WOODHEAD: I mean, as I said, we’re still working with the other parties to try and do a launch of it so I guess that was in part. And it wasn’t -- I apologize, it wasn’t an attempt to try and slip something in.
8369 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah. No, that’s fine.
8370 And you talked about Alberta and B.C. and Quebec?
8371 MR. WOODHEAD: No, we were doing it in Alberta and B.C. first.
8372 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And does it involve any discussions with the provinces of B.C. or Alberta?
8373 MR. WOODHEAD: We actually have had discussions with both provinces of Alberta and B.C. One of the key problems -- and any of these kinds of things are going to suffer the same problems is -- I think I said it’s the real problem, one of the real problems, is authentication and verification of the person at the threshold that whatever, you know, as we set it at this. It could be set somewhere else. That’s a big problem.
8374 And there are -- Canada -- there’s a national program like this in the United States, which is where incidentally we got the idea for it in the first place. But there are -- Canada has a bit of an aversion to means testing for whatever reason historically. And in the United States they don’t seem to have that. So they have a national school lunch program and it’s operated sort of using them.
8375 In Canada we don’t have any kind of national program like that that we could use to determine that this person’s family is below this income criteria. So then we went and started looking at the provinces. Then the problem I ran into was I could find similar means tested programs in the provinces but they were all different.
8376 So my objective -- and perhaps I was naïve. My objective was to have a unitary national program set on some standardized criteria that every Canadian family in a situation below the threshold would have access to the exact same thing. And whether I was naïve in that I don’t know but in retrospect, you know, I just didn’t want to have to add to the complexity of the program around setting different standards in different provinces. And it’s as simple as that, Commissioner.
8377 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah, I understand that. They’re daunting.
8378 But on that so when do you expect the pilot project to start?
8379 MR. WOODHEAD: It’s hard to say. We had hoped to announce it. Actually, we had a tentative launch date prior to the beginning of the hearing but that didn’t work out. And then the budget intervened and because there’s various departments involved in ---
8380 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, so when?
8381 MR. WOODHEAD: I would say by the end of this year.
8382 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: By the end of this year?
8383 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8384 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
8385 And I just want to follow through on my colleague’s discussion with you about adoption. This isn’t a request that you do this but this is a question. Do you think there’s any reason why industry couldn’t be a leader as well in searching for solutions for affordability?
8386 MR. WOODHEAD: No, I think we’re a relevant actor in it but I’m not sure that we can solve it entirely ourselves. Much like, you know ---
8387 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Do you think industry, I’m not saying TELUS specifically; do you think industry can be a leader in that?
8388 MR. WOODHEAD: I don’t actually understand what you mean by “leader.” A leader in what, doing what particularly?
8389 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Drive the initiative, like take the initiative and say, “Look, we need a solution to affordability. We want all the companies and all the players to work together to find it.”
8390 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, that was part of the purpose of, as I said before, of the pilot would be to try and figure out what are the drivers of this.
8391 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So the answer is yes?
8392 MR. WOODHEAD: Potentially if -- you know, I thought I explained how I saw this.
8393 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: No, I understood. I was just asking a shorter question.
8394 MR. WOODHEAD: If yes is easier ---
8395 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Is industry capable of taking the lead and helping address some of these issues --
8396 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8397 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- of adopting the --
8398 MR. WOODHEAD: That, you know ---
8399 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- Commissioner Molnar raised adoptability. I’m -- I mean affordability.
8400 MR. WOODHEAD: You’ve seen what Rogers has done. You’ve heard about what we’re doing. I think there’s other -- actually, and maybe they’ll talk about their own, others that are doing similar sorts of things. And, you know, if those are all driven by the industry without, you know, like outside of this hearing process, outside of any kind of government compulsion to do something, then I would say, yeah, that chances are good that the industry could come up with something.
8401 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. And I understood your reasoning about coming back to us eventually on it, although I just wanted -- and I’m only speaking for myself on it that, you know, you -- if people want to be kind to the poor, they don’t need to come to us for permission. There’s plenty of ---
8402 MR. WOODHEAD: But if some people -- you’ve heard from some providers last week that, you know, programs like this have a cost.
