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CRTC Just Says No

Last week I asked a few contacts at the CRTC if they could get me invited to the Industry-Regulator Conflab this coming Thursday (March 24).  You know, the behind-closed door, by-invitation-only meeting organized by the CRTC to talk with the industry about how it should deal with evolving media markets and the major players with a stake in the game. The digital media universe is all topsy turvy and the regulator’s on a search for what to do.

Sounds interesting. I know some people, experts, are coming in from NY to talk to the hand-picked few allowed to attend. Luckily, OpenMedia.ca was able to wrangle an invite too.  Certain officials, notably Industry Minister Clement, appear to be being particularly solicitous towards the organization as of late, with their 500,000 ‘stop the meter’ petition opening the Minister’s eyes — even if opportunistically and for the briefest of moments.

For me, no such lucks.  Can’t go, no room said my contacts.

The industry folk will be there too, mostly from the telecoms and broadcasting sectors, but there’ll no doubt be some ‘new kids’ on the block there, too: Neflix, the Google guys, Apple TV. They’ve been playing a more significant role in telecom and media affairs lately (See, for example, interventions by Google and Apple TV). They’ve been picking off a few regulatory bodies, too, for their own team. The CRTC is also juicing its own ranks with a few people pilfered from private consultancies.

I’ll speak more on this in a day or two, preferably before the meeting itself is held.  But here’s a copy of the ‘invitational document’ sent by the CRTC to participants.  CRTCRegForum_2011

The point that I want to close with now, however, is that up until 1976 in Canada, the primary criteria for inclusion in a regulatory proceeding was that one had to have a business or economic stake in the game. That criteria, however, was thrown out as an affront to democracy and the public interest, just like it was ten years earlier in the United States. Today it is back.

Last week the CRTC made it clear that on key issues such as Usage Based Billing, it is not willing to open up the long path that got us to bandwidth caps and the pay-per Internet model. Nope, it’ll be a narrow review of the January 25th UBB decision. Note, too, the conspicuous silence of Tony Clement on this issue. After grandstanding during the initial swell of outrage and throwing a few bones to the crowd and burnishing some egos, he’s gone silent.  After all, letting the market rip leads to just such an outcome.

This Thursday’s conflab will not change the current direction of events. That is unfortunate.

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