Archive

Posts Tagged ‘IPTV’

The Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada, 1984 – 2011

Has the media economy in Canada become bigger or smaller over time? Which sectors are growing, which are stagnating and which are in decline? These are the questions addressed by this post.

To answer these questions, I will examine the following key sectors of the network media economy: wired line & wireless telecoms; broadcast TV; subscription and pay TV; cable, satellite & IPTV distribution; newspapers; magazines; radio; music; Internet access and internet advertising? I will also hone in on rising new segments (IPTV) and others that appear to be in long-term decline (newspapers). I will also examine whether the media economy in Canada is big or small relative to global standards.

The post kicks-off a three part series that I’ll unfold over the next few weeks. Similar to what I did last year, the next post will examine telecom, media and internet (TMI) concentration, while the third will look at who owns the leading telecom-media-internet TMI companies in Canada. The goal is to offer an empirically and theoretically-grounded, and historically informed, portrait of the development and current trends in the network media economy over the period from 1984 until 2011.

Canada’s Network Media Economy in a Global Context

While often cast as a dwarf amongst giants, the network media economy in Canada is in fact the ninth largest in the world, with revenues of just over $35 billion in 2011 (excluding wired and wireless telecoms). The media economy in Canada has also grown fast relative to other media economies. The twelve largest national media economies worldwide and their development over time are depicted in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Canada’s Ranking Amongst 12 Biggest Network Media, Entertainment and Internet Markets by Country, 2000 – 2011 (millions USD) [i]

 

The media economy in Canada is obviously small relative to the U.S., at one-tenth the size, but amongst the twelve biggest media economies in the world, as the above table shows, falling right after Brazil and just before Australia, South Korea and Spain. The media economy in Canada, like those in Germany, the UK, and Australia, largely stagnated for two years following on the heels of the Anglo European financial crisis (2007ff), but for the most part things have turned around since 2010. In contrast, media economies in the U.S., Japan, Italy and Spain actually shrunk during this time before once again picking up in 2010, except in Japan and Spain. Overall, the network media economy in Canada has fared well during the economic downturn years.

In sharp contrast to much of Europe and North America, the media economies of China, Brazil and South Korea continued to grow at a fast pace. Indeed, the media economies in these countries and a few others such as Turkey and Russia have been going through something of a ‘golden media age’, with most media, from internet access, to the press, television, film and so on undergoing an unprecedented and extended period of fast-paced development (OECD, 2010).

The Network Media Economy in Canada: Growth, Stagnation or Decline?

Turning our attention solely to Canada, the figure below shows that the network media economy has grown enormously over the past few decades, from $19.4 billion in 1984 to nearly $71 billion in 2011 (current $). In inflation-adjusted dollars, the network media economy grew from $37.5 billion in 1984 to just under $70 billion last year (2010$). The figure below charts the trends (you can access the underlying data sets by clicking on the Media Industry Data tab at the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project).

Figure 1: The Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada, 1984 – 2011 (Mill$ unadjusted for inflation)

Sources: see the CMCR Project’s methodology primary.

The vast expansion of the media economy has been driven by the addition of new media – wireless, internet access, pay and specialty tv services, internet advertising. The most significant source of growth is from the network connectivity elements (e.g. wireless, ISPs, IPTV, cable and satellite), especially after the mid-1990s.

The Network Connectivity Segments

The connectivity segments – the pipes, bandwidth and spectrum used to connect people to one another and to devices, content, the internet, and so forth — grew from $13.9 billion to $51.5 billion between 1984 and 2011. In real dollar terms, revenue grew from $26.8 billion to $50.5 billion. The following table shows the trends.

Table 2: Revenues for the Network Connectivity Industries, 1984 – 2011 (mill$)

Accounting for just under three-quarters of revenues across the media economy as a whole, the network connectivity sectors are the real fulcrum of the media economy in Canada, as is the case generally in most of the world. This is why Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor, Telus, SaskTel, MTS Allstream, Eastlink, Cogeco, etc. are so central to the media economy, to say nothing of the holdings that the biggest among them have in the media content sectors of the network media ecology.

While some might think that the over-sized weight of these sectors is of recent vintage, this is not true. In fact, the connectivity sectors’ share of the network media economy in 2011 was not even two percentage points more than twenty-seven years ago: 72.8 percent versus 71.2 percent, albeit within the context of a vastly larger media economy.

Why? One reason is TV, which is still very much at the centre of the network media universe (see below).

Not all network connectivity segments have grown and this is especially true of plain old wiredline telephone services. Wiredline telecom revenues peaked in 2000 at $21.2 billion and have fallen steadily ever since to reach $16.4 billion in 2011. The decline, as both figure 1 and the data in Table 2 above show, has been steep and unrelenting.

As plain old telephone services (POTS) has gone into decline, however, some pretty awesome new stuff (PANS) has come along to more than pick up the slack.  The best example is wireless cell phone services. Wireless revenues were $19.3 billion in 2011 – three-and-a-half times revenues at the beginning of the decade ($5.4 billion), and up significantly from $18 billion in 2010 and $16.2 billion in 2008. Unlike a few other areas (see below), wireless revenues did not suffer from the economic downtown either after the collapse of the dot.com bubble in 2000 or in the face of the Anglo-European financial crisis (2007ff).

Internet access displays similar patterns but for not as long or to the same extent. Internet access revenues last year were $7.2 billion, up substantially from $6.2 billion in 2008 and quadruple what they were at the turn-of-the-21st century ($1.8 billion).

The most notable development over the past year is the growth of Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) services, which are essentially the incumbent telcos’ managed internet-based tv services: e.g. Telus, Bell, MTS Allstream, SaskTel, and Bell Aliant.

IPTV services are often seen as important because the entry of the telcos into tv distribution promises more competition for incumbent cable companies and because IPTV is often associated with efforts to bring next generation, fiber-based internet networks closer to subscribers, either to their doorstep or nearby neighbourhood nodes. If the distribution of television is essential to the take-up of next generation networks, as I believe it is, then IPTV will be part of the demand drivers for these networks.

According to the CRTC, IPTV revenues were $322.3 million in 2011, up greatly from $207.8 million a year earlier and triple the amount of 2008.  The CRTC also states that there were 657,300 IPTV subscribers in 2011 versus 416,900 in 2010 and 225,000 in 2008. By any standard, this would appear to be impressive growth.

These numbers, however, still seem low.  For example, published data from Telus, MTS Allstream, SaskTel, and Bell Aliant show that they have substantially more subscribers than the CRTC identifies (775,000 vs 657,300), and this is without including Bell. Add another estimated 128,000 subscribers for Bell’s Montreal and Toronto-centric IPTV service and the number of subscribers rises to approximately 903,000. Table 3 below shows the trends in terms of subscribers.

