New PIAC Report: “Selling Speed: Reforming Broadband Advertising Regulations in Canada”

Transparency and accuracy standards for broadband service ads in Canada are falling behind other countries’ new reforms

New PIAC Report: Selling Speed: Reforming Broadband Advertising Regulations in Canada

17 August 2022, OTTAWA – A new consumer research report published today by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) updates a 2012 PIAC research project comparing broadband advertising practices in Canada with those in other countries. The 2022 report, entitled “Selling Speed: Reforming Broadband Advertising Regulations in Canada,” found that in the last decade, broadband advertisements in Canada have largely stayed the same, mainly advertising plans in terms of “up to” maximum speeds. On the other hand, under new regulations, ISPs in Australia and the UK advertise a tested average or a range of speeds, accompanied by consumer-friendly explanations of technical limitations, and detailed “suitability” information that help consumers match services to needs.

“In the last 5 years, regulators in Australia and the UK have become leaders in reforming how ISPs advertise broadband services to consumers,” stated Yuka Sai, a staff lawyer at PIAC. “Ads that show tested, average peak period speeds or a range of speeds is a lot more useful to consumers than ads that only advertise maximum possible speeds. Consumers’ actual experience does not always meet these high expectations.”

PIAC’s report also analysed developments in speed testing methods, including the CRTC’s two speed testing studies conducted in 2016 and 2019. The report also included input from various stakeholders, including ISPs, other consumer interest groups, and regulatory authorities like the CRTC and the CCTS. Based on lessons learned in other countries and through stakeholder consultations, PIAC compiled a list of recommendations to improve broadband advertising practices in Canada, and to ensure customers have adequate contractual remedies where services fail to meet advertised expectations.

To conduct this research project and prepare the report, PIAC received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s (ISED) Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of ISED or of the Government of Canada.

To see the full report, please consult the following link (English only): PIAC Report: “Selling Speed: Reforming Broadband Advertising Regulations in Canada”

A summary version of the report is available in English and French .

For more information, please contact:

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

Yuka Sai
Staff Lawyer
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ext. 122
ysai@piac.ca

NPF and PIAC file Petition to Cabinet to Set Aside CBC Licence Decision

OTTAWA – 5 August 2022 – The National Pensioners Federation (NPF) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today filed a Petition to Cabinet to set aside the decision of, or have the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission reconsider their recent approval of the licences for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / Société Radio-Canada’s TV and radio services.

“The CRTC removed the requirement for CBC and Radio-Canada to actually exhibit Canadian content on their regular TV stations, in the hope that CBC/RC could go ‘whole hog’ on moving their TV productions online,” said John Lawford, counsel to PIAC and NPF. “We said no, you cannot allow CBC/RC to jump cut from regular TV to online without considering Canadians’, and in particular seniors’, reliance on CBC/RC’s traditional TV service, especially for local news,” he added.

The Petition underlines the importance of CBC/RC to Canadians for the delivery of Canadian content, including local and national news, programs of national interest, and kids programming, in both official languages and the CRTC’s rushed and ill-considered removal of requirements to ensure Canada’s national public service broadcaster continues to broadcast this programming to Canadians on TV services they know and use every day.

“You have to meet people where they are; that just shows respect for all Canadians, especially our seniors,” added Trish McAuliffe, President of NPF.

Petition here.

For more information:

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ext. 125
jlawford@piac.ca

National Pensioners Federation

Trish McAuliffe
President
National Pensioners Federation
905-706-5806
Trish.mcauliffe@npfmail.ca

PIAC Comments on ISED’s Proposed Telecommunications Policy Direction 2022

OTTAWA – 19 July 2022 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today filed comments with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) questioning the strength of the government’s commitment to telecommunications policy improvements for consumers in the form of the Department’s proposed “Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on a Renewed Approach to Telecommunications Policy” (the “2022 Policy Direction”).