8403 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah.
8404 MR. WOODHEAD: And they may not feel, you know, it necessary for them to do it. And while a voluntary national program would be tom terrific, I’m not sure that it would necessarily end up being national in that didn’t meet my criteria for what a successful program --
8405 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Yeah. No, I get ---
8406 MR. WOODHEAD: -- looks like.
8407 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: But there’s a million different ways to do things. I mean, some of it can just be, I mean, volunteer-driven. I mean, there’s -- I can -- small scale. Anyway, I won’t get into it because it’s -- it is clearly complex. I was just ---
8408 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8409 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Great. I was just looking for your answer on whether you thought industry could be --
8410 MR. SCHMIDT: I had one ---
8411 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: -- could take on a leadership role.
8412 MR. SCHMIDT: I’d add one footnote to that, please. I mean, I -- we would probably have some competition law hesitation about providers sitting in the room talking prices that they’re going to charge to the public. But we could get shelter from some of those concerns in a process convened or encouraged by the regulators.
8413 No, I think there’s merit to pursuing the idea. But it may, in fact, benefit from some shelter where the Commission is encouraging us to go forth and develop a solution or consider options and report back to us.
8414 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand that the threat of conspiring to be charitable.
8415 MR. SCHMIDT: Unfortunately.
8416 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Ominous.
8417 That’s all from me. Thanks.
8418 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner MacDonald?
8419 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Good afternoon. Just a couple of questions and I’ll preface this by saying I have no moral objection to TELUS and its shareholders turning a profit.
8420 But I’m looking at your annual report and my first question is around we talked earlier about how government funding such as Connected to Canadians gets prioritized and through a competitive bidding process for network upgrades in specific areas. But you also invest a lot of money on an annual basis in upgrading your own network for your own subscribers.
8421 And I’m looking at your annual report last year and right above you talking about increasing your dividend you mention that you’re investing a billion dollars over the next several years in Edmonton and Vancouver to roll out a fibre optic network.
8422 Some may argue that those two communities are already reasonably well-served. So when you’re sitting around the table at headquarters, what mental gymnastics do you go through to decide we want to spend our money here versus spending those investment dollars to close existing holes in your network, such as the ones we heard about earlier today on Pilkey Point Road or Mrs. Lowell that may love to avail of your services but you’re choosing to spend $2 billion here versus relatively small amounts of money to fill in holes in your existing network?
8423 MR. WOODHEAD: I’ll let Eros start first. I can come back to the specific examples of Thetis Island and Ms. Lowell, if you want.
8424 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: And I just cited that as an example because that’s what we heard.
8425 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah. No, fair enough.
8426 MR. SPADOTTO: Commissioner, let me attempt to answer the question so, you know, in terms of trying to answer the mental gymnastics that go on in our company.
8427 And the rest of the Commissioners have already heard me kind of speak in the past about this. But we really operate under what I would call an investment ladder. And, you know, the investment ladder starts at the bottom with making sure that we fulfill our, you know, legal and regulatory obligations and then climbs on top of that into making sure that we add capacity as required to our network, and then fundamentally goes into areas that some would consider to be optional in nature. And then how do you make those decisions where they’re optional in nature?
8428 And those decisions that are optional in nature are made in a -- in the view of the competitive marketplace. We have a very able and capable competitor in the form of Shaw that we have determined that in order to stay competitive with that competitor that we will have to bring fibre to many of our communities. And it is exactly that that causes us to make those decisions.
8429 MR. WOODHEAD: And that -- if I may add because I -- and that is an exact function of a facilities-based platform competition policy. The greatest driver of these investments is this competition between different platforms.
8430 And if I could just come back to -- because you pointed out, Commissioner, the Vancouver and Edmonton announcements. Last year if you look in the report, at the end of 2015 we completed 63 fibre communities. Some of these communities are not Vancouver and -- or all of them other than Vancouver, all other 63 are not obviously Vancouver and Edmonton. And some of them are very, very modest sized towns.