Table 3: The Growth of IPTV Subscribers in Canada, 2004 – 2011[ii]

2004 2006 2008 2010 2011
Bell Fibe TV (1) 83,000 127,644
Bell Aliant (2)   49,000 77,000
Telus (3)  78,000 314,000 509,000
MTS Allstream (4) 32,578 66,093 84,544 89,967 95,476
SaskTel (5) 25800 51277 70463 85537 93,960
Total IPTV Connections 58,378.0 117,370  233,007 621,504 903,080

I explain some reasons for this large discrepancy in the endnote to Table 3 and will write another post to examine the issues more thoroughly. For now, however, I want to note that, not surprisingly, given that my estimate for subscribers is much higher than the CRTC’s, that my estimate for IPTV revenues is also much higher than the figure the Commission states. I estimate that IPTV revenues in 2011 were $650.6 million — more than four times the amount in 2008 ($142.7 million) — and up greatly from $423 million the previous year. Table 3 below illustrates the trends.

Table 4: The Growth of IPTV Revenues in Canada, 2004 – 2011 (mill$)[iii]

2004 2006 2008 2010 2011
Bell Fibe TV (1) 60.2 91.0
Bell Aliant (2) 33.6 54.9
Telus (3) 50.1 215.3 364.8
MTS Allstream (4) 10.8 32.2 50.6 59.0 71.5
SaskTel (5) 8.6 25 42 55.1 70.3
19.4 57.2 142.7 423.2 650.6

The growth of the IPTV services is significant for many reasons. First, it suggests that the telcos are finally making the investments needed to bring fiber networks closer to their subscribers, at least on a large enough scale that their efforts can be measured, despite being hemmed in by opaque reporting measures in some cases (Bell Aliant, Telus) and a complete lack of disclosure in others (Bell).

Second, the addition of IPTV as a new television distribution platform expands the size of the “BDU sector” (cable, satellite and IPTV), while bringing the telcos deeper into the cable companies’ dominion. By 2011, IPTV services accounted for 7.6 percent of the TV distribution market, based on my numbers, or 3.8 percent using CRTC data. I’ll address whether or not this has significantly increased competition and lessened concentration in the next post.

While IPTV services finally appear to be taking off, we must remember several things. First, it has been the small prairie telcos, followed by Telus, which have taken the lead in deploying IPTV. For Sasktel, Telus and MTSAllstream, IPTV revenues now make up a significant 11.9 percent, 8.5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, of their revenues from fixed network access services (Wiredline + ISP + Cable).

Bell lags far behind, with only 1.4 percent of its revenues coming from IPTV services, including Bell Aliant, in 2011. Indeed, Bell only launched IPTV via its affiliate Bell Aliant in 2009, before targeting high-end districts of Montreal and Toronto the next year, half-a-decade after MTS Allstream and SaskTel began doing so in the prairies.

In other words, innovation and investment is coming from small telcos on the margins and Telus, not Bell. This replays a long-standing practice in telecoms for new services to start out as luxuries for the rich and well-to-do before a mixture of public, political and competitive pressures turn them into affordable and available necessities for the masses. From the telegraph to fiber-based next generation Internet, the tendencies, conflicts and lessons have remained much the same.

Generally speaking, IPTV remains under-developed as a critical part of the network infrastructure in Canada, accounting for only 2 percent of the $32.2 billion in fixed network access revenues (see Table 2).  OECD data confirm the point, with Canada ranked 20 out of 29 countries in terms of fiber-based connections to the premises as a proportion of all broadband connections available.

In Canada, just over one percent of broadband connections use fiber, while the OECD average is 10 percent (similar to levels at Sasktel and Telus). In many ways, the poor performance of Bell over the past half-decade has dragged Canada down in the global league tables as a whole. In countries at the high end of the scale (Sweden, Slovak Rep., Korea, Japan), thirty to sixty-plus percent of all broadband connections are fiber-based. The following figure illustrates the point.

Source: OECD (2011a). Broadband Portal. www.oecd.org/…/0,3746,en_2649_34225_38690102_1_1_1_1,00.html.

The Network Content Industries

In the remainder of this post I will turn my attention to the content industries (broadcast tv, pay and specialty tv, radio, newspapers, magazines, music and internet advertising). For the most part, they too have grown substantially, although the picture has become more mixed than in the network connectivity sectors in the past few years.

In 1984, total revenue for the content industries was $5.6 billion; it was $19 billion in 2011. The growth overall appears to have been steady throughout this period, with no discernible major uptick or downturn at any given point in time. Table 4, below, depicts the trends.

Table 4: Revenues for the Content Industries, 1984 – 2011 (mill$)

Despite much hand-wringing to the contrary, television remains at the very centre of the increasingly internet-centric media environment. Indeed, this is true of all three of the main components of the television industries: conventional broadcast tv, specialty and pay tv services as well as the cable, satellite and IPTV services that underpin TV distribution for the vast majority of Canadians.

Many have argued that television is dying as audiences shrink and advertising revenues is diverted to the internet. Indeed, the dreaded “TV tax” (local programming improvement fund, or LPIF) was put into place by the CRTC in 2008 precisely on the basis of such arguments, before being rescinded by the regulator in 2012 and to be phased out completely by 2014. The rise of over-the-top services such as Netflix only further compounded the woes, so the story goes.

Yet, the evidence suggests that television is, for the most part, not struggling to survive but actually thriving. Broadcast television revenues did decline between 2008 and 2009, but only modestly, and were quickly restored and on the rise again by 2010. In 2008, broadcast TV revenues were roughly $3,381.4 million (including the CBC annual appropriation). They fell in 2009, but by 2010 had risen to $3,405.6 million. Revenues were just under $3,500 million last year.

Focusing solely on inflation-adjusted dollars changes the picture somewhat, but only slightly. Seen from this angle, broadcast television revenues were roughly $3,454.7 million in 2000, peaked at $3,518 million in 2005 and have drifted down slightly since, where they have stayed fairly steady around $3,400 million since 2008.

Small decline? Yes. But a calamity? Hardly.

That the TV in crises choir is wide of the mark becomes even clearer once we widen the lens to look at the fastest growing areas of television: i.e. specialty and pay tv services (HBO, TSN, Comedy Central, etc.) and television distribution. In terms of specialty and pay television services, these have been fast growing segments since the mid-1990s and especially so over the past decade. Specialty and pay-tv services eclipsed conventional broadcasting as the largest piece of the TV pie in 2010, when revenues reached $3,459.4 million. Last year, that figure grew to $3,732.1 million.

Adding both conventional as well as specialty and pay tv services together to get a sense of ‘total television’ revenues as a whole yields an unmistakable picture: with revenues of $7,224 million in 2011, television is not dead or dying. It is thriving.

TV remains at the centre of the internet-centric media universe and is growing fast. In fact, Total TV revenues quadrupled from $1.8 billion in 1984 to $7.2 billion in 2007; using ‘real dollars’, total TV revenues doubled from $3.5 billion in 1984 to just over $7 billion last year — hardly the image of a media sector in crisis.

Add to this, cable, satellite and IPTV distribution and the trend is more undeniable. In these domains, as indicated earlier, the addition of new services, first DTH in the 1990s, followed recently by IPTV, and steady growth in cable TV, means that TV distribution has grown immensely, in essence expanding ten-fold from revenues of $716.3 million in 1984 to $8,588.3 million in 2011 (in current dollars).

