OTTAWA — A former chairwoman of the CRTC says she’s not holding her tongue any longer after watching the Conservative government demand a reversal of the regulator’s decision on usage-based Internet billing.
Francoise Bertrand, now president of the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce, has remained largely silent over the last decade on telecom issues so that she wouldn’t be seen as an armchair quarterback.
She also sits on the board of media giant Quebecor, which owns cable Internet provider Videotron — an owner of network infrastructure that has supported the concept of usage-based billing for its wholesale clients.
Bertrand remains a passionate advocate for the CRTC’s independence, and said she finds it “disturbing” that the federal cabinet has rejected the CRTC’s decision. She said the government’s actions are based on electoral concerns and pleasing voters.
“The CRTC’s great advantage was it was giving the possibility for the government to have an institution at arm’s length.
“It was not a political decision. It wasn’t, ’I like your face, I don’t like your face.’ It’s not based on an upcoming election. It was based on due process.”
The government asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission go back to the drawing board after the regulator ruled last month that large telephone and cable companies could place price caps on how much bandwidth smaller Internet service providers used on their networks.
The move would make it difficult for smaller ISPs to offer unlimited plans to their customers, some of whom are heavy users.
The issue created a wave of protest from Internet users across Canada, and by smaller ISPs.
“I find that quite disturbing . . . . It’s entirely the right of the government to say, ‘I want a different role for the CRTC, I want to change the perspective.’ Well then, the tools for them are the policies and the legislation — upstream, not downstream.”