8431 So I think Eros could attest that as we -- Vancouver and Edmonton was getting -- was after all of the smaller places we’ve done. So that’s -- I just wanted to say that.
8432 And then in terms of Thetis Island, we actually got Connecting Canadians funding for that. It was part of the announcement last week. That’s the good news. So the ATM architecture will be updated to IP-DSLAM.
8433 The problem for Pilkey Road though will not be solved because there is -- the loops are too long and it is also at that location is served by a submarine -- loaded submarine cable. And the combination of those two things, the cost to actually service those 60 homes would have put in jeopardy the funding to upgrade the rest.
8434 In terms of Ms. Lowell, we actually offered to provide Middle Point with fibre on the proviso that 80 percent of the community agree to each pay $500. The per home cost in that area was something -- it was several thousand dollars per home. And only 18 percent of the people there agreed. And that is, in fact, the reason why we haven’t been able to do it.
8435 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay. Thank you for that additional context.
8436 And obviously, you’re of the opinion that the current five and one speed targets are adequate. But I’m looking at your website, and I’m not saying that a 5 and 1 service isn’t there and isn’t offered, but the lowest speed I can find is internet 15. Fifteen (15) down, 1 up, which you describe as light usage, mostly email, surfing and use of social media for as a standalone product $63 a month.
8437 Do you provide a five in one package in all of your markets? Or has five in one been replaced with larger packages where you can provide a more robust service?
8438 MR. LANGDON: We offer a six meg -- one to six meg service everywhere we operate.
8439 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: And is that promoted? Like I said, I’m not saying it’s not on your website, but I couldn’t find it.
8440 MR. LANGDON: Yeah. When you go to our website you can put in your address and it’ll show you what you qualify for. You can also go into our sales channels or phone our call centre and they’ll work you through that to get you the best available plan that meets your needs.
8441 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: So that package is available across your network?
8442 MR. LANGDON: You can order it today.
8443 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay. Perfect. Thank you.
8444 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’re cutting to the end. So just a few more questions. And I’ll shuffle them around because I think we may be losing our interpreters soon, but there are questions that may be of interest to the deaf community.
8445 Earlier you said you had a $15 discount for voice. What's the $15 discount, on what?
8446 MR. WOODHEAD: The monthly plan.
8447 THE CHAIRPERSON: Which is? Of how much?
8448 MR. WOODHEAD: I'm not sure. I don't know if -- Chris, do you know?
8449 MR. LANGDON: Yeah, we generally sell them as combined voice and data plans, so you can get $75 plans, so it would take you down to 60 or so, which approximates a data-only configuration.
8450 THE CHAIRPERSON: And is that $15 based on metrics that what would be a normal, standard voice versus data mix, or why did you just choose $15?
8451 MR. LANGDON: Yeah, it's competitive so we look at whenever we set prices, it's done on a competitive sort of context, so we look what's out there and that's approximated.
8452 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, I'm not sure competitive is relevant in this case. It is a group of people that really don't use voice. One would think that you would logically and rationally look at what the normal usage of voice would be and say, "Well, these folks don’t use it; therefore, we discount it."
8453 MR. LANGDON: I’m sorry, is that your ---
8454 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why do you mention that it's a competitive issue? It's ---
8455 MR. LANDGON: Oh, not a -- so when we look at benchmark pricing, it's obviously done looking across carriers, and when we look at voice plans, like, on prepaid, it looks like it's about $15. That would be our determination and that's the discount.
8456 Could you help me?
8457 MR. WOODHEAD: The only -- I'm not sure I can. The only other possibility here is that there could be competitive data only plans that we're basing that off of.
8458 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you undertake to actually explain how you got to $15?
8459 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8461 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
8462 Do any of your customer service reps have the ability to serve the community, the deaf community in ASL or LSQ?
8463 MR. LANGDON: No, only through TTY.
8464 THE CHAIRPERSON: And is that through an attempt that has failed or you just haven't thought about it?
8465 MR. LANGDON: We have -- certainly, when we think of needs of constituents, it's always something we take into consideration. At this point, we haven't delivered that sort of service.