Altogether, adding “Total TV” and TV distribution revenues together, these segments of the network media industries accounted for just over $15.8 billion in 2011. As a matter of fact, the weight of all television segments in the network media economy has risen considerably over time, from accounting for 13.2 percent of all revenues in 1984, to 18.4 percent in 2000 and to 22.3 percent in 2011.

Of course, this does not mean that that life is easy for those in the television industries. Indeed, all of these sectors continue to have to come to terms with an environment that is becoming structurally more differentiated because of new media, notably IPTV and over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix, as well as significant changes in how people use the multiplying media at their disposal.

While incumbent television providers have leaned heavily on the CRTC and Parliament to change the rules to bring OTT services into the regulatory fold, or to weaken the rules governing their own services (see Bell’s submission in its bid to take over Astral Media, for a recent example), OTT services are still minor fixtures in the media economy. For example, based on roughly 1.2 million subscribers , Netflix’s annual revenues were an estimated $115 million in 2011 – about 1.6 percent of “Total TV” revenues.  Recent reports by Media Technology Monitor and the CBC as well as the CRTC’s (2011) Results of the Fact Finding Exercise on Over-the-Top Programming Services lead to a similar conclusion.

Part of the more structurally differentiated network media economy is also illustrated by the rapid growth of internet advertising. In 2011, internet advertising revenue grew to $2.6 billion, up from just over $2.2 billion a year earlier and $1.6 billion in 2008. At the beginning of the decade, internet advertising accounted for a comparably paltry $110 million, but has shot upwards since to reach current levels, demonstrating both fast growth as well as the fact that, like wireless services, internet advertising has not been significantly affected by downturns in the general economy.

To be sure, these trends have given rise to important new actors on the media scene in Canada, notably Google and Facebook, among others, who account for the lion’s share of internet advertising revenues. Indeed, based on common estimates of Google’s share of internet advertising revenues, the internet giant’s revenues in Canada in 2011 were in the neighbourhood of $1,300 million. This is indeed significant, enough to rank Google as the eighth largest media company operating in Canada by revenues, just after the CBC and SaskTel but ahead of Postmedia and MTS Allstream.

For its part, Facebook had an estimated 17.1 million users in Canada at the end of 2011. Based on estimated revenues of $9.51 per user, Facebook’s advertising revenue can be estimated at $162.6 million in 2011, or 6.3% of online advertising revenue – an amount that give it a modest place in the media economy in Canada but which would not put it even close to being on the list of the top twenty or so TMI companies in this country.

While it is commonplace to throw digital media giants into the mix of woes that are, erroneously, trotted out as bedeviling many of the traditional media such as television in Canada, the fact of the matter is that Netflix’s impact on television revenues is negligible, while those of Google and Facebook are mostly irrelevant.

Where they may be more important, however, is in three other areas where the portrait is not so rosy: music, magazines and newspapers.  With respect to music, it is not advertising that is at issue, but rather the manner in which online digital distribution, legal and illicit, as well the culture of linking is affecting the music industry. At some point I will write a full-length post on each of these sectors, but for now a simple sketch will have to do.

Music

While many have held up the music industry as a poster child of the woes besetting ‘traditional media’ at the hands of digital media, the music industry in Canada is not in crisis, although the picture is mixed. Using current dollars, the sum of all of the main components of the music industry – recorded music, digital sales, concerts and publishing royalties – the music industry grew from $1,181.9 million in 2000 to a high of $1,373.7 in 2008.

Music industry revenues across these four segments have generally stayed remarkably steady around the 2008 level, up to and including 2011, when revenues were $1357.7 million. There is no crisis.

The picture is a little more troubling, however, when we switch the metric to ‘real dollars’, which results in revenues reaching a high of $1.5 billion in 2004 and a decline from there to $1.316 billion last year — a significant decline, yes, but not a calamity, and with the trend clearly towards a floor being in place below which further declines in the future will be unlikely or very modest.

Radio

Radio stands in much the same position as the music industries. Revenues continued to grow until reaching a peak in 2008 of $1,990 (including CBC annual appropriation), a level at which they have stayed relatively flat since, with revenues of $1,949.5 in 2011 (current dollars). Change the measurement from current dollars to inflation-adjusted, real dollars, however, and the picture changes slightly, with a gradual decline from just over $2 billion in 2008 to roughly $1.9 billion in 2011.

Magazines

Magazines appear to stand in the same position as the music and radio sectors as well, although I have not been able to update my revenue data for the sector for 2011. Yet, extrapolating from trends between 2008 and 2010 to obtain an estimate for 2011, revenues have declined slightly on the basis of current dollars (from 2,394 million in 2008 to $2,135 in 2011). The drop is more pronounced when using real dollars, with a significant drop of about sixteen percent from $2,457.8 million in 2008 to $2,071.1 last year.

Newspapers

Perhaps the most dramatic tale of doom and gloom within the network media economy, at least in terms of revenues, is from the experience of newspapers. Readers of this blog will know that in earlier versions of the “Network Media Economy in Canada” post, and other posts, I have been skeptical of claims that journalism is in crisis. I still am, and believe, much along the lines of scholars such as Yochai Benkler, that we are in a period of heightened flux, but with the emergence of new commercial internet-based members of the press (the Tyee and Huffington Post, for example), the revival of the partisan press (e.g. Blogging Tories, Rabble.ca) as well as non-profits and cooperatives (e.g. the Dominion) and the rise of an important role for citizen journalists indicating that journalism is not moribund or necessarily in a death spiral. In fact, these changes may herald a huge opportunity to improve the conditions of a free and responsible press.

At the same time, however, I also believe that traditional newspapers, whether the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star or Ottawa Citizen are important engines in the overall network media economy, serving as the content factories that produce news, opinion, gossip and cultural style markers that have the ability to set the agenda and whose stories cascade across the media as a whole in a way that is all out of proportion to the weight of the press in the media economy. In other words, the press still originates far more stories and attention that the rest of the media pick up, whether television or via the linking culture of the blogosphere, than their weight suggests. Thus, problems in the press could pose significant problems for the media, citizens and audiences as a whole.

While I have been reluctant to see newspapers as being in crisis, mostly because in previous years I have felt that the trends had not been long enough in the making to draw that conclusion, and also because I think many of the wounds being suffered by the newspaper business, have been self-inflicted out of a mixture of hubris and badly conceived bouts of consolidation, I’m now ready to change my tune when it comes to the state of newspaper revenues.

Newspaper revenues have plummeted. In current dollar terms, newspaper revenues peaked in the years between 2000 and 2006 at between $5.5 and $5.7 billion. They have fallen substantially since to just under $4 billion last year – a decline of 30 percent or so. Indeed, revenues fell by 9 percent just between 2010 and 2011.

In real dollar terms, the fall is more pronounced yet. Newspaper revenues, on the basis of this measure, shrunk by about $1.7 billion – or almost a third (30.7 percent) – in the five-year period between 2006 and 2011. This is the most clear cut case of a medium in decline out of the ten sectors of the network media economy reviewed in this post.

