Transcript, Hearing April 19, 2016
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Date: April 19, 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 Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 9:02 a.m.
8637 LE PRÉSIDENT: Good morning, everyone. Just a reminder as I did yesterday that we are having signed interpretation. So take that into consideration and make sure that we don’t lose the ability for people to follow our conversations here.
8638 So, Madam Secretary.
8639 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
8640 We’ll now hear the presentation of the Canadian Hearing Society. Please introduce yourself and your colleague, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
8641 MR. MALKOWSKI: Good morning Chairperson, Commissioners, legal staff, visitors. And thank you for inviting us for this opportunity to present.
8642 The purpose of our presentation is to first give you an overview of deaf people, people who are hard of hearing or have a hearing loss, to give you statistics, to give you an explanation of various kinds of captioning, to demonstrate a video telephone caption service, and to provide our recommendations specifically for basic services such as caption phone services, VRS, affordable data plans across Canada, and accurate high quality online captioning.
8643 Speaking to statistics in general, according to the 2015 stats from Stats Can the aging population is increasing and so is the population of aging seniors with hearing loss. Between the ages of 70 and 79, 65 percent of that age group have a hearing loss.
8644 In general, Canada and the U.S. have similar studies for young people. One in five have a hearing loss, mostly because of loud noises, music in particular, using headphones. It’s one of the fastest growing reasons for hearing loss. That’s one in five young people; 19.2 percent of Canadians between the ages of 20 and 79 have a hearing loss in at least one ear.
8645 In general, the population tends to use text more than they use phone. There seems to be quite an increased use in text. And that’s great. People with hearing loss are also using more text but they’re also using more captioned telephone services, especially in the United States.
8646 Hard of hearing people tend to watch video with captions; that is increasing. For the deaf, the tendency is to use more videos such as FaceTime, Skype, YouTube, VRS. Text is increasing as well. But there’s use of course of the TTY.
8647 In terms of the benefits of captioning to improve understanding, there’s a great benefit to captioning. It helps in communicating your message to the culturally deaf, hard of hearing, oral deaf, and deafened. And new Canadians or people who are just learning English can follow captions. People with learning disabilities or other disabilities can also benefit from captions. And it also helps in complicated ideas. If you’re not familiar with a vocabulary in hearing it you can see the captioned words.
8648 Universal design makes sure that captions should be available anywhere. For example, public spaces like an elevator to have a captioned message screen. In waiting rooms you might have a TV screen with messages. In cafeterias, noisy bars, or restaurants, more and more people are watching for the captioned message. Online courses, meetings, or other information that you might get through video is increasing.
8649 Live streaming in classrooms with captioning is increasing. Also, public announcement systems. For example, in the subway we have captions, public announcements. Every TV in many cafeterias and restaurants are showing more and more captions.
8650 There are two different kinds of captions. One, live captions; two, pre-recorded media captioning. Live captions include CART, the CART service, on site or remote; either one. From speech to text on the CART you’ll see it real time. You’ll see it for TV, movies, announcements, meetings.
8651 Something has disappeared off my computer screen.
8652 --- (A short pause/Courte pause)
8653 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: He can continue; I’ll set it up.
8654 MR. MALKOWSKI: Can we wait until we get the technical support?
8655 THE CHAIRPERSON: If that’s your preference, yes. We have time.
8656 UNKNOWN SPEAKER: The clock is not running.
8657 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, don’t worry, we’re not counting this against your allotted time.
8658 MR. MALKOWSKI: Okay.
--- (SHORT PAUSE)
8659 All right, thank you for your patience with our technical difficulties. We’re back on now.
8660 So there are two different kinds of captions.
8661 First is the live captioning and the second is the pre-recorded media captioning.
8662 Live captioning tends to be the CART service, onsite, and you can see it on the screen, or from a remote location and you see it on the same screen.
8663 You can use it in a meeting room, for TV movies, classrooms, announcements; those kinds of things use that type of captioning.
8664 For pre-recorded, you can have closed or open captions and it's for pre-recorded scripts; for example, YouTube, DVDs, those sorts of things.
8665 Quality is very important. High quality is our number one importance in terms of priority. Live broadcasts online, meetings, et cetera are at --disadvantage people who are watching. Webinars online do not meet the WGCAG 2.0, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
8666 MS. BAINE: Online auto captioning services are often inaccurate, and inaccurate captioning leads to misinformation, misrepresentation, and in some cases, can be done in an offensive and ridiculing manner.
8667 We have compiled three examples today to demonstrate firsthand how captioning inaccuracies lead to misinformation.
8668 On a YouTube video, for a meeting an Art Gallery on Ontario artist-in-residence, Jérôme Havre, he's referring to, in a French accent, all of this big shapes and it was unfortunately, captioned into, "own this pig," which was a bit of a ridiculing caption.
8669 Three years ago, on April 15th, 2013, the Boston Marathon bomber, his real name is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and unfortunately, it was inaccurately captioned to read as "Zooey Deschanel", who is a celebrity and musical artist.
8670 And then finally, we have an example of the formal -- former leader of the Liberal Party, Dalton McGuinty introducing himself as Dolphin McGuinty.
8671 MR. MALKOWSKI: The CRTC, in reference to today's technology -- you need to update your approach to meet the needs of the community and improve the technology. Canada is far behind compared to the United States in terms of technology development for captioning.
8672 There's a Captioning Act in the United States. There isn't one in Canada. The legislation doesn’t exist yet.
8673 It's a telecommunication technology that has really taken off in the United States. They have next generation 9-1-1; they have captioning as required; they have a Disability Rights Office; they have staff who are deaf and hard of hearing and other persons with disabilities who are involved in the FCC, and that's because of the legislation. And it has increased the technology.
8674 In Canada, we are still using Voice Carryover, which is out-of-date technology. The hardware is becoming obsolet. The federal -- the FCC has already approved captioned phone services in the United States. It's been in existence since 2003.
8675 MS. BAINE: So currently in Canada, people with hearing loss have very great difficulty communicating over the phone. This does lead to isolation and loneliness. You'll notice people are slowly disconnecting from their friends and family. This leads to a lack of independence, unfair for the individual as well as family, friends, and caregivers.
8676 And it becomes a matter of -- an issue of safety, so what if there's a medical emergency? What if there's a break-in and they're unable to communicate without going through a slower service such as the Voice Carryover and having to connect with an operator?
8677 The captioned telephone service that we're proposing allows people who are hard of hearing to easily and independently place and receive calls.
8678 As you know, Canada will be implementing the Video Relay Service in the fall of this year and this service will provide telecommunication access to deaf individuals.
8679 Captioned Telephone Service is the equivalent of the VRS; however, CTS provides telecommunication access to hard of hearing, oral deaf, and deafened individuals.
8680 So how does the captioned telephone work? It's quite simple. It works with a standard telephone; however, in addition to the incoming audio, users are able to read what is being said in real time.
8681 Connection requirements are simple, simply a phone line and a high speed internet connection, and once in use, the phone is automatically connected behind the scenes to a caption service, which provides the captions using a speech recognition software. There is also a live operator who is going to be correcting any errors that are taking place.
8682 We'd like to do for you a live demonstration of how the captioned telephone service works so you're able to see. And we'll just zoom in on that.
8683 (DEMONSTRATION OF A CAPTIONING PROGRAM FOR THE DEAF VIA TELEPHONE)
8684 Hi Alex, this is Melanie calling. How are you?
8685 I'm good thanks, how are you?
8686 Oh, well, I'm sorry to have missed that and I'm definitely going to be joining you on the next adventure. So I'll be calling you later on and we can set up another date.
8687 Great, thanks, Alex. I'll talk to you soon. Bye.
8688 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just for the purpose of the transcript, let me describe what happened so that later on we have a good record of that, because those of us in the room may have seen it and those watching live, but it won't be in the transcript.
8689 So we could see the person you were conversing with. We could see what they were "saying" through the captioned text and we could see that on the screen and of course, on the transcript, we heard you responding, so that -- I don’t need to go through that. So thank you.
8690 MS. BAINE: Yes, and just to reiterate, so currently right now with the VCO service, what you have to do is pick up the phone, dial the 1-800 number, ask to be connected to the caller. So it's a bit of a process, and you're well aware that there is an operator, a third party, on the line. And you're kind of missing that personal aspect of the phone call.
8691 So with the automated captioning service that's behind the scenes, it's virtually invisible and it really helps engage the phone calls and just make it how it should be.
8692 MR. MALKOWSKI: The CRTC needs to consider including basic essential telecommunication services such as the following: Video Relay Services; captioned telephone services, as Melanie just demonstrated; affordable internet access to various -- to carry video data; an option to substitute your voice minutes into data so that deaf and hard of hearing people are not paying for unused voice minutes. Internet access needs to be available to the same degree in all areas of Canada. They should be capable to have -- handle video data usage. For example, as you know, VRS is coming. A mobile device has a limited data plan and so the maximum usage for video will obviously go over and we’ll be paying more. Deaf people tend to use the video and the data there is going to cost them more.
8693 There needs to be universal standards for video and captioning platforms. For example, voice on phone -- all phones, no matter what type, are compatible with phones. Your BlackBerry can phone an iPhone. They’re compatible.
8694 For video, the iPhone is not compatible to a BlackBerry. They’re just not compatible. The BlackBerry is not compatible with FaceTime. FaceTime is not compatible with Skype. You have to have Skype to skype to be compatible. FaceTime to FaceTime. But FaceTime does not -- is not compatible with Skype. A Samsung device, an android device, for example, they’re not compatible amongst themselves perhaps.
8695 So I think we should have a universal platform to make, regardless of your device, compatible so that FaceTime and Skype can be compatible to each other regardless.
8696 The platform, there is not universal captioning as well. Voice has that. So we should -- you should consider having signed video and captioned compatible platform.
8697 Professional and accurate captioning online is very important. For example, a webcast, live news. Remember the attack on Parliament Hill. There was live news. Everybody heard it but it wasn’t captioned. Ottawa was shut down and we didn’t know what was going on. There was no information.
8698 Live news tends not to be captioned. They tend to add captions later. But we should have live captioning.
8699 Internet based video should be live captioned. Public announcement systems should have live captions. If there’s an emergency happening it should be captioned. It should be there.
8700 And sign for emergency announcements. That’s something we’re going to discuss at a further meeting when you talk about the topic of 9-1-1.
8701 Again, I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to present this morning.
8702 MS. BAINE: Thank you.
8703 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you very much. I’ll put you in the hands of Vice-Chairman Menzies to start off the questions.
8704 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you for your presentation. I’ve just changed my mind about the questions I’m going to ask so.
8705 I mean, I’d like to go through your recommendations, if we can, starting with video relay service.
8706 So I want -- what I’d like to know is what difference it would make making video relay service a basic telecommunication service as opposed to where it is right now, where it’s intended to be universally available where internet -- where the internet service can provide for it. Why do we need to do more than we’ve done already?
8707 MR. MALKOWSKI: It’s important to recognize persons who are deaf and hard of hearing who use sign language, but also persons who do not speak but who are non-verbal but and also use sign.
8708 There are many hearing children of deaf parents to -- who need to communicate with their parents. There’s an increased number of hearing babies who are using sign. There are more people in general who are interested in using sign. Persons who’d like to become interpreters. ASL English or LSQ French, there’s an increasing number. The technology is available.
8709 And so it’s important to have access to communication. It’s a Human Rights Act legal obligation for accessibility. And as the endorsement of the United Nations Declaration for Persons with Disabilities, we need to recognize people who are deaf, who need VRS through sign. They need relay. They need faster, comfortable service.
8710 As you know, TTYs are very slow. It’s very time consuming. We need to be compatible with technology. VRS is going to be a benefit for all Canadians.
8711 Hearing people who want to communicate with the deaf, it will open more doors. It will increase functional equality.
8712 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. What I was trying to get at was -- I understand all that. What I was trying to get at was why we need to do -- I mean, we’ve already got VRS on the way. And as the decision stated, it was for the benefit of all Canadians, not just so that people using sign could talk to each other and their family, but so that all the rest of us could connect to that world too.
8713 But what I don’t understand is why we would have to create -- whether it would -- I don’t understand what difference it would make if we made it part of basic telecommunication service.
8714 I understand its benefits, for sure. But I don’t understand what more you’re asking for.
8715 MR. MALKOWSKI: VRS and captioned telephone services should be together. They are basic services. The video -- VRS is life and death issue in many ways. Communication is very important to your everyday life. Relative to employment it’s essential to have VRS.
8716 Captioned telephone services are also very important and they’re not available in Canada. We should give those two as options as the basic telecommunication service.
8717 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you.
8718 On the captioned telephone service, I am trying to understand why that is necessary if we have VRS and if -- and many people have cell phone connectivity. The number of land lines in the country is in steady decline. I think there’s about 10 million of them and there’s 27 million cell phone subscribers. What does captioned telephone services bring that texting doesn’t?
8719 MR. MALKOWSKI: For immediate communication in an emergency situation, the CTS, caption television -- telephone service is -- makes it more comfortable to deal with a crisis, suicide crisis, counselling management issues. For quick communication that’s important and would work. Aboriginal population, for example, with hearing losses, they need mental health prevention services. Any population, in fact, needs to be able to communicate immediately.
8720 We have to recognize persons who are deaf and hard of hearing, who are deaf and oral, they have very different communication needs to those who use sign language. It's people who use sign language who will be using VRS.
8721 On the portable device, of course you can read the captioned -- you can -- it's compatible with the captioned telephone service or VRS. So your mobile device will be able to use both and I think for the whole population, we need to have both. We have VRS and the captioned telephone service. It will reduce frustration, reduce the time consumption as well.
8722 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
8723 Do you have any data on whether that's a significant cost or not? There's about $50 million I think was set aside for VRS and I'm just trying to get a sense of where captioned telephone services fit into that or whether it's just the availability of the phone or obviously the system.
8724 MR. MALKOWSKI: We need to -- we have a feasibility study for VRS. We have that but we don’t have any information relative to the feasibility study for the captioned telephone service. We would need to find out more information through the CTS cost, the actual American cost for running that service.
8725 We should possibly establish a feasibility study to find out the exact cost of the CTS. We don’t have specific data to answer your question. I would be happy to get that information and respond later.
8726 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. If you would undertake to do that and follow up with us by May 5th, we'd appreciate that.
8728 MR. MALKOWSKI: I will do that certainly.
8729 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thanks.
8730 When you say affordable internet access, you're referring to being able to carry video data.
8731 What do you see as -- how do you define affordability?
8732 MR. MALKOWSKI: I’ll give you an example. Access to the IP relay service, you have to have a landline. So in order to set up an account, you have to pay and you're paying for your landline and you're paying for your mobile device because they won't recognize and accept your mobile phone number. You have to have the landline. So you're paying more.
8733 High-speed internet options, for example, there's the video data cost that's higher, the memory data. And the unused voice service, you're still charged for that.
8734 Bell Canada, Rogers, TELUS, they have a package and the cost is high. You have to make sure that it's affordable. The memory, the data, is the biggest problem. It's a huge usage for video to use your data.
8735 If you want equivalent information, voice uses a little width, somewhat comparable to text, but the same message in video is a much higher cost for the same message and deaf people are using the video. So it means there's a much larger usage of data.
8736 As you know all of course, VRS is coming soon. People will use their mobile devices for that and the cost is going to increase. It's going to be more for them to use it.
8737 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Let me ask it this way. TELUS referred to a $15 adjustment that they make for qualifying individuals regarding accessibility issues.
8738 Do you think that's appropriate?
8739 MR. MALKOWSKI: If you look at it in study Deaf Wireless Canada report, in that report, the research survey gathered is good. I support what they found.
8740 I have seen many clients who come and use our CHS services, interpreting mental health services, employment services, and they are all very frustrated with the high usage -- the high cost and $15 is really not comparable. It's going to cost a lot more. I think data usage will be a lot more than $15 would compensate.
8741 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. The next question, you suggested that basic speed levels should be 15 down and 15 up. That's not the same as but it's consistent with other representations.
8742 TELUS yesterday said they would get back to us but that they felt those sorts of upload speeds were not feasible I guess. I'm putting words in their mouth but that's the way I understood it.
8743 Why do you think those sorts of upload speeds are necessary?
8744 MR. MALKOWSKI: According to the research in general, it says that the best quality of video you will notice sometimes there's a bit of a blur depending on your WiFi, depending on traffic, depending on the quality. You know, sometimes you’ll get the little fade in and out, the jitter.
8745 We use a call centre. We use VRI and their recommendation is that to have their technology work well, the 15/15 is the best. We could go with 10/10. The quality is still good but truly the best for people who are visual, who need to see a very clear image, the 15/15. Ten/ten (10/10) would be an average. That would be okay but if you want the best with the less interference, then the 15/15 is what we recommend.
8746 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
8747 I'm struggling a bit to get my head around your ask for captioning for online video content, not in terms of understandable need for it for your community but as to exactly how you would expect us to implement that given that so much of what is available or given that we do not currently regulate content on the internet and also given that so much of the content on the internet is arriving from many, many, many international destinations.
8748 What is the approach you want us to take on that?
8749 MR. MALKOWSKI: If you look at the FCC, they have two important legal basis. The Americans with Disabilities Act is one piece of legislation and the 21st Century Captioning Act, those are both important pieces of legislation and require functional equivalent access to information and communication. That's the captioning.
8750 In Canada, we have several important federal pieces of legislation. The Human Rights Act is first and soon the Government of Canada will announce a new Canadians with Disabilities Act. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there's a legal obligation and we need the CRTC to establish regulations that require internet service providers to include captions for movies, for TV, emergency announcements, the live news broadcasts, for live broadcasts, to give functional equivalence access.
8751 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. So I understand you’re talking about domestic production only?
8752 MR. MALKOWSKI: Yes.
8753 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thank you.
8754 One last note, I think. In terms of emergency situations, the ones you described in Ottawa, since that time the emergency alerting via the broadcast system has come into play so that visual messages appear on television screens in the event of an emergency. What is your experience with that?
8755 MR. MALKOWSKI: Yes, I’ve had experience with that. When there’s a special emergency announcement or the Prime Minister of Canada is speaking there’s no captioning. Other channels there’s no captions. Twelve (12) hours later the captions are added.
8756 Compare that to the United States, an emergency national weather announcement, a hurricane, tornados hitting an area, the tendency is that the State governor will make an announcement or the President of the United States. And you’ll see them on screen with a sign language interpreter.
8757 In Canada we haven’t seen that. We don’t have the interpreter standing beside the person making an announcement. That’s an accessibility. We would need both sign language and captioning.
8758 And I think the CRTC should consider that and perhaps should review how we can improve the captioning for emergency service and also for press conferences. And so that you possibly should just keep it in mind that we should have that captioning for live news. CTV and CBC now do have captions but there still needs to be improvement in the quality. We need to work on that.
8759 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: I understand that issue very well in terms of the accuracy.
8760 Thank you. Those are my questions. My colleagues may have some follow-up. Thanks again for your presentation.
8761 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, I’ve just polled my colleagues to see if they had some questions; apparently not. So thank you very much for having participated in the hearing and answering our questions. Very much appreciated.
8762 MR. MALKOWSKI: Thank you.
8763 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we’ll take a short break.
8764 It is necessary, Madam Secretary? No. We’re ready to go?
8765 Okay. If we’re ready to go let’s go.
8766 THE SECRETARY: We will now hear the presentation of CNIB and Alliance for Quality of Blind Canadians, appearing by teleconference, Mr. Greco and Mr. Bissonnette. Can you hear us well?
8767 MR. BISSONNETTE: Yes, we can. I can. You’re a little faint. If there’s some way you could turn it up a little bit that would be very helpful.
8768 THE SECRETARY: Okay. Well, you can begin with your presentation. You have 10 minutes. You may begin.
8769 MR. BISSONNETTE: Thank you very much for the opportunity. This is Dr. Leo Bissonnette speaking from Montreal.
8770 In this discussion, where indeed there was this broad discussion about broadening services, broadband services, it’s a very timely discussion. And I think we could take it to another level where we would -- it gets us back to a policy discussion around universal services.
8771 And in that broader discussion, in our larger submission and in the documents submitted today we bring in what we think to be an important document around universal design. We think that certainly on first reading of such document it certainly sounds like it’s very much what you would take down to the product design level. It has policy implications.
8772 And indeed, as a researcher very much interested in universal design as a paradigm for use and education in other fields, it became very clear that in the United States the Americans with Disabilities Act was used by the FCC to do the kind of things that we’re promoting here today on a policy level.
8773 And in order to be clear I want to be sure that we understand what universal design is, and if I can draw your attention to the supplemental document that we submitted. We have a definition of universal design that is very much hallmarked in this discussion. It comes out of work done out of the University of North Carolina. And basically it talks about, well, products and environments to be designed to be usable by all people to the greatest possible extent -- and this is very important -- without the need for further adaptations or specialized design.
8774 And out of that come very specific principles that are briefly enunciated in our document that really get down to dealing with the design to accommodate a range of individual preferences and abilities. And on another level that can be taken to a policy discussion as well.
8775 So what we are proposing here is very much taking an approach from a policy perspective that brings universal design into the discussion as guiding policy principles. And certainly they will filter down to the product design level, where indeed anything that is designed -- be it a website, be it a product, be it a device -- will take into account in very practical terms what is needed.
8776 It is our view that in order for this to happen the principles do get us back to policy guidelines that can inform the discussion by all the players in the field of telecommunications in the next few years.
8777 So by way of an overview, I would urge the Commission to consider what we have here, our documents, as policy recommendations that bring into the discussion of the needs of all Canadians the specific needs of those with disabilities. And the guidelines here get very specific as to what the kinds of things should be considered as such discussions, and policy formulations take place.
8779 MR. GRECO: Okay. Thank you, Leo.
8780 With consideration to the time that we’ve been allotted this morning we’d like to cite one example that’s pretty much universally understood. And that is, the prevalence of curbcuts. Unfortunately they’re not everywhere. We’re starting to see them widely proliferated, and which has an obvious benefit to people using mobility devices.
8781 However, using, you know, staying within the concept of universal design, the benefits of that simple modification go far beyond the -- let’s call it the “intended audience” which was people using mobility devices, folks using skateboards, annoying as they may be, and other, you know, two-wheeled bicycles or what have you benefit from that, mothers with strollers, people that acquire temporary disabilities as a result of an accident or what have you.
8782 That simple modification at intersections makes it possible and easy for anyone regardless of their physical state to be able to, you know, to cross the intersection.
8783 It’s much less expensive to design that at the onset of the planning phase rather than revisit it six months or a year down the road and to have to redesign that intersection to put in the appropriate curbcuts.
8784 Yes, this is a simplistic example in the sense that it’s direct bearing to what the future of telecommunication services in this country looks like is perhaps not readily apparent. But the overarching concept is that if policy and direction to industry and the suppliers that industry interacts with, if that becomes the expectation from the Commission on down, then questions around well, this particular service isn’t accessible, it’s not usable by someone who is blind or visually impaired, those questions and those challenges will start to diminish.
8785 Leo, I’ll put it back to you.
8786 MR. BISSONNETTE: Thank you, Lui.
8787 And again, based on experience that I have had as a researcher and practitioner of universal design in the fields of education and disability, there are those benefits that Mr. Greco refers to. And at a policy level, the long-term benefits will be that as we look towards universal services, any discussion that uses this as a paradigm shift will benefit.
8788 Thank you.
8789 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you. This is Jean-Pierre Blais, the Chairman speaking. I’m going to put you in the hands of Commissioner MacDonald to ask you some questions.
8790 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Good morning. It’s Chris MacDonald. I’ll start off by thanking you for your example of the curb cuts because I think in a way it actually gets to why we’re all sitting here today with the point that it’s better and perhaps even ultimately more inexpensive to build the system right, to build it once as opposed to continuing to go back after the fact for Band-Aid solutions. So thank you for that example.
8791 Yesterday we heard from a group Media Access Canada. And I was struck by the statements of one of their members. And she said that these conversations aren’t about augmenting the communications for people with disabilities. What we’re really talking about are the communication services available to people with disabilities. It’s how they communicate.
8792 And with that in mind, I’m wondering if you could perhaps speak to the specific technology, the specific services that you require to effectively communicate in the modern world and how those various different technologies or applications have an impact on the service that you require from your service providers.
8793 MR. BISSONNETTE: If I may start the discussion, let me put it this way, in a practical way as a smart phone user these days where I do a lot of my work on a phone, if I didn’t have accessibility -- and I’m an iPhone user, but it’s a good illustration. At the time it built in accessibility that’s there out of the box, if you will, I wouldn’t be able to conduct my daily activities. And I think what others are looking for are ultimately products that enable them to do the kinds of things I just described, without having to add on an extra cost from third party adaptation.
8794 So in a very practical way, that’s the kinds of things that I’m talking about. The television remote is another example. Make it acceptable, make it -- design it from the ground up and it can be used. Lui?
8795 MR. GRECO: Specifically related to service providers, be they telecom, television or internet service providers, I think the backend where customer interaction takes place needs to be really thought through.