In this submission, PIAC proposes improvements to the 2022 Policy Direction and also questions the utility of a such a policy direction when the present government appears unable to reverse CRTC decisions under the present (2019) and (2006) policy directions, even where these CRTC decisions are contrary to consumer interests, such as the recent wholesale Internet rates decision of 2021.

Our comments are found here: PIAC Comments on “Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on a Renewed Approach to Telecommunications Policy” (the “2022 Policy Direction”)

PIAC calls for Inquiry into Rogers outage; Notice of Consultation for all internet and wireless providers

8 July 2022 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre today filed a letter with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. It reads in part:

“The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) hereby requests that the Commission immediately open an Inquiry under s. 48 of the Telecommunications Act into the widely reported nationwide outage[1] of Rogers Communications Inc. (Rogers) and affiliates’ wireless, Internet and home telephone networks and services, which began today at approximately 4:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Further, we request that the Commission, undertake to launch a Public Notice within 30 days, examining whether all telecommunications service providers (TSPs) in Canada should be required to meet a baseline of emergency planning, refund requirements, notice and transparency and other consumer protections, interconnection, wholesale and other requirements as conditions of service to operate in Canada, under s. 24 and s. 24.1 of the Act, and whatever policy directions then in force may apply.

[1] Globe and Mail, “Nationwide Rogers network outage interrupts internet, cellular, 911 and payment services” 8 July 2022, online: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-rogers-network-outage-internet-wireless-cellular/

We look forward to the CRTC’s prompt response.

For more information:

John Lawford (he/him)
Executive Director/General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
285 McLeod Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1A1
jlawford@piac.ca
613-562-4002 ext 125 [new!]
Fax 562-0007
Cell: 613-447-8125

Fighting for consumer rights


@CanadaPIAC

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CBC Licence Renewal Decision Disregards Public Interest

OTTAWA, June 22, 2022 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today expressed shock and dismay at a CRTC decision to approve the terms of renewal for the broadcasting licences of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) / Radio-Canada (RC) including its linear TV and radio services in both English and French, due to the CRTC’s removal of conditions of licence and clear disdain for the Broadcasting Act and the public interest.

“The CRTC just handed the CBC/RC even more ‘flexibility’ than they asked for to reduce local programming and news,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. “This Decision is a five-year golden ticket to do whatever CBC wants, not what the Canadian viewing public needs or desires. This is unacceptable for ‘Canada’s national public broadcaster’.”

In both written and oral submissions, PIAC together with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) argued against excessive freedom for CBC/RC to abandon exhibition requirements for Canadian shows on ‘linear’ TV and radio – which millions of Canadians across Canada use daily to access important local news and programming. Instead, the CRTC ordered that the CBC/RC’s ‘online’ undertakings could effectively be substituted for many traditional TV and radio requirements.

PIAC and NPF argued for only a two year licence renewal in order to wait for new broadcasting legislation and also due to the absence of CBC-RC revenue projections past 2022. PIAC and NPF filed evidence with the CRTC demonstrating Canadians, especially seniors, were concerned about potential reduction of original local programming and news on TV and radio. Two CRTC commissioners dissented from the Decision and agreed that the record did not support a five-year licence renewal, especially while removing most key licence requirements on TV service.

PIAC and NPF will now study all avenues of appeal of the Decision.

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

(613) 562-4002 ext. 125

jlawford@piac.ca

Fighting for consumer rights

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PIAC remarks to Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Bill C-11

PIAC remarks to Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Bill C-11 are found here. PIAC argued for a fix to the “discoverability” sticking point to solve the “user-generated content” question.  Too bad we got no questions on our proposal from MPs. We are not sure ignoring consumers helps.

Competition Bureau protects consumers by moving to block Rogers-Shaw Merger

OTTAWA – 9 May 2022 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed the Competition Bureau’s application to the Competition Tribunal, that seeks to block Rogers’ Communications Inc.’s (Rogers) proposed acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw). By requesting the Competition Tribunal prevent the merger from proceeding and also requesting an injunction to stop the parties from closing the deal, the Competition Bureau has taken concrete legal steps under the Competition Act to protect Canadian consumers.