Some Concluding Comments and Observations

Several observations and conclusions stand out from the preceding analysis. First, the network media economy has grown significantly over time, whether we look at things in the short-, medium- or long-term.

Second, while the network media economy in Canada may be small relative to the U.S., it is large relative to global standards. In fact, it is the ninth biggest media economy in the world.

Third, while most sectors of the media have grown substantially, and the network media economy has become structurally more differentiated and complex on account of the rise of new segments of the media, a few segments have stagnated in the past few years (music, radio, magazines). It is also now safe to say that two sectors appear to be in long-term decline: the traditional newspaper industry and wiredline telecoms.

The next and last table of this post gives a snapshot of the state of affairs across the network media economy as things stood at the end 2011 by placing each of the sectors covered in this post in one of three categories: growth, stagnation and decline.

Table 5: The Network Media in Canada: Sectors Experiencing Growth, Stagnation or Decline

Growth Stagnation Decline
Wireless Telecoms Broadcast TV Wiredline Telecoms
Internet Access Music Newspapers
Cable & Satellite Radio
IPTV Magazines.
Pay & Specialty TV
Internet Advertising

[i] Sources:  PWC (2012), Global Entertainment and Media Outlook for all countries and for all segments, except the subcomponents of publishing rights and live concerts for the music sector, which is based on IDATE DigiWorld Yearbook 2009. I have excluded video games, book publishing, and business-to-business sectors from the PWC figures to make the country profiles correspond to the definition of the network media economy in Canada used here and by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. Canadian sources as listed in the CMCR project’s methodology primary, but generally based on the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report as well as Statistics Canada’s Cansim tables and publications for the sectors that make up the network media economy.

[ii] I use BDU ARPU because the CRTC’s estimate for IPTV ARPU of $40.86 appears too low alongside its estimates for BDUs ($59.41). with which IPTV services compete, as well as figures published by MTS Allstream in its Annual Reports that set their IPTV ARPU at $62.38. Sources: (1) Bell’s revenues are based on the CRTC’s Aggregate Annual Return. Dividing this number by the CRTC’s annual ARPU estimates for BDUs of $59.41/month in the 2011 Communications Monitoring Report (p. 96) yields 127.6 thousand subscribers for 2011. (2) Bell Aliant’s subscriber numbers are from its Annual Report (p. 2). Revenue figures arrived at by multiplying subscriber numbers by ARPU estimates for BDUs ($59.41/month in 2011) stated in the CRTC’s 2011 Communications Monitoring Report (p. 96); (3) Telus‘ subscriber numbers are from its 2011 Annual Report (p. 10) and 2010 Annual Report (p. 5). Revenue figures arrived at through same method as above. This number probably inflates the Telus figures slightly because it includes the company’s DTH satellite TV service that it resells for Bell, but Telus officials I have spoken to assure me that true IPTV subscribers are the vast majority; (4) MTS Allstream’s subscriber and ARPU figures from its 2011 Annual Report (pp. 3, 16) and multiplied by an ARPU of $62.38, as per its Annual Report. Its 2008 Annual Report lists subscriber numbers from 2004 (p. 62); (5) Sasktel’s data from its 2011 Annual Report (pp. 14, 29). Previous years from 2010 Annual Report (p. 45) and 2006 Annual Report(p. 49). SaskTel ubscriber numbers, except for 2008, are multiplied by MTS ARPU to arrive at total revenues because SaskTel does not present revenue figures for its IPTV service on a stand-alone basis and because MTS is most comparable to SaskTel vs CRTC’s average ARPU. Note: SaskTel revenue figures for this table revised on November 19th. 

[iii] Ibid.

Advertisements

Two Open Broadband Internet Proposals vs the Pay-per Internet Model

Two new research papers released in the past week add insight into the Usage-Based Billing (UBB) debate in Canada, or what I have been calling the evolution of the pay-per Internet model. The papers are by Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa law professor, and by Bill St. Arnaud, the Chief Research Officer for CANARIE for 15 years (until 2010) and a telecoms engineer. Geist’s paper can be found here, while St. Arnaud’s paper is here.

Both papers were commissioned by Netflix, in light of the fact that developments in Canada are sucking it and others such as Google, Apple, and so forth deeper and deeper into digital media policy issues. All are becoming fixtures in CRTC proceedings. Both papers bear one significant subtle influence of this sponsorship (as I will discuss briefly below), but other than that provide extremely valuable help wading through the technological, economic and regulatory issues surrounding the UBB debates.

Geist and St. Arnaud are both convinced that the CRTC’s plan to revisit it’s January 25th UBB decision that ignited the firestorm over the pay-per Internet model in Canada is far from sufficient. As Geist indicates, a whole series of decisions over the past few years will have to be revisited and the regulator and policy-makers are going to have to deal head-on with the fact that underlying these problems is a heavily concentrated market for Internet access in Canada. I feel similarly, and have laid out the ‘long march’ to the pay-per Internet model in an earlier post.

Playing on earlier decisions regarding the incumbent telecom and cable companies use of technical measures to ‘throttle’ different types of Internet uses that they argue put excessive strain on their networks — the so-called Internet Traffic Management Practices — Geist’s first proposal is for a series of what he brands IBUMPs (Internet Billing Usage Management Practices). The basic gist of which is to make the incumbents’ billing practices for Internet services easy to understand and reasonable when it comes to so-called excess usage charges.

His second set of proposals aim to promote greater competition in the Internet access market. This includes allowing more foreign competitors to enter Canada.

It also involves allowing smaller ISPS and Content Distribution Networks (see below) more scope to interconnect with the incumbents’ networks much deeper in the network and closer to subscribers’ homes (especially the cable companies, who have dragged their heels on this matter for more than a decade). Finally, it means cultivating a greater role for alternative Internet access providers, from city-owned networks, to cooperatively run ISPS, as well as expanding the role of provincial and federal broadband development programs.

As an interesting aside, the Liberal Party’s platform announced on April 2nd as part of the current federal election campaign effectively doubled the commitment that the Liberals would put into expanding broadband networks in remote and rural areas compared to the modest $225 million announced by the Conservatives in 2009. The Quebec Government went even further in the 2011-12 budget passed in March, where it announced that it will invest around $900 million in bringing very high speed Internet access to all Quebecois (see here at pages E.93-96; also see St. Arnaud).

It did not specify the exact capacities of the network, but its references to similar plans in Australia, France, Finland and the US suggest that the bar is high, probably around 100 MBps. Neither the Liberal Party’s election platform nor even the much more ambitious Quebec Government’s scheme are equivalent to or the same as Australia’s National Broadband Company initiative, and nor should they be.

However, they do underscore (1) the under-development of broadband Internet in Canada, (2) the lack of competition offered by the current market, and (c) a willingness to rely on a variety of providers, from the traditional incumbents, to municipalities and provincial governments to improve on the situation at hand. They also suggest that Geist’s proposals, far from pie-in-the-sky, are grounded and with some real, even if tentative support in some crucial quarters.

Bill St. Arnaud’s paper also offers much food for thought and complements Geist’s paper very well. He makes three key points.