8796 I’m not talking about simply managing bills or services or adding or removing account features. A specific example would be the modems that are provided by carriers. Yes, they’re purchased from -- I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to name manufacturers, but I will anyway. They may be purchased from a Motorola or a C-Gate or some other, you know, hardware device manufacturer. But they’re branded. They’re branded and they’re customized to meet their particular network protocols or configurations that that carrier has in place.
8797 As a person who’s blind, I find it extremely frustrating that the branding is prevalent in the backend of the devices. But yet, simple things like adding ball tags to images, which tells me what a button or a link will do, is absent.
8798 The aps that the majority or that the carriers in this country are now promoting, AT&T has adopted a framework within their company that everything goes through a disability list. Perhaps none of the carriers in this country have the same magnitude that, you know, an organization like AT&T has. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to apply the same type of disability lens when they’re introducing the aps into the marketplace.
8799 The know-how, the standards are free. The know-how is abundant. And, as we’ve articulated in numerous other presentations that we’ve made to the Commission, both through Mr. Bissonnette and myself, as well as other folks from CNIB and our respective organizations, the community of people who are blind and or visually impaired are more than willing to provide some type of user testing. Because even if a product is designed to be accessible, the subtleties of using something with a mouse or and a keyboard, and using it with a screen reader or a large print program or a display device, you can’t replicate that in a lab, regardless of what testing protocols you have in place, unless you’re fluent with the assistive technology being, you know, being utilized.
8800 So those are some of the frustrations that -- or not -- I don’t know, maybe “frustrations” isn’t the right word. Those are some of the challenges that I think need to be addressed. And I think that as you deliberate on, you know, sort of the future of telecommunications services, this type of notion needs to be more prevalent.
8801 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Setting aside the topic of applications and specific equipment for a minute, do you, from your own personal knowledge, have you ever seen any of the service providers actually applying that disability lens to their suite of products when they’re designing a particular package? Do you get the sense that they do keep persons with disabilities front of mind in designing those packages?
8802 MR. GRECO: Leo, I’m going to step in here, if I can. I would say that on scale the answer is no.
8803 And I can give you a specific example where a broadcaster recently made changes to their IBR programming, sort of, they’re not -- sorry, their electronic program guide. Where it went from being usable by a client of CNIB’s who has some residual vision to being completely unusable because of a simple choice of font and contrast that the developers used in the redesign of the program guide.
8804 If a disability lens had been applied when that new program guide was being redesigned, then the functionality wouldn’t have been hampered or slowed down, but simply the selection of font and colour and contrast and all the things that make it, let’s use the word “seeable” -- I don’t know if that’s really a word -- by someone with reduced vision wouldn’t have happened.
8805 When you look at the number of aps that are available through some of the carriers, I think that to really be able to answer that question accurately, some type of an audit would need to be done with specifically with a disability lens in mind.
8806 Is the app findable? Can you find it through the company’s electronic store? Is it downloadable to whatever device is advertised and does it work with various assistive technologies.
8807 I don’t want to pretend to know the answer to what that audit would find, but I think my experience as someone who has been blind for more than a generation, I think that history would predicate that the results would be less than what we as the blind community would hope for.
8808 And quite honestly, based on some of the policies, policy directions that the Commission has put forward, I think you would be rather disappointed to find that, you know, the number of apps that actually were usable out of the box by someone with a visual disability.
8809 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I think ---
8810 MR. GRECO: If I might add, it’s very much the case that indeed in any discussions that we’ve had in the telecoms, even in the last year, they’re quite surprised to find out that first well there’s an interest on our part about the accessibility of an app and I think they’re surprised to find out that it’s -- when they really get down to testing that they’re not accessible and that starts the conversation.
8811 But really you want that conversation to -- not to have to happen. You want that design process to incorporate disability design into the whole process from the word go.
8812 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Are there any -- well I guess I’ll start off, yesterday in one of the presentations, a woman mentioned an app that she uses. She’s visually impaired, called bemyeyes.
8813 And I had a chance to look at it online and it’s -- I can see how it would be extremely useful for people with impaired vision, so they can reach out to people to, you know, read a menu in a restaurant or help them navigate an unfamiliar building, for example.
8814 And I’m just wondering are there any best practices either within the country or internationally that you’re aware of that service providers do use to ensure that they are adequately in tune with the needs of people with disabilities and how they may need to adapt their -- be they their packages, or their bandwidth options, or their internal processes, to maintain a state of excellence in servicing those customers?
8815 MR. BISSONNETTE: There are standards that are available and certainly those standards need to be brought to the table. There are clear guidelines for web design that certainly would be helpful.
8816 There are certain standards for apps that we, you know, as follow-up to these discussions could point you to.
8817 The bemyeyes app is an interesting one that certainly illustrates that there are benefits to having specialized apps.
8818 But really what we want, from my perspective, would be to have, for example, if I’m using a particular telecoms app I would like to be able, the minute I buy that, to know that all the buttons are accessible, usable, so that I can perform the same tasks as the app is designed to do.
8819 And certainly any further revisions to the app, because often times you’ll find that when an app is approved, in quotes, all of a sudden the accessibility that was there before is gone. You want that quality of accessibility to still be factored into the further updates to the app.
8820 It’s going to be a long way to go but there are some standards and certainly that’s a discussion that certainly we’d be glad to have with the telecoms themselves or the Commission in future discussion.
8821 MR. GRECO: Just to add to what Leo -- what Leo has said, I think the direct answer to your question, Mr. MacDonald, is no.
8823 Now, yes I do have the option of picking up the phone and asking a question or expressing a concern, but that’s ridiculous. That -- if that were properly tested with the -- through an accessibility lens, I don’t believe that it would need a complete re-design.
8824 I don’t think it would need to be overhauled and scrapped and started from, you know, from square zero.
8825 I think all that would need to happen would be just some simple modification to the way that -- to the functionality of the -- you know, select the reason why you’re contacting us. Select the department and then narrow down the searches.
8826 I think that that could be very easily retrofitted so that it worked. And again, going back to sort of the overarching theme of what -- what Mr. Bissonnette and I are talking about in universal design, if that thought stream was prevalent at the design stage, at the business analysis stage, when that particular functionality was being contemplated, the need for accessibility, you know, the justification for being there would be inherent throughout the entire software development life cycle of, you know, of that functionality.
8827 And the frustration that I personally -- and I can vouch that many other people from across the country regardless of their provider encounter wouldn’t happen.
8828 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: You know it strikes me that many of the applications and services that we’re discussing may be very negatively impacted depending on the quality of service that you actual receive from your telecommunication service provider.
8829 And I’m just wondering if you can speak to what the level of service is that you receive and when there is an outage, when there is, you know, packet loss or latency, what impact it has on your ability to function?
8830 MR. GRECO: Leo?
8831 MR. BISSONNETTE: Well certainly my experience maybe is more limited in some respects, but if I can draw the example from television services, if my cable provider suddenly changes even something simple like channels, I don’t have access to a talking guide that helps me find something.
8832 Well that puts me at a disadvantage from taking advantage of information and information these days is a very key part of it.
8833 If you take it back to the cell phone example or the smart phone example, if I’m not able to negotiate if I’m applying, for example, for a job online and that’s what more and more people are doing these days, if I can’t get around that website through my device I can’t make that application even to be considered for the job, therefore -- and employability for our population is not good, statistically.
8834 If you can’t even make that job application then you’re further put behind the eight ball if you will.
8835 So what we need are -- is a -- it’s universal access to services that make that job application doable as an example.
8836 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: And your example of the job application is a great segue with where I wanted to go next, because you note in your original intervention the very high levels of unemployment that Canadians with disabilities face and as a result they sometimes tend to be in the -- in the lowest income group in the country.
8837 And I’m wondering do the service providers do anything today, that you’re aware of, to make their offerings more affordable to people with disabilities?
8838 We heard an example yesterday about a woman who was hard of hearing and only wanted to purchase an internet package as opposed to a landline telephone service, but she had to buy both services just to avail of the bundle and get the low internet rate.
8839 So can you speak to what providers may be doing to ease the financial burden on people with disabilities, if anything at all?
8840 MR. BISSONNETTE: Well the closest I can come and it’s not even in the field of disability, it’s my understanding that Rogers are doing something in Toronto for those who are in a poverty situation.
8841 In terms of disability I’m personally not aware of anything that would help in that regard.
8842 Now is this the time, as we’re looking at how to re-bundle services, leaner packages, smaller packages, to factor in to that discussion the needs of persons with disabilities in some kind of a package that is number one, more affordable, and number two, incorporating the disability related needs that have to be dealt with.
8843 MR. GRECO: I think to try and answer Mr. MacDonald’s question, I think specifically related to disability, to the best of my knowledge, which may not necessarily be all encompassing, the answer is no.
8844 There are some low end entry level pricing packages where service, either channel lineup, or phone service, or minimal speeds are available, but those are simply on the shelf alongside every other -- you know, every other offering.
8845 Is that adequate to address some of the challenges facing Canadians with vision loss who are living in poverty? I would put that back and say that the answer depends on whether that addresses the question of poverty amongst Canadians as a whole.
8846 Poverty is poverty. The threshold I think is the basket of goods and services -- I can’t remember the acronyms, but I think it’s $21,000 a year, if you live below that poverty threshold then you’re deemed to be, you know, living below the poverty line. I would say that shelling out $100 a month for telephone, internet and basic, or skinny television as it’s supposed to be called now, is a hardship.
8847 Are all of those services necessary to be engaged members of society? Yes, they are. You can’t live without some type of communication services, and if you want to know what’s going on in the community, whether you use the internet or you rely on television, you need a portal. It’s not affordable at $100 a month for someone who -- you know, who’s living below that poverty line.
8848 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I have a similar question with respect to government as well. We’ve heard from a number of low income Canadians and have spoken to the fact that communication services are not included in as an element in the calculations for their social assistance programs. And I’m curious whether the various different governments do anything to help offset the unique expenses that people in the blind and visually impaired community might have with respect to specialized services, specialized equipment that enables you to connect with the world. Are any of those costs offset in any way?
8849 MR. GRECO: It’s a real -- it’s Lui speaking. It’s a real mishmash across the country. Ontario and Alberta have quite an extensive program that will provide at either no cost or 25 percent of the cost for assistive technology.
8850 The Alberta program is run through the Department of Health and it has a $650,000 annual cap. So once that threshold is exceeded then folks are expected to wait until the next funding cycle.
8851 Ontario’s program is a little bit more robust, in the sense that I don’t believe -- I stand to be corrected on this, but I don’t believe there is a -- there is quite -- you know, quite the same extent of a cap.
8852 Leo can speak to the reality in Quebec.
8853 But in every other province access to assistive technologies through public funding typically requires being in receipt of social assistance benefits, and that threshold -- $21,000 is gravy. The threshold to receive social assistance benefits in most provinces is almost zero assets, zero income. So you’re right on the periphery before you can expect to gain any assistance.
8854 Where that becomes a challenge is for those folks that are working poor, perhaps lucky enough to have a minimum wage job, they neither qualify for social assistance, which would entitle them to assistance with the appropriate assistive technology, nor the means to purchase it themselves because it’s prohibitive and when you’re looking at rent, food, or a text to speech program so that you can use your computer the choices become quite clear.
8855 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: In your intervention you also spoke, you know, about the divide that can be created, you know, if you’re not able to leverage technology and leverage networks to connect with people.
8856 I’m wondering is there a similar divide created between people in your community living in urban areas versus living in rural areas who may not have access to technology or to the networks to connect to the world.
8857 I would assume that if it’s a problem in the urban areas it must at least be as significant a problem in the rural areas.
8858 MR. BISSONNETTE: I think the simple answer, the shorter answer is it’s the same problem, it’s the matter now of what type of infrastructure narrows that gap but the problem is there.
8859 MR. GRECO: I think it’s exactly for folks living in rural communities because the availability of other services like transportation becomes more problematic.
8860 So I guess there’s -- you know, the short answer is that if you’re living in, you know, Sundre, Alberta, which is probably a 30-minute drive outside of Calgary and about 25 minutes from Red Deer, which are the two sort of centres where you could access doctor’s appointments and perhaps, you know, major shopping, if you’re blind and you happen to live in that community you are entirely dependent on either someone driving you to those appointments, or, with respect to this conversation, in order to stay connected with folks you are reliant on the accessibility and the availability of reliable -- you know, reliable services through your internet provider, or your broadcast distribution undertaking, whatever -- you know, whichever means you use to stay engaged.
8861 So folks living in rural parts of the country I think are more reliant on these emerging technologies. They offer more opportunities for engagement than they normally would have.
8862 Those of us who live in, you know, larger municipalities isolation is still very real but most of us have access either to some type of paratransit service that can get us to and from independently, or if you walk out the door and access public transit to, you know, socialize, or to go to work, or do what we need to do.
8863 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Perfect.
8864 Just one final question before I hand you back over to my colleagues. We’ve heard a lot of different suggestions since the hearing started about what people would like to see the CRTC specifically do, and some of those suggestions range from doing absolutely nothing to doing -- and leaving the situation as it currently is, to creating a fund to provide support for low income Canadians, creating a fund of some kind to build out networks, and you suggest that perhaps we work as an intermediary between service providers, stakeholders, and government.
8865 I’d like to ask what you would view as success coming out of this hearing.
8866 MR. GRECO: Well, how about the fact that we didn’t have to come back and talk to you again.
8867 MR. GRECO: How about success in my books would be defined as the conversation with the service providers and carriers was ongoing, was fruitful, we the community of folks with vision loss or other disabilities were actively engaged barriers to accessibility or accessibility barriers were addressed effectively by service providers, and that the Commission's role was simply to, you know, to regulate their -- the business environment that the service providers (inaudible).
8868 Is that realistic? No. We probably will be back. In fact, I know that we'll be back. We’ll be back in, you know, future hearings, but I think that, you know, CNIB's perspective would be that we put ourself out of business, that these conversations don’t need to happen at the regulatory level any more because providers and other players within the, you know, within the arena are addressing accessibility challenges in a serious manner rather than superficially, I believe, is our experience today.
8869 MR. BISSONNETTE: May I add that as we evolve, these discussions as we evolve policy, it certainly is my hope that our presentation around universal design this morning gives you a paradigm shift for policy and even product design that moves us further down the road to a point where the access barriers are down, that we have products and services that are available to us at the good reasonable costs, good access built in, and have something that's affordable for all Canadians. Thank you.
8870 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Well, thank you very much for that, and like I said, I appreciate that was a very broad question. I will turn you back over to my colleagues.
8871 THE CHAIRPERSON: So Commissioner Vennard had some questions for you as well.
8872 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Hello. I'd like to turn the discussion back to your original concept of a universal design, and maybe one way to move things forward -- and perhaps you have already gone down this path and if so, then maybe you could enlighten us as to the efforts that you’ve made so far. When it comes to designing systems, products, including even social systems but certainly with devices and peripherals and so on, it comes from educated people that learn design principles.
8873 To what extent do you think that the universal design should be incorporated much, much earlier on within educational programs, engineering students, for example, learning to design systems, computer systems and assisted devices and so on, within our educational system?
8874 And along with that comes the awareness that there is a great deal of diversity in our country. How is -- have you done anything along those lines? I’m sure you have. Could you maybe enlighten us as to what you’ve done?
8875 MR. BISSONNETTE: May I take that question on? I have somewhat of an educational background, if I may say, where I did the (inaudible) research and I also was the manager of an office for students with disabilities at Concordia University in Montreal for over 30 years.
8876 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: That's why I put the question to you.
8877 MR. BISSONNETTE: (Inaudible) a lot of our time with our faculties, number one, doing sensitization to disability and the needs of a disabled population, and we try to drill that down to what it meant to live with a disability day to day.
8878 On another level, because you want to develop the educated professionals do a designing, it's pointing you to the work that we briefly said in this morning through North Carolina where you get that needed (inaudible) design to happen. And indeed, University of Wisconsin, the Trace Centre is another wonderful place for the Commission to look to and even the telecoms to look to for the actual discussions around what does it mean to make a computer screen accessible so that someone sitting in front of it is able to deal with it in a way that is productive, the fatigue is reduced, and so forth.
8879 There's a lot of good universal design concepts and programs in place that are turning out the architects, designers, to do the very kind of things we're talking about.
8880 MR. GRECO: I think to add to that, the problems of students with disabilities within the education system from, you know, K to 12 and beyond --those individuals, I think, will leave a resounding consciousness with their colleagues as their colleagues move on to, you know, higher education.
8881 So the awareness of disability, I think, is greater than it's ever been. Unfortunately, the prevalence is much higher and the demographics speak for themselves with aging, et cetera.
8882 But I don’t know to what extent universal design or accessibility concepts are taught within -- let's use computer science as an example. I don't know whether that's, you know, there's an Accessibility 201 course that talks about that.
8883 I know when I went back to school about 15, 16 years ago, accessibility was a one-sided conversation and I was the only one talking.
8884 So have things changed? I don't think they have significantly, but I think as the consciousness among society, of the barriers facing people with disabilities -- as that consciousness increases, hopefully more and more designers and programmers will start to gravitate towards, "I need to make this do A, B, and C, and D, if it has to be usable by people of varying abilities."
8885 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Any other comments in that respect?
8886 MR. BISSONNETTE: I think certainly, if I may, when we look at building design, as Lui talked about in his example, that is the one area that has really made the big progress, in terms of getting it into the faculties for purposes of education.
8887 And indeed, if you will, there have come out in recent years a generation of architects that are much more savvy in terms of design standards.
8888 And it started in faculties of computer science. I can point to Concordia University as one example where there has been an evolutionary movement; not a revolutionary one, but an evolutionary one, a step by step progress.
8889 So long term, I guess I'm the optimist in the room that says, "It can happen." It's clear that it has to happen through preparing a generation of skilled experts who are designing products and services where they bring to the table that expertise and knowledge of disability.
8890 MR. GRECO: If you -- it's Lui speaking. If you take a look at what's happening in Ontario with AODA over the last 10 years, the number of stakeholders at the table talking about accessibility, it's greater in your province than it is anywhere else in the country.
8891 AODA, love it or hate it, is -- has raised the bar on the need for accessibility and why it's important.
8892 And with Manitoba adopting disability legislation, the conversations are probably becoming more prevalent in that province. Nova Scotia and British Columbia are now at various stages of introducing provincial disability legislation, and I think the ripple effect will be that acceptability and disability, the need to accommodate people with disabilities, will become prevalent throughout society and educational institutions will begin to adopt that stream of learning into, you know, into their various programs, outside of the psychology and social work arenas.
8893 MR. BISSONNETTE: If I could quickly add, the Quebec example, in 1978, they passed Bill 9, which was an Act to secure the handicapped rights in the areas of housing, education, so forth, and that gave them a bit of a, shall I say a jump, and I think there has been a trickle-down benefit that certainly educational institutions became aware early in the game of what was being asked for.
8894 And if I can crystal-ball gaze a little, if indeed we do get a Canadian Disabilities Act, and we do make some comparisons to what has happened in the U.S. with their BDA over the past 25 years there. I suspect that that conversation and evolution might pick up a little speed.
8895 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yes, well, we can certainly hope for that, can’t we? I think that in general there might be just sort of a lack of awareness of the difficulties and challenges that people face, more so than any sort of real exclusion in that sense.
8896 My own granddaughter is a wheelchair user and lots of times she simply can’t get in places because she just can’t get in places, and there’s different problems at school with elevators and so on and so forth. So very often we just need to make people aware of these things, and sometimes we need to do that in a very formal sense that too through school programs and courses and so on.
8897 Any final comments that you would like to offer to us on your universal design?
8898 MR. BISSONNETTE: I guess my final comment would be that I hope there is that policy benefit to take to this discussion, and that it can trickle down and that it can bring about general awareness in the public, and certainly among the professionals who are providing services of other sorts, that design is incorporated in what they do.
8899 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah, I agree.
8900 MR. BISSONNETTE: Thank you.
8901 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Thank you.
8902 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I’m checking and apparently there are no other questions from Commissioners or legal counsel.
8903 So thank you very much for having participated in the proceeding.
8904 MR. GRECO: Thank you for the opportunity. We really appreciate the chance to share our thoughts, and look forward to your deliberations.
8905 THE CHAIRPERSON: There are further rounds of comments available, so do avail yourself of that if you wish, a little later on as pointed out in the public notice.
8906 So thank you again.
8907 MR. BISSONNETTE: Thank you.
8908 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’ll take a short break until 10:45 and see where we’re at. Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 10:33 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 10:49 a.m.
8909 THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, please.
8910 À l'ordre, s'il vous plait.
8911 Madame la Secrétaire?
8912 THE SECRETARY : Merci.
8913 We’ll now hear the presentation of Christopher Coyle.
8914 Mr. Coyle, you may begin. You have five minutes for your presentation.
8915 Mr. Coyle: Hi. Thanks very much, and good morning.
8916 I’m a person who’s just going to talk off the cuff here, okay? I’m coming from a learning disabled background. And I noticed that there was nobody talking to that group of disabled people so I thought I’d just come in and talk to you guys.
8917 My submission basically is how the Bell Corporation and other corporations, telecommunications possibly -- I’ve been watching the hearings -- aren’t following the laws, okay? There’s laws that are basically -- and here in Ontario -- well, sorry, I know we’re in Gatineau.
8918 But in Ontario there’s the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities, okay. This act indicates that there are barriers to be removed, policies and procedures to be removed for the disabled community, okay.
8919 When I am talking to the Bell Corporation’s business office, collections department, okay, these people do not understand what this law is, okay? The disabled group within the Bell division, okay, I had to educate them on the law, okay. Their job and responsibility is to know the law and work in appropriate action to it, okay.
8920 If they’re not following the law do they not -- I’m going to put a question to you -- do they not have a licence to operate if they don’t follow the law? I don’t understand that. They have a licence to follow the law. If they don’t follow the law that licence gets removed, or penalties can be ensued, okay.
8921 I’m talking a very hard game here because they do not accommodate the disabled community. You’ve heard from the hearings about other disabled groups how they’re not rolling things out quickly or fast or not enough, right? What we need as a disabled community as a whole is teeth to this argument, okay. You need to take a bite out of the ISPs and you need to take a very hard stand on this, okay.
8922 I’m asking you to do this because of the fact that I feel very -- part of my disability is I’m very feely. I care about people. And to hear the stories, okay, again and again and again, okay, how they can’t do it. How they’d like some money or some funds from the government when they make billions of dollars, okay, off the customers who they’re not serving to the appropriateness of the law or up to the needs, okay.
8923 A lot of Canadians watch the CBC and we watch things on line and stuff like this, okay. That takes a lot of effort and a lot of things to do. Like I said, talking about the Learning Disabilities Association I learned about disabilities, okay.
8924 I go through a lot of mediums pretty much self-educating myself because the education system doesn’t really work for me. It didn’t work as a kid and stuff like that, okay. So as an adult I go through and I watch my Power & Politics, and I watch my issues, and I watch my House of Commons work, you know, my MPs, watch you guys and stuff like that. So I’m very aware of the world and I need to be in that focus, right.
8925 And I would love to be able to say, “Hey, service (inaudible) provider across the country to everybody.” Okay? And you pay through your tax dollars, you know. And we have a national ISP versus a whole bunch of inter-collective ISPs across the country, okay.
8926 The disabilities that I suffer from and other people with learning disabilities suffer from, okay, means the fact that if we’re doing homework if you’re a child, or if you’re doing homework in the educational system, you’re having to work five, ten times harder than the next person beside you who doesn’t have a learning disability, okay.
8927 Some disabilities require you to be able to have to look through the information again and again and again. With online learning, right, think of the bandwidth that I’m using, okay. I’m having to replay something and replay something and reply something to be able to cognitively lock it into my brain, okay, as per learning.
8928 The packages that the ACORN Group has asked you for and stuff like that for poverty, okay, and I won’t even talk about -- you’re fully aware that poverty and disability go hand in hand, okay. There’s been quite a lot of studies on that, okay.
8929 We can’t afford to be able to, you know, pay these bills with a poverty background. Because of the fact that I am disabled I’m pretty much discriminated against, okay, from getting a job right here in our Nation’s Capital, okay.
8930 So, yeah, I find it very difficult to be able to pay my bills so I have to deal with the collections agency. Well, the collection agency acts like a bunch of bullies, okay. I don’t want to deal with that. The anxiety from dealing with them alone is very hard to deal with. Poverty and not being able to feed yourself and then pay your bills, okay, on time it’s a bit of a juggle to say the least, okay. It’s almost impossible without help, okay.
8931 We’re in the information age. We get no support from Ontario to deal with the information age whatsoever. The Ontario Government like to pay very little for the disabled community, okay. I don’t even apply for disabled ODSP as they call it, right, because they don’t support learning disabilities, okay. That’s not part of their thing, okay.
