OTTAWA – A Manitoba MP is on a mission to get ISPs to tell Canadians what level of service they actually provide.
“At least you’ll know what you’re paying for,” said Conservative MP Dan Mazier, who represents Dauphin-Swan River-Nipawa.
Last month, he introduced a private member’s bill that would direct the Canadian Radio, Television and Communications Commission to have internet service providers publish “measurements of quality of service during peak periods” and “typical download and upload speeds during peak periods”.
The information would be far more useful than companies declaring “theoretical speeds” as much as possible but rarely available, Mazier said.
It’s not a new idea. The House Industry Committee recommended this change in March. Maiziere actually submitted a proposal a year ago, in the final weeks leading up to the fall 2021 election.
He said many Canadians have experienced download delays during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pipeline is not large enough to attract everyone at that time of use.”
Mazier believes that more honest prices may put more expensive providers on a par with smaller, cheaper companies that provide a similar service.
“It is better for the consumer that they hold companies accountable as the process is more transparent,” Mazier said. This is a nonpartisan bill; I don’t know why anyone would say no to this.”
Ben Klass, a doctoral student at Carleton University in Ottawa, agrees.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” said Claes, who researches the evolution of Canadian telecom industries in the internet age. “We need more standards on how we provide people with information about these types of services.”
Claes, who is from Manitoba, said the issue is particularly bad for rural Canadians, who often don’t have a choice of provider. He said rural Manitoban residents who use both satellite and fixed wireless services are getting contracts that claim to offer certain speeds, with fine print outlining several caveats.
This often makes it impossible for rural Canadians to work from home, he said.
“It’s like a game of chicken,” Klass said of the internet operators. “They want to spend as little as they can on capacity, but as much as they need to make sure their customers don’t notice that the service doesn’t always deliver as fast as they promise.”
The CRTC has studied internet speeds in recent years, such as a 2015 project where it sent modems to 6,200 volunteers, to report on how their internet speeds compare to advertised prices.
Claes said the CRTC likely has the powers to do what Mazier’s Bill C-288 proposes, and that might be possible through a government regulation rather than an act of Parliament.
He also suggested that the legislation be limited to companies that generate more than a certain amount of revenue, so it does not add costs for smaller and entry-level providers.
Mazier said he would try to interview Liberal MPs about the bill before voting to send it to study in the committee, likely in November.
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne’s office had no comment on the Masiere bill, but noted a proposal announced in May to have the CRTC “implement mandatory broadband performance testing and other consumer transparency requirements,” if Parliament approved.
“Our government is doing everything we can to ensure speed, reliability and – most importantly – affordable telecommunications services,” government spokeswoman Laurie Bouchard wrote.
However, a report last month by Wall Communications Inc. Canada has the highest average home internet prices among the G7 countries, with prices for nearly all internet packages rising between 2019 and 2021.
Mazier said Trudeau’s government had had some influence on internet speeds and prices, but it was nowhere near what it promised, particularly in rural Manitoba.
“There was a lot of talk, a lot of hype, but in terms of getting to some of these communities that really need them … they don’t get involved in the communities where those needs are, so they really failed.”
Head of Parliamentary Office
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping on freedom of information requests and asking politicians: “What about Manitoba?”
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