First, the massive growth of video online is not necessarily causing congestion. Huh?  How could this be, with clear evidence that the growth of video traffic has been stupendous, ranging from 50 to 100 percent per year and with continued high rates of growth expected in the next few years ahead?

This is because sources responsible for this massive increase are increasingly turning to Content Distribution Networks that, basically, bypass the public Internet and deliver their content as close to their subscribers as possible. These so-called Content Distribution Networks are not only being deployed by outfits such as Netflix, but other large Internet content and service providers, from Amazon, to Google and Facebook. The basic point is that they take traffic off the network for much of the distance a message has to travel.

Second, to the extent that congestion is a problem, this is an outcome of decisions made by the incumbent telecom and cable companies about how to apportion the capacity of their network. As Geist quips in his paper, the ‘chicken roasting channel’ recently introduced by Rogers, for instance, is just so much bandwidth allocated to that ‘service’ rather than to the Internet.

Third, and this is where I think St. Arnaud has an amazingly powerful and clear point, the incumbent telecom and cable companies — the ‘big six’, as I have called them: Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Videotron and Cogeco — appear to have no problem with congestion when it comes to launching their own video content services delivered over the internet, e.g. CTV.ca, globaltv.ca, TVA.ca, etc. Congestion is only caused by other providers’ video services.

Lurking in the background of all this is that we’ve seen this all before. A few years ago, P2P/file-sharing and music downloading sites were the culprit; now the target is online video services. The cable companies have been especially remiss in dragging their feet for a dozen years or more on allowing independent ISPs to access their distribution infrastructure. Despite being required to do so before the turn-of-the-century, the cable cos have thrown one obstacle after another in the path of ISPs requiring last mile access through cable facilities to gain access to subscribers.

All said and done, Geist and St. Arnaud’s paper respectively do a great service. They are timely interventions that help us understand the issues at hand and, if successful, they may help to frame the debates that take place at the hearings that the CRTC has scheduled to revisit the UBB decision in June.

However, we should not hold our breadth on that, and in that regard these papers do a real good job at holding the regulator’s feet to the fire (see my earlier post on this point). The CRTC has a very broad remit to regulate in these matters, as the Telecommunications Act (1993) (sec. 27 (5)) makes clear, but has chosen to draw the proverbial camel through the eye of the needle. With the magnitude of the issues at stake, this is unacceptable.

However, I also think that both papers need to go even further in at least four ways. First, both papers make claims about the highly concentrated state of the telecom, cable and Internet access markets in Canada, but offer little to no data to illustrate and support these claims. Good quality data is now available on these points and they should use it.

Second, both papers focus on the UBB issue, or what in regulatory parlance is now called an economic measure for managing congestion on the Internet. However, the CRTC’s Internet Traffic Management Practices decision (2008) sets out a hierarchy of preferences for dealing with such problems when they can be shown to exist: (1) network investment, (2) economic measures such as UBB, and (3) technological measures, aka throttling.

Neither paper says much, if anything, about the top priority: network investment. Why? At between 15-18 percent of revenues, current levels of investment in their networks by the big six is low by historical and global comparative standards (although in line with similarly low levels in the U.S.). And this despite the fact that the Internet represents a massive new source of revenue ($6.5 billion in 2010).

Third, neither paper pushes as hard as they might on how the use of UBB and the allocation of network capabilities by the incumbents to their own services may constitute a form of “unjust discrimination”. The issue is not totally ignored by any means, but I think it could be pushed further and that doing so is important not just to the question of whether or not we’re going to be stuck with a highly concentrated Internet market and the pay-per Internet model in Canada, but concentration across the whole sweep of the network media ecology, from traditional media to the Internet.  Let me explain. I’ll conclude by returning to my fourth point.

Insofar that these papers deal with ‘unjust discrimination’ they seem to have in mind section 27 of the Telecommunications Act that specifically outlaws such practices. It is a good victory to be had, if it can be had. And the CRTC has, as I stated above, much discretion in how it goes about making such determinations. To the extent that it has chosen to blinker itself is a problem of the first order.

However, it may be possible to go even further and look to the next clause of the Telecommunications Act, section 28, that specifically makes the issue of discriminating between video services, or broadcasting as such things were known when the act was written nearly 20 years ago, a matter of potential concern. Indeed, the CRTC has enormous authority under this section to deal with the issue of discrimination while meeting other objectives of the Broadcasting Act.

Herein, however, may lay the rub, given that both of the papers being discussed here were funded by Netflix, and the last thing that it and other services like it (read: Google, Apple, etc.) want is to be defined as broadcasting services, which could happen if we were to assign the ‘online video distributor’ label on them like the FCC and Dept of Justice did recently in the US in relation to the Comcast/NBC merger.

I, too, am very leery about slapping the label of broadcaster on such entities because of all that would mean with respect to CanCon rules and the like. The CRTC has always indicated that it believes that it has the authority to regulate online video distributors under the Broadcasting Act (see its seminal 1999 new media decision here), but up to now has not seen Internet television services as being significant enough and too experimental to actually do so.

The question of whether ISPs could also be brought under the purview of broadcasting regulations so that, just like cable and Direct-to-Home satellite providers, they too could be required to contribute to funding and displaying CanCon has also been hotly contested. That route seemed to be foreclosed by a Federal Court of Appeal decision in 2010, but that too has now been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now, the incumbents en masse are pushing hard to have OVDs like Netflix, Apple and Google regulated as broadcasters just like their own broadcasting-related services. The irony here is that for Netflix to push its case on UBB as hard as possible, adding some water to its wine by accepting some such designation could go a very long way to putting a stop to the discriminatory practices that are now hobbling its access to Canadian subscribers.

While this is far beyond the scope of what I can say here, perhaps a new designation along the OVD line devised in the US might be imported into Canada for just such purposes. That would mean distinct treatment from broadcast television in general, but also some obligations to open up their services to Canadian media creators.

It might also allow a much more forceful push against the anti-discrimination rules of not just one section of the Telecommunications Act, but both sections 27 and 28. Done right, this need not ‘trap’ new players like Netflix in the maw of outmoded aspects of the Broadcasting Act. Instead, it could potentially help to usher in an entirely new media model where all of the bits and pieces that make up the traditional media model are disassembled and reassembled anew in light of the realities of the digital network media industries in the 21st century.

And finally to return to my fourth critique of the Geist and St. Arnaud papers. Both papers target the upcoming UBB decision. This is great, but I think it might be helpful to try and kill two birds with one stone by putting another potentially even more important upcoming regulatory review in their sights: namely, the CRTC’s hearings scheduled for June 2011 on vertical integration.

The ‘vertical integration’ hearings were scheduled late last year but given added impetus when the CRTC approved Bell’s acquisition of CTV last month. The idea of holding such hearings reflects the fact that Canada now also has the dubious honour of standing alone in the extent to which fully-integrated media conglomerates have become the norm. In the U.S., the fully integrated media conglomerate has become the exception (e.g. Comcast/NBC-Universal) after the disastrous AOL Time Warner merger and is pretty much in retreat in almost every other developed capitalist democracy.