8932 So I’m dealing with poverty, I’m dealing with a locked into Ontario Works so I get three -- I get less monies than I would if I was on disability support, okay. And I’m having to pay money out, okay, about $100 out of my food budget goes.
8933 There’s a reason I’m slim.
8934 So I want to -- just wanted to say that that’s what the disability, how it affects and stuff like that. And I wanted to say the -- what you guys can do, what I would like to see you do is to be able to hold these guys, people, the corporations, to the hardest extent of what they have to do. The law is the law. You have to accommodate; okay? And in Ontario it’s, like I said, 20-year rollout.
8935 We’re in year 11 and they haven’t heard about this with the first line support? Well, that’s a bit of a training issue; isn’t it? I would think so.
8936 I’ve worked with the corporation. I knew how to do my job. I knew what the laws were; okay? I knew what the privacy concerns were for customers. I wasn’t blabbing everybody’s private information across everybody’s lines. But I was a responsible individual with my job and I wanted to do it well.
8937 I don’t know how they can’t be at this point operating without some kind of guidance, possibly from you, possibly other government agencies, without them being able to adhere to the law; okay? If I’m a citizen and I break the law I go to jail. What’s happening to them? I would like to find that out. I’d like to find that answer out at some point. If they don’t adhere to the law and can’t provide poverty packages and stuff like this.
8938 We’re in a society that takes care of each other. What if we said, you know, you don’t have the money you don’t get health care; okay? You know what I mean? That’s pretty much what the States model is, you know, had been up until a little while ago.
8939 We need to be able to be in an inclusive society. This is what the pretty words in the book say; right? You know, everybody’s equal. But corporations seem to be getting a lot of money to doing a very little amount of work on this point; okay?
8940 When they ask you for monies to be able to build things or put things in process, don’t give them a dime, please; okay? If you want to build a disability group and fund for the disability people, go right ahead. You have my full support there. But not the corporations; okay? They’re making a lot of money.
8941 As far as disability ---
8942 THE SECRETARY: Mr. Coyle? Mr. Coyle, please conclude. Your time is almost over.
8943 MR. COYLE: Okay.
8944 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
8945 MR. COYLE: I tend to go on for a long time. So I’ll just conclude with what I use the internet for.
8946 What I use the internet for is basically learning, like I said, and watching shows like Power and Politics, watching political things, educating myself.
8947 I have a very interesting neurological gift, as you could say, to be able to see things before they occur. One of the things that I have done very strangely is predict things. The, bizarrely enough, the attack on the House of Commons in 2014 on October 22nd was predicted by myself; okay?
8948 Like every other citizen, I take care of every other citizen, as an example of what I do and how our inclusive society works.
8949 I went to the House of Commons when they were doing their vote to go into the Middle East a few years ago, about 10 years ago, and I told them what was going to occur if they did so; okay? I went through three MPs and then Kevin Vickers.
8950 This is what an inclusive society does. It allows everybody to participate equally and in a fair manner; okay?
8951 The gifts that I have, the neurological gifts that I’ve been talking about, okay, don’t make me anybody better than anybody else. Doesn’t make me any worse than anybody else. But I try to be fairly fair with it and I try to be a open and honest individual; okay?
8952 What I’m asking for is the tools that I use is the internet looking at it; okay? That’s why I need access to it and I need it to be able to be affordable; okay? And I have no problems working with the ISP, right, to be able to do this on a one-on-one basis. But we -- case by case, that’s great. But we need an over group, possibly like yourselves, to be able to help us out there.
8953 Thank you very much.
8954 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. And I know -- I don’t want to cut you off but --
8955 MR. COYLE: That’s okay.
8956 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- there is an opportunity to expand on your thoughts when -- in questioning.
8957 One thing I did want to point out was that, unlike in broadcasting where there are licences issued, in telecommunications it’s not a licensing regime quite the same. So it’s a bit different, but I nevertheless understand you are a ---
8958 MR. COYLE: But the teeth is what I was looking for.
8959 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
8960 MR. COYLE: Yeah.
8961 THE CHAIRPERSON: So Commissioner Vennard may have some questions for you.
8962 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Thank you for coming to talk to us today and bringing to our attention something that we haven’t heard about before. And that is with respect to a learning disability a person may require more bandwidth and --
8963 MR. COYLE: M’hm.
8964 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: -- then that’s not something that I know had occurred to me before.
8965 I -- we heard your concerns and we heard what you had to say. And I don’t really have any further questions for you except you did make one comment in your submission that I’d like you to just maybe expand on. I think it’s a very important comment that you made. And that comment was that people with disabilities sometimes don’t even know how to find, for example, us. Do you have any recommendations on how to make information, generally speaking, more available so that people in the disabled community can participate more in the public processes that we have?
8966 MR. COYLE: I would design your website differently. I’d turn part of it into a portal of communication with the disabled community, particularly, and/or the general public. I know that you guys have that, but I’d design it so that it was -- be easier to utilize.
8967 Two, make it on the front page. Make it so the fact that we have that inclusiveness without our society. Make it so the fact that the ISPs tell us we have that access and if their customer service isn’t up to snuff, please take it up with the CRTC; okay?
8968 You need to be hand-in-hand as this model and a willing body.
8969 As far as the public goes, if you don’t have internet access it makes it a very difficult time to do that. If you don’t have phone access, the same thing; right?
8970 There’s written submissions. When was the last time you got a letter? Okay.
8971 So I would be happy to suggest other formats; okay? Talking to your MP, okay, or even communicating in person, okay, and having a front line desk person to be able to have that discussion.
8972 I would recommend an open discussion period where we can do any type of communication that you can. That’d be the best solution I would do. I know people talk, you know, through the internet and stuff like that. Maybe having a web forum of hearing the general population, okay, and where you could be able to hear from multiple different voices over a vast quantity of issues and stuff like that.
8973 I know as a customer base, you know, I’ll talk back at the CBC when you talk about their -- they have a show that basically does commercial issues for customers and stuff like that. I can’t remember what it’s called at the moment, but it’s -- it does investigation reports on the consumer basis and they’ve talked about Bell.
8974 THE CHAIRPERSON: Are you talking about Marketplace?
8975 MR. COYLE: Marketplace. Thank you. I could not remember it.
8976 And so Marketplace, you watch an episode and they talk about how this person got overcharged and stuff like this; okay. And if the media doesn’t get involved, nothing happens.
8977 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Yeah.
8978 MR. COYLE: Okay?
8979 COMMISSIONER VENNARD: Those are good points. Those are a number of very good suggestions and we thank you for them.
8980 I don’t have any more questions.
8981 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you for your participation. One thing is always interesting at Commission hearings we go from large panels of 10, 12 people to individuals and that’s good for the variety of perspectives we get. So thank you very much.
8982 MR. COYLE: Thank you for having me.
8983 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
8984 Madame la Secrétaire.
8985 THE SECRETARY: Thank you. We’ll now ask Bell Canada to come to presentation table.
--- (SHORT PAUSE)
8986 THE SECRETARY: Please introduce yourself and your colleagues, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
8987 MR. MALCOLMSON: Thank you, Madam Secretary, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Commission staff.
8988 I'm Robert Malcolmson, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs for BCE Inc.
8989 Before beginning our presentation, let me introduce the members of our panel appearing today on behalf of Bell Canada, its affiliates, and Northwestel.
8990 Seated immediately on my left is Johnathan Daniels, Vice President, Regulatory Law. Next to Jonathan is Paul Flaherty, President of Northwestel. Next to Paul is Stéphanie Roberge, Senior Manager, Network Technology.
8991 To my immediate right is Phil Gauvin, Senior Legal Counsel. Next to Phil is Scott Barrett, Senior Manager, Product Management. Seated next to Scott is Mylène Leduc, Team Lead, Customer Care and the Manager of our Accessibility Services Centre, a dedicated call centre serving our customers with accessibility needs.
8992 And in the back row is Christiane McGovern, our Articling Student who is the keeper of the record and like the rest of our team has been of invaluable assistance throughout the process.
8993 I'll now begin our presentation.
8994 Throughout the hearing, the Commission has been seeking information on the scope of the broadband gap and the cost of extending basic broadband connectivity to those Canadian households that don't have access.
8995 Yesterday, Mr. Chairman, you outlined the important role that every stakeholder should play in ensuring that Canada is a world leader in the digital era.
8996 We believe that industry has an important role in shaping our digital future and it is in this spirit that we appear before you today.
8997 As a result of facilities based competition and continuous network investment, Canada is a world leader in broadband deployment with Canadians enjoying some of the fastest broadband connection speeds available in developed countries.
8998 Today, 96 percent of Canadians have access to connections of at least 5 megabits. These are remarkable achievements considering Canada's sparse population and challenging geography.
8999 At Bell, we believe that the outcome that the Commission should pursue is in ensuring that the 4 percent of Canadian households that do not have access to 5 and 1 broadband service today are served and therefore able to participate in the digital economy.
9001 MR. DANIELS: Upon completion of the government's Connecting Canadians program and Northwestel's Modernization Plan, there will remain 441,000 households that do not have access to the current target speeds of 5 and 1.
9002 Of these remaining households, approximately 50,000 are located in the country's most remote areas, areas which for contribution purposes are referred to as Bands G and H1
9003 In order to estimate the cost of closing the digital divide, we looked at the broadband build costs associated with the Connecting Canadians program and developed certain key assumptions.
9004 Based on this analysis, Bell estimates that it would cost approximately 1.2 to $1.7 billion to extend 5/1 broadband connectivity to the 441,000 households that do not have access.
9005 Of this amount, 230 to 280 million is needed to provide connectivity to those households in Bands G and H1. We have detailed assumptions to support these cost estimates, which we would be pleased to discuss with you.
9006 If we assume that the federal government's $500 million broadband fund, announced in the most recent budget, auctions off subsidy funds to the lowest bidder on the basis of a 1:1 matching ratio, as Connecting Canadians did, this will generate a total of $1 billion in broadband infrastructure funding.
9007 This would almost entirely cover the cost of building to those households outside of Bands G and H1 that do not have 5/1 service today.
9008 The build out of connectivity to the remaining 50,000 households located in Bands G and H1 could be accomplished by re-directing existing voice contribution funds through the elimination of the voice subsidy in Bands E and F and reducing voice subsidies in Bands G and H1.
9009 This redirection of existing subsidy would make $370 million available for broadband over the next five years in Bands G and H1.
9010 In the spirit of working collaboratively, we believe that the Commission should coordinate with the government by reporting on the state of broadband connectivity and giving advice to the government on how to invest the $500 million.
9011 To be clear, we favour a report first in order to ensure that any Commission fund and government funding can be coordinated and complementary.
9012 However, if the Commission does choose to act now, it could do so by re-directing existing voice contribution funds to broadband without increasing contribution beyond current levels.
9014 Mme ROBERGE: Dans le questionnaire du Conseil sur la large bande, les Canadiens ont indiqué que leurs principales activités en ligne consistent à communiquer par courriel, à s'informer sur les événements ayant cours, à rechercher de l'information médicale, à effectuer leurs opérations bancaires, et à utiliser les sites web gouvernementaux.
9015 Les Canadiens veulent aussi pouvoir communiquer avec leur famille et leurs amis au moyen de Skype et de FaceTime, regarder des vidéos sur CraveTV, Netflix ou YouTube, et jouer à des jeux en ligne.
9016 La preuve sur le plan technique permet de constater que la vitesse 5/1 ciblée par le gouvernement en vertu du programme Un Canada branché permet de réaliser tous ces types d'activités.
9017 Dans son Rapport de surveillance des communications 2015, le Conseil lui-même a démontré qu'une connexion de 5 mégabits par seconde permet d'exécuter la vaste majorité des applications, y compris les jeux en temps réel, la vidéoconférence et la vidéo HD en continu.
9018 Netflix, par exemple, recommande une vitesse de 5 mégabits par seconde pour la vidéo HD en continu. De fait, 5 mégabits par seconde peuvent accommoder plusieurs trains HD.
9020 M. GAUVIN: Bien que nous soyons d'accord avec le fait qu'un service à large bande 5/1 permet aux Canadiens de participer pleinement à l'économie numérique, nous recommandons que le financement soutienne le déploiement d'un service 10/1, sauf dans les collectivités desservies par une connexion satellite.
9021 Cela ferait du Canada un leader à l'échelle mondiale en matière d'accès à la large bande.
9022 À titre d'exemple, la Nouvelle-Zélande a financé un service 5/1 dans les régions les plus éloignées, et l'Australie, un service 4/1 dans les zones desservies par satellite.
9023 Les États-Unis ont financé un service 10/1, mais seulement dans les secteurs où le service 4/1 n'est pas offert et, il faut le souligner, ils ne financent pas les zones les plus éloignées.
9024 À l'inverse, notre proposition ciblerait en premier lieu les endroits les plus difficiles à desservir.
9025 Nous proposons que ces fonds soient distribués au moyen d'enchères inversées, cette méthode ayant été appliquée avec beaucoup de succès et ayant permis d'accroître l'utilité des fonds en branchant un plus grand nombre de foyers à moindre coût.
9026 Le programme Un Canada branché en fait la démonstration. Le gouvernement fédéral a réussi à dépasser ses objectifs de près de 30 pour cent en branchant 356,000 foyers au lieu de 280,000, sans engager de dépenses supplémentaires.
9027 Des résultats semblables ont été obtenus aux États-Unis dans le cadre du programme Rural Broadband Experiments mené par la Commission fédérale des communications, the FCC.
9028 Les critères-clefs pour l'octroi du financement doivent être établis dès le départ, par le Conseil, afin que l'enchère finale soit véritablement une enchère inversée où le soumissionnaire le plus bas l'emporte.
9030 MR. FLAHERTY: The Commission has asked whether a specific mechanism is required to support investments in transport facilities in Northwestel's operating territory and in other rural and remote areas. We don't think this is necessary.
9031 Instead, we recommend that an auction to provide service in satellite communities be handled separately from any terrestrial auction rather than implementing a specific mechanism to support investments in transport facilities.
9032 For satellite communities, ongoing subsidy is necessary to assist with the lease of transponder capacity and ensure rates become more affordable in these communities.
9033 We believe it would be appropriate to conduct two distinct processes, providing a one-time subsidy for terrestrial builds, and an ongoing subsidy for satellite communities.
9034 When it comes to voice, we have proposed two changes.
9035 First, we submit that the choice of long distance service provider should no longer form part of the BSO.
9036 Second, we believe that the requirement to provide dial-up service should also be removed. These requirements are no longer appropriate and hinder future technological developments that ILECs may wish to use to meet their voice obligations.
9037 Rob -- or Milène, sorry.
9038 Mme LEDUC: Un autre élément d’une stratégie large bande est d’assurer à tous les Canadiens l’accès à la technologie dont ils ont besoin pour communiquer entre eux. C’est d'autant plus vrai pour les Canadiens souffrant d’un handicap.
9039 Chez Bell, nous nous engageons à rendre nos produits et services accessibles aux personnes handicapées.
9040 Au cours des derniers mois, nous avons reçu les demandes d’organismes représentant les personnes sourdes et malentendantes, qui souhaitent pouvoir utiliser des forfaits de services sans fil comprenant des données seulement, sans minutes superflues d’utilisation de la voix.
9041 Comme nous l’avons annoncé dans notre communiqué de presse du 29 février, nous lancerons dans les prochains mois un plan sans fil dédié aux près de 357,000 Canadiens qui sont sourds ou malentendants.
9042 Dans le cadre de ce programme, nous mettrons sur notre site web des vidéos expliquant cette offre en ASL/LSQ.
9043 Au Centre des services d’accessibilité de Bell, nous nous dépassons quotidiennement afin que nos clients handicapés puissent profiter au maximum de nos services.
9044 À ma connaissance, Bell est le seul fournisseur qui ait un centre d’accessibilité attitré. Je serais heureuse de discuter de notre engagement à servir les clients handicapés.
9045 MR. MALCOLMSON: There has been discussion throughout the hearing that the Commission should create a subsidy program to address the affordability of broadband service or a mandate --
9046 THE SECRETARY: Can you -- sorry.
9047 MR. MALCOLMSON: -- a basic level ---
9048 THE SECRETARY: Can you just please slow down when you’re speaking, for the interpreter? Thank you.
9049 MR. MALCOLMSON: Sorry.
9050 Or mandate a basic level of broadband service at regulated prices, speeds and usage levels. Bell opposes both of these suggestions.
9051 The evidence on the record shows broadband service is generally affordable in Canada except, unfortunately, among a segment of low income Canadians and in remote communities where the higher cost of providing service necessarily results in higher retail pricing.
9052 We’ve addressed the concerns of rural and remote areas with our subsidy proposal in our remarks earlier.
9053 Regarding affordability, as the Affordable Access Coalition indicated in their testimony last week, the issue is not about internet rates being just and reasonable, but rather it’s that some Canadians with low incomes struggle to afford the internet.
9054 What we’ve heard on the record is that despite this low income Canadians are continuing to subscribe to internet services.
9055 This isn’t an issue of access; it’s a matter of what low income Canadians are giving up in order to stay connected.
9056 This is fundamentally a poverty issue and for this reason, it is best addressed by government. We are hopeful that a collaborative approach will enable the Commission to work with all levels of government so that the communication needs of low-income Canadians are addressed by social assistance programs.
9057 We note that the Government of Yukon’s social assistance program includes a $37 per month low income voice subsidy. Now may be the time to introduce similar government subsidies for broadband.
9058 The hearing has also brought forward the proposal of a mandated basic broadband service at regulated rates, with which there are a number of significant problems.
9059 First, the Commission has already forborne from regulating retail Internet pricing.
9060 In order to introduce rate regulated Internet, the Commission would have to make findings of fact in each relevant market that market forces are no longer sufficient in order to protect the interests of users.
9061 Second, unlike skinny basic T.V. service, the costs of providing broadband are highly variable depending on the area served and the technology deployed, so uniform retail pricing across the country is not possible.
9062 Third, mandating artificially low prices to serve a small segment of the population inevitably means that the rest of the customer base will pay more.
9063 Fourth, a mandated basic broadband service could have the unintended consequence of reducing competition in a given market to the detriment of consumers.
9064 In some markets, for example, Bell cannot offer a 5 in 1 service today and we have customers in those areas who purchase 1.5 megs service.
9065 If a 5/1 basic service was mandated, we might have to withdraw our internet service from those markets, removing an option for consumers.
9066 Fifth, imposing retail rates on ILECs and cable companies who already have wholesale broadband obligations will create endless regulatory debates about margin squeezing and wholesale discounts.
9067 Sixth, a mandated basic broadband service would introduce another layer of regulation that would act as a disincentive to investment in next generation network infrastructure.
9068 And last but not least, those who need assistance the most, low income Canadians participating in this proceeding; have indicated that a one-size-fits-all solution would not meet their needs.
9069 For all of these reasons, we would urge the Commission not to adopt any form of retail rate regulation for broadband.
9070 In conclusion, we heard you yesterday and tried to be responsive. We’ve attached, as an appendix to this statement, our ideas regarding how various government stakeholders can collaborate in their efforts to achieve the outcome of providing broadband access to all Canadians.
9071 And by no means is industry off the hook. Industry should be incented to focus on what it does best - investing in next generation technological improvements to further Canada's broadband deployment initiatives.
9072 We thank you for the opportunity to appear before you and we’d be please to answer your questions.
9073 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your presentation. I’ll lead us off, but I will make a reminder that because there is all levels of interpretation we should be conscious of that and slow down the pace and not speak over each other, as sometimes these happen -- these things happen.
9074 The second thing I’d ask you to do, because you obviously represent a number of companies and I’m going to assume, unless you tell me otherwise, that your answer applies to the entire group of companies, unless you speak up and tell me there’s a specificity associated with, I don’t know, Aliant Assets or Northwestel; is that okay?
9075 MR. MALCOLMSON: That’s fine, Mr. Chairman.
9076 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
9077 And the other thing is you’ve constructively, thank you for that, added some things which will require us to have a little look at that.
9078 It’s also 11:20, which means that I doubt we’ll get through the -- all the questions before lunch break. So I’ll start off, but at one point we will -- we’ll take a break and come back after lunch; if that’s okay with you?
9079 So my first question is -- and you know how I usually ask questions. I start off with the very high issues and then I go down to the smaller ones at the end.
9080 So in your view who should lead the development of a national broadband strategy?
9081 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well we think –- we think it’s a combination of the government, the Federal Government and the regulator, and that there are roles to play for both.
9082 There are roles to play for both, so it should be led by the Federal Government, it should be led by the CRTC.
9083 We’ve made a proposal with respect to what the CRTC could do and it’s our view that there are really three issues that we’re confronting.
9084 There’s the issue of affordability, there’s the issue of adoption, and there’s the issue of deployment, and our proposal has focused on deployment.
9085 And what we’re saying is priority one, in our view, should be identifying those Canadians that don’t have access to the basic levels of connectivity today.
9086 That don’t have access to 5 in 1, in our country’s remotest areas and finding a way to fund the extension of service to those communities.
9087 And in doing that, recognizing that 5 in 1 may be the standard today, building into that deployment plan an element of future proofing so that people who receive the subsidy would actually build out to 10 in 1 capability.
9088 So we think the Commission should focus on deployment. We’ve made a deployment proposal. We think that government, obviously, with its $500 million funding announcement, can contribute to deployment.
9089 Commission would be playing an important role in advising the government how to do that and in terms of the affordability issue we think that lands squarely at the feet of government.
9090 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m actually a big fan of shared leadership. I often talk within the Commission, wearing my CEO hat, about the principle of shared leadership, and I’ve written on it, and it works to the extent that you have a government’s model that allows conversations to occur.
9091 So the other point I make, it’s a bit like the internet itself, which was designed to survive nuclear attacks at the very beginning and so it is designed so that if packets can’t flow one way, they flow another way.
9092 And this is the challenge, isn’t it, of shared leadership, because if you’ve got part of the network, or the shared leadership that doesn’t step up, others, a bit like the internet, pick up the traffic.
9093 So your principle of it being shared quickly comes into conflict with a notion of coordination, or if there is no coordination somebody else has to pick up the slack. And I was wondering if you had any advice with respect to that.
9094 There are historic institutional divides in machinery of government, and on top of that, to my knowledge, there’s not a great federal, provincial, territorial table to coordinate these things.
9095 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well thank you for the question, and we do have some views.
9096 As you’ve said earlier in the proceeding, both the funding of broadband and the deployment of broadband to date has been sort of a patchwork quilt of government initiatives, regulation, and there is a need for coordination.
9097 I think given the record that you’ve compiled in this proceeding, which we can certainly attest is significant from the perspective of contributing to the record, the record you’ve created provides a very good springboard for the Commission to take on the role of advising the government, perhaps, if there’s willingness, coordinating with the government how those various moving parts can be put together.
9098 So we very much see as a first step the Commission, if it’s inclined to do so, reporting to the government on the state of broadband, where the gaps are, where the funding is available, what the roles of provincial governments are, what the role of the federal government is. And, as we said, if the Commission wants to act now in terms of contributing to deployment, for example, the Commission could say to the government “this is the chunk we’re going to bite off, here’s what we’re going to do.” So I think you could perform a very valuable role in coordinating the process.
9099 THE CHAIRPERSON: And if one of the parts of the system, this ecosystem of shared leadership, fails to step up what does one do?
9100 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I’m an optimist so I would hope that doesn’t happen.
9101 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m an optimist as well, but sometimes I also have to be a realist. Because there are people asking, right, there are people who have come to this table saying “we are left behind” for a number of reasons, not just actually getting connectivity but because they have issues of affordability, they have issues of literacy, they -- the myriad of issues is quite considerable.
9102 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, it’s a daunting challenge. If, after a coordinated effort, one agency doesn’t step up then, you know, things within your jurisdiction can always come back to you and you can do more if you feel the need to do more.
9103 We also think you could do -- play an important role in monitoring what other agencies are doing and perhaps creating a scorecard or reporting on an annual basis as to how those coordinated efforts are progressing.
9104 THE CHAIRPERSON: What is your assessment -- because you did mention governments, including I guess provincial and territorial governments. To what extend do you see municipal governments playing a role as well?
9105 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, maybe I’ll start with federal and provincial. I think our view is their role most importantly -- well, the federal government can play a role in deployment, and we’ve seen that they’ve committed funding to that, but the other important role, and the role we think governments should take on is addressing what’s been described as the affordability problem. I think we would describe it not so much as an affordability problem but a poverty issue that is in need of a social safety net. Clearly broadband connectivity is a necessity and social assistance programs run by governments we think should take that into account now.
9106 And then in terms of municipal level, again we see some municipalities are actually taking it upon themselves to launch their own broadband projects with government funding, so that’s a role for municipalities.
9107 THE CHAIRPERSON: But your point always comes back to build out, and the point I’m making is that there’s a larger basket. If you’re going to do a strategy it has to have several components. Yes, build out is one, but surely it’s not the only one, and therefore coordination between several levels of government, let alone municipal, regional arrangements that are above sometimes local government, First Nation bands -- I mean, the number of people potentially involved is daunting, to use your word.