8466 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why not?
8467 MR. AUDET: But if I may, at TELUS Quebec we looked at it, and it was very too complex, because there are different languages and ---
8468 LE PRÉSIDENT: Si vous voulez, vous pouvez parler en français vous savez.
8469 M. AUDET: Oui, c'est plus facile pour moi effectivement.
8470 Lorsqu’on l’a regardé, y avait plusieurs enjeux. Le premier c'est on doit trouver des traducteurs qui parlent les différents langages parce qu’y en a différents à ce qu’on nous a dit lorsqu’on a rencontré les associations.
8471 Deuxièmement, c'est que y a une question -- y va avoir des fois des appels simultanés. Alors, comment on fait pour garder en tout temps un nombre suffisant des personnes qui peuvent faire de la traduction pour un très petit volume d’appels, alors que présentement on a un système qui est un système, comme vous le savez là, qui envoie du texte et qui fonctionne, si bien que la complexité de mettre ça en place était trop grande pour nous.
8472 MR. WOODHEAD: If I may, Mr. Chair, just to clarify what Mr. Langdon said, I -- we certainly are not using IP relay to do any of this yet, but there may well be people in our stores who actually sign, can sign, but it, you know, it's not -- I -- because somebody had mentioned on one of ---
8473 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you're not aware of them?
8474 MR. WOODHEAD: No, sir.
8475 THE CHAIRPERSON: I would have thought that would have been a competitive advantage, at least for a large portion of the Canadian population that might say, "Well, TELUS, great. They do that for us. Let's all, as a community, recognize that TELUS is doing good things."
8476 MR. WOODHEAD: It may well be.
8477 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you haven't thought about it yet?
8478 MR. WOODHEAD: No, sir.
8479 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps this is an occasion to start the reflection.
8480 MR. WOODHEAD: Perhaps it is.
8481 THE CHAIRPERSON: Let me now turn to -- c'est une question pour la réalité. Nous savons que TELUS Québec a un historique à l’intérieur de la société TELUS plus large qui est un peu différente et puis évidemment le territoire est particulier. Et lors des questions de mes collègues, vous avez mentionné de temps en temps des spécificités par rapport à votre modèle. Je voulais vous poser la question d’une façon plus large.
8482 Est-ce qu’il y a d’autres spécificités par rapport aux autres enjeux auxquels on devrait être conscient par rapport à TELUS Québec?
8483 M. AUDET: Je vous dirais que du côté du territoire qu’on dessert, un élément qui est intéressant, si on exclut les communautés qui sont très isolées comme celle de la Basse-Côte-Nord ou de l’Île d’Anticosti pour lesquelles y a pas d’accès routier, la très grande majorité des villages -- des villes et villages sont couverts. Donc les personnes qui ne sont pas couvertes sont la majorité du temps sur des routes rurales comme j’expliquais tantôt, d’où la complexité pour nous d’aller avec des services du type qu’on offre présentement.
8484 Et c'est pour ça que la confiance qu’on a envers les programmes comme Industrie Canada du côté des villages, des communautés, y en reste à peu près je pense juste trois à quatre qui sont pas couverts.
8485 Et comme on le disait tantôt, lors des différents appels d’offres, on a soumis des candidatures pour ces communautés-là mais la nôtre n’a pas été retenue. Donc ça sera à -- y a toujours une question de coûts dans nos soumissions ici bien sûr et dans le cas de la Basse-Côte-Nord et d’Anticosti, ben les coûts étaient vraiment très grands. Y avait de l’écoute du côté des gouvernements mais vous comprendrez que les coûts encore une fois par « home passed » étaient faramineux. Donc pour l’instant ces projets-là ont été mis sur la glace.
8486 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais en terme de l’analyse des modèles économiques, les technologies, c'est la même approche partout dans la compagnie?
8487 M. AUDET: Tout à fait, c'est la même approche. Vous allez remarquer des fois au niveau des tarifs qu’y a des distinctions mais le principe demeure le même.
