It’s a little bit like the lyrics to the current Katy Perry song: You’re hot, then you’re cold, You’re yes then you’re no, You’re in then you’re out, You’re up then you’re down.
We are referring here to the CRTC and the issue of internet speed for small service providers who buy pipe from large players like Bell, Telus and Rogers.
A few weeks ago, the federal telecom and broadcast regulator said that it would not intervene in allegations that certain companies moved some data at slower speeds than others. It did, however, agree to hold hearings into the regulation of the internet next summer.
Now, however, it has issued a new decision that orders Big Telco to offer the same net speeds to small wholesale customers that they sell to their own retail customers In doing that, the CRTC rejects the argument that having to do that will discourage investment in new, higher-speed infrastructure.
That argument tends to get trotted out whenever a new source of competition surfaces for incumbent market players – it was last heard in the bitter squabble over who should be allowed to bid in the last auction of wireless spectrum. (The government ultimately allowed special terms for new entrants to help them enter the market.)
Before it gets too much further down this road, the CRTC doesn’t ask too many questions for which it doesn’t already have answers. This is a very swampy area of policy with an exceptionally high emotional quotient. There is a significant contingent of people who passionately believe the internet represents a form of pure, unsullied access to communication for all. And they are pitted against those who believe it’s just another business.
In other words, it’s a looming smackdown between unicorns and butterflies, bears and bulls.