9108 So I understand your point when it’s just build out but what of the larger issues of digital literacy and helping people navigate what is obviously a complicated world because it’s not intuitive to some?
9109 MR. MALCOLMSON: Again, I think our view is that the primary role the Commission should play in terms of exercising its regulatory authority is contributing to the build out. To us, that’s job one.
9110 THE CHAIRPERSON: I understand that that’s our action, but in setting the direction more broadly.
9111 MR. MALCOLMSON: And in terms of the other two equally important issues, affordability and adoption, we see your role as potentially coordinating and certainly reporting and monitoring on an ongoing basis.
9112 We don’t see, Mr. Chairman, the affordability role being primarily assumed by you. We think given what the issue is it’s a poverty issue. We think that’s more appropriately dealt with through government social assistance programs.
9113 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think people have perhaps forgotten part of what I said yesterday, which was the mere fact that we would express a view on direction doesn’t mean we would become responsible to fund or implement.
9114 And the questions I’m asking are assuming that, assuming that we may not be ultimately responsible from a regulatory perspective on some of these issues, there still seems to be a crying need for a level of coordination, and I’m asking you about governance to ensure that that occurs.
9115 Because it seems to me that when governments, institutions, the private sector don’t get their act together and say wait, wait, wait, that’s not good in society, it just raises the level of frustration.
9116 So don’t assume that when I’m asking the questions it’s for us to take it over.
9117 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, again, Mr. Chairman, I think you, as the expert regulator, could perform a valuable role in, for lack of a better word, coordinating or cajoling other stakeholders into a broader strategy.
9118 And we are not suggesting that you wait in terms of deployment, we are suggesting that if you see fit you could move forward with admittedly one piece of the puzzle now in terms of a deployment subsidy.
9119 My colleague Phil has something to offer.
9120 MR. GAUVIN: I don’t know if you have the exhibit or attachment there. We’ve lumped in together the municipal and the provincial.
9121 Yesterday when we were discussing this in late hours, as you can imagine, it was a much longer list. We realize that our recommendations for provincial and municipal were very similar.
9122 The role that we would see for the Commission in coordinating is issuing a report saying these are the needs of Canadians as we’ve seen from the record. The outcome that we’re seeking is to ensure that all Canadians have access to the services they need to participate in the digital economy. These are the gaps that we’ve observed and the various responsibilities and we’ve listed some here that we think could be addressed, and this is what could happen to make it happen.
9123 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So -- thank you. And I did see that. So -- although I just got it, and I appreciate you were working on it late, and it’s not a criticism at all but it’s just I haven’t had a chance to pour over it.
9124 So why don’t you, as a first step, explain to us how you, in a joint leadership coordinated fashion, propose these baskets of responsibility and why.
9125 MR. MALCOLMSON: And you’re looking, Mr. Chairman, at the ---
9126 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m looking at -- sorry.
9127 MR. MALCOLMSON: The one page.
9128 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your appendix there.
9129 MR. MALCOLMSON: So really what we tried to do is outline how we could get to the outcomes that I think we’re all collectively striving for. So we’ve identified what we think the role of the Commission could be. And again, we think job one is deployment. I won’t go over that again.
9130 But similarly, you can play an important role in identifying what the state of broadband is in this country, where the gaps are. We’ve heard about communities where, you know, they’re sort of off the grid and can’t be reached. How do we address those? So we think that you could play an important sort of first-step role in scoping out the problem and saying, “Here’s the problem we collectively face, government regulator industry.” So that’s number one.
9131 And then I think a very important role for the Commission is to monitor and report on broadband connectivity in Canada. What are government funding programs accomplishing? What is the regulated sector accomplishing? How are the Commission’s policies working?
9132 And then, you know, one of our favourite recommendations is number six. You know, we always want to see regulatory policies that create incentives to invest in network infrastructure.
9133 Then we move on to the government. What can the federal government do? Well, if you take on the funding responsibility for remote areas of the country you could say the government concentrate on those other areas. Those areas in between the remotest communities but outside of urban centers. And we’ve heard the frustration of sort of people on the edge who aren’t getting service but they’re just that far away. So government funding could play a role in closing that gap.
9134 From our perspective, you know, you could recommend to government tax policy that, again, incents investment. Up to you as to whether you would want to take that role on.
9135 And again, always reviewing government fees, regulatory fees, spectrum fees to ensure that, you know, industry is contributing but not being asked to carry a load so that it can’t invest.
9136 And again, provincial and municipal governments, you can recommend to them how to address the affordability problem. We think it’s been identified. And it would be perfectly appropriate for you to issue a report or a call to action that Social Assistance programs now need to take into account this basic necessity.
9137 You could encourage government to promote digital literacy; very important. But again, I don’t think necessarily a mandated regulatory initiative. But an awareness initiative and one you could ask governments to direct some resources towards.
9138 So that’s really, in a nutshell, our proposal.
9139 THE CHAIRPERSON: I notice that excluded from this list -- and I’m not sure if it was by choice or shortness of time -- are First Nations and Indigenous peoples who in some instances have self-governing territories.
9140 MR. MALCOLMSON: It was late and it’s an oversight that we didn’t identify them as a specific heading here. But we look at those organizations as part of government so they would fall into the municipal local government basket.
9141 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So your concept of local government is broader than -- you’re not suggesting that they’re emanations of the federal government.
9142 MR. MALCOLMSON: No.
9143 THE CHAIRPERSON: When you look at this list in your appendix here, are there linkages that we should be aware of? Just by way of example, your capital cost allowance acceleration. To what extent does that flow back, for instance, on some of your other proposals? Because it gets into a mix into the financing presumably, or maybe not.
9144 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, you’re right. There is a linkage to the extent that government tax policy creates an environment where it’s more attractive to invest. Then that enables additional investment which could enable, you know, the regulator to direct investment obligations. All of it works together to facilitate the deployment of resources to your goals so there is a linkage.
9145 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you think there are other linkages? I gave that as an example. I’m not sure if there are any others.
9146 Do you want to take some time and maybe do it through an undertaking to see if there are things that are co-dependent?
9147 MR. MALCOLMSON: My colleague Mr. Daniels would like to offer you some comments, and then we would take an undertaking if you feel it’s necessary.
9148 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
9149 MR. DANIELS: I just wanted to give an example of something in terms of what we’ve heard a lot about in this proceeding on the affordability issue.
9150 As we said, you’ve heard us about being a poverty issue. But I think what was enlightening to us, and I think presumably to yourself and others, is just to the extent that when we looked at this throughout this proceeding the evidence that came up especially -- and you’ve heard it as well from the ACORN individuals who sat here and told you their stories.
9151 But people are taking the internet and using the internet, and using it at different levels based on their needs which really suggests that it’s not an access problem but that it’s a poverty issue. You’ve heard us on that.
9152 We think that that’s an example of something where the evidence that you’ve collected, which may not be a focus of what the provincial governments are looking at that, you know, being able to direct and to give advice, that this is what we’ve discovered, and this is how people are using the internet at different levels and based on their needs but really what they’re giving up. Because that’s what we heard a lot about, what people are giving up in terms of on other aspects. That’s something where you could, you know, provide useful advice.
9153 And then as you see and what are suggestions here again for the linkages, is we see a role where you could actually report and be a conduit of where people could know, oh, for Social Assistance what’s available in terms of from this perspective; how is this treated? Actually report on that on an annual basis.
9154 So it’s just I guess I’m trying to give you an example based on your question of how I see these working together from a coordination perspective to achieve collectively our goals.
9155 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that’s useful but it only brings us so far in terms of the inter-dependencies here. It’s Shakespeare that wrote that “modest doubt is the beacon of the wise.” And I always hesitate to jump in without making -- getting a little bit more context.
9156 So it would appear that there may be other inter-dependencies and I would appreciate your views on it. And that therefore others, having seen your views, will be able to comment on it as well.
9157 MR. MALCOLMSON: So we’re happy to give that some more thought in the form of an undertaking.
9159 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
9160 What role -- I mean, when you were presenting this you said, well, the Commission could do this, the Commission could do this. What role do you see other champions playing?
9161 MR. MALCOLMSON: Other champions being?
9162 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don’t know. Other leaders in the stakeholder community, some of your CEOs, for instance, ministers.
9163 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think the role that industry can and should play -- which is why we focused on it -- is being the champion of the build out of next generation infrastructure. I think that is the role for industry. That is what we should be focused on. That is what we should be incented to do. And so that would be our role.
9164 I think the other champions are obviously the regulator and government, and we’ve provided our views on the roles that those two agencies can play.
9165 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. I’ll give you an example. Say for a given that the issue of poverty is best dealt with at the provincial funding level, which is your argument. Just assume that; that we’ve bought into that. That we make that recommendation.
9166 To what extent would the CEOs of the private sector, in light of their broader social responsibilities and as opinion leaders, what would they do and what should they do?
9167 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think all of the large industry players play important roles in the social responsibility initiatives. They choose which ones they wish to focus on.
9168 As you know, at Bell we focused on mental health. That's the cause that we've championed. Within the sphere that we're talking about today in terms of accessibility, deployment, and adoption, we've also focused on digital literacy and become a champion of digital literacy because we recognize that one of the issues is a lack of adoption.
9169 So that is a role we've chosen to play as well. I can take you through what we do in the area of digital literacy, but you may already know, but ---
9170 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, it's not so much that. I'm still at the level of to what extent do other players step up? It's one thing to say -- because it may be perceived that your position is one that you, the Commission, shouldn't do this, others should do it. And I'm not questioning the authenticity of your position, but then it may be perceived as then it goes into this big dark hole.
9171 And I see CEOs, even associations of CEOs taking on some issues in Canadian society, and so I'm wondering to what extent above and beyond some of the social responsibility -- I'm not putting those into doubt or question -- to what extent would the CEOs, as opinion leaders and influence makers, step up in some of these issues?
9172 So, unfortunately Mr. Cope is not here, so I can't ask him directly.
9173 MR. MALCOLMSON: Nor can I answer directly, just for the record.
9174 You know, the CEOs of all the companies have, as I said, have an important role in corporate social responsibility. The nice thing about this country is that they're free to choose which ones they wish to focus on.
9175 We focused on mental health, we focused on digital literacy, and our focus as a company is on the build out of infrastructure.
9176 We're network builders, so we've come to you today saying that our primary goal and the primary role we can play, the contribution we can make is building out that infrastructure in communities where it doesn’t exist today. And that, in and of itself, will perform a very valuable social function.
9177 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we've discussed sort of the governance around this, and your document is helpful. I’ll see if I have further questions after the lunch break.
9178 But in terms of outcomes, in your presentation today, you -- perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but you seem to frame it that the principal outcome is bridging the gap for the four percent of households that do not have access to five and one? Is that the only outcome, if you were thinking of a broader blueprint?
9179 MR. MALCOLMSON: We say it's the principal outcome because it's one we think that is both realistic, practical, and something that you are able to accomplish without going through the whole sort of patchwork quilt of coordination that we talked about earlier.
9180 So that's why we say it's the principal outcome. There are other equally important outcomes around adoption and around dealing with the poverty issue, so we see three parallel issues that need to be addressed and hopefully there are three outcomes that solve each of those three issues.
9181 THE CHAIRPERSON: And we'll unpack those at some point later on, but right now, I was going to ask you a few questions about potential overarching principles that we might want to think about in a strategy.
9182 Do you have any -- well, here, maybe I'll put some to you and you can tell me whether you agree with them.
9183 For instance, could we say that while working with other stakeholders and taking into account competitive markets, that the private sector should play a leadership role in developing and operating broadband networks and services for Canadians?
9184 MR. MALCOLMSON: As a principle, the private sector should perform a role in operating networks? Sorry, I just ---
9185 THE CHAIRPERSON: In the development and operation.
9186 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9187 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you agree with the principle that all Canadians should have access to the social, cultural, and economic benefits delivered through broadband networks in such applications as e-learning, e-health, e-government, and e-business?
9188 MR. MALCOLMSON: We would agree that all Canadians should have access, taking into account that the terms and conditions associated with access may differ based on where they live.
9189 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you agree with the principle that in defining broadband infrastructure development initiatives, government should achieve sustainable broadband access to every public institution, public library, health care centre, or other designated public access point in the country?
9190 MR. MALCOLMSON: I'm not sure I'm comfortable recommending what government should or should not do, other than playing a role in funding. I think it's up to government to decide once the broadband problem has been identified what role they want to play inside that.
9191 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, we -- just the level of principles here. Surely, if we're giving ourselves objectives we should be able to jointly define them, and I'm just testing with you.
9192 And you don’t think that's -- is it your not feeling comfortable telling government what to do? You should probably close down your government relations shop.
9193 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think the principle you articulated is a laudable principle for government to pursue.
9194 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you agree that another principle could be working with other stakeholders; communities should be engaging in identifying local needs and network options, in developing capacity at the local level to use and gain value from broadband networks ---
9195 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9196 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- as well as ensuring that economic development plans and initiatives incorporate broadband services and content?
9197 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9198 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not making these up, by the way.
9199 MR. MALCOLMSON: I didn’t think you were.
9200 THE CHAIRPERSON: They come from a report by a certain David Johnson, when in 2001, he and many others in the country developed a report, the report on the National Broadband Task Force called "The New National Dream: Networking the Nation for Broadband Access".
9201 Have you had a chance to review that? I'm sure it’s on a shelf somewhere.
9202 MR. MALCOLMSON: I can't say that I reviewed it prior to the hearing and the way my memory is these days, if I don’t review it prior to the hearing I forget it immediately, so ---
9203 THE CHAIRPERSON: We all do.
9204 But it seems to me that considerable effort had been made in actually defining some of the outcomes. I guess some of them trickled through to a certain degree, but others maybe less, and perhaps I'll give you homework over the lunch break, which we're about to take, to have a look at those principles -- there are a total of nine -- and tell me whether you continue to agree with them or not, to frame a strategy.
9205 MR. MALCOLMSON: We will take a look at them over our lunch break, Mr. Chairman.
9206 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, we can provide you a web reference to it, if that is helpful, if Mr. Google hasn’t done the job already.
9207 Okay, so I'd rather take a break at this point and continue after the lunch break to pursue the conversation.
9208 But before I do that, I think you've added an exhibit that we probably should identify.
9209 Madam Secretary, what number are we at?
9210 THE SECRETARY: It will be Exhibit 5.
9211 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
9212 MR. MALCOLMSON: That's the exhibit which was the one-pager attached to our presentation?
9213 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, I'd assume that that was merely an annexe to your presentation. It's the more detailed costing, I think (inaudible).
9214 MR. MALCOLMSON: We have not added it as an exhibit, but with your permission, we will, and it is ---
9215 THE CHAIRPERSON: I assume that that's what you were doing when you were referring to it.
9216 MR. MALCOLMSON: We didn’t want to be so presumptuous as to hand it in.
9217 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, well, why don't we do that and ---
9218 MR. MALCOLMSON: Thank you.
9219 THE CHAIRPERSON: --- and share copies so everyone will know what we're talking about, okay?
9220 MR. MALCOLMSON: Thank you.
9221 THE CHAIRPERSON: So we'll take a break and let's come back at 1:15.
9222 Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 11:56 a.m.
--- Upon resuming at 1:16 p.m.
9223 THE CHAIRPERSON: À l’ordre, s’il vous plait.
9224 Order, please.
9225 So we’ll be hearing next not from Bell because they’ve kindly agreed to set back so we can hear from Mr. John Rae.
9226 Mr. Rae, just so you know, up here there’s a panel of five Commissioners. Myself, the Chairman, Jean-Pierre Blais. I’ve got with me here as well Vice-chair Menzies, Commissioner Chris MacDonald, Commissioner Candice Molnar, and Commissioner Linda Vennard.
9227 So you can go ahead, and we’re listening.
9228 MR. RAE: Oh, there we go. I can make technology work today. That’s amazing. Technology and me doesn’t get on too well most of the time.
9229 Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for introducing all the Commissioners. That’s very helpful.
9230 I appreciate the opportunity to have been able to switch my time. After your schedule came out and even before then when I submitted my request to appear, later I got -- the organization I’m involved with got invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this morning to discuss the renewal of the Court Challenges Program.
9231 So instead of appearing by video conference from Toronto, which I’ve done in the past and which works very very well, here I am in person.
9232 And also, I want to thank the delegation from Bell for extending their lunch break so that I could start my presentation right after lunch. Thank you, gentlemen. That was very kind of you.
9233 As the record will show, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, this is not my first time here. And so I’m glad that I haven’t totally worn out my welcome yet because until I achieve my goals I will keep coming back and coming back, although I hope that the need for me to keep coming back will soon go away.
9234 But it will only go away when I achieve my objectives, which are full equality, a recognition of a better way to provide technical support, the initiation of universal design, and full access to receiving a television program, whether that program is broadcast over cable or other platforms.
9235 So I assume you’ve figured out what all that means, right? I’ve come here looking for more regulation on the part of the CRTC in that list. I appreciate what the Commission has done in the past, but I’ve always called for more and here I am again. My message hasn’t changed.
9236 The notion that our equality should be left to the marketplace has never worked in the past, isn’t working now, and so there’s no reason to expect me to believe that somehow out of a bottle I can find -- I can coax out an equality genie that will suddenly make things equal, accessible, and usable.
9237 And the notion of what is accessible and what is usable you would think would go hand in hand. Well, they should be they don’t always. And I know that even this morning there was some discussion of access, but it was from a standpoint of affordability. Clearly that is a topic that is of great concern to the disabled community because our community -- too many of our community continue to subsist in abject poverty.
9238 But rather than go up that road, I want to take the discussion of access and usability in different directions. One of those is -- and here, Commissioners, I’m not picking on the sectors that you regulate. No, I’m not. The issues I talk about are endemic so I’m not picking on your sector at all, although while I’m here I guess I will.
9239 I take liberties once in a while, Commissioners, you know.
9240 So the first issue then is websites. There is a need to make them better. Some websites that may be technically accessible often aren’t terribly usable. What do I mean by the difference?
9241 If I can’t find what’s on a website, even if that website is supposedly accessible, doesn’t help the provider, it doesn’t help me. So that’s what I mean when I talk about the difference between what may be accessible and what’s usable.
9242 Second aspect is how much PDF is on websites and whether those PDF files are accessible. It depends how the file is created. Too often I deal with a file, I open it up, and I get -- and my screen reader says those two words that I hate to hear, “Empty document.”
9243 Well, chances are the document isn’t empty. Chances are it may be completely full of text, but if my screen reader thinks that that text is a scanned image it think it’s a picture. And if it thinks it’s a picture it doesn’t know what to do with a picture and I get “empty document”. It still happens too much of the time and it need not be that way.
9244 So the solutions for that are either to make sure that a document is created accessibly or stop using PDF to start with. You know, use text, or if you insist upon using PDF also put up a text equivalent.
9245 When we also think about accessibility, as we all hear nowadays more and more Canadians are giving up their cable subscriptions all together in favour of accessing television programming through alternate platforms. Well, that sounds okay in theory but for us that same program which may come with audio description when it’s broadcast over my television set, chances are these days will not have that same described audio track when it is broadcast over another platform.
9246 And that’s why I’m calling upon the Commission to regulate television distribution over alternate platforms. We need the same level of access, and I demand the same level of access over those platforms as I get through my television set, right, through my television set. That is, if my set-top box makes it possible for me to find where the described audio channel is.
9247 Fortunately, my provider is Rogers. And thanks to one of your previous proceedings -- they never advertise this but it came out through one of your proceedings so I’m glad you hold these proceedings, Commissioners. I discovered the existence of a special remote with one-button access. Pushing one button I can switch between a described version and a non-described version of a program, assuming the description is there.
9248 So if my sighted friends don’t want the description, although there’s a good chance they actually prefer it as well, not just me, but if they don’t it’s easy to switch. And what is more important for me, it’s easy for me to put it back on should they watch TV late at night at my place and leave it off.
9249 Well, a lot of other cable providers use set-top boxes that are nowhere near this easy. I understand that progress is coming but, you know, I’m getting old. And the whole notion of incremental progress is something I’m getting a little impatient about, I must say.
9250 And the other real major irritant in my life is the kind of technical support that is available. I’m going to be charitable. It’s not my nature, Commissioners, but I’m going to be a little charitable today. When I categorize technical support available to a blind customer as woefully inadequate it’s not the words I usually use but I’m being charitable this afternoon.
9251 Too often when I call up my provider, tell him I have a problem with my internet, they ask me, “Is the green light on? How many lights are on your modem?” And this is after I’ve told them I’m totally blind. Do they not understand what “totally blind” means? It seems like they don’t.
9252 And none of them have a clue how to assist a blind person who uses screen reader. None of them. It is woefully adequate.
9253 So what, of course, I’m recommending is that each supplier, each provider train some of its technical support staff to understand how to deal with a customer who has a screen reader. They don’t need to train all of them, although that wouldn’t hurt, but no, we don’t need that. We need some number of dedicated staff and that when a blind person has a technical problem and regardless what time of day that technical problem occurs, I can call -- we can call our provider, identify ourselves as a blind person and be sure that we can get technical support that will help us.
9254 So you see, Commissioners, there are unmet needs and that’s why people like me continue to come back and ask you to do more, not less, when it comes to regulating the industry that you have the power and the authority to regulate.
9255 Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here.
9256 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you for being there and for your frank comments. Commissioner MacDonald may have some questions for you.
9257 MR. RAE: Sure.
9258 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Good afternoon. I do have a few quick questions. You were talking a lot about the interactions with your service provider and where they may be failing to meet some of your specific requirements. Are there particular steps or changes in their procedures and processes that you’d recommend they put in place? Or are there any other companies that really do a much better job in servicing their customers with disabilities that perhaps you could point to? Other companies or organizations that some of these service providers can learn some lessons from.
9259 MR. RAE: Better companies? Yes. But none in Canada. Not here. There’s Comcast in the United States that seems far ahead in terms of providing this sort of thing, also provides access to a TV guide that a blind person can access. So I think the leader is Comcast in the United States or there’s companies in the United Kingdom.
9260 But instead of trying to bring the technology that has been available in the United Kingdom for some years, the Canadian approach has been wait for the U.S. Wait for the U.S. and then we’ll think about doing something.
9261 Well, hopefully that’s getting closer.
9262 As far as the technical support issue, it’s the comment I made that each provider -- and while I obviously know my own best anecdotal, comments that I’ve heard from other members of the blind community lead me to believe that their competitors or companies in other parts of Canada are by no means any better. Not any better at all.
9263 So one thing is what I propose that each of these companies needs to train some of its technical support staff to understand the needs of a blind customer who uses a screen reader. That can be done and I believe it should be.
9264 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: Okay. Thank you. And I guess maybe I should have asked this question first because we’re talking about the support you receive. What about before you actually sign up for a new service? Can you speak to, you know, the challenges that you face when you’re trying to shop around for an internet service or a wireless or television service between the different providers? And, you know, if they’ve got specialized plans that would target your unique needs or how they make it easy or difficult to find the solution that would best suit your personal needs.
9265 MR. RAE: Thank you. Yes, thank you for that question.
9266 Well, there’s several aspects to the answer to that question, sir. In terms of cell phones, I think it’s now required that each provider have at least one that’s accessible. But you have more choice than we do. So I think it’s reasonable for us to expect better.
9267 Access to information is always an issue for us. And whether it’s possible to get information about plans or that sort of thing in a format we can read, and that’s the issue, of course. Today it seems like the internet is king in almost all aspects of life. I wish it wasn’t quite that way.
9268 And again, the issue may be finding what you need. For example, as a result of your regulatory work, we now have access to take and pay option, I think. I think we do. I admit I have not spent an exhaustive amount of time looking for it on Rogers, but I couldn’t find it when I made a quick look. I do assume it’s there somewhere but I couldn’t find it. I admit I need to spend more time looking than I have so far, but if it’s there, and I assume it is, it wasn’t easy to find.
9269 So access to information about what products are available, what -- and especially what plans are available can be a bit difficult. It’s difficult. It can be.
9270 COMMISSIONER MACDONALD: With respect to the pricing of some of those plans, we heard from the CNIB earlier today and in their submission to us they noted that people with disabilities often face challenges in finding employment, and oftentimes they’re tend to be lower income Canadians because they have a hard time finding employment.
9271 Do you have any thoughts on what the best way is to ensure affordable service for visually impaired Canadians? Is it a mandated package of some kind to meet your needs? Is it additional support from government knowing that you have unique needs? Is it a specialized fund that may be required to offset some of your costs?
9272 MR. RAE: Well, the best solution, of course, would be to enhance employment equity within this industry and in all other sectors. Not just this industry, all sectors.
9273 And that would accomplish two things. It would do something about our chronic and ongoing level of unemployment which is, in my mind, a national disgrace. But it would do more than that. It would bring inside into these -- into companies, whether telecommunications or any other sector. This is not a telecommunication specific issue. It’s endemic across all sectors.