8488 Les distinctions sont dues au fait que la compétition est différente et elle est complexe du côté de TELUS Québec parce qu’on est en compétition avec Vidéotron, Cogeco, des petits câblots locaux comme DERYtelecom, plusieurs aussi petits joueurs qui se sont lancés du côté des services via Wimax, et bien sûr Barrett Xplore, ce qui fait que c'est ça qui est intéressant.
8489 Dans l'est du Québec, je vous dirais qu’y a une très belle approche au niveau de la compétitivité des prix. Donc les gens bénéficient vraiment des tarifs. Comme on est compétitif contre Vidéotron avec leurs prix qu’on regarde à Montréal, alors l’est du Québec est très compétitif.
8490 Le principal enjeu qu’on va avoir au cours des prochaines années c'est bien sûr d'étendre ces services-là à tout le monde, comme on le disait tantôt, et nos tarifs doivent tenir compte de la réalité du Québec. Alors, c'est pas les mêmes qu’en Alberta et au B.-C., mais le principe est le même à savoir que nos tarifs les plus bas habituellement vont avoir moins de vitesse et moins de capacité et les utilisateurs qui mettent plus de pression sur le réseau vont avoir des tarifs plus élevés. Et à ce moment-là, c'est le mixte-là de regarder qu’est-ce qui dans notre marché est le plus attractif. Est-ce que c'est la capacité ou la vitesse?
8491 Mais c'est le même principe. Un utilisateur qui est lourd sur le réseau paye plus cher qu’un utilisateur qui est petit sur le réseau, et ça c'est -- quand vous regardez les utilisateurs lourds d’à peu près toutes les compagnies, on est à peu près au même prix finalement lorsqu’on arrive dans le haut de la pyramide.
8492 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps I can turn now to the programs that we've discussed, the past ones and the future ones, Connecting Canadians, that exist.
8493 I take it that the new terms and conditions for the new program are not known; is that correct?
8494 MR. WOODHED: No. Oh, sorry, yes, that is correct.
8495 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, okay. So we don’t know them yes, okay.
8496 And -- but we do know the terms and conditions of the previous programs?
8497 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8498 THE CHAIRPERSON: To my knowledge, they're not on the public record, those terms and conditions?
8499 MR WOODHEAD: I don't think they are, no.
8500 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would it be possible for you to actually put them onto a public record?
8501 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, we have, yes. When you say terms and conditions ---
8502 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm sure that behind the terms and conditions that are public of any government -- federal Government of Canada's ---
8503 MR. WOODHEAD: The memoranda of understanding?
8504 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, so it's -- but there must be a program you apply to?
8505 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, there's an application form ---
8506 THE CHAIRPERSON: Which sets out criteria and considerations? I'm talking about the general, not your specific agreements.
8507 And presumably behind that there is a -- probably a memorandum to Cabinet and probably a submission to the Treasury Board Secretariat, but you would not have access to that, so I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for the public ---
8508 MR. WOODHEAD: There all of those things, but I don’t have any of those.
8509 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, of course.
8510 Do you know if it's -- would you describe -- there's two types of general government grants and contribution programs. Well, first of all, is it a grant or is it a contribution?
8511 MR. WOODHEAD: It's a contribution.
8512 THE CHAIRPERSON: And is it based, the criteria, on a formulaic application or is it a selective program?
8513 MR. WOODHEAD: I'm not certain I understand the difference in these things.
8514 THE CHAIRPERSON: For instance, the Canada Media Fund, based on certain formula, you're entitled to a percentage of an envelope; that's one thing. There are other programs that a decision and discretion must be ---
8515 MR. WOODHEAD: There's discretion.
8516 THE CHAIRPERSON: So it's a selective program ---
8517 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8518 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- based on ---
8519 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8520 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- probably a competitive entry that several -- you apply and ---
8521 MR. WOODHEAD: As I described, the -- whoever can basically serve the biggest number of homes at possibly the cheapest cost.
8522 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, but somebody applies a discretion because it’s not a formula based.