“The Competition Bureau is finally using the legal tools it has to challenge a merger that will make wireless, Internet and TV prices for many Shaw customers rise and risks a less competitive market for all Canadians,” said John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel. “We believe this shows the regulator now understands that consumer affordability of essential services is a major requirement for mergers,” he added.

PIAC argued to the Competition Bureau that this merger is bad for consumers, threatens affordability and access to high-quality wireless services, and reduces consumer choice. Canada has some of the highest wireless prices in the world. Removal of the fourth wireless competitor in major markets signals threatens even higher wireless prices in Canada and more limited options for consumers.

PIAC has opposed many telecommunications mergers over the years in Canada – all have which have been permitted to proceed – some with conditions. As a result of the recent CRTC decision to approve Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw’s broadcasting assets PIAC, in participation with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF), have filed a Petition to the federal cabinet to set aside the CRTC ruling.

PIAC has prepared a backgrounder on its position and advocacy regarding the proposed merger:

PIAC Backgrounder: Rogers’ Acquisition of Shaw

Other helpful links:

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 562-4002 ext. 125
jlawford@piac.ca

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Applications for Social Justice Articling Year 2023-2024 Now Open at PIAC – Funded by Law Foundation of Ontario

Description for Social Justice Articling Positions Funded  by the Law Foundation of Ontario

Name and Location of Organization:

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

2-285 McLeod Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1A1

For Articling Year: 2023-2024

Deadline for Application:     May 31, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. (EDT)

Interviews the weeks of:      6 June and if necessary, 13 June 2022

Offers will be made:             June 23, 2022 at 8:00 a.m. (EDT) 

Description of Organization and Areas of Law:

 The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) was federally incorporated in 1976 as a non-profit corporation and has charitable status for tax purposes. The organization’s purpose is to provide representation, research and advocacy on behalf of those elements of the public interest that would otherwise be unable to be adequately heard before courts, tribunals, and decision-makers. PIAC has tried to focus its mandate on issues arising from the delivery of important public services including telecommunications, broadcasting, competition law, energy, financial services, and transportation. PIAC seeks to represent and advocate on behalf of ordinary consumers, in particular vulnerable consumers, concerning the rates, policies, rules and regulations associated with the delivery of these services with a view to ensuring principles of access and affordability and fair treatment for the constituencies it tries to serve.

PIAC’s work takes a variety of forms. First, the lawyers of PIAC represent organizations whose membership serves our target constituencies before boards and tribunals where the industries delivering such services are regulated. These organizations include ACORN Canada, the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition, the Consumers Association of Canada, the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations (OSSCO), National Pensioners Federation (NPF), Option consommateurs (OC), l’Union des consommateurs (UC), and Rural Dignity of Canada among others. PIAC’s most significant commitments for such representation occur before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) where PIAC lawyers are full participants in administrative proceedings including the presentation of evidence and the making of written and oral submissions.

Because the delivery of the public services touches upon consideration of other important legal and policy matters, PIAC has also developed expertise and is frequently involved in funded and unfunded work (approximately 20% of PIAC’s work is unfunded) representing its constituencies in competition law and practice, electronic commerce, privacy, multilateral agreements, and general issues of consumer protection.

PIAC carries out its work outside the hearing room in numerous ways. Its extensive studies and reports associated with the above are published and distributed to policy makers and the general public through its web site. PIAC staff participates in discussions with government officials, other industry stakeholders, other public interest communities, as well as groups representing its own constituencies to attempt to secure rights, rules, policies or consensus that will advance the interests of the communities that PIAC serves. PIAC frequently attends before parliamentary and legislative committees to pursue these same goals in legislation. Finally, PIAC’s staff are active in traditional and online media to present a coherent defense of those communities’ position when the delivery of important public services is in issue.