There is indeed every reason to be very skeptical about these hearings given that they are a classic case of “bolting the barn door after the horse has already left the stable”. However, given that the use of UBB is completely tangled up with the crucial question of whether or not the “big six” media conglomerates in Canada — Bell, Shaw, Videotron, Rogers, Shaw, Telus (the latter to a lesser extent) — are using the pay-per Internet model to disadvantage competitors and to protect their own traditional television services, as well as their recently-minted internet video services, we must keep our eyes on the full range of big issues before us.

Media Concentration in Canada and the Internet

Over the course of the last fifteen years, the Internet Access market has grown into a $6.5 billion dollar industry. That is roughly the same size as the cable and satellite television distribution industry.

There are nearly 500 ISPs in Canada, but according to the CRTC’s own annual Communications Monitoring Reportfor each of the last few years, about 95% of Internet subscribers obtain service from one of two players: the ‘old’ phone company or their traditional cable provider. The ‘big six players’, according the CRTC’s own data, account for about three quarters of the market.

My own data collected as part of the International Media Concentration Research Project shows that the Internet access market is not quite as concentrated as the CRTC suggests, but still high, with just over two-thirds of Internet access revenues going to the ‘big six’: Bell, Telus, Shaw, Rogers, Quebecor and Cogeco. Some jockeying in terms of market share does, of course, occur between the major players, but levels of concentration over time have stayed remarkably flat. The upshot is that a small number of dominant players compete in tightly oligopolistic markets (see below for evidence).

Small and independent ISPs, online video providers (Netflix) and others, however, have consistently claimed since the rising popularity of the Internet in the mid-1990s that the big players have used their dominant market power to hobble competition. The CRTC, despite its own analysis, however, has been reluctant to deal with the problem of media concentration head-on. Government directives to rely on “market forces to the maximum extent” further disarms the regulator. The Government’s injunction that the CRTC must also take heed of the incumbents’ plans to invest in new networks and content services all but turns the agency into a toothless laptog unable to effectively regulate.

In contrast, when faced with similar obstructions to competition and the development of an open, broadband network in Australia by the dominant telecoms provider, Telstra, the government there created the National Broadband Network Company in 2009. The aim is to bring a ‘next generation’ ultra fast fibre-to-the-home Internet capable to 93 percent of Australian homes. The network will deliver speeds of between 100Mbps and 1 Gbps and the plan is to offer several different tiers of service, priced between $30 and $130 (Cdn). Total cost: $35.7 billion. Initial service began in a small number of homes in 2010.

Australia is not alone. A dozen-and-a-half governments, including Korea, France, the UK, the US, etc. – have committed to spending roughly $71 billion on similar initiatives over the next few years (Benkler report, pp. 162-164). Some of these projects are state-centric, others are not. In many countries, from Romania to the Netherlands, municipal and even neighbourhood-based broadband Internet development projects are underway. Despite the opposition within industry in North America, these efforts are considered to have been a huge boon to developing and improving affordable access to open-broadband Internet for residential subscribers, community centres, and businesses alike. Some of these are commercial ventures, others are joint public-private initiatives, and yet others involve incumbent players.

In 2005, the UK also adopted an approach that has been called for in Canada for years: ‘structural separation’. At this time, the regulator, Ofcom, required British Telecom, the dominant provider, to break itself into two parts: one for wholesale, and one for retail. BT did so the following year. BT can operate in both the “network” and “services” areas, but its wholesale operations cannot discriminate between the company’s own Internet services and anyone elses.

The ‘open reach’ model now in place in the UK requires maximum access to BT’s facilities in addition to the separation of its wholesale (network) and retail (content, Internet and services). This includes “improved access to the engineering . . . books used by BT to enable Communications Providers to provide their End-User customers with . . . better and faster” service (para 3.5). This a strong, pro-competitive, pro-innovation, pro-user and pro-open media arrangement.

The ‘big six’ in Canada, of course, chafe at ideas of ‘alternative carriers’, ‘structural separation’ and a maximalist approach to open networks. They also scoff at any claims that telecoms, media and Internet markets in Canada are concentrated, arguing instead that they are fiercely competitive. Indeed, Bell and Shaw emphasized just this point the other day in their testimony to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (listen around the 1hr, 50min point).

Whether or not the telecoms, media and Internet industries have become more or less concentrated is, of course, a debatable issue. It one made all the more difficult by the fact that there has not been a consistent body of evidence to help inform the debate either. As a result, fiery debates have taken place in a vacuum, with positions closely tracking ideology rather than evidence.

As I indicated above, the CRTC’s own evidence tends to corroborate the view that media concentration does exist in many sectors. The problem with its evidence, though, is that its manner of presentation is inconsistent over time, focuses only on the top 4 or 5 players, and based on underlying data that it refuses to disclose. In the past year, I have filed a dozen Access to Information Policy (ATIPS) to gain access to this data, but have been refused each step of the way, and further denied on appeal.

I’ve done this as the lead Canadian participant on the International Media Concentration Project, which is led by Eli Noam, a well-known Professor of economics and finance, as well as a media and telecoms expert, at Columbia University (NY). The project has no axes to grind and includes 40 researchers from around the world who are systematically collecting data on concentration trends for every significant telecom, media and Internet industry since 1984: ISPs, search engines, newspapers, cable and satellite tv distribution, wired and wireless telecoms, film, conventional and specialty tv channels, and so on.

Here are the figures that I have done so far: CANADA Internet Services Provider DRAFT(1)CANADA Video Distribution TV DRAFT(1)CANADA Wired Telecoms DRAFT(1)CANADA Wireless Telecom DRAFT(1)Canada Total Television UniverseCanada Search EnginesCanadian Radio Mrkt Share, 1984-2009, and Canada Newspapers. The figure below shows the trends for all sectors over time:

Please feel free to use, criticize, suggest additions, or revisions to, etc. but when you do use it, cite it as follows: D. Winseck (2011). Media Ownership and Concentration in Canada. The International Media Concentration Research Project, Columbia University, New York.

So, what does the evidence show?  Several things stand out. First, each sector of the media is concentrated by standard measures (e.g. CR and HHI scores). Second, that patterns generally follow a U-shape, with concentration falling in the 1980s, rising sharply from the mid-1990s, and staying relatively flat since then. Concentration levels in Canada are high by global standards, in fact about two and a half times higher than the US (see Noam’s 2009, Media Ownership and Concentration in America, Oxford University Press, 2009).

The telecoms, media and Internet policy and regulatory frameworks in Canada have encouraged these trends for several reasons. First, on the grounds that with so many media outlets available, there’s no need to worry about concentration in terms of who owns those outlets. Fragmentation, not concentration, is the defining feature of the Internet and our times, so the argument goes.

To my mind, however, fewer owners holding more outlets is an important development that needs to be curbed rather than encouraged. Some limits were adopted in 2008 by the CRTC. This was an advance insofar that it was better than no formal rules at all. However, by using the same standards as the ones used to regulate the banking industry in Canada, grandfathering existing circumstances, permiting Shaw to take over the remnants of the bankrupt Canwest at firesale prices, and allowing the already weak rules to be breeched whenever expedient (i.e. Cogeco’s acquisition of Shaw/Corus radio stations in Quebec), the CRTC’s media ownership and concentration rules are toothless.