8523 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8524 THE CHAIRPERSON: To your knowledge, where is that discretion exercised? For grants and contribution programs, it’s possible -- I noticed for instance in La Presse recently de Mme Joly, made a very wise decision of making sure grants and contributions at certain levels are exercised at a lower level. It has the advantage of reducing administrative costs for grants and contributions and, as well, ensures that there is less risk of political interference in decisions.
8525 So what is your understanding of the “Connecting Canadians” program? Is it one that is administered at the director -- DG Adm level or is it one that requires a ministerial distribution?
8526 MR. WOODHEAD: I personally have met with the DG and the director, and I don’t believe there’s an Adm responsible solely for that program. But there would be -- it’s probably the Adm of Telecom Policy, I believe.
8527 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, but I’m asking where the decision point is, to your knowledge; do you know?
8528 MR. WOODHEAD: I think -- no. I believe they make recommendations and those recommendations might be made to the minister’s office, but that’s my total speculation.
8529 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, we’ll take it as just total speculation at this point. I thought perhaps you knew.
8530 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m happy to find out but ---
8531 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, perhaps somebody else will be able to add to our record down the road.
8532 I would like to share with you what we’ll call Exhibit 4, CRTC Exhibit 4. So the secretary is going to give it to you.
8533 And essentially, as you can see -- Mr. Woodhead, you get a lot of things thrown at you today but you know, in another life, you used to work for me. So I know you are able to absorb it.
8534 So Exhibit 4 tries to set out some prices of residential broadband internet access services. Granted, it’s based on 2014 information and it’s focusing on 24 urban centres across Canada.
8535 You’ll see behind -- next to each name of the cities there is a number there, which represents our understanding of the number of service providers in those particular cities, as we understood it in 2014.
8536 Now, I did hear your testimony earlier, which suggests that maybe our pricing information may be inaccurate in terms of your lowest available price. But you’ll see in the blue there, it’s the lowest price and then there are variances for highest to lowest.
8537 And I was wondering if, based on this document, you would agree with me that there seems to be an uneven distribution across the country.
8538 MR. WOODHEAD: I’m sorry, could you repeat the last bit there?
8539 THE CHAIRPERSON: That if you look in the various regions, there seems to be similarity in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton. Then, there’s another bundle of -- I’m not even sure if these are similar; there’s Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
8540 Then, there’s a lot of commonality from Hamilton to Windsor; and another bundle of Montreal and Quebec.
8541 And then, there’s the Atlantic Provinces, yes, Atlantic, I said it right; and then, there’s the North.
8542 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8543 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you agree with me that there’s actually quite a variance from one place to the next?
8544 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I think there is until you get to -- there is not -- to the -- not. I mean, I suppose, quite a variance -- there’s quite a variance between Iqaluit and Vancouver, yes.
8545 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, but I was subdividing them. Obviously, there’s something going in Iqaluit that’s quite different. We’ve spent some time at the hearing on that. Let’s put that aside, and maybe Yellowknife and Whitehorse as well.
8546 But for the rest, there seems to be considerable variation, if nothing else, between the West and the Atlantic Provinces.
8547 Does that surprise you as an outcome? Should there be that much variation across the country?
8548 MR. WOODHEAD: Not necessarily. I mean, it could be -- it could be density. It could be cost. It could be all kinds of things.
8549 I -- I must say I’m not -- I’m not really familiar -- I mean, I’m familiar geographically and I’ve been to these places, but I’m not familiar with the sort of structure in the Atlantic Provinces and why those might vary so much from the rest in terms of the lowest and the highest.
8550 But the other -- until you get to the Maritimes, it looks fairly -- fairly consistent to me.
8551 THE CHAIRPERSON: You consider 49 -- sorry, 25, 27 -- I mean, these are -- these are without taxes, I believe, too.
8552 MR. WOODHEAD: Oh, sorry, are you asking me the variations between highest and lowest price ---
8553 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, both the lowest and the highest. There seems to be quite a diversity of -- in the blue boxes as well as in the red boxes.
8554 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I mean I guess it depends on what -- and I’m not trying to be difficult -- it depends on what you view as a significant diversity.