Description of Responsibilities:

  • Research and writing on legal and policy issues to support studies and reports of the Centre;
  • Research and writing to support regulatory interventions in tribunals;
  • Assistance and attendance with PIAC counsel for tribunal work, meetings with government officials and presentation before parliamentary committees;
  • Participation in discussions of advocacy strategy and position with Counsel and Centre clients

Salary/benefits: $51,000 for the articling term, Medical and Dental plus paid vacation 

Application includes:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Undergrad transcripts
  • Law school transcripts
  • Letters of reference

Applications should be addressed to:

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

2-285 McLeod Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1A1

Email to: dbrady@piac.ca

**         Please note: We no longer accept faxed applications.

Students will be interviewed during the week of 6 June 2022 and if necessary, the week of 13 June 2022 with a view to extending an offer on June 23, 2022

This position has been made available through The Law Foundation of Ontario Public Interest Articling Fellowships program.

 

Consumer Groups file Petition to Set Aside CRTC Rogers-Shaw TV merger

OTTAWA, April 27, 2022 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) today filed a Petition to the federal Cabinet to set aside a CRTC decision to approve Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw’s broadcasting assets as part of the broader Rogers-Shaw merger. These assets include certain broadcasting undertakings, as well as broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) including cable TV services, and satellite TV services, and to a lesser extent, Internet protocol-based TV services (IPTV).

“Consumers shouldn’t pay for these mergers,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. “This Petition is a result of our concern that the CRTC failed to impose enforceable conditions to protect consumer affordability of TV services.”

In both written and oral submissions, NPF-PIAC raised serious concerns about the impact of the acquisition on affordability of TV services, especially for Shaw’s current TV-only customers, that is, customers who subscribe only to cable or satellite TV without any underlying or additional Internet services from Shaw.

NPF-PIAC filed survey evidence with the CRTC demonstrating Canadians, especially seniors, were concerned about price increases in TV service as a result of the deal – and that this concern was greatest for Shaw TV customers.

 

Petition text: NPF-PIAC Petition re BD CRTC 2022-76 Rogers-Shaw – 27 April 2022 FINAL

Supporting Appendix A (spreadsheet): App A – Environics PIAC Telecomm Merger Tables ST Sept 8-21

Supporting Appendix B (spreadsheet): App B – Environics Phone Survey – Charts for Shaw Customers_12 Apr 2022

 

For more information, please contact:

John Lawford

Executive Director and General Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

(613) 562-4002 ext. 125

jlawford@piac.ca

Fighting for consumer rights

CRTC Approval of Rogers-Shaw Broadcasting Deal Hurts Consumers

OTTAWA – 24 March 2022 – Consumers, especially in the west, will be hurt by the CRTC’s decision today to approve Rogers Communications Inc.’s (Rogers) take-over of Shaw Communications Inc.’s (Shaw) broadcasting interests, including cable TV, IPTV and satellite TV distribution based largely in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, said the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

“Shaw customers should get set for higher TV and internet prices, and a ‘forced march’ to Rogers’ Ignite TV platform,” noted John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC.  PIAC intervened, along with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF), before the national communications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.  The hearings were the CRTC-regulated part of the larger proposed Rogers-Shaw acquisition.

“We were particularly disappointed that the CRTC appears to have completely ignored the potential cost effect on consumers – in particular during a time of extreme reliance of Canadians on broadcasters in Canada to get news and information on critical events such as wars and pandemics,” continued Lawford.  “There is an uncritical acceptance of bald assurances of ‘improvements’ to the broadcasting system that we are convinced were disproven by our evidence, that of other broadcasters and independent producers, and the majority of those Canadians who expressed their opinion on the deal.”

PIAC will study its options for continuing to oppose the broadcasting take-over as well as to oppose, before the Competition Bureau and elsewhere, the merger as detrimental to the interests of all Canadians, including in particular seniors and vulnerable consumers.

For more information, please contact:

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 447-8125
jlawford@piac.ca

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