9274 It would bring inside expertise that sometimes isn’t sufficiently available in-house. And it would make it harder to forget about us when new services are being planned for, when new technology is being designed and manufactured, when new promotional schemes are being thought about, when new commercials to advertise products are being decided upon. So it would have both of those benefits.
9275 A lot of people say, “Why would I buy a particular product because there’s nobody in your commercial that looks like me?” Well, from time to time there’s no reason why they couldn’t include a person with a disability using one of their accessible products. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be done.
9276 We recommend it should happen more often because that would not only be a signal to our community -- and I think that’s to businesses’ benefit, you know, that they are interested in our share of the market. And although we’re poor, we do comprise one seventh of the population so there’s a -- there is a considerable purchasing power available to them if they made themselves more accessible, more attractive to our community.
9277 So not only would it do something about our employment, it would bring needed expertise in-house, and I believe that that would lead to the development of better products, more accessible products.
9278 And as a trading nation, I think from a business standpoint, what we may develop in Canada that's accessible could be of value in an export sense to other countries around the world who are doing more and more now that more and more countries have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as of course Canada did when it became available for signature.
9279 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Thank you for that.
9280 Just one final question. Is there any particular reason or can you share your thoughts on why you think that perhaps servicing customers with disabilities and getting more customers with disabilities onto their networks doesn’t appear to be a major focus of the communications companies today?
9281 MR. RAE: I would suggest that there's a lot of assumptions at play, perhaps some measure of stigma as opposed, an assumption that we are sufficiently poor and that maybe they aren't going to attract our business, or an assumption that, you know, we are going to take up the products like everybody else does.
9282 I think there's a lot of assumptions at play. I think a lot of those assumptions are fallacious and not really based on fact because, you know, although our community is amongst the poorest of the poor in this country, a growing number of people in the blind community seem to have cell phones and all that sort of thing.
9283 I personally don’t. People say I need one. They say I need -- they need to be able to find me more easily. I say I'm not that important. You don’t need to and, of course, usually I am out. I bet almost everybody in this room has one. So I say when I'm out with people, why do I need one? The rest of you have them. I don’t need one, but I really don’t want one.
9284 And for me, these touchtone fancy phones that more and more members of the blind community are using and using effectively, to me something that has a flat screen, whether it's a telephone or a range at home or whether it's a stereo system, to me a flat screen just isn’t accessible, not accessible in my mind. I want buttons. I want buttons.
9285 So there we go. But it's a question of choice, a question of when one gets used to. Many of us have -- seem to have mastered the mysteries of technology that I think are a bit beyond me, but anyway.
9286 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: I can relate. I've had some choice words for my own iPad over the years trying to get the touchscreen to work.
9287 MR. RAE: I can believe that.
9288 COMMISSIONER MacDONALD: Those are my questions. Thank you very much. I’ll hand you back over to the Chair.
9289 MR. RAE: Thank you.
9290 THE CHAIRPERSON: Just checking if colleagues have questions. No, apparently not.
9291 So thank you very much for participating in the hearing.
9292 MR. RAE: Thank you, Commissioners, for the opportunity. I appreciate it very much.
9293 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
9294 MR. RAE: Good afternoon.
9295 LE PRÉSIDENT: Madame la secrétaire?
9296 THE SECRETARY: We will now ask Bell Canada to come back to the presentation table.
9297 --- (A short pause/Courte pause)
9298 THE CHAIRPERSON: Welcome back and thank you for accommodating the previous intervenor. It's much appreciated.
9299 So why don’t we pick up where we left off and where we left was I was asking you if you agreed with the principles, the nine principles identified in the Task Force Report, and I think that was your homework over lunchtime. So you probably had time to have a look at it and reflect on it.
9300 I was wondering if you had views whether you think those are still valid principles or not?
9301 MR. MALCOLMSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
9302 We did have an opportunity to review the principles and what we can say to you at this time is, at a very high level, they could serve as useful guideposts for government, for industry, for the regulator. So they're a useful perhaps road map for future planning.
9303 I was struck when we looked -- we had a little bit of time to look at the overall report as well and there are some interesting facts in there given that the report was written in 2001 when we were collectively striving for a speed of 1.5 megs and 25 percent of the country’s population was not connected even to that speed. So there is an element of, you know, looking back. We should probably be proud of what we've been able to collectively accomplish now that we have 96 percent at 5 megs. But we would ---
9304 THE CHAIRPERSON: By the same token, it would seem we may have -- the numbers may have changed but would you agree that the broad analytical framework seems to still be relevant?
9305 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes. This framework is relevant and useful and what I was going to say to you, Mr. Chairman, is we would like an opportunity to walk through the principles in a written undertaking just so that you have our written comments on the record.
9307 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sure, appreciate that. That's good, yes. So, as you know, it's all May 5th for that unless you think that that's unreasonable.
9308 Now, in your original filings, you advocated for government policies that I see are sometimes brought back. We mentioned earlier the capital cost allowance acceleration. You had advocated as well using some of the spectrum auction revenues to finance certain initiatives.
9309 Since then, there's been a federal election, a speech from the throne, a federal budget. I’m sure you were active throughout that in terms of putting forward your policy advice to various players and those ideas didn't seem to have traction, at least so far.
9310 Would that be a correct conclusion to draw?
9311 MR. MALCOLMSON: That the ideas in our original finding failed at this proceeding?
9312 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, that the capital cost allowance, I haven’t seen that being picked up.
9313 MR. MALCOLMSON: It wasn’t adopted in the most recent budget, no.
9314 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So would you agree with me that that's not getting much traction?
9315 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well again, Mr. Chairman, I'm an optimist. So we will continue to advocate for that because we think it's good for network investment and infrastructure.
9316 THE CHAIRPERSON: And would you agree with me as well that using spectrum auction revenues does not, at this stage, seem to have gotten much traction either?
9317 MR. MALCOLMSON: Again, I think it may be early days. The government is new. Clearly what got traction is the need to invest in broadband, which we were encouraged by.
9318 THE CHAIRPERSON: But there's a lot of programs and there is, from what I've known being outside government, a dislike especially at the Department of Finance for having dedicated funds and dedicated sources for money. And in a sense taking dedicated money from revenues from spectrum auction is not something that -- well, would it be fair to say that Canada -- I don’t think Canada has ever done that.
9319 MR. MALCOLMSON: Not to my knowledge.
9320 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So it would be a bit of a departure, would it not?
9321 MR. MALCOLMSON: Could be.
9322 THE CHAIRPERSON: So why should the CRTC be taking the championship of some of these ideas concerning, for instance, allocation of capital costs?
9323 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, we're saying that if you take on the role of providing comprehensive advice reporting, whatever you want to call it, to government that we believe that that is a worthy initiative to continue to put forward.
9324 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9325 MR. MALCOLMSON: And we would hope perhaps with ---
9326 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, from an optimist, sometimes I wonder whether it's wise to be a Don Quichotte, but I take your point.
9327 Let me now turn to the issue of coordinating funding or initiatives and actions, and both implicitly and explicitly in your position, there should -- you're saying that there should be a complementarity between a potential CRTC funding mechanism and an existing -- or existing, because I guess it would be plural -- it could be at provincial levels -- shouldn't always assume it's a federal program, but the -- with government programs generally.
9328 In practical terms, we know that there are at least 14 jurisdictions with each their own revolving electoral cycles, budget cycles, compounded by budget secrecy. And presumably when you or others make applications to funding programs, until decisions are made, all that is confidential.
9329 So I was hoping you could help me understand how, in practice, we can assure that complementarity.
9330 Mr. Daniels has a thought.
9331 MR. DANIELS: So the way we look at this in terms of our emphasis, and I agree with you in terms of it's (inaudible) difficult in terms of all the provinces and territorial governments and other funding institutions.
9332 The way we were thinking about this, in terms of right now, was really between the CRTC, coordination between the CRTC and the federal government, in terms of -- because we think that there's enough money, as you saw from earlier, that we could get the job done of building a broadband across the country, of five and one.
9333 But where does provincial governments play, because there could be role for provincial governments playing and we actually listed that in the appendix that we talked about.
9334 Often what happens is, sometimes they're separate funding initiatives, and often what happens though is -- well, we saw in Connecting Canadians, is a number of providers went to provincial governments and used them to actually help them finance the ISP's portion of whatever proposal they were putting forward.
9335 So I think that's been done in terms of partnering there.
9336 And so the way I view it is if we have a national solution between the CRTC and the federal government, in terms of coordination, there still may be a role for provincials, governments and territories to actually help with the business case when it's not entirely there, because that's generally what's on a 50/50 sharing arrangement, so that's how it would feed in.
9337 THE CHAIRPERSON: So normally it's 50/50 between the provider and the government?
9338 MR. DANIELS: Yeah, so the way Connecting Canadians works is -- and Connecting Canadians only looked at capital costs, and we can talk about -- we have a slightly different proposal other than what -- than for satellite communities, which again, was different.
9339 But generally, Connecting Canadians, the way it worked was that the individual provider, the ISP, had to put in 50 percent and the federal government would match the 50 percent.
9340 There was exceptions made for First Nations, where the federal government funding would go up to 75 percent, and there was exceptions made for something called the northern component, which was the satellite solution, which was really just given to SSi and Nunavik, what you’ve heard about from KRG.
9341 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I'm still -- even if you're thinking about in just coordinating with the federal funding formula, one could have -- one wouldn't necessarily be addressing the patchwork result, because a particular province with more resources or higher priorities in a particular area might step in and skew the outcomes, whereas we, the Commission, have to be concerned about national outcomes, do we not?
9342 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, you do have to be concerned about national outcomes, and you know, at the end of the day, coordination may or may not be perfect. It depends on the willingness of those involved to coordinate, so that's why we put our proposal forward to say it would be great to have a national coordinated strategy with all agencies working in synch, but to the extent that that doesn’t happen or takes time to happen, what can the Commission do now?
9343 And that was sort of the spirit in which we put our proposal forward. You can start now connecting Canadians to five and one speeds in remote areas through a reallocation of a funding mechanism you control. That's why we put our proposal on the table, because it's doable.
9344 THE CHAIRPERSON: In your recommendation, you would have us, if I understand correctly, have an aution process, a kind of RFP, to allocate funding; would that be correct?
9345 MR. MALCOLMSON: I'll ask Jonathan to comment in a minute, but yes, it would be an auction and the governing principle of the auction would be that the lowest cost bidder is the successful candidate, we think, because that, in other auctions, has meant that you can stretch subsidy dollars further.
9346 Jonathan may have additional comments.
9347 MR. DANIELS: So the way we're thinking about this is that you would set up a program where you would actually indicate up front whatever the criterias are. Everyone needs to know exactly what the criterias are beforehand and we can talk about what those elements would be, but whatever those criterias are, so that by the time that the actual auction happens, that the auction results would be purely objective, based on the least-cost bidder.
9348 But as to any concern that we have in terms of the nature of the auction, for example, what's the minimum speed that you have to provide, five and one, that has to be established up front, but that there wouldn't be subjectivity in the analysis, once the auction actually happened. That would be in the design of the auction.
9349 THE CHAIRPERSON: I notice you mention that it should be multi-round. You don’t mean that the auction keeps going for a particular (inaudible) different rounds depending on targeted needs across the country? Is that how you would see it?
9350 MR. DANIELS: I think we were just throwing out that there's different ways of actually going about doing the auction, in terms of design. I don’t -- we're not stuck on one method. It could be just a single round bid and so on.
9351 I think what we've meant, in terms of the multi-rounds, was specifically referring to, if I recall correctly, the determination up front whether a community is either terrestrial or satellite.
9352 Under our proposal, terrestrial gets treated completely differently from a satellite community, and so in order to decide up front whether a community is terrestrial or satellite, there would be a round of determination. Once that determination is made, it could be a single-round auction for that community.
9353 THE CHAIRPERSON: For communities across the country?
9354 MR. DANIELS: I'm sorry?
9355 THE CHAIRPERSON: For potentially communities across the country or bundles of communities?
9356 MR. DANIELS: That's right. It's bundles of communities. So the way we have suggested it is that actually it would be the smallest region that any bidder -- when you design the location, it should be the smallest region that any bidder wanted, so that we shouldn't be advantaged by being a national provider by putting bundles together, various -- and an example of that that we had ourselves on the other end is we didn’t bid in Connecting Canadians for Nunavut because it was bundled together as entirely all of Nunavut.
9357 We actually have service and capable of providing service in part of Nunavut and five communities, which -- four communities in Nunavut that we -- so we would have liked to have seen that broken off, because it probably would have resulted in a lower overall payment.
9358 So our proposal from the design would be, it's the smallest region that any one provider would say, so you build up from the Connecting Canadians or your own maps and the smallest region that would be collectively put together.
9359 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would the process be used, for instance, in radio calls to define where needs are? Is that something that should inspire us in having a means to decide where to launch RFPs and how to scope it out?
9360 MR. MALCOLMSON: So an initial market assessment, like you do in ---
9361 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, I'm speaking by analogy, not necessarily. It's because I think there is a --I mean, your point being is that once you set the rules, you're not supposed to fiddle around with the rules, right? So you have to have some sort of process to decide what your bidding would be. So it's almost a request for interest round ahead of the RFP.
9362 MR. DANIELS: I think that's the kind of thing that we're talking about. The only difference, I'd say, is I think that the starting point would be an updated mapping process to make sure that we have the latest of -- you know, which I know the Commission has been working on, in terms of working from the maps. But we sort of thought at the end -- or sorry, let me rephrase that -- at the beginning, we want to capture all areas that aren't covered at five and one.
9363 THE CHAIRPERSON: And then one presumably has to triage them as to what makes sense, in terms of a bundle of places?
9364 MR. DANIELS: Yes, and that's what we meant by the first round, in terms of deciding the nature and the structure of the auction. That's correct.
9365 So in terms of design, what would be the criteria?
9366 MR. DANIELS: We think that, one, it should be technically neutral with the exception of satellite, which again, I’m happy to go into in terms of from a satellite community.
9367 We’ve proposed that from a time perspective that the commitment would be for five years. Now, in terms of the winner who wins the bid would have an obligation, a contractual obligation, to provide service in that community for five years’ time. It’s three years in satellite communities.
9368 We think that in terms of from a price perspective that you can borrow from sort of the approach that’s been done in other auctions like Connecting Canadians. And so we’ve actually proposed that there should be a requirement that the winner would have rates, terms, and conditions that are comparable to competitive offerings offered in non-subsidy areas within the same province or territory.
9369 And there could be other parameters that the Commission could establish going down, but I think high level those are sort of the key factors that people need to know. And there would also be a timeline by when which you need to launch.
9370 The way we see this just from a mechanic perspective, which is different, there’s a few things different from Connecting Canadians. But the way we see this from a financial perspective, Connecting Canadians pays up front.
9371 If the CRTC is running this and using contribution mechanism, the providers would know that they would receive a monthly supplement payment just in the same way that contribution works today for local voice. So you would know you would get that, in the case of terrestrial for five years and satellite for three years, upon which in the satellite case there would be a renewal.
9372 THE CHAIRPERSON: So an earmark within the contribution mechanism would be the mechanism you -- because we don’t issue cheques per se like the government would.
9373 MR. DANIELS: That’s right. We’re suggesting to the extent that the CRTC does it. And again, we think that it would be great if, you know, that it was coordinated with the government so that -- but yes.
9374 THE CHAIRPERSON: Tell me more about why the special rules for satellite communities.
9375 MR. DANIELS: So and I think you’ve heard some of the intervenors talk about satellite, and I want to be clear. When I’m talking about satellite community or satellite at this point in time, I’m talking about a community whose only access is satellite for the transport as opposed to the DTH Xplornet kind of solution.
9376 THE CHAIRPERSON: Understood.
9377 MR. DANIELS: So the difference there is that the primary cost of providing service -- or I don’t know if it’s primary, but the biggest cost inhibitor is actually the transport to satellite.
9378 And so that’s not an access to technology; that’s an ongoing operating expense of how much you have to pay to a satellite provider like Telesat on a monthly basis for transponder space.
9379 So what we realized is that -- and we even saw this in Connecting Canadians that they had a different approach for satellite communities -- is that in Connecting Canadians they allocated money to pay for the capital cost to build the infrastructure for a terrestrial community. And then it’s, like, we’re going to give you enough money, you have a five-year obligation and then it’s done. And that’s enough to bring broadband to that community.
9380 But in a satellite community it’s often not the issue of access. For example, in the numbers that we filed there’s a number of communities that already have the physical capability of providing 5 and 1 but it’s the monthly payments to Telesat or whoever else is the satellite provider that’s the problem. And so that’s going to be ongoing. So you need a different mechanism for an ongoing subsidy.
9381 But we also recognize that in terms of funding we set only a three-year window because there’s -- you’ve heard it here extensively -- there’s big changes coming in satellite and the costs could plummet over the next few years. And so we thought five years was too long for a commitment for the operating expense for a satellite so that’s why we narrowed it down to a three-year commitment, knowing that at that point there would have to be a renew in auction.
9382 And one other thing I just point out is that because it’s ongoing for a subsidy perspective that’s why, another reason why the CRTC is best placed to handle G and H1. You’re better set up to do an ongoing subsidy.
9383 THE CHAIRPERSON: And ongoing as opposed to a one-off contribution?
9384 MR. DANIELS: A one-off, which is part of our reason -- not solely but part of our reason why we said focus on G and H1. Which isn’t entirely -- they’re still terrestrial in G and H1, but there’s also satellite in G and H1.
9385 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now you referred to several existing effective local provincial -- I’m not sure if there were any territorials, maybe -- and federal broadband funding programs. When you look at that suite, whether they still exist or not, which one would you identify as the best practice?
9386 MR. MALCOLMSON: We modeled our proposal after Connecting Canadians so that is ---
9387 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is that an editorial on the other ones or is it merely a question of simplicity?
9388 MR. MALCOLMSON: No, it’s not an editorial on the other ones. It’s when we were designing ours what looked simplistic, what looked efficient.
9389 MR. DANIELS: And the only other one I guess we should also point to is we did also use the FCC’s world broadband experiment, which we talked a little bit about because it’s similar to Connecting Canadians but what it did that’s different is it was a true reverse. It was true, what I call a “reverse auction” where the lower cost bidder would win.
9390 So we also looked at that aspect of it, but I can’t say that we’ve looked at every single provincial ---
9391 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, let me try to get at it differently. What are the characteristics and best practices you would like to see when somebody proposes a funding model? Outside of the Commission; I think we’ve dealt with ours. I’m talking about more broadly. What is a ideally suited contribution style government funding?
9392 MR. DANIELS: So again, I mean, our view is that ultimately it should be the lowest cost bidder should win. That’s probably the most important structure. And that it’s best to have figured out what the criteria are upon which that they’re demanding it should be known beforehand. I think that’s, you know, there may be unique circumstances dealing with different issues on specific ---
9393 THE CHAIRPERSON: So would a best practice not to do a selective process where too much discretion is involved?
9394 MR. DANIELS: Yes.
9395 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because there’s another way of looking at the issue, right?
9396 MR. DANIELS: Right.
9397 THE CHAIRPERSON: (Inaudible) practice as well.
9398 MR. DANIELS: In our view, the best practice is to make it objective, but that could have criteria of all different sorts. We’ve dealt with different criteria and participated in auctions before where partnerships were required and so on and so forth. As long as the requirements are laid out up front that’s what we think is the most important for the structure.
9399 THE CHAIRPERSON: As far you know, does the existing federal program -- and I know there’s probably going to be a -- in light of the new budget some restatement of the terms and conditions of the new Connection Canadians Program, presumably.
9400 But based on the existing program, the one that you know, does the minister retain some sort of discretion at the end as to where the money is assigned notwithstanding an objective formulaic approach?
9401 MR. DANIELS: We don’t know.
9402 THE CHAIRPERSON: You said in one of your findings, and I think it was 13C, that if the Commission were to go down the road of a funding formula we should rely on a third-party expert to assist us in conducting such auctions.
9403 I was wondering if you could help me understand why you’re making that suggestion, and what kind of expertise would be required?
9404 MR. DANIELS: I think this was our -- we recognize that you haven’t do this before so I have -- there are consulting firms that exist in the world that have helped regulators and governments structure effective auctions. And so it was merely a statement saying when we were discussing this that we were concerned that we were putting a lot, like, it’s a detailed auction. You know, there may be some structures and how do you do it? But if we were worried that the CRTC may, when looking at this, would say, “Well, we don’t have expertise in this.” And our point was to say you can do what other regulators do, which is hire experts to do it.
9405 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9406 MR. DANIELS: It was nothing more than that.
9407 THE CHAIRPERSON: You may not be as aware as I am of the meanderings of federal contracting rules which is just as scary.
9408 So is this done for the existing government programs, using a third party?
9409 MR. DANIELS: I don’t know. But my understanding -- and again, I’ve only heard this hearsay, I don’t -- I think governments have used these types of consultabts to structure the spectrum auctions, for example.
9410 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
9411 MR. DANIELS: But as for Connecting Canadians, I don’t know.
9412 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Would you be of the view though that to the extent possible the best practices you’ve identified for the CRTC approach to it should be equally valid for a government run program.
9413 MR. DANIELS: Yes. And that’s to the effect that I guess what we’re trying to say is when the budget came out and it was clear that there was money allocated of the $500 million, although we made the statement in February beforehand, it was our realization thinking maybe there should be a little bit of a shift in our suggestion to you, which is why we’re now saying -- before we were saying just claim your space and set it up. But now that we know that the government has actually allocated money towards it, doesn’t it make sense to you come up with the rules, recommendations as how to design the actual auction and suggest to the government, “Why don’t we take this road and we can take this part of it and you can take that part of it, but we do this in a coordinated fashion and do it together, run the auction similarly together or following the same rules.” I don’t mean it has to be the exact same proceeding. I appreciate that there’s two different institutions and there’s problems with that. But I just mean the coordinated approach.
9414 So that’s where our thinking changed slightly from what we had suggested to you before. So we think that the parameters that the hearing you’re running and coming up with all the parameters could be good advice for the government for structuring its auction to the extent that you use the same, you know, saying this is how we’re going about do it and maybe you guys want to follow the similar approach.
9415 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Have you given any thought -- because there are some examples under broadcasting where the coordination is actually much more aligned. I’m thinking of things such as Musicaction much factor -- not “much factor”, just factor -- and the Canada Media fund. Those are other examples where there is actually a CRTC departmental coordination in actually not just the funding but the administration.
9416 MR. MALCOLMSON: Again, Mr. Chairman, if there was a willingness to do that that makes perfect sense to us because you’re combining resources and achieving efficiency.
9417 THE CHAIRPERSON: And that makes it easier for those applying?
9418 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think it makes it easier for whoever’s administering it. I think it makes it easier for those applying and probably yields a more efficient process. And given that we’re either talking about tax dollars in the form of the federal government fund or industry contribution in the form of a contribution regime, we should be looking for efficiency and ensuring that whatever dollars are made available are stretched as far as possible to hit the goal.
9419 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
9420 Now you’ve made the point that the market forces in the private sector has done a good job in ensuring the rollout of broadband. I was wondering if you could help me understand a little bit more when -- how do you assess in your company that there is no economic case? Do you have a model? Do you have a way of assessing that? And what inputs go into that model?
9421 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll ask Jonathan to comment in a minute. But you know, we make our assessments on a market-by-market basis. And you might say, you know, do you only build in large urban areas? In fact, you know, we have built FTTH out into much smaller communities because the right business case to warrant ---
9422 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, I’m not assuming you’re only doing it certain places. I’m more interested in sort of the inputs you look at and whether there’s anything for us. Because presumably you look at density, you look at cost, number of people, economic profile, geography, I mean, there must be a number of factors. You’re a rational company. You would make rational decisions.
9423 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes and yes. And, you know, we -- I don’t have the -- a list of metrics of what determines a particular business case decision to invest. That’s not my bailiwick. But we look at markets on a market-by-market basis and make investment decisions based on amount of capital that needs to be deployed to build the infrastructure versus projected rate of return.
9424 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is there a business process that exists? You’re not reinventing it every time.
9425 MR. DANIELS: I think in my experience in terms of it can vary depending on the unit that you’re dealing with in the company or the area. So for example, the one I’ll point to is we had previously in another proceeding filed details of the way we actually had a model to decide what community we would go to and not and there was an actual formulistic approach to it. There’s a bunch of managers that went in too. And I think you may be aware and remember something about that model with a bunch of communities that didn’t pass the threshold of certain assumptions had -- related to whole mandated access and soon.
9426 So that’s an example of how -- at the time that was the Bell line model, how Bell line was deciding what particular community. They actually had a specific model.
9427 It’s done differently in Bell in Ontario and Quebec and so on. And but I mean, basically we, you know, each company looks at the kind of parameters that you’re talking about, expected market share assumptions, success and so on, and of course, the cost. So, you know, a big issue was -- historically has been the cost of aerial versus buried --
9428 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9429 MR. DANIELS: -- lines in community. So there are other factors that clearly come in. And I’m talking about in the case of fibre to home and it’s -- but it’s different in each community we look at.