8555 I mean, I don’t particularly view pricing between 25 and $30 to be -- and there’s -- many in the lower tier there are now 25 and 50. But again, I don’t -- you know, Saskatoon ---
8556 THE CHAIRPERSON: It may make a considerable difference, $5 a month, on somebody who is in the low end of the affordability spectrum. Would you not agree?
8557 MR. WOODHEAD: It may.
8558 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
8559 You’ve just ---
8560 MR. WOODHEAD: That’s with any other service.
8561 THE CHAIRPERSON: Absolutely. I take your point with that.
8562 Now that you’ve just gotten this, so perhaps you would be willing to take an undertaking to do a more deep analysis of this exhibit and extrapolate from it what it teaches us, if anything, in terms of setting a future looking “blueprint”, to use your word, if anything? Perhaps you think that it is not probative at all.
8563 MR. WOODHEAD: What it tells me is there’s a problem in Iqaluit, just off the top of my head but ---
8564 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes. Well, I think we’ve all figured that one out already.
8565 You mentioned in your -- but would you be able to do that undertaking?
8566 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes.
8568 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
8569 You mentioned in your presentation tax policy. Now, if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Woodhead, you are more responsible for federal government relations?
8570 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8571 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your company, is there somebody who is specifically responsible for provincial government relations or is that distributed or how is that ---
8572 MR. WOODHEAD: It’s distributed.
8573 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So in light of that double responsibility, could you help me understand if anybody in your organization, whether you or other members of leadership, have advocated privately or even publicly for tax policy to specifically address the affordability concerns we’ve heard about low income Canadians?
8574 MR. WOODHEAD: Tax policy changes to deal with affordability?
8575 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
8576 MR. WOODHEAD: Beyond my dealings with CRA on the program to try and see if there was a way that we could, you know, have the information transferred to another government department about who might qualify for child -- Canada child benefit, no.
8577 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, because there are pre-budget consultations that occur federally and in a number of provinces as well. And I was wondering if you thought -- because you’ve advocated for it.
8578 MR. WOODHEAD: We advocated for an accelerated capital cost allowance in the pre-budget consultation.
8579 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. I’m talking about affordability here.
8580 MR. WOODHEAD: Well, I mean, if ---
8581 THE CHAIRPERSON: In terms of your specific ---
8582 MR. WOODHEAD: If the -- if the service, if the service can be made cheaper as a result of that, that actually probably ---
8583 THE CHAIRPERSON: As a trickle-down to -- but I was specifically asking for low income and more vulnerable, you have no ---
8584 MR. WOODHEAD: No, Mr. Chairman.
8585 THE CHAIRPERSON: Commissioner Molnar asked you to -- because again, we perhaps surprised you with a change of direction that maybe address what she described as -- what you described as a “blueprint” for the future. You know, there are different words to talk about a bigger picture, collaborative approach to a number of issues.
8586 And then you talked about what kinds of initiatives the industry could lead or not lead.
8587 I often think of sometimes -- and you mentioned the discoverability summit. And I described that as being the Commission using its convening power.
8588 And I appreciate there may be some legal considerations, although if you want me to invite Mr. Peckman to protect you from any accusations I’m more than happy to do that if we are the convening power.
8589 But I was wondering, when you give that answer of potential specific actions you of course can think about the Commission or other government entities using their convening power. But I invite you as well to consider other using, for instance, the private sector, using their convening power.
8590 MR. WOODHEAD: And as you’ll recall, before Commissioner Molnar turned it around on me, the way I started that actual answer was to say that the Commission could call for a cross-departmental that could even include the industry. And then we went at it the other way but either way works. But yes, I undertake to provide that.
8591 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Well, the reality is that this is not cross-examination. It’s an exchange. And that allows you to reposition your answers.
8592 MR. WOODHEAD: Oh, I was just getting dizzy.
8593 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah. So and again, when you -- and maybe you want to start addressing the point of blueprint and, you know, where do we want to get. I, perhaps with my public policy background, but I tend to talk about outcomes. What outcomes would we want in a collaborative model that I set out earlier today just before the lunch break?
