TekSavvy complains about data omitted from annual CRTC report on industry trends

TORONTO — TekSavvy Solutions Inc. lodged a complaint with the CRTC on Wednesday, saying that critical statistical information compiled by the federal telecommunications regulator was omitted from last year’s edition of an annual industry report.

The Ontario-based independent internet provider (ISP) said that the CRTC’s omission of the information makes it more difficult for companies like TekSavvy as they compete with industry giants, particularly Bell Canada.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it’s reviewing TekSavvy’s complaint.

TekSavvy said the 2018 Communications Monitoring Report issued Dec. 20 didn’t follow the CRTC’s usual practices for reporting things like consumer appetite for faster internet, capital spending by independent ISPs and their market share.

Industry data normally available in December would have helped independent ISPs make their case at CRTC hearings in December and January, said Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s vice-president for regulatory affairs.

The lack of certain types of information at a critical time “definitely raises questions and concerns” Kaplan-Myrth said in an interview, but he declined to speculate on the reason for its omission.

Instead, Kaplan-Myrth said he hopes to get an explanation from the CRTC that addresses these concerns without escalating the complaint to the minister responsible for telecommunications, Navdeep Bains.

“But I’m sure the minister’s office is aware of the letter as well and may have questions of their own,” Kaplan-Myrth said.

TekSavvy and its peers have been trying for years to get the CRTC to make it easier for wholesale internet resellers like them to offer higher-speed internet service to their customers, who are also potential customers of the big players.

Previous CRTC decisions have effectively allowed Bell Canada and other major phone companies to limit their wholesale customers, like TekSavvy, from offering residential internet services above 50 megabits per second.

A landmark CRTC decision in 2015 set the stage for creating a new regulatory and pricing regime for independent ISPs that depend on renting network infrastructure from phone and cable companies.

Bell Canada and other major carriers are building out residential fibre networks capable of 1,000 megabits per second or more (1 to 1.5 gigabits per second) but independent ISPs complain CRTC regulations are lagging behind the times.

As a result, the independent ISPs are faced with either paying uneconomically high wholesale rates to access fibre optic infrastructure or continue being limited to speeds of 50 mbps over DSL lines or 100 mbps over coaxial lines.

“So we’re effectively capped at 50 (mbps) until Bell either allows us to have access to the fibre, which they could do, or the CRTC finalizes this framework and mandates that they give access to the fibre,” Kaplan-Myrth said.

In the meantime, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium — which represents independent ISPs including TekSavvy — has asked for interim relief through a CRTC process that was unfolding when the industry report was issued.

TekSavvy’s letter to the CRTC cites an extensive list of information that it claims had been collected, and available through archived raw data sets, but not included in the 2018 published report for some reason.

For example, TekSavvy said it discovered by examining the raw data that 25.8 per cent of residential retail subscribers had services with advertised speeds of 100 mbps or higher in 2017 — above the CRTC’s DSL speed cap of 50 mbps.

It also alleges that the 2018 report omitted all data and analysis concerning resellers’ wireline revenue market share, resellers’ capital investments and resellers’ total share of communications revenues.

In addition, TekSavvy alleges that nearly 17 pages of data and analysis on the wholesale telecommunications sector were excluded from the published report — removing 95 per cent of the data and analysis included in the 2017 report.

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