The CRTC has sided with Canada’s largest wireless carriers and denied a request from the Competition Bureau for detailed information about how the companies do business.
The bureau was planning a study to assist in a process launched by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that will examine whether new regulations are needed to promote competition and reduce costs for consumers. The CRTC plans to hold a public hearing in January.
Last month, the competition watchdog asked the CRTC to order wireless carriers to turn over reams of data about revenue, subscribers, market share, network performance and profitability.
Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc. wrote letters to the commission in protest, saying the voluminous request would “hijack” the proceeding and “impose an unreasonable burden” on carriers.
Other wireless providers, including Telus Corp., Freedom Mobile, SaskTel and Tbaytel, later wrote in to say the Competition Bureau’s request demanded a great deal of information and would leave little time for the companies to respond before the hearing.
In a letter Thursday to Matthew Boswell, the Commissioner of Competition, the CRTC rejected the bureau’s request, saying that the commission has issued its own requests for information from various wireless carriers on April 5.
“Much of the information in [our requests for information] overlaps with information that is the subject of the Competition Bureau’s proposed questions,” the CRTC said in the letter. The commission said the details sought by the bureau, are “highly granular and [CRTC staff] are concerned that requiring parties to respond to two sets of [requests] at this early stage of the proceeding … would be overly burdensome on the [carriers].”
The telecom regulator said responses to its own information requests are due June 5 and the Competition Bureau will have the opportunity to weigh in on whether additional questions should be asked.
“We are disappointed with the decision, however we respect the CRTC’s process and appreciate the commission staff providing a decision on this matter quickly,” said bureau spokesman Eric Joyce in an e-mail Thursday.
“The information that we are seeking is critical to our ability to make an evidence-based submission on the competition issues in this matter,” he said. “We will take the necessary time to review the commission staff’s decision and will decide on the appropriate next steps.”
The CRTC has already said its preliminary view on the proceeding is that the national wireless carriers, Rogers, BCE and Telus, should be forced – for a limited period of time – to sell network access to smaller companies that could resell the service. That would offer new options to customers and potentially bring prices down.