9430 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would you be willing to share those? There’s a finite number of those models. Perhaps through an undertaking?
9431 MR. DANIELS: If ---
9432 THE CHAIRPERSON: There may be confidentiality issues. That’s why I’m suggesting that you may want to do it that way.
9433 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think on a confidential basis we would be prepared to share parameters.
9434 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Well, as you know, you know how the rules work about seeking confidentiality. So you should do that if you think it’s appropriate.
9436 THE CHAIRPERSON: You probably were listening in or somebody from your company was listening in when Mr. Ryan Adams came to the proceeding. And he had issues with how services were extended in certain communities. What do you say to Mr. Adams?
9437 MR. GAUVIN: There’s a fairly extensive record on the dispute with Mr. Ryan Adams. I think a lot of the dispute stems from confusion and understandable confusion between the differences and boundaries with the DSA, telephone exchange, a wire centre, a community, and how each are actually funded, sorry, by EWOC or the deferral accounts, and where people actually are.
9438 So if you’re in a certain community, what’s funded by the deferral account might actually not be the entire community, but certain exchanges or DSAs. Similarly, EWOC might fund certain portions.
9439 THE CHAIRPERSON: M’hm.
9440 MR. GAUVIN: And if there’s overlap, then there’s some true up that has to be done. And that actually happened because the timing of the deferral account and the EWOC funding was overlapping. So we had actually won some funding from EWOC and then got the deferral account funding. And what happened is we actually cut cheques back to EWOC based on where we had funding from the deferral account.
9441 So I think that’s where the confusion stems and, like I said, there’s a fairly extensive record on this in the disputes ---
9442 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And I don’t necessarily want to get down that road. But perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned about the need for greater transparency to manage expectations. Would you agree with that?
9443 MR. GAUVIN: Absolutely. So greater -- now the transparency, there’s some limits to that because the DSAs and the exchanges, some of those are actually technical. So that’s how we actually plan our network.
9444 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough.
9445 MR. GAUVIN: But there’s also ---
9446 THE CHAIRPERSON: But I mean, in terms of how decisions are made and the relevant factors and --
9447 MR. GAUVIN: Yes.
9448 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- that they may not be for everywhere, et cetera.
9449 MR. GAUVIN: Absolutely. And it points towards the importance of coordination. Because if the coordination for the timing of the coordination of the funding was there, it would have alleviated a lot of the overlapping issues and the confusion.
9450 THE CHAIRPERSON: How do you determine which -- when there are government funding programs, how do you determine which projects to submit to?
9451 MR. DANIELS: I think what happens is, depending on the nature of the program, we actually look at and decide whether we see a business opportunity there and whether we think we’ll be successful in the business opportunity.
9452 So I’m not exactly privy to all the conversations that go on in terms of deciding. It’s generally -- but I can put it this way. When Connecting Canadians was out, we had an extensive examination and determination and decision to bid. We didn’t succeed, for the most part. But we participated extensively in the bidding for Connecting Canadians. So they’re more smaller and individual ones.
9453 I was just going to ask Paul if he wanted to add anything as to how he makes the determination at Northwestel.
9454 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps what I’m trying to get at is not so much how you made past decisions, but what kind of information would you need to make informed decisions?
9455 MR. DANIELS: I -- again, the rules of the road through -- and that’s probably all we would need in -- just in ---
9456 THE CHAIRPERSON: The ones we referred to earlier?
9457 MR. DANIELS: Yes, exactly.
9458 THE CHAIRPERSON: And you would be advocating the same sort of an approach for the newly announced money the Federal Government has announced, but not announced the details around it?
9459 MR. DANIELS: Yes and our suggestion is that you could make recommendations to that effect.
9460 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you.
9461 Let me now turn to the area of targets, because that’s part of the way one might fill in the gaps.
9462 So is it your view that a 5 in 1 target would meet the expanded needs of Canadians and I’m talking about economic, social, democratic and cultural?
9463 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll start, Mr. Chairman, and then I’ll ask Mr. Gauvin to add.
9464 It is our view that 5 in 1 is sufficient today to provide Canadians with what they need to participate in the digital economy.
9465 There’s evidence on the record that I think shows that what uses people make of broadband are served by 5 in 1 speeds and Phil will talk about those in a minute.
9466 Having said that, we all recognize that the need for speed is moving and so that’s why in our proposal we said establish the base level of 5 in 1, but if you’re making subsidy money available there should be an element of future proofing in the network build, so we suggested that successful bidders would have to build out to 10 in 1 capability.
9467 So yes today is it going to change in the future? Probably, if the past is any indication and I’ll ask Phil to talk about why 5 in 1 works.
9468 And sorry the other consideration too was, if we set the bar, the speed bar, very high now we create a larger need, a larger pool of money is needed and so ---
9469 THE CHAIRPERSON: So ---
9470 MR. MALCOLMSON: So our goal was really ---
9471 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not a pragmatic aspect in terms of available resources?
9472 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes. How do we get those that aren’t connected today online first. That should be the priority.
9474 MR. GAUVIN: Sure thing. Absolutely. So the basis for why we recommended the 5 in 1 is really based on the record, what do Canadians need to participate in the digital economy.
9475 And there’s been some discussion about entertainment and I think that’s a bit of a red herring, because there’s actually videos that people will use and, you know, whether it’s YouTube or watching the news or, you know, actually Skyping with each other and family across the nation.
9476 So there is a need there, but the point behind the 5 in 1 is you can actually make use of those services with a 5 in 1 connection.
9477 You can participate in the social conversation. You can watch shows and say this is the person that died yesterday, did you see that or whatever and it’s actually possible to do multi-tasking.
9478 So I have a 5 in 1 connection at home and we watched House of Cards on Netflix in HD and we tested out whether we can have a separate HD stream and yes it is possible.
9479 Now can we have 8 people in a household watching HD streams over a 5 megs connection? No. It’ll be slightly lower than that.
9480 You can still actually watch video. The quality will be lower and usually what happens with streaming services is it’ll have variable bit rates and all that and actually slow down the services.
9481 But in terms of participating in the conversation and watching the video and being able to understand what’s there, you can.
9482 And Skype I know we’ve submitted on the record, in our intervention and also in response to CRTC 1 in the second round, the Skype recommendations.
9483 And you can Skype with 5 people with a 4 megs connection and less than 1 up, so in terms of multi-tasking even for video-conferencing that’s possible as well.
9484 So that’s a basis for why 5 in 1 is necessary and as Rob was saying, if you increase the target to say 10 in 1 or 25/3, suddenly the pool of people that are considered not basic or not served increases.
9485 And there’s two aspects to that. There’s, first of all, you’re increasing the size of the problem and who needs to be focused on.
9486 And if the pool increases the focus of the carriers will be on those that already have some type of access, but will be easier to fix than those that don’t have access today.
9487 So if the target becomes 10 in 1, chances are the people that have 5 in 1 today, will be at 10 in 1 before those that don’t have access, because it will be much cheaper to fix those.
9488 THE CHAIRPERSON: And I take it because you put it in evidence yourselves, that you don’t disagree with the analysis in CRTC Exhibit number 1, I think we produced at the beginning of the hearing; is that correct?
9489 MR. GAUVIN: That’s absolutely correct.
9490 THE CHAIRPERSON: Now, am I mistaken or you’re really at this point just talking about residential individual uses?
9491 MR. GAUVIN: I am, but for ---
9492 THE CHAIRPERSON: Wait, so then my question is what is the right target for small business -- small-medium businesses?
9493 MR. GAUVIN: For small and medium business the target would be similar if not the same.
9494 In terms of the needs of a small business, whether it’s payroll or browsing, doing your research, setting up your website for e-commerce, one of the great equalizers is Cloud Services.
9495 And by that what I mean is if you’re in a remote community and you have fairly low upload speeds, which is not what we’re recommending. We’re recommending there be up to 1 and -- which is actually beyond what legacy DSL is capable of.
9496 But if you have fairly low upload speeds and you want to setup a website you can do that and have it hosted by Amazon Cloud Services or another cloud service, and suddenly your website is available, you know, to the world and hosted somewhere.
9497 And in terms of download speeds their requirements are typically fairly lower as well and that actually pans out then actually what the small and medium businesses would buy from us, which Scott could address.
9498 MR. BARRETT: Yes, certainly as my colleague suggested that a lot of the needs of the smaller businesses, when you’re talking POS transactions and every day transactions that they would -- they would use, five is more than sufficient.
9499 We find that 50 percent of our customers that are on, in the small business market, that are on a 5 megs service, actually have options to buy faster service to stay; they’ve chosen not to.
9500 THE CHAIRPERSON: And your view is that there are cost effective solutions to address the upload issue?
9501 MR. GAUVIN: Yes.
9502 MR. DANIELS: And if we could just jump in, the one other thing to note about, like, the way we’ve approached this program is to look at households as connecting Canadians somewhat.
9503 That doesn’t mean that businesses don’t get the benefit, because on -- as you’ve heard many businesses, 5 in 1 would be sufficient and in fact most businesses of small size that’s what they’re buying, the smallest package.
9504 But if you build into a community, and I’m thinking of a rural or a remote community, that you build in the capability of serving all the customers 5 in 1, what ends up happening is that you have the capability because you built the transport that during -- that’s built to handle for peak usage which is in the evening.
9505 Businesses don’t peak in the evening, so you may actually be able to, the service provider there, offer a higher speed to a business during the day, for example, when they need it.
9506 So it’s not if there’s some community business for whatever reason needs a higher speed you may be able to do that and they will be, if you will, taken along, get the benefit of that community being connected for households at 5 in 1.
9507 MR. FLAHERTY: One example of that could be in Dawson City, for example, if you look at the government service that we provide there, it’s like a 30 megs services and we’re looking at making it something much more, yet what we provide to residential customers is a 15 megs service.
9508 So being that there are few businesses/government offices there, we can offer a bigger service that uses the daytime capacity, whereas the consumers are largely consuming the evening capacity.
9509 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And the tourists of course in the businesses.
9510 So you, through a variety of action, you’re saying the primary outcome should be 5 in 1?
9511 How long should it take?
9512 MR. DANIELS: I mean it should all be done by five years, but probably much earlier. Because the way we see it is that the auction could be done -- once the auction is done it’s a couple year build out.
9513 So for example under Connecting Canadians the requirement is that you have to build out by 2017. The funding has just been given this year and last year.
9514 So even though we’re talking about a five year program, we think that it could be done much earlier, depending on when the actual parameters are established and the auction is run, but once that’s done it’s one to two -- you know, one to two years for build out.
9515 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Now TELUS stated that they thought that there’d still be pockets of Canadians who will never get access. What's your view?
9516 MR. DANIELS: I think that there's probably some people who live not in a community for example that might be in an area or people are just outside that will have to rely on different solutions, for example, a satellite solution. And when I say satellite there, that here I am referring to a DTA ---
9517 THE CHAIRPERSON: The other way.
9518 MR. DANIELS: --- the other kind of solution. I agree with TELUS for exactly the same reasons that they talked about how it works with voice, but there are probably some areas that some people live in that won't get to, that won't necessarily get service.
9519 Having said that, again, our focus is trying to get as many communities connected and that frees up further capacity for higher speeds being offered on the satellite solution, the direct-to-home satellite.
9520 THE CHAIRPERSON: Am I correct in assuming that in densely urban competitive markets, you are actually building out to higher capacity?
9521 MR. MALCOLMSON: The short answer is yes, where there's a business case to do with Toronto is a prime example.
9522 As you know, we're building out to gigabit speeds. We have a sort of -- what I would call an internal aspirational target which we've talked about publicly which is we would like to be -- have 90 percent of our footprint served by gigabit speeds over the next 10 years. Obviously in densely populated urban areas, that is where the business case most warrants it. So yes, we are building out to those speeds.
9523 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Help me understand if 5 and 1 or even 10 and 1 is sufficient, why are you building out so much more?
9524 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think it comes down to really the discussion we've been having throughout the hearing between wants and needs. When we talk about 5 and 1, we're talking about it in the context of what's necessary to participate in the digital economy and the evidence, as Phil says, shows that that can be achieved at speeds of 5 and 1.
9525 In a competitive marketplace, we constantly want to build the higher speeds to serve customers’ wants. There are customers out there that have a desire for much higher speeds and we would like to serve them. So they're really ---
9526 THE CHAIRPERSON: Even if those desires are completely irrationable and unreasonable?
9527 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think if our customers are using their hard-earned dollars to purchase our services that they're acting rationally before they make their purchasing decisions.
9528 THE CHAIRPERSON: So in your recommendations, you said that we should focus on Bands G and H.
9529 MR. MALCOLMSON: G and H1, correct.
9530 THE CHAIRPERSON: H1, sorry, yes. That that's scribble I've written down next to my letter here.
9531 So do you believe that the CRTC has jurisdiction to declare something a basic telecom service at less than a pan-Canadian level? You may have noted the conversation I had with a group earlier last week on this issue.
9532 MR. DANIELS: So we think that you have the jurisdiction. Let me break this down into two things now that we're getting legal.
9533 So under 46.5, you can decide what is a basic telecom service and we think you should define broadband as a basic telecom service at 5 and 1.
9534 That doesn't mean -- we also think you have the jurisdiction to say well the parameters are that for terrestrial builds, we're going to require funding for 10 and 1, which is our proposal to future proofs. So we think you have the jurisdiction to do that.
9535 But in terms of the definition of what's a basic telecom service, we're proposing that it be 5 and 1 and that's a national definition. But if you look at what you've done in the voice world for example, you've only declared given areas as ones where the basic service objective exists.
9536 And so we think that from that perspective, you can declare broadband as a basic telecom service at 5 and 1 and then say but we're only going to fund in these particular areas.
9537 And yes, when we fund, we could fund to a higher speed. So the answer, the short answer is yes. One, you have the jurisdiction. Two, I think the pan-Canadian definition is 5 and 1, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the jurisdiction to fund a higher build as under our proposal in some communities but not all because we're saying terrestrial at 10 and 1, satellite would stay at 5 and 1 for now.
9538 MR. GAUVIN: I just want to add a quick point on this. When we say basic, I think if you ask most Canadians what does basic mean, it likely equates to vital and broadband is vital to Canadians. When we ---
9539 THE CHAIRPERSON: I've heard that.
9540 MR. GAUVIN: I've heard that too. When we say basic, basic appear -- basic telecommunication service appears three times in the Act in the definition of TSP in section 33 and 46.5, and it's all about setting a fund to fund basic telecom services and it's a means to an end and what should we fund.
9541 So when we say is it basic in G and H1, we're not saying it's not important to Canadians everywhere. We're just saying let's fund here so that we can coordinate and ---
9542 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So you're saying it's a threshold question but it doesn’t define all the outcomes, right?
9543 MR. GAUVIN: Exactly.
9544 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. You mentioned the fact that, of course, market forces have worked quite well for many Canadians in terms of availability and quality. And in certain centres, you know, anybody looking at the amount of money being spent on advertising of services and competition is quite active. But I'm wondering if you've given some thought to managing expectations.
9545 We just talked about that 5 and 1 probably meets most but ISP providers are doing a lot of competition saying we're faster, we're faster with capacitor.
9546 Doesn't that create or potentially create an expectation in the broader population that that's what they need and want?
9547 In other words, your advertising is bouncing back at you because even though you may not be able to deliver, either your or some other ISP in that particular area, you've created this notion that speed is exactly what one wants.
9548 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, I think we advertise numerous service parameters and speed is certainly one of them and the competitive marketplace is driving towards higher and higher speeds in competitive markets and that's -- you know, I don’t view that as ---
9549 THE CHAIRPERSON: I can understand why you don’t want to do an advertising campaign saying you really don’t need to pay us more for the speed because you really don’t need it. That's not a winning campaign.
9550 Put that aside, there is a reality here that -- the Australian government had the same problem in the early days of their broadband. Everybody wanted fibre. They didn't know what it was but they certainly knew that that's what they wanted. And in fact, some of them did not need that but there was the capabilities that even copper loops could do a long way in certain areas in Australia.
9551 It's the same thing, isn’t it?
9552 MR. MALCOLMSON: Fair comment. I think we're -- I guess we perhaps have confidence that our customers will choose the packages they want. We offer a range of speeds and explain exactly to the customer what the speeds are, what the service features are, what the pricing is. So the customers are well informed about what they want to purchase and they're able to purchase a package that suits their needs.
9553 I think some of my colleagues have additional comments. Phil?
9554 MR. GAUVIN: Yeah. I don’t think you can look at any competitive market and see the competitors say, “Let me offer you only what you need and only what you need, just a basic level service”. So in terms of competition, it's we'll offer you the best service and the speeds are increasing.
9555 What we're talking about today is what's the basic level service for Canadians participating in the digital economy? The evidence on the record is 5 and 1 is likely enough and we're actually advocating building 10 and 1 where 5 and 1 is not available.
9556 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’ll get back later to the issue of customers being well informed and what you do about that. I just want to continue in the order I've got the questions right now.
9557 Are there other non-speed standards that you think we should be looking at either from a normative perspective or from an aspirational perspective? I'm thinking here of jitter, latency, repair times.
9558 MR. GAUVIN: Yes to both. So for the aspirational perspective, we put on the record 25/1 and after some discussion reviewing the record, we agree that we could probably live with ---
9559 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, I'm talking about non-speed issues.
9560 MR. GAUVIN: So for the non-speed issues on the jitter and the latency, our view is that if you want to set standards, you should likely set them based on services that should be supported instead of actual set latency requirements or set jitter requirements.
9561 Reason being, for example, we heard someone on the record that they had trouble with their VPN on satellite. And we know that in our satellite communities VPN can work. So you could, you know, based on that information on the record set a latency requirement specifically to exclude satellite under the thought that that will resolve the VPN issue. But in actuality, you can develop the technology or make it work on satellite.
9562 So our view is that if you set the standards for latency or jitter really say, you know, if you want VOiP to be supported spell that out. That VOiP should be supported, streaming services should be supported, and VPN should be supported.
9563 THE CHAIRPERSON: So defining it by actual capability in notions that you can get your head around, most Canadians can get their head around, rather than technical parameters that some people might understand but probably are well over my head?
9564 MR. GAUVIN: Exactly. And enabling innovation of the service level to make sure that those services can work.
9565 MR. DANIELS: And I think that addresses or could help to address, not perfectly solve, your previous question regarding expectations.
9566 THE CHAIRPERSON: I hope people are thinking about that more broadly about managing expectations because I think there is an issue we have when we are out there constantly talking about this great new thing and it can’t be everywhere.
9567 Speaking of non -- didn’t even speak about the non-speed standards. Are they part of existing government programming funding?
9568 MR. MALCOLMSON: In terms of Connecting Canadians, I think the -- and I stand to be corrected -- in certain communities there is a price standard, but I don’t believe there are other standards. But I stand to be corrected.
9569 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you want to take an undertaking just to come back to us if there is a -- so we understand if there is -- if there is none that’s fine. And if you have any knowledge. I mean, your answer was based on the federal program but I was wondering if you knew of any provincial programs that also had concerns in that regard?
9570 And I appreciate you haven’t done a survey of every government program that has existed but to the extent you know any.
9572 MR. MALCOLMSON: If I could just clarify one point in the discussion you were having around standards. Our view is fine to articulate standards but we wouldn’t endorse mandated regulation of standards. We think the competitive marketplace does just fine in terms of achieving customers’ needs and accomplish -- meeting standards. So I just wanted to be clear for the record.
9573 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, it is clear for the record. But I had taken that as a given in light of your other positions.
9574 You’ve said that, you know, one of the factors that you think we should consider is technological neutrality. And I take your point with respect to satellites. That’s somewhat different.
9575 But you may have heard some evidence that some Canadians want mobile broadband solutions. How realistic is that in the context of what we’re talking about? And that’s achieving the targets that we were talking about.
9576 MR. DANIELS: Well, there’s two-fold to answer that. So the first thing, and what you heard a number of people said hey, it would be great if you had -- if you preferred, for example, a wireless or an LTE solution because it would have the benefit of also bringing along the mobility. And I see merit in that and I’m going to come back to that in a second, but conceptually but not in terms of our proposal.
9577 Where I say the fact that probably most people wouldn’t understand is that the network use it’s not just a question of putting up a tower and having the facilities, the backhauls of the tower. Our network, our mobile network, is built to handle capacity of what people actually use the mobile network for based on the use and the pricing and so on.
9578 And from your own Commission’s Monitoring Report, the CMR, you say that Canadians with smartphones use about a little bit below a gig on average a month in terms of on the smartphone from a data perspective. Whereas, if you go over to the wireline service it’s 66.5 gigabits a month. That means we’re building a network on the wireline that’s not the same as wireless in terms of being able to handle capacity.
9579 And our direct experience in this is actually the deferral account situation where we proposed and built out for the deferral account broadband to 108 communities in Ontario and Quebec to bring them broadband at speeds of 5 and 1. But we spent, as you know, over $300 million on this. And that wasn’t just about building towers to places that didn’t have towers; there was some of that.
9580 But it was also building more towers to be able to handle the greater volumes of demand to building more robust in terms of backbone networks to handle the greater use that was expected to have because ultimately the product we launch is one that matched terrestrial rates so we were expecting greater use.
9581 Now, in that situation, we were the ones who were advocating to you -- I don’t mean you specifically but to the CRTC -- that we should be allowed to use a wireless solution because it has the benefit that will also be able to bring mobile to areas. So there is -- so I do see merit in that area.
9582 But the problem is if we start preferring technologies then we’re going to end up with a much higher cost as we design our network. You’re going to give advantage to wireless carriers, which maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about but, you know, you’re -- if the goal, and we think the goal should be to bring broadband of 5 and 1 to all Canadian households, then we want to do that effectively and the most efficiently. And if you start having parameters where you prefer one technology to another it’s going to take the cost up and take players out of the market and distort the market, which we don’t think is the right way to go.
9583 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Let me go back to Exhibit number 1, CRTC Exhibit number 1. And you’ve made the point again a little while ago about saying that entertainment uses are not necessary. I think you said that at paragraph 9 of your written argument.
9584 Yet, we’ve heard arguments so far that the CRTC shouldn’t get involved in normative evaluations of what media choices are made through broadband connectivity. So how do you square those two principles? MR. DANIELS: So I think the way we’re squaring the principles is -- to be honest, is that we’ve had a slight change in the way we -- you haven’t -- when we drafted that it was a concern that people were taking Netflix as the purpose and so on.
9585 We’ve listened over the course of this proceeding and in discussions in coming here. We’ve basically proposed 5 and 1 because it allows people to participate in digital economy. When Phil gave his answer before, Phil gave an answer which specifically referred to that 5 and 1 allows people to use Netflix and so on. So but he also pointed out that videos could be for educational purposes or knowing what’s going on.
9586 So we accept that and it’s why we haven’t really focused to say entertainment. What we will say -- but entertainment should be excluded, we say is that 5 and 1 allows people, whether if entertainment is your goal or if it’s purposes in goal, you’re going to be able to achieve it with a true 5 and 1 offer.
9587 THE CHAIRPERSON: You were on the button before your colleague spoke. I didn’t know if you wanted to add something.
9588 MR. GAUVIN: Well, I agree. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. And I heard last week Canadians saying if you’re lonely and Netflix or entertainment might be your only source of human contact, so I think we have to be open to that.
9589 And the point with regards to the 5 and 1 is it doesn’t matter because you can have access and Netflix. I watch Netflix; I have a 5 and 1 connection. Over Easter I had family over and we Skyped with my brother in the States while my -- without going into my family history -- my little sister was watching little YouTube clips, children’s YouTube clips at the same time. And it worked. So multi-tasking and video is possible on a 5 and 1 connection.
9590 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’m surprised you haven’t taken the opportunity to promote Crave as potential uses.
9591 MR. GAUVIN: And Crave. I’ve actually watched Orphan Black on Crave as well.
9592 MR. MALCOLMSON: He should have, Mr. Chairman.
9593 THE CHAIRPERSON: What would you say to those that maybe your position of limiting the 5 and 1 -- and we see it from the chart that it does have a consequence in terms of what kinds of videos one can stream -- that it may be informed more by your presence in media assets?
9594 MR. GAUVIN: I’m not sure I understand the question.
9595 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, we know that some of the higher end streaming services could not be necessarily, even from our chart, be used on a 5 and 1 service, and some may suggest -- I'm not saying I am, but some may suggest that that is informed by your desire to protect your media assets.
9596 MR. GAUVIN: So now I understand that really, it's about whether or not ultra HD is a basic need. And for ultra HD, I totally acknowledge ultra HD wouldn't work on a five and one connection. Ultra HD, you also need a 4K TV or you know, a device that can actually support the 4K connection.
9597 So in our view, HD is more than enough so you know, speaking again -- it's purely anecdotal, it's my experience -- but on a TV, you know, a flat-screen TV, watching "House of Cards" or watching "Orphan Black", actually works and it's, you know, my eyes aren't bleeding. It's actually a very nice image.