8594 MR. WOODHEAD: To be honest with you, I don’t know. And the reason I don’t know is because I think it will depend to a great extent on what your findings and determinations are in this hearing in terms of the context of what is a very broad area of ground that you have covered here.
8595 THE CHAIRPERSON: You see, I would have thought it’s the other way around. That when you set large national objectives you start off defining the outcomes and then you -- which is the strategy -- and then you define specific actions required. But you actually have to figure out what the outcome is and then work backwards.
8596 MR. WOODHEAD: See, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it that let’s see what the evidence says and is there a problem?
8597 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, granted.
8598 MR. WOODHEAD: Don’t presume an outcome.
8599 THE CHAIRPERSON: I take your point. But you have to do an analysis of strengths and weaknesses and all that.
8600 But given all that, once you’ve done your environmental scanning and your assessment of the current state and the capacity, one normally then sets okay this is our goal, this is what we’re trying to achieve.
8601 MR. WOODHEAD: Okay.
8602 THE CHAIRPERSON: And then you take specific actions to achieve that over a period of time, and the actions could involve, you know, a basket of initiatives from convening to spend to tax policy to a variety of things.
8603 MR. WOODHEAD: Right. Okay, so ---
8604 THE CHAIRPERSON: (Inaudible) a bit too big a question at 5:23 after a long day.
8605 MR. WOODHEAD: No, not at all. Not at all.
8606 The one example that I would give you in here is around this program that we’ve had little conversations with various Commissioners about. To me I had an outcome in mind of that program, or we did, TELUS did. And because it appeared to me that it would -- the evidence seemed to show that there were a variety of drivers. We just don’t know which ones are which and which ones are the most effective so that was an outcome.
8607 But by the same token, and it kind of goes to where we were having this conversation, our view and my view is that broadband actually -- the state of broadband in this country, is quite good and that prices for most people are reasonable. Others may disagree of course but ---
8608 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that’s what these processes are about.
8609 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8610 THE CHAIRPERSON: But based on your understanding and your analysis I think we would benefit from your take on the blueprint, to use your words.
8611 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah, absolutely.
8612 THE CHAIRPERSON: And what the objective is.
8613 MR. WOODHEAD: I think I already took an undertaking but I’ll take another one to do that.
8614 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, it’s -- I’m just building on that. I’m building on that undertaking that ---
8615 MR. WOODHEAD: Yes, I already gave.
8616 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I know that. But what I’m asking you to specifically address on top of what you already discussed with Commissioner Molnar is what are the outcomes?
8617 MR. WOODHEAD: M’hm.
8618 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not the CRTC outcomes but the national outcomes ---
8619 MR. WOODHEAD: What are the things that are for the common good and of public benefit?
8620 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
8621 MR. WOODHEAD: Yeah.
8622 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, and I have against private good either. I mean, those -- we do live in a open market society so that’s not a bad thing. So if you could think about what are we trying to achieve over “X” period of time. And that might be a richer way and then talk ---
8623 MR. WOODHEAD: And that’s an important ---
8624 THE CHAIRPERSON: Based on your ---
8625 MR. WOODHEAD: That’s an important addition to time scale because ---
8626 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah.
8627 MR. WOODHEAD: --- what can be accomplished in a year is different than what can be accomplished in ---
8628 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Because if we had followed through to solving child poverty in this country over 10 years we would have done it already, which we haven’t, right, so ---
8629 MR. WOODHEAD: Correct.
8630 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- we have to be realistic and pragmatic as well.
8631 Those were my questions. I’m looking over to legal. Lucky for you you do not have questions from legal after being on the stand for that period of time. So thank you very much.
8632 That completes our questions.
8633 MR. WOODHEAD: Thank you.
8634 THE CHAIRPERSON: Much appreciated.
8635 Thank you. So we’re adjourned until 9:00 o’clock tomorrow morning.
8636 Nous sommes en ajournement jusqu’à 9h00 demain matin. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 5:27 p.m.
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