Second, there has been too much deference to claims that the ‘traditional media’ are being decimated by the ‘new media’. Claims that the ‘traditional media’ are ‘in crisis’ are generally false (see here and here). In fact, ‘old media’ markets like television have not shrunk, but grown. New media have opened up vast new markets for ‘old’ and ‘upstart’ players alike.

That this has been a boon to well-established interests, a case that is most obvious with respect to Internet Access. The vast majority (95%) of this enormous new source of revenue ($6.5 billion) has gone straight to the bottom line of the incumbents telephone and cable companies. Yet, this new source of revenue has occurred with no corresponding upswing in investment in networks and services by the ‘big six’, as I showed in one of my posts a few days ago.

Third, underpinning consolidation in Canada is the myth that in the global scheme of things, we possess a small media market.  It is then argued that this condition requires the cultivation and protection of well-heeled players with deep pockets to invest in infrastructure, Cancon and cultural survival.  It is an easy story. It makes sense, or so it seems.

However, the ‘network media industries’ in Canada are not small by global standards. In fact, we have the eighth largest network media economy in the world, based on PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Global Media and Entertainment Outlook. Here’s a snapshot of the ten largest media economies in the world between 1998 and 2010: 10 Largest National Network Media Economies.

The combination of these myths, misguided policies and missing evidence is that we now have one of the most concentrated telecom, media and Internet markets in the world. The result has been the creation of a handful of media conglomerates with a reach across the media landscape and a decisive influence over the future of the Internet: Bell (CTV), Rogers (CityTV), Shaw (Global), Quebecor (TVA), Telus, and Cogeco (Radio) are the “big six”.

If ‘the medium is the message’, as Marshall McLuhan once stated, than the dominant players’ ability to shape the speed, capacity, price and technical and economic characteristics of the Internet give them considerable influence over creativity, innovation, experience, and expression. Tinkering with the medium — speed, bandwidth, memory/storage, capabilities — alters the meaning of our experience, and the message of the Internet.

The CRTC, however, refuses to see things this way. Instead, it relies on an exceptionally narrow conception of editorial influence over content. In fact, it has seemed bent on severing far-reaching and principled debates over Net Neutrality”, “Open Networks”, “Open Media”, etc. by using the sterile language of “Internet Traffic Management Practices”. It is a foul, unmoving language for digital gearheads. Reading the CRTC’s many documents on these issues is more likely to make your eyes glaze over rather than make you perk up and want to pay attention. The choices being made. nonetheless, will shape the future of the Internet for decades ahead.

In this constrained view of the world, the CRTC has fully-endorsed the use of economic measures like Bandwidth Caps and UBB to “discipline” what it and the industry vilifies as bandwidth hogs. It registers a vague preference for network investment to deal with congestion issues, but insists on nothing concrete to ensure that this hierarchy of priorities will translate into real world practices. Technical measures to throttle and block Internet applications are also given the green light, but supposedly only as a last resort. The fact that the use of such practices is left up to the discretion of the ISPs and for Internet subscribers to discover and challenge on their own, however, makes one wonder if these so-called ‘technical ITMPS’ actually sit as low down the totem pole as the CRTC suggests. This is regulation by machine and by impenetrable technocratic language.

All of these things add up to something that looks much more like an “Investment and Business Model Protection Plan” for the telephone and cable companies than a set of policies designed to further develop an open, broadband Internet in Canada. Indeed, it is not just the subtle ways in which tinkering with speed, capabilities, price and traffic that ever so slowly alter the Internet, but rather several instances whereby control over the medium as been translated into direct efforts to control the content flowing over it.

The CBC found this out in 2008 when its attempt to use BitTorrent to distribute an episode of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister was thwarted by Bell’s network management practices.  The ‘big six’ have also been at the forefront of efforts to throw regulatory hurdles in the way of alternative OVDs (online video distributors) trying to enter Canada, such as Apple, Google, Netflix, etc. Indeed, they have called for these entities to be regulated just like the old broadcasters. As Netflix explains, it has had a difficult time in the US, but in Canada matters have been worse. Bandwidth Caps and UBB serve this end too by making it more expensive to download television, film and music from them. The effect is once again to preserve the big six media conglomerates’ main business.

Such practices have become even stronger since these companies began offering their own broadband video portals since 2009. In my reading, the rules governing bandwidth caps and UBB allow the incumbents to exclude their own video services from these constraints. A straight-forward reading of the Telecoms Act (sec. 27) would suggest that doing this would violate the ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘undue preference’ clauses, although that is not the view that has prevailed so far.

In a stunning moment of frankness the other day, Bell’s chief of regulatory affairs, Mirko Bibic, told the House of Commons committee meeting that the company’s own IPTV service would not be covered by the UBB and bandwidth caps (listen around the 2hr, 7min. mark). He offered a bunch of convoluted reasons why IPTV is misnamed and that, even though it rides on the same wires that the Internet and telephone do, it is ‘cable’ tv, not Internet TV.  How convenient. While Bell and the cable guys throw obstacles in the path of others, their own services get a free ride.

From the Open Internet to the Evolution of UBB, 1998-2011: the Rise and Fall of the Canadian Internet?

From the Open Internet to the Evolution of User-Based Billing, 1998-2011

Understanding the CRTC’s January 25 UBB is no easy task.  It has a ‘long tail’, so to speak. In the following I offer a chronology from 1998 to the present.

It begins with a series of early decisions to adopt a relatively open Internet that was, without exaggeration, the envy the world. To be sure, this period looked a lot better from far away rather than close up. Already, clear problems of market power, lack of equal access, pricing, policy and regulatory indecisiveness, etc. are cropping up.

The second period runs from, roughly, 2000 until 2005, a period of steady back-peddling from the principles of the open Internet, but not yet complete capitulation.

The third stage runs from, roughly, 2006 until now. As a scene-setting directive from Cabinet put it in December that year, the CRTC was to rely to “the maximum extent possible on market forces”.

The CRTC is directed to insure that its decisions:

(a) do not disturb incumbent’s incentives to invest in networks;

(b) ensure that there is “sufficient” (versus real) competition;

(c) ensure that telephone and cable companies are treated equally (not independent ISPs, Online Video Providers (OVPs), etc);

(d) do not impede incumbents investment in new content and services, i.e. IPTV.

Rather than a policy promoting an open Internet and competition, this looks more like an “Investment and Business Model Protection Plan” for the incumbent telephone and cable companies. The period marks not so much an incredible deference to the market, but to the incumbents with market power.  This period locks in bandwidth caps, ‘excess usage charges’, so-called Internet Traffic Management Practices, the death of Net Neutrality.

Throughout all three periods some common themes emerge. In each phase, independent ISPs constantly find impediments to network access. Issues of market power and concentration are treated evasively. Calls for ‘structural separation’ are not treated seriously. Concerns about anti-discriminatory behaviour by the large players, the influence of network owners over content and the character of the Internet as a media space, the privacy and surveillance implications of deep-packet inspection (DPI) technologies and the jamming of certain applications, e.g. P2P file sharing networks, come up time and again, but are not meaningfully addressed.