9598 MR. MALCOLMSON: Mr. Chairman, I can tell you that protecting our media business was the furthest thing from our minds when we designed our proposal. It's really based on what's necessary to participate in a digital economy and how do we roll it out to those Canadians that don’t have it and how do we do it quickly?
9599 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fair enough. I just wanted you to have a chance to say that.
9600 I notice -- so I notice that your aspirational target does provide for a higher upload speed. I was wondering why that was shaping your thinking?
9601 MR. GAUVIN: Yeah, so we had concerns with regards to costs and deploying higher upload speeds, but as time went on, we looked into it more. If you can support 25 megs down, chances are you can support 3 megs up. So we would be comfortable as an aspirational speed with 25-3.
9602 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And your aspirational target, do you have a timeframe?
9603 MR. GAUVIN: So the difference between aspirational and basic -- basic is what we think Canadians need and potentially should be funded through subsidies. Aspirational is about how we compare ourselves with the world, how we see where Canada should be generally, so it's no longer about needs.
9604 So I think it would -- a five-year target for 25-3 is reasonable, but really, you know, you can set whatever you deem is reasonable and achievable. And in terms of setting achievable and reasonable goals, if you look at Appendix 2 of our submission, you can see how various countries actually did that, because 25-3, for example, for satellite communities, might not be reasonable.
9605 I'm not -- I don't know. I mean, that's something to look into, but one way to do it would be to say, you know, it could be 80 percent at 25-3, 20 percent or 15 percent at 50 and whatever, and a certain percentage at a lower target for satellite.
9606 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, well, I did have a question precisely on that, because when you discuss this in your documents, you do point to the Australian aspirational need, which is a little bit more fine tuned, because I think they make a distinction that it's 12 in rural areas, 25 everywhere else, and 50 for 90 percent of the fixed lines.
9607 Now, I'm not saying that those are the right speeds. I'm not saying either that those are the right bundles, but I was wondering why you haven't proposed an aspirational target that actually reflects, perhaps, some of the diversity of the country, its geography, its current state?
9608 MR. GAUVIN: We could have. We potentially should have. We can take an undertaking to do that, in terms of what we think is (inaudible).
9609 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'd appreciate it.
9611 It goes back to the theme of managing expectations, because I do think, if I've read correctly, your view is that in satellite-served communities, using that, that selling 25 may not be the best thing, in terms of managing expectations. Would you agree with that?
9612 MR. GAUVIN: Based on technology today, although as we've heard on the record, that might change in three years, so I don't know. We'll see it if we get there.
9613 THE CHAIRPERSON: Exactly, and we don’t have the budgets for time travel.
9614 Now, when you -- in your written submissions -- and maybe I misunderstand your position; perhaps it's evolved, but you seem to be saying that the five-one target is the correct standards to define what served, underserved, unserved areas are, and then that opens up to funding.
9615 But you seem to link it to what the Connecting Canadians program defined, but it was my understanding that the Connecting Canadians programs was, in part, informed what the CRTC had done in the previous proceeding.
9616 So we end up going into a loop of setting a standard based on somebody else's program, rather than looking at the evidence before us. Or maybe I misunderstood what you were arguing there.
9617 MR. GAUVIN: Unless I'm misunderstanding the question, I think the five and one is based on the record, is based on what's necessary to participate in the digital economy.
9618 THE CHAIRPERSON: That would be your position now, because my reading of your original position was that's what Connecting Canadians set, and therefore, that should be the right target.
9619 MR. GAUVIN: Well, we also said that based -- we had the chart with Exhibit 1 in our submission as well, and we said, "This is what's needed to participate in the digital economy."
9620 In terms of Connecting Canadians, the learnings that we can get from that program is, for example, the mapping exercise, which we still recommend that should be done, because that's actually a heavy-lifting undertaking, to determine where services are actually available at five and one.
9621 And I don't know, what's the chicken and the egg, you know? Now the CRTC just did it, maybe Connecting Canadians will update it or whatever.
9622 But in terms of coordination, it would be very useful if that map was updated and we kept the same map so that we're all speaking the same language nationally.
9623 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's fine. I think I could guess what your answer will be, but for the record, and having read what your submission is, some have suggested that a target should involve the question of pricing and I guess implicitly, capacity, because those tend to go hand in hand.
9624 Do you think that's a good idea?
9625 MR. GAUVIN: Oh well, we've said in our proposal that whoever wins an auction should offer services at comparable rates to other areas, so in terms of pricing and capacity, those rates and terms should be comparable to whatever's available in that territory or province.
9626 THE CHAIRPERSOIN: But not beyond those particular territories?
9627 MR. MALCOLMSON: That's correct. If you're the beneficiary of subsidy, in return you commit to provide comparable pricing terms.
9628 THE CHAIRPERSON: You may have seen Exhibit 4 that we put in yesterday, and it just gets to the point about comparable rates. And I know it's a dated document, since it was based in 2014. So in your proposal that the funding model should be based on comparable rates, explain to me what a comparable rate might look like, in light of the various variations right across the country.
9629 MR. DANIELS: So under our proposal, it would be within the same territory or province, and the idea and the thinking behind it is in order to get the maximum benefit, you want ISPs to be bidding. What makes sense for an ISP to bid is if I can add that community to my existing suite of services that I'm offering.
9630 So if we had five communities in Ontario that we were bidding for, our requirement would be to match the five in one, our price for our Fibe 5 service, which I'll -- can get Scott to tell you in a minute, in terms of what we -- that would be the price that we would have to match.
9631 The reason that we're -- that logic behind it is, if we start having different parameters or different prices or set prices or something like that, Bell could look at it, for example, and say, "It's not big enough to justify creating a whole new price point, having new requirements, and so on."
9632 What we're trying to do, and suggest in our proposal here, is that the best way is to have people match what they're already doing to add a community to their suite of services. And that's how Connecting Canadians works generally.
9633 THE CHAIRPERSON: But one has to clearly define what's comparable; do you agree with that?
9634 MR. DANIELS: Well, I think what we -- you can give some parameters around how you would interpret comparable, from our perspective, you know? There's probably a little bit of flexibility, but the real truth is, for a large provider like us, the way we would (inaudible) would be to put that into the existing suite, so it would have to be comparable to something we offer at five and one for similar technology.
9635 THE CHAIRPERSON: In a similar region or in the same region?
9636 MR. DANIELS: We actually propose province or territory, so when I say "territory" I mean the Territories in the north, not ---
9637 THE CHAIRPERSON: (Inaudible).
9638 MR. DANIELS: Not a (inaudible), yeah, exactly.
9639 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Let me turn now to other potential gaps. In one of your key findings, I think it was 1-C you said that skilled labour in remote areas might be a greater barrier to ICT adoption than the lack of high speed bandwidth. Again, keeping in mind that it’s not necessarily the CRTC that will find all the solutions and fund all the solutions, how do you think Canada should address and fill that gap?
9640 MR. GAUVIN: If you look at our exhibit with the recommendations, which I’m sure you have over lunch, we recommend promoting digital literacy and that falls into that. We actually considered putting in a bullet about promoting skilled labour and education and all that.
9641 And as an example ---
9642 THE CHAIRPERSON: So your term “digital literacy” would include skilled labour?
9643 MR. GAUVIN: Yes.
9644 THE CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps a bit broader than I would have thought it should.
9645 MR. GAUVIN: Absolutely.
9646 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
9647 MR. GAUVIN: Absolutely. And to give an example, we deploy a lot of fiber. There is actually not enough technicians skilled in fiber deployment to meet our needs and we actually have to train them. There’s a shortage of ICT employees in Canada and we’ve, in the past -- so in the documents leading up to the digital Canada 150 and still today, I guess, we’re recommending that there be programs to encourage skilled labour. And that’s part of digital literacy.
9648 So there’s on the technical side and there’s also on the demand side promoting literacy and promoting adoption of technologies with -- not just with youth, which is, of course, is important, but also with senior citizens and various segments of the population.
9649 THE CHAIRPERSON: But you’re thinking of programs offered by social departments to encourage education, whether federally or provincially, to develop skilled workers, trades, that sort of thing?
9650 MR. GAUVIN: Yes. And it’s a joint effort. So like Telus said, we’re also members of MediaSmarts and promoting digital literacy in our own little way, but government definitely has a role as well.
9651 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9652 It’s strange, I always referred to digital literacy in a much more narrow way and not to include digital skills that technicians may need. I certainly don’t think I need those skills, but I still want to be digitally literate to be able to interact with devices. But perhaps others have different definitions.
9653 What’s your most -- would it be possible -- maybe this is a -- because I did note that our chart is a little old. Would it be possible for you to provide us with the most affordable broadband internet service package you currently have in each province or territory?
9654 MR. MALCOLMSON: We could file those as an undertaking.
9655 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
9657 THE CHAIRPERSON: And would those normally be advertised and clearly available on your website or websites, I guess?
9658 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll ask Scott, who is our pricing guru to take you through how we advertise different packages.
9659 MR. BARRETT: Certainly. We use our website as one of our many marketing vehicles to advertise all the packages that are available. In the case of our website, we don’t necessarily advertise all the packages up front. It’s really geared to the most popular packages that we feel our customers are taking today. And we use other methods like direct mail to target specific offers for various individuals that have different packages that would be available to them as well.
9660 THE CHAIRPERSON: So would you be similar to Telus that it may be not actively advertised on websites or through other marketing but if you ask you would get the answer?
9661 MR. BARRETT: Absolutely. If you were to pick up the phone and talk to one of our agents, you would give them your address or your phone number, in our case, and they would be able to offer the full suite of services that we would offer to you today.
9662 THE CHAIRPERSON: But they’re not actively offered by your CSRs unless only if asked?
9663 MR. BARRETT: Well, I assume that if the customer is calling and inquiring about services, we will make available to them the options that they have available.
9664 THE CHAIRPERSON: You may have been struck by some representative from Acorn and Vice-Chair Menzies asked some of them about what they were paying currently. Some of us were struck by what some of them were paying because it seemed to us that there were less costly options probably available. And I was wondering if you felt that you had any responsibility, not individually, not as a company, but as service providers to help them understand that in light of their circumstances that there may be less expensive options?
9665 MR. GAUVIN: I think we’ve heard from ---
9666 THE SECRETARY: I’m sorry. Can you please speak closer to your mic? You can ---
9667 MR. GAUVIN: Absolutely. Sorry.
9668 THE SECRETARY: Thank you.
9669 MR. GAUVIN: I just keep hitting it so I try to move it.
9670 So I think we’ve heard from Mr. Lawford and the AAC and also from Acorn that there is no one size fits all solution. So some of them were paying for bigger plans and likely have bigger needs than other people, you know, that might not just do email and web browsing and don’t need very big capacity plans. So the fact that a more affordable plan is available might not actually meet their needs.
9671 But we’ve also heard from those Canadians that some of them are living off of $553 a month. Someone mentioned that in Vancouver the subsidies available are $550, you know, around $600 if you have a child, and $900 with a disability. So the issue isn’t affordability of the services, it’s a poverty issue.
9672 So our view, like is in our recommendation, it’s a government issue. And the recommendation would be for the governments to actually start considering internet as an essential service.
9673 THE CHAIRPERSON: I appreciate that’s your perspective in the longer term, but even helping somebody go from a plan that could actually be $10 less, for somebody in those brackets, to do that right away would make a huge difference.
9674 MR. MALCOLMSON: As Scott said, if a customer who has an existing plan does call in and is in need of a package that better suits their needs, those packages are available.
9675 And I should also say, when I do look at your Exhibit 4, it does really show a range of pricing in various markets that, you know, the lowest price seems to be in the 24.95 range. So there are pricing options out there in the competitive marketplace that, you know, that people can avail themselves of. People who live in poverty, obviously anything becomes unaffordable and that’s what we’re saying.
9676 So we don’t think it’s a question of the price of the packages, it’s a question of the purchasing power of the customer who needs basic internet as a necessity. And again, that -- when we put those two together, that seems to be best suited for a government program.
9677 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But the benefit of that exhibit is that it may actually, in an ancillary way, provide information out there to people that are not optimizing the cost of their service right now.
9678 MR. MALCOLMSON: It does.
9679 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you provide -- so are there online tools, for instance, to help subscribers or potential subscribers to best manage their needs?
9680 MR. MALCOLMSON: We do. And I’ll ask Scott to walk you through those.
9681 MR. BARRETT: Yes, we do. In the support section of our webpage we have several different tools, for example, that would offer our customer ability to, based on examples, estimate the bandwidth that they would require in a month and help them in selecting appropriate package.
9682 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you -- one of the issues before us is some people have raised the issue, and I just wanted your perspective on it, that contracts, internet service contracts may not be as clear as -- for those individuals are arguing it, they should be. I was wondering whether you track complaints or negative comments about your contracts.
9683 MR. MALCOLMSON: We would provide you with an undertaking on that.
9684 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Fair enough.
9686 THE CHAIRPERSON: And if you could, if you do, in fact, do that, provide us what the top three concerns or negative comments you have with respect to those complaints. If you’re tracking them, you should have metrics around it.
9687 MR. MALCOLMSON: Top three?
9688 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, were you providing me every complaint? Like if one person complains about one thing, do you really want to dig around for all that?
9689 MR. MALCOLMSON: We will provide you with an undertaking.
9691 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
9692 MR. GAUVIN: I just want to have some clarification. Is this with regards to understandability of the contracts or terms and conditions generally?
9693 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think, since you’ve asked, both.
9694 MR. GAUVIN: Okay.
9695 THE CHAIRPERSON: We’ve heard from -- well, we haven’t heard from Rogers directly but we saw in the media that Rogers is offering a low-cost option in certain circumstances. And TELUS has another initiative but it also meets some social responsibility matters. And I was wondering if you have anything similar, or are you planning to?
9696 MR. MALCOLMSON: We actually do have what’s known as our “community hub program” which we announced when we announced the gigabit fiber build in Toronto last year.
9697 And what that program does is, in cooperation with the United Way, it provides gigabit service to the United Way’s 50 Toronto-area community hubs which are located in low-income neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods like Jane and Finch, mid Scarborough.
9698 And the idea behind the program is, as the name indicates, is to provide a hub where people can go who may not have access to higher speed products. So they can go to the community hub; they can use the service -- it’s offered at no charge -- and it’s available in areas where it’s needed. So that is an initiative that we launched last year.
9699 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. So it would be presumable in a community centre; is that -- these community hubs are somewhere (inaudible).
9700 MR. MALCOLMSON: The United Way has different community hubs.
9701 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, right.
9702 MR. MALCOLMSON: Some of which are community centers, some of which I don’t think we would describe them as a community centre.
9703 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9704 MR. MALCOLMSON: But they’re community gathering spots.
9705 THE CHAIRPERSON: And how many are there did you say?
9706 MR. MALCOLMSON: There are 50.
9707 THE CHAIRPERSON: Fifty (50).
9708 And it is the United Way that ends up having to manage access, and time, and all those kinds of issues presumably; you just provide the facility?
9709 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes, they’re the operator of the hub. We would provide technical support.
9710 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. Any other support or just technical support? There’s no digital literacy type support in the way I think of digital literacy?
9711 MR. MALCOLMSON: Well, we participate in digital literacy programs, as you know, so ---
9712 THE CHAIRPERSON: But I’m thinking specifically in those hubs. Because it’s not just a question of getting access, it’s also a question of understanding the technology.
9713 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’m not aware that there’s a direct linkage.
9714 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
9715 This is a question that I should have asked. It slipped out of order. It goes back to the target discussion. You point out in your documents that 92 percent of Canadians have access -- and these are 2013 numbers -- have access to 5 megabits broadband from two or more platforms. The difference between 92 percent and 100 arguably is a gap if one is trying to support competition and market forces.
9716 Is it something we should be concerned about in the broader context? Not necessarily creating a regulatory norm but an objective to ensure that if indeed -- and I think this is your philosophy -- that we should rely on market forces to the extent possible. That we should actually be concerned about ensuring alternative platforms -- or not platforms but alternate providers?
9717 MR. DANIELS: We of course support the notion that you should encourage a competitive marketplace and to rely on the marketplace as much as possible.
9718 But our focus in terms of when we were talking about roles for the CRTC from a funding perspective, we’re very much saying that under 46.5 when you’re funding basic telecom service your goal is not to bring -- worry about bringing alternative competitors.
9719 And that’s why under our proposal, as another criteria which I didn’t mention before, what we didn’t include, was that wholesale obligations, for example. So we don’t think that the winner of any bid should have a wholesale obligation.
9720 We don’t believe in the portability of the fund because ultimately we think it’s about under -- from the perspective of when you’re designing a contribution fund or whatever broadband fund that the most important goal is to bring service to those Canadians who don’t have it.
9721 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9722 MR. DANIELS: And ---
9723 THE CHAIRPERSON: My question was more in terms of a broad blueprint or strategy.
9724 MR. DANIELS: Well, and therefore I’d say that outside of that -- that’s where I was just coming -- I wanted to be clear before I went in to say outside of that.
9725 THE CHAIRPERSON: I know because your speaking points have -- make sure if the Chair hasn’t asked this question you slip it is as an answer to something else.
9726 MR. DANIELS: Well, I was worried about being misinterpreted and saying we support the notion.
9727 THE CHAIRPERSON: Of course.
9728 MR. DANIELS: Like, so I’d agree with your notion as long as it’s facilities-based competition.
9729 MR. MALCOLMSON: Sorry, Mr. Chairman, if I think I understood your question was should you be worried about encouraging a further proliferation of ISP competition amongst different ---
9730 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, proliferation seems to sound so negative. I think I’m thinking of extending more than one service provider as a good thing to most places because we want to rely on market forces. And from what I understand your calculation it’s 92 percent -- 2012 numbers, I think, or ’13 -- and therefore, perhaps as a strategy more broadly, not a regulatory strategy, that we should be trying to make sure to the extent possible that instead of having an 92 -- or an 8 percent gap that we reduce that over time.
9731 MR. MALCOLMSON: Fair enough. And I would just -- if we were doing a survey of the landscape I think it’s fair to point out that today there are 525 ISPs operating across the country with a mixture of facilities based in reseller, so it is a very ---
9732 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right.
9733 MR. MALCOLMSON: --- competitive market.
9734 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. But they’re not always evenly distributed.
9735 MR. MALCOLMSON: Correct.
9736 THE CHAIRPERSON: I’ll now turn to some issues that fall under the disability category.
9737 Et je dois vous avouer, Madame Leduc, je suis très heureux de vous voir à l’audience parce que j’ai entendu de très bonnes choses à propos de votre travail au sein de la compagnie.
9738 Et je me demandais quel genre de visibilité est-ce que votre groupe -- vous êtes basé à Montréal si je comprends bien. Vous êtes basé où, à quel endroit?
9739 Mme LEDUC: À Montréal.
9740 LE PRÉSIDENT: À Montréal, c'est ça. Quel genre de visibilité est-ce que votre groupe qui travaille sur ces enjeux peut avoir dans le reste de la compagnie ou des compagnies j’imagine -- c'est au pluriel -- du groupe Bell?
9741 Mme LEDUC: Juste pour être certaine que je comprends bien, de savoir comment qu’on -- s’est publicisé notre équipe? C'est bien ça?
9742 LE PRÉSIDENT: C'est ça. Est-ce que vous faites des présentations à des équipes de gestion? Est-ce que vous allez faire des présentations même au conseil d’administration de BCE pour faire promouvoir à l’interne dans votre compagnie les préoccupations que vous avez?
9743 Mme LEDUC: Oui, effectivement on en parle par différentes -- on va faire différentes rencontres. Maintenant, jusqu’à quel point je peux vous donner plus de détails-là, j’en n’ai pas vraiment en ce moment que je pourrais vous donner mais définitivement qu’on en parle.
9744 On a des programmes pour en parler. On affiche également pour nos employés qu’ils puissent être au courant là de ce qu’on offre comme services.
9745 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais vous êtes en quelque sorte un groupe qui sont les champions des enjeux, puis je me posais la question comment vous portez votre bâton de pèlerin à l’intérieur du groupe?
9746 Mme LEDUC: Ben c'est toujours en collaboration avec l’équipe ici qu’on est présentement.
9747 LE PRÉSIDENT: Évidemment. Oui, évidemment. Et ça ressemble à quoi vos démarches?
9748 Mme LEDUC: Mais en fait, je pense que c'est simple. On complique pas les choses. Donc on a un accès direct. Si j’arrive avec une situation, notre rôle c'est de la régler. Donc on s’entend qu’on passera pas par à travers pleins de formulaires à compléter ou quoi que ce soit et je vais directement rencontrer les gens et parler de la situation pour qu’on arrive avec notre solution.
9749 Donc c'est directement avec les équipes qui sont déjà en place, que ce soit du soutien technique, que ce soit au niveau -- ça va jusqu’au niveau légal, que ce soit tout ce qui peut toucher le service à nos clients, j’ai un accès direct pour aller chercher mes solutions.
9750 LE PRÉSIDENT: Puis votre groupe est en existence depuis combien de temps?
9751 Mme LEDUC: En fait, le groupe qu’on voit présentement c'est cinq ans. Précédemment, c'était axé uniquement avec le TTY qu’on appelle qui était vraiment réglé pour la ligne filaire. Ça ça fait longtemps mais maintenant avec le trio, donc on couvre tous les produits ces cinq dernières années.
9752 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et donc ça c'était la genèse de votre groupe mais y a eu une évolution avec l’émergence et ---
9753 Mme LEDUC: Absolument.
9754 LE PRÉSIDENT: Donc si j’étais un abonné qui n’avait pas besoin -- à cause de mon handicap, j’avais pas besoin d’un service vocal sur un service sans-fil, quelle serait votre action?
9755 Mme LEDUC: Vous voulez…
9756 LE PRÉSIDENT: Quels sont les produits que vous offrez pour ce genre de personne?
9757 Mme LEDUC: Donc vous parlez d’un client qui a pas besoin de la ligne filaire qui veut avoir Internet ou bien sa mobilité?
9758 LE PRÉSIDENT: Mais qui n’est -- qui sont -- qui souffre de -- qui sont malentendants ou sourds.
9759 Mme LEDUC: Qui sont malentendants, donc évidemment on a l’Internet, et c’est sûr que au moment où on se parle, bien je pense qu’on en a parlé un peu avec le lancement pour le plan pour le cellulaire qui s’en vient, donc qui -- que l’annonce a été fait en février. C’est dans les prochains mois que ça va être développé.
9760 LE PRÉSIDENT: Ok. Et ça, vous l’avez développé, qu’est-ce qui a été la motivation pour développer ce plan-là?
9761 Mme LEDUC: En fait, c’est la demande. On a écouté ce qu’on nous a dit et c’était bien entendu par notre groupe et je pense que au fil des -- même des derniers jours, on a pu en entendre aussi parler que c’est une préoccupation. Donc on a vraiment écouté ce que nos clients avaient à nous dire.
9762 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est très bien.
9763 With respect to VRS implementation, there seems to be a little bit of nervousness to make sure that the providers will be ready for that.
9764 And I know, Mr. Daniels, you’ve been very active in this front and we thank you for that. I was wondering how your group of companies is getting ready for that implementation?
9765 MR. DANIELS: So, before I answer, and forgive me for giving this caveat, you’ve heard the same from another director who appeared before, we call ourselves -- I sit on the board, as you know ---
9766 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
9767 MR. DANIELS: --- for the CAB and that all of us have promised that we are going to say that before we speak, that I am speaking as a director of -- not -- I am a director of CAB, but I am answering now in my role as a representative of Bell, not the CAB, and I won’t use any CAB confidential information.
9768 Okay. Caveat and legal out of the way.
9769 To answer your question, so the way VRS works for the most part, there’s nothing from the TSPs to do in terms of getting ready with the exception, I’m going to come back to the very issue you were just actually asking about, which is the wireless plan.
9770 And the reason why I say that is because VRS is funded nationally. It’s going to be set up in the way that the TSP just provides a broadband access service and it’s a broadband access service that will work on a 5 and 1 service and even less.
9771 So VRS has existed in the States for a number of years at speeds well below 5 and 1. U.S., they -- in interrogatory to the CAB, they came back and said that it could work on speeds, but for video release service to work, it would need something less than 1, although high-definition could be as high as 1.3.
9772 So from a network perspective, an individual customer, all they do is they order broadband from us. We’re blind to that. We don’t fund it directly, know that that customer is using that service.
9773 The only exception I’d say is that there’s an expectation that VRS will be -- will allow -- will increase the data usage on wireless handsets, which you heard about. And that’s specifically why we are coming up with a program to have a deaf and hard of -- to address for deaf and hard of hearings who use VRS, not that it would be limited to low -- to use of VRS, but that we’ve come out with a special pricing for deaf and hard of hearings in the expectation.
9774 So outside of that, generally there’s nothing more that needs to be done. Specifically, though, there is -- there’s some question about how VRS will work with a satellite.
9775 And so we volunteered, talked with Paul and reached out to the CAB proactively and said, why don’t, you know, why don’t we test? So we bought for it to be the test bed for VRS in the satellite community to see how that works as well.
9776 So outside of that, generally, no, there’s, you know, ISPs don’t have to do anything.
9777 THE CHAIRMAN: Okay. And from a -- and the recommended speeds that you’ve put forward, particularly with respect to upload, would they meet the VRS user requirements to provide a high-quality experience?
9778 MR. DANIELS: So here again I’m just quoting from the CAB interlocutory U.S. and that -- and the answer they came back, they said that there’s an appropriate quality of 737 kilobits. So that’s both ways because it’s a dual conversation, but a high quality would be 1.3 megabytes.
9779 So our proposal of course is for 5 and 1. And that’s not 1.3, but on the other hand, hopefully it would be -- we certainly -- VRS will work with a 5 and 1. And, in addition, point out that it’s -- VRS has existed for years in the States at speeds that are a lot less than 5 and 1.
9780 THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you. A basket of other issues. I don’t think there’s a theme to these, so they’re just a little bit everywhere. So there are other matters under my heading here.
9781 MR. MALCOLMSON: Mr. Chairman, can I, just before we move away from accessibility, can I ask your indulgence? We’ve -- I just -- I would like Mylène to talk about the efforts we’ve been making lately with deaf and hard of hearing organizations to assist members of that community with customer service. It won’t take long, but I think it’s ---
9782 THE CHAIRMAN: Absolutely. Because they’re listening so it’s -- and following the hearing, so it’s important to make sure that they -- that community -- accessibility community gets full information about your efforts.
9783 MR. MALCOLMSON: Thank you.
9784 Mme LEDUC: En fait, je pense -- il y a des choses que j’aimerais vous partager qui sont des situations réelles qu’on vit au quotidien, étant un service à la clientèle.
9785 Vous l’avez dit tantôt, je suis la personne qui est directement liée avec les gens. Et à quel point on écoute aussi ce qui est -- ce qu’on nous dit.
9786 On a eu des situations qu’on avait avec l’installation par exemple, de nos services qu’on doit appeler nos clients avant de se présenter. Donc notre technicien va téléphoner au client. On arrivait à manquer des rendez-vous parce que le -- notre client n’entendait pas la sonnette, évidemment, puis il y a différents scénarios.
9787 Avec notre équipe, ce qu’on fait maintenant, on travaille avec le texto. Donc on texte nos clients. Mon équipe va le faire, « Le technicien s’en vient. Il va être là dans les 4-5 prochaines minutes. » On rappelle notre technicien. Donc maintenant on travaille entre les deux pour réussir à mieux desservir notre clientèle.
9788 Et ça c’est une recommandation qui nous a été fait, qu’on a mis en place, évidemment, en quelques minutes, mais c’est juste vous dire que j’ai pas arrêté à dire ok, non, on peut tu, on peut pas, les numéros de cellulaire vont apparaître, quoi que ce soit. Non, on le fait. Et on suit nos techniciens en même temps pour s’assurer que le service est fait. Donc on va aller même une étape plus loin.
9789 J’ai d’autres scénarios aussi qui arrivent que on a parlé à différents moments. On a lancé un nouveau programme pour avoir un interprète en magasin. Donc je sais pas si vous en avez entendu parler.
9790 Donc on travaille présentement avec la Société canadienne de l’ouïe pour qu’on puisse déplacer -- qu’il va avoir un interprète qui va se déplacer avec le client en magasin pour aller chercher par exemple du soutien pour un appareil, pour un achat, pour être conseillé. Donc -- et c’est nous qui déboursons pour les frais de l’interprète.
9791 Donc au moment où on se parle, on est en même en train de -- en ce moment-même de changer les choses. On va même avoir un formulaire qui va être disponible sur notre site Web que la personne pourra aller compléter directement. Ça arrive à mon équipe et c’est nous qui faisons le lien et le relais à travers tout ça.
9792 Donc ça c’est un exemple, puis il y en a bien d’autres.
9793 LE PRÉSIDENT: Pour bien comprendre celui-là, c’est ---
9794 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9795 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- quelqu’un remplit le formulaire, comme vous dites ---
9796 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9797 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- puis vous faites un rendez-vous ---
9798 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9799 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- mais vous assurez que l’interprète sera, mettons, dans la boutique ---
9800 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9801 LE PRÉSIDENT: --- où la personne se rend?
9802 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9803 LE PRÉSIDENT: C’est bien.
9804 Mme LEDUC: Donc ça nous permet vraiment encore là on a répondu à une certaine façon, une demande qui nous a été fait de dire que -- parce que des fois l’achat peut être plus complexe et si tu arrives, bon, on en a parlé, j’en ai entendu aussi parler au courant des derniers, et je pense que c’est une solution qu’on a présentement qui est accessible dès maintenant.
9805 Puis aussi pour nous autres, évidemment nos autres clientèles, parce que vous savez, on a définitivement nos clients qui sont à mobilité restreinte, on a nos clients non-voyants. On a -- on travaille aussi avec la clientèle âgée qui nous appelle directement, c’est un service qui est dédié vraiment à eux. Donc à toute notre clientèle, on est dédié, petite équipe qui est là, numéro direct pour nous contacter.
9806 Puis on arrive avec des technologies qui changent et dernièrement on a eu une dame qui venait de perdre la vision et avait -- venait d’installer un service qui s’appelle la composition vocale, donc au lieu de composer, tu donnes le nom qui associe à un numéro et ça compose en parlant. Et sa liste s’est effacée. C’est quelqu’un qui l’avait préparée pour elle, un membre de la famille.
9807 Elle nous a appelé. Elle était vraiment -- elle avait plus de façon de rejoindre la famille. Et mon équipe a pris la relève et nous avons reconstruit la liste. Donc c’est 95 entrées qu’on a fait manuellement pour notre cliente.
9808 Vous allez dire, bon, ça dû être long, oui. C’est près de deux heures, une heure et demie, deux heures, parce que on l’a fait vocalement, donc avec elle.
9809 Et c'est des choses comme ça que je pense qu’il faut -- que je voulais vous partager aujourd’hui parce que ça fait partie de mon travail et aussi la passion que j’ai avec mon équipe pour notre clientèle. On en prend soin et je m’arrêterai pas à dire on peut pas. On va trouver qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire et c'est comme ça qu’on travaille avec mon équipe.
9810 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et c'est très bien et puis je suis heureux que vous avez eu la chance d’en parler un petit peu plus.
9811 Mme LEDUC: Merci.
9812 LE PRÉSIDENT: Puis vous avez toutes les raisons d'en être fière. Mais, par la même occasion, faut pas être discret non plus de l’existence de ce service.
9813 Mme LEDUC: Oui.
9814 LE PRÉSIDENT: Je pense que c’est pas tous ceux qui pourraient en bénéficier qui sont au courant de la disponibilité.
9815 Mme LEDUC: Puis la bonne nouvelle c'est qu’on a également modifié notre site web. On l’a adapté, beaucoup plus facile à travailler avec les services qui sont offerts par différents handicaps. Donc ça c'est tout nouveau également. Depuis quelques semaines qu’il a été lancé et ça nous permet vraiment de diriger la clientèle à nous aussi directement.
9816 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et est-ce que vous faites des évaluations avec les communautés des modifications?
9817 Mme LEDUC: Y en a eu effectivement avant de faire les changements. Et même quand on arrive avec un nouveau produit dernièrement qu’on a amené sur le marché, y a des groupes qui ont été consultés avant de faire l’acquisition d’exemple d’une application ou quoi que ce soit, oui.
9818 LE PRÉSIDENT: Et vous le faites régulièrement pour chercher leur rétroaction?
9819 Mme LEDUC: Oui. Oui, absolument, et je vous dirais même, oui, on a des groupes qui font ces choses-là mais moi aussi je le fais avec -- directement. Je les entends les clients. Donc je suis capable -- comme vous l’avez dit tantôt, je les représente aussi.
9820 LE PRÉSIDENT: Très bien. Espérons qu’on va vous revoir dans d’autres instances, Madame Leduc.
9821 Mme LEDUC: Merci beaucoup.
9822 MR. DANIELS: Mr. Chairman, I ---
9823 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes?
9824 MR. DANIELS: And I just -- I can't help but say -- and we have a tactile phone that we just launched just at the end of February for blind people. We have two different types, one that's entirely tactile for exactly that market, to serve that.
9825 So for the previous intervenor, we have a phone to sell you if you're ready to for to have a phone.
9826 THE CHAIRPERSON: If it was any other clientele, I would have asked for a fee for the advertisement.
9827 So I have a series of questions on other matters before -- I think we'll take a break and then I'm sure my colleagues will have some questions, but it's a series of questions, so we're not quite done.
9828 The first one relates to your proposed reallocation of the voice subsidy from the current National Contribution Fund towards broadband. Is there understanding -- could you explain me how much or in what circumstances your companies currently benefit from the voice subsidy?
9829 MR. DANIELS: So specifically, in Bands E and F, we receive $11.5 million annually, and in Bands G and H-1, we receive $14 million. That's 3.8 in Band G and the rest in H-1, which is NorthwesTel territory.
9830 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. And I can't help but be concerned under your proposal, and maybe if you can explain it to me better, because what you're saying is, we'd remove that subsidy, but over time, prices would be allowed to go up in steps, and that that pool of money could be used to extend broadband as you've proposed it.
9831 I can't help but be worried that there may be customers that will see their voice costs go up without the arrival of better broadband.
9832 MR. DANIELS: Well, our starting proposition is twofold. One is that just looking at voice itself, no one should receive a subsidy who could afford basically like, whatever a just and reasonable rate is. And we're saying that we think a highest approved rate in the country that you have approved in one area, which is $37.29, should apply elsewhere before anyone receives a subsidy.
9833 So that -- but we -- our three-year step is because we realize that there is issues about raising and the transition and it's consistent with what has happened elsewhere.
9834 But -- so from a consumer perspective, we're looking at it and saying that we think that $37.29 is a just and reasonable rate, and that there's no need to subsidize generally an area unless people are being charged that rate for home phone service.
9835 It's not connected directly to whether that person -- some of those people who are receiving those subsidies are -- they have broadband; many of those people have broadband today and have broadband that exceeds five and one and so it's not a direct relation from that consumer, oh, we're increasing your bill; it's a question of should there be a subsidy?
9836 Furthermore, as you know from our proposition, our proposal, we don’t think any subsidy is required in Bands E and F any more, and so that's why we're suggesting that money should be removed and redirected to a place where it is required, which is Bands G and H-1, is our proposal, but nonetheless, in any event, for broadband.
9837 THE CHAIRPERSON: I wasn’t suggesting there's a one-to-one relationship, but there is a possibility that somebody would be facing higher voice prices over three years but not necessarily whether through the -- not in your proposal, but through other mechanisms -- may not be getting any broader -- better broadband access either.
9838 MR. DANIELS: I agree that there's -- there could -- someone could see a rate increase now who's not receiving five and one and it would take a couple of years to get the five and one to the -- before that community is built out; that is, I recognize what you're suggesting in that, that that's a possibility.
9839 But generally, we think as an overall construct, this is a solution that will serve Canadians everywhere and that people who we're suggesting should see a rate increase, it's because that is a just and reasonable rate and there shouldn’t be a subsidy -- there's -- for someone who living in a territory that for some historical reason, is only being charged $31 where someone in the next community is being charged $37.
9840 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm almost tempted to ask you your home phone number so that irate customers can phone you directly.
9841 Some -- a lot of intervenors are commenting on the quality and experience of the Xplornet solution, and at the same time, we're hearing about upgrades to the capacity of throughput satellites.
9842 As experts, are you confident that that solution will pan out?
9843 MR. DANIELS: So I don’t think we can speak to someone else's technology or experience in the sense of (inaudible) let Paul to talk about a little bit his experience with direct-to-home.
9844 But what I would say is that under our proposal, the question that we asked ourselves was if we believe in technical neutrality. Where does satellite -- direct-to-home satellite fit in? And we think it's important for the Commission to articulate as to whether it does or doesn’t, would they be eligible and the reason for the criteria, why it wouldn’t be, for example, to bid.
9845 In Connecting Canadians, direct-to-home was not counted as an area in the maps that have been filed with -- the broadband maps that have been filed with the CRTC. Direct-to-home options weren't counted because they had national coverage, but we do think it's in -- you know, it would be important for the CRTC to comment or to, in articulating whatever criteria it is and who's ever eligible, that issue has been -- I'll let Paul talk.
9846 MR. FLAHERTY: I think the quality of service, obviously, Xplornet would have to speak to that directly themselves. But if you look at where they offer service, it should pose an opportunity.
9847 I was in Iqaluit last Wednesday and Thursday and I had a number of people talk to me in Iqaluit that they have Xplornet service and seem to be happy with the service they have there.
9848 When you get into some of the more remote areas, for Nunavut, for example, one of the challenges is having qualified people to install the service. And so the costs of actually getting it installed or getting it installed at all in a timely fashion become a big issue.
9849 So I would suggest territories like Nunavut, it's probably less practical. Maybe individual communities like Iqaluit that are big enough that can sustain maybe permanent installers, but I would say outside of those areas it's probably less practical.
9850 If you get into areas of other parts of the country, again, assuming that Xplornet can deliver on the quality they say they say they can, it should be a practical solution.
9851 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right, and you're not persuaded by the arguments, and I can't remember who it was, but it was a group from the north, that suggested that maybe that problem of having to fly in and out qualified technicians could be overcome by training locally folks that could support telecommunications more generally in the more remote communities.
9852 MR. FLAHERTY: It’s a potential. As you know, we serve all of those remote communities, and one of the challenges we have is the volume of activity. So a place like Hall Beach we may have three trouble tickets in an entire month, so it’s very difficult to have someone trained and have them remain current in that technology if they have very little work to do. So I think you’ve got that practical reality, is there enough volume to sustain skilled people in specific locations.
9853 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
9854 Earlier you said that you endeavour I think to make sure that your customers are well-informed about their choices. And I was wondering if a customer has chronic overages month-to-month what is your practice?
9855 MR. MALCOLMSON: I’ll start and I’ll ask Scott. But the starting point is we do have an online tool where the customer can go monitor his or her own usage and presumably if they see a pattern of chronic overages, as you say, they would call us and see if there’s a better plan for them, if there’s an unlimited option for them. We sell unlimited options. And similarly, we notify our customers as they are starting to reach their data cap. So that’s how we communicate with them.
9856 Scott may have something else to add.
9857 MR. BARRETT: No, I’ll just reiterate that we notify our clients from a wireline overage perspective at 90 percent and when they reach 100 percent of their cap. We notify them both via email and what we call a captive portal, a little pop-up on your screen when you try to browse a webpage just to get your attention. And it provides some information to let the customer know, you know, you click here to look yourself, or give us a call and we’ll address potentially moving up to a bigger package if this is going to be a regular occurrence for the customer or if it’s a one of then let them know what any potential overage charges will be at that time.
9858 MR. MALCOLMSON: We also did a little homework to ask ourselves, as we heard the discussion around overage charges, what percentage of our customers that are on data plans actually experience overage charges, and in the periods we looked at it was about one percent of those that had data caps exceeded them.
9859 MR. FLAHERTY: The other thing that I can speak on behalf of Northwestel, we have 10 different levels of notification. Obviously in our world data caps are important. So we start at 50 percent, 75 percent, 95, 100, then it goes 110, 120, 130, 140, 150 and then 200.
9860 If we run into customers who have had overages continually month-after-month we’ll talk to them about what they’re doing, what they’re using, make sure they understand. We are finding -- back to your point of education -- that some parents, for example, aren’t fully aware of what others in the household are doing, and so some of that education helps. If it’s a situation where they have got to a place where they can’t afford it we’ll either downgrade them and/or make a payment arrangement for them to pay over time. So we try to be as accommodating as we can.
9861 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you’re saying the Northwestel territory your practice is somewhat different and you do proactively ---
9862 MR. FLAHERTY: That’s correct.
9863 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- do it when there’s month-to-month repetition?
9864 MR. FLAHERTY: That’s right. And during the month, similar to what Scott mentioned ---
9865 THE CHAIRPERSON: Right. The notifications, I get that, but when you have ---
9866 MR. FLAHERTY: But we’ll also call people in the month as well if we see them going over.
9867 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would it be possible for you to provide the Commission with an example of your standard retail home internet contract?
9868 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9869 THE CHAIRPERSON: And of course there’s probably cross-references to some associated documents, so if you could include those, things like fair use policy.
9870 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9871 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
9872 As I announced earlier, I think we’ll take a break. Those were my questions right now. And I’m sure the panel would like to have a break, and I’m sure that this panel would like to have a break as well. So why don’t we do that and come back at 3:55.
9873 Thank you.
--- Upon recessing at 3:40 p.m.
--- Upon resuming at 3:58 p.m.
9874 LE PRÉSIDENT: À l’ordre s’il vous plait.
9875 Just before I pass it on to someone else, just to be clear, I mean, your Exhibit 5, which we’ve just received, we may not have had time to fully absorb it, so would you be okay if we had questions, and I’m not saying we do, but if we had questions that we would do so through a request for information put on the record?
9876 MR. MALCOLMSON: Absolutely. It’s a dense document.
9877 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes. And we wouldn’t do it justice if we were trying to do it too quickly.
9878 Vice-Chair Menzies please.
9879 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you. Just a few, hopefully, quick questions.
9880 I just want to clarify something starting with VRS. And I may have misheard, but did you say that 1.3 was the requirement for upload for VRS?
9881 MR. DANIELS: Just give me a second to get the -- sorry -- I want to make sure I got the right numbers here.
9882 So what I said is the CAV’s answer, so they -- I’m just quoting an undertaking that they gave in response to a question for this proceeding so this is just on the record. CAV said for appropriate quality it would be 737 kilobits per second. So that’s what you need to use VRS. But then they did say that for high quality it would be 1.3 megabits per second needed both ways symmetrical.
9883 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Right. So, I mean, VRS is something that people will use for like 911 and that sort of stuff. Should we not be ensuring that there’s high quality there and going to the higher end?
9884 Because it seems to me like, you know, if we’re fudging with one and that sort of stuff that that’s not necessarily responsible.
9885 MR. DANIELS: Well, I just -- I guess what we want to be careful in terms of saying like -- if your question is so therefore should we mandate that the definition of basic should be five and 1.3, for example, I don’t think that that’s necessary or appropriate because VRS has been used for years with a lot less than one meg up, and in addition, it’s certainly appropriate quality.
9886 So I think the CAV in terms of that number is sort of saying well as we look out maybe that’s something in terms of for the best quality.
9887 In addition -- and I could ask Stephanie to talk about -- we actually had some concerns about how they reached some of their numbers, but if you want us to go into that, but from a high level at the end of the day I think appropriate quality of saying it’s less than one means that the basic standard of five and one will make sure that everyone’s served and able to use VRS.
9888 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. You haven’t convinced me but you did answer the question.
9889 MR. DANIELS: Well, there’s also -- and I hesitate ---
9890 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: There’s actually not much point in me fighting with you about it, you have your position and I had the question.
9891 In terms of the poverty groups, I understand your position that this is an issue for government, but is there any reason why a company of your size couldn’t use its considerable clout to -- and your industry for that matter -- to be willing to take on a little bit of a leadership role in terms of giving profile to this issue or expressing an openness or willingness to work with governments if they were to be convinced -- you give the example of Yukon on the phone -- to work in that area that you would be willing to message to them a willingness to work with them to help address these issues?
9892 Because I’m just getting tired of telling people to do things, to be honest. It’s just really a lot easier if people actually show some enthusiasm for good work on their own that doesn’t really necessarily cost them any money.
9893 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think we would be prepared to engage in discussions with other members of our industry as to how we might collectively recommend how to deal with the issue of -- and it's a poverty issue in the context of the services we offer.
9894 So certainly prepared to have a discussion with our industry and see if we can come up with a collective thought process.
9895 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. That would be good. Maybe you could -- I don’t want to give you an undertaking on that but it sure would be good to hear back in some form, in some way from -- I'm not just talking to you but from others in terms of how we might work with government. I'm not asking you here to offer up a subsidy in terms of that but to express a willingness to go there. Anyway, enough of that for the moment.
9896 In terms of accessibility, Mr. Daniels, you mentioned the TAC telephone. Did that -- and it's sort of within this context. I think you have $25 million in deferral account funds for various initiatives including mobile accessibility initiatives to wrap up by 2019. Did that TAC telephone come from that objective?
9897 MR. DANIELS: Yes, it did.
9898 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay, thanks.
9899 So what plans do you have beyond -- that $25 million has to be spent by 2019. What plans do you have beyond 2019 to leverage the footprint that you've put in place? In other words, after 2019, is this going to stop or is it going to continue?
9900 MR. DANIELS: Part of the money that's being used is to create a product lifecycle to be able to renew. And so part of our proposals that have gone through and part of our funding requesting is to be able to fund it in a way that it can be renewed on a going-forward basis. I don’t mean by coming back and asking the Commission for money. I mean to be able to ---
9901 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Because please don’t.
9902 MR. DANIELS: What I mean is that the people who went and designed our proposals for the deferral account on the mobility side were very much concerned about product lifecycle. A phone generally doesn't last that long in a product. So they've built been into the budget over the next few years and I think it extends even beyond 2019 in terms of that there would be some lifecycle, so replacement, continuing to do source and find new phone.
9903 I can't say to you that -- like I think what we're trying to say is we try to set it up in order to be able that we can see out the next five years and have the next five years covered.
9904 After that, hopefully the business will just continue to do it because it will be part of its setup. But, you know, we -- but we designed our program to be rather than just using it right away the money and the very first year put out a bunch of phones was to try to have not just the support but to have a lifecycle so that the cost of actually sourcing and getting a new phone and keeping it up to date and so on was built into the project for the next few years.
9905 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So that's yes?
9906 MR. DANIELS: Yes.
9907 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Great. Thank you.
9908 Just again with the Community Hub in Toronto initiative with United Way, just to follow up on that, is that in Toronto only? It's not that it's not a good initiative but it's in Toronto only.
9909 MR. MALCOLMSON: Yes.
9910 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Any plans to expand that? It was just when you said it, I was thinking of the -- ah, I unfortunately forget her name, the woman who was in the Dartmouth office last week who had eight kids and that sort of stuff. So any opportunities you're looking at to expand that sort of initiative to other centres?
9911 MR. MALCOLMSON: I think as we build in other centres, I would think that thought would be given to replicating the idea. It seems to be working well in Toronto. So is there a plan today? No. Is it a good idea that seems to be working? Yes. So it's something we would certainly look at.
9912 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Sure, and that's a good place to start. But, you know, Rogers has their issue which they've just expanded, announced that they're expanding outside of Toronto, but I would never want to say that it's not good to see Toronto well served but it is a national system and it would be -- if it's good work there, it would be, I expect, inspirational to you to continue to do good work elsewhere too.
9913 In terms of the subsidized rates that you're talking about in particular to the north and remote areas and that sort of stuff, do you see those -- because you talked about having the retail rates at a sort of comparable -- comparable rate. Do you see those rates staying fixed for a while or do you see them moving with the market?
9914 MR. DANIELS: We see them moving with the market, whatever direction. But again, the point is we don’t see this as a standalone here's my product for -- just take the area, put it into our regular offers. Our offers are generally province-wide or territory-wide. So the rates, you know, would move with the market and when I say that, let's be clear that there's two different things.
9915 We have lots of customers who are on grandfathered plans. That's the rate they bought. A new customer comes on, they may not necessarily get that rate. So I just want to be clear that I'm not trying to say that everyone’s rates would change as we change our rates. They would just be treated like all other customers are in the province.
9916 We have generally province-wide pricing and so to the extent that they were on an equivalent rate of 5/5, as that rate would change for new customers who sign up, new customers in that territory would get the advantage of whatever that new rate was.
9917 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Thank you.
9918 And maybe for Mr. Flaherty, because I've asked others and these folks are arriving next week, there's interventions on the record regarding the potential impact of low-orbit, low-latency satellites who propose to fix everything. So prior to their appearance, it's only fair to have response and other views of particularly from somebody who is well versed in the satellite challenge.
9919 MR. FLAHERTY: Thank you very much for the question.
9920 Very much we're looking at that as a possibility. Of course, there isn’t any today that we can actually test and try out. So we've engaged in a discussion with one particular company that we're trying to look at what we can do from a virtual perspective in terms of modelling what the virtual possibilities are, but we've only just begun this.
9921 So probably within the next year we'll be in a much better place to answer that question but it's hopeful at least if anything close to what they offer comes through.
9922 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. I think that's it for me. Thank you.
9923 THE CHAIRPERSON: Appears to be all our questions then. So you had to work over lunch but you get to finish early today. Thank you very much.
9924 So we're adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. Thank you.
9925 En ajournement jusqu’à 9h00 demain matin. Merci.
--- Upon adjourning at 4:11 p.m.
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