To understand all of these deeper issues, however, I think we need to begin by charting out the basic terrain. There are, of course, other choices that could be made, and what follows is by no means exhaustive. One thing is for sure, however, and that is that the UBB decision is, as I said in a previous post, just the tip of an iceberg.

If anyone would like to turn this into a time line, please get in touch.  I think it would be very useful. If there are things that are not on here that you think should be, let me know; if you disagree with my list and discussion, you can let me know that too!

July 1998 (98-9) ISP Access to Cable Company Networks. Gives ISPs access to cable networks at regulated rates. Cable and telephone companies now both governed by Open Network rules. In theory, probably most “open network” framework in the world, but finer points not well articulated.

Weaknesses: Proposals for structural separation rejected. Cdn. Cable TV Association in charge of proposing technical conditions for access. ISPs claim that cable companies have delayed network access while building substantial market power since launching own High Speed Internet in1996.

July 1999 (99-8). Regulation of Cable Carriers High Speed Internet Access. Reiterates commitment to ‘open network’ for both telephone and cable companies. CRTC finds market insufficient basis for network access. ISP/CCTA Technical Working Group established. This group will go on to play a lead role for the next year. Outside the ‘cable group’, most would say it was primarily a stalling tactic and a method for getting others to sign on to their technological and business models. The CRTC would take back the job of regulating in a more engage way in 2006.

September 1999 (99-11). Discounted ISP access to Cable Carriers High Speed Internet Access. ISPs reselling cable companies High Speed Internet Service. Get a 25% discount. No real interconnection/network access rights. ISPs accuse cable companies of stalling while building dominant market share.

August 2000 (2000-789). Terms and Conditions for Access to Large Cable Carriers High Speed Internet Access service. Maintains ‘non-discrimination’ principle, ie. cable companies cannot discriminate between their own services and those of competitors. Stresses need for ‘regulatory harmonization’ for cable and telephone companies. Sets access rates for each carrier, but does not distinguish between different service levels, i.e. lite, express and extreme. Approves Shaw and Videotron proposals Bandwidth Caps and ‘pay-per’ use proposals. Rogers and Cogeco required to file ‘pay-per’ use rates, even though neither has proposed them or expressed interest in establishing. “Volume usage rate restrictions [could] be appropriate means of disciplining end usage of cable carriers’ shared capacity” (para 106). Claims that cable companies’ need to maintain control over facilities, modems, etc. to protect integrity of network accepted.

December 2006. Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implementing the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives, P.C. 2006-1534, 14 December 2006 (the Policy Direction). CRTC ordered by Cabinet to rely on “market forces to the maximum extent possible”.

December 2006 (2006-77). Third Party Internet Access (i.e. Independent ISPs) to Major Cable Company Networks. CRTC mandates access and sets rates for TPIA. Supersedes Cable/ISP working group. Rejects ‘essential facilities’ doctrine, ‘structural separation’ and wholesale rates. Instead of a ‘strong’ open network framework, this is a weak access regime. Sets baseline prices for 3 tiers of service: Lite, Express and Extreme.

Rogers’ claims to have never applied UBB fees to its retail customers or to wholesale services, but has filed tariffs for such things since 2000 at CRTC’s request. Rogers requests to withdraw them denied.

December 2006. Bell begins shutting down unlimited Internet plans.

February 2007.  Bell no longer offers unlimited Internet plans to new subscribers.

March 2008 (2008-17). Revised regulatory framework for wholesale services and definition of essential service. Expands scope of essential services by moving from “monopoly supply” to “market power” standard. However, rather than sticking with standard definition of ‘essential services’, uses six new categories invented two years earlier: (1) essential services, (2) conditional essential services, (3) conditional mandated non-essential services, (4) public good, (5) interconnection, (6) to be by phased out.

Only ‘directory services’ database (i.e. the database of telephone numbers used to make telephone books) is “essential service”. Local loops are “conditional essential services”. Services required by independent ISPs are “conditional mandated non-essential. The outcome is minimal standards for dealing with market concentration and minimal ‘open network’ requirements.

October 2009 (2009-657). Internet Traffic Management Decision. CRTC accepts that network congestion is a problem. Adopts hierarchy of procedures to deal with it: (1) Network investment to increase capacity; (2) economic measures such as bandwidth caps and UBB to “discipline users”; (3) technical measures so long as they can be justified, are as narrowly drawn as possible, discriminate against or harm network users as little as possible, and the carriers can show why such measures are superior to network investment or economic Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs).

Exempts wireless carriers from rules governing ITMP.

Rejects concerns that such measures as thus far practiced discriminate between incumbents and competitors services (i.e. do not violate sec. 27) of Telecoms Act, that they do not constitute editorial influence over the flow of information or the content of information (sec. 36), or violate privacy laws (e.g. sec. 7(i) of Telecoms ACT or PIPEDA).

December 2009 Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC re. Cybersurf, P.C. 2009-2007, December 10, 2009 (Policy Direction). Requires CRTC to revisit speed matching and wholesale access decisions (2008-117) and review in light of: (1) potential disincentive for incumbents to invest in networks; (2) whether there is “sufficient” (versus real) competition in the market; (3) parity between telephone and companies; (4) potential disincentive for incumbents to invest in new content and services, i.e. IPTV.

Basic gist: network access was too liberal and did not give incumbents’ interests enough weight in their determination.

March 2010 (2010-255)UBB and Bandwidth Caps for Rival ISPs adopted. The CRTC accepts the plan by the major telephone companies to implement wholesale UBB.  The CRTC accepts the idea, but with the condition that rates for two main components of wholesale services – the ‘gateway access services’ that provide the ‘last mile’ connection between the ISPs and subscribers and wholesale UBB prices – be 25 percent less than their own retail Internet services.

August 2010 (2010-632). Wholesale Access/Speed Matching Decision. Harmonizes the ‘speedmatching requirements’ for telephone and cable companies. Both must make the same level of facilities used by their own retail Internet services available to independent ISPs on equal terms. That is smaller ISPs should have access to the technical resources that allow them to match the ‘big six’ players’ basic, express and ultra-fast Internet services. Tied to several previous cases. The dissent by CRTC Commissioner Timothy Denton is a must read. It lays out much of what is wrong with the regulator’s approach to independent ISPs.

October 2010 (2010-802). Telephone Companies Appeal Initial Wholesale UBB Ruling (CRTC 2010-255).  Argue that the CRTC’s 25% discount rate for wholesale facilities is arbitrary (i.e. why not 10 percent, or 40 percent?). Also, rules of parity require that any discount applied to telephone companies should be applied to cable companies to level the playing field.

January 25, 2011 (2011-44). UBB for Rival ISPs Final Decision. Extends UBB to wholesale “gateway access services” and “retail Internet” offered by independent ISPs.  Reduces wholesale gateway access services discount from 25% to 15%. Harmonizes the 15% discount rate for gateway access services and wholesale UBB for telephone and cable companies.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: