We Fight For That – Episode 8: Klass Consciousness: CRTC MVNO decision, telecom socialism & Shaw-Rogers deal with Ben Klass


Will the CRTC’s recent decision on mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) provide new wireless competition in Canada? We discuss this in excruciating detail with Ben Klass, PhD Candidate and telecom policy wunderkind. The answer: not likely, sorry.  This likely result leads the conversation to frustrations with Canadian telecom regulation of competition, including wholesale rates that end up affecting how many competitors consumers have to choose from and how much they charge for cellphone service as well as telecom mergers, such as Rogers buying Shaw, which appear to be a way for industry to avoid regulation.  This leads us to consider how much public interest should be in telecommunications and how to get more for consumers.  Retail rate regulation? Structural separation? Political action?  All are on the table. There may be some hope for consumers needing low-cost wireless services, however, as the MVNO decision requires the Big 3 to offer affordable cellphone plans.  We shall see.
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PIAC and FRPC file CRTC Application to Ensure Continued Funding of the Broadcasting Participation Fund (BPF)

OTTAWA (21 April 2021) – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) today filed a Part 1 Application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to protect consumer and public participation in Canadian broadcasting regulation in an era of fundamental change to the Canadian broadcasting system.  The Application seeks continuing funding of  the pivotal  Broadcasting Participation Fund (BPF), which provides funds to consumer and public interest groups in CRTC broadcasting matters.  The BPF faces serious budget shortfalls in the coming years unless the CRTC and the broadcasting industry find a new way to support public participation on key questions of what Canadians can watch, listen to or be entertained by, whether on their TVs, radios, computers or cellphones.
“The Broadcasting Participation Fund allows PIAC and FRPC, and many other consumer groups to protect consumer interests in broadcasting at the CRTC.  Without it, the consumer voice on upcoming legislation on regulating internet speech, news, media mergers such as Rogers and Shaw, the CBC’s licences and the regulation of online shows will be silenced,” stated John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of co-applicant PIAC.
The application highlights the precarious nature of the support of public interest advocacy in broadcasting, before the CRTC, and the importance of continuing support of the consumer voice.  It also notes that there will be a long transition to the major reforms of broadcasting in Bill C-10, which Parliament is presently considering and which will require considerable public participation to implement fairly for all.
Monica Auer, Executive Director of co-Applicant FRPC noted: “The issues that face Canadian broadcasting in the 21st century are too important to be decided without the informed public input that organizations such as PIAC, the Forum and others provide.”
“The CRTC recognized some years ago that the BPF was crucial to a balanced and reasoned debate on broadcasting matters touching consumers every day,” added Lawford, “we are just asking that this be continued as we set the new rules for broadcasters.”
For more information, please contact:
John Lawford
Executive Director/General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
285 McLeod Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1A1
613-562-4002 ext 125 [new!]
Fax 562-0007
Cell: 613-447-8125
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We Fight For That – Episode 7: Rogers-Shaw Merger – Part 2 – Discussion with Konrad von Finckenstein


John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel welcomes special guest Konrad von Finckenstein, PIAC’s current Chair of the Board, to work through options the Competition Bureau, the CRTC and the Industry Minister could have to modify the deal to preserve at least some competition.  In a spirited conversation, Mr. Lawford attempts to outline consumer frustration with the process and the deal, while Mr. von Finckenstein calmly discusses the cold, hard calculations in the regulatory, merger and political fields and how they could play out in a frankly challenging merger with no easy way to ensure the same level of competition before and after. He should know: he has been Commissioner of Competition,  Chair of the CRTC,  advisor on mergers to the Industry Minister,  Federal Court of Appeal justice and much more. But that doesn’t stop Mr. Lawford from trying. Both agreed, however, that the CRTC’s upcoming MVNO decision, expected the very next day, would change the context and maybe the entire conversation.
We hope that this lively exchange of views will help consumers understand the complexities of mergers in Canada and that their voice is needed.
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We Fight For That – Episode 6: Rogers-Shaw Merger – Part 1: Anatomy of a Merger


John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel, explains merger review in Canada in light of the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger. What fun.
Competition law basics are described but the real process of applying them to a deal by the Competition Bureau and the parties is covered, along with the roles of the CRTC and the Minister of Innovation Science and Industry in the Department of Industry, Science and Economic Development (ISED).
This convoluted process has previously resulted in blocking 0 of 6 previous wireless mergers.  What do you think are the odds of stopping number 7?
Consumers can have an effect and should express their views to all of these government bodies. PIAC will be as well, but the only real voice belongs to the consumers who buy and use wireless, Internet and other services of these large telecommunications companies.  Have your say!
Listen now

We Fight for That – Episode 5: The Epic Battle for Your Privacy with Yuka Sai

We discuss Bill C-11, a proposed law to change our federal private sector privacy act that protects consumers private information when they deal with businesses.
PIAC’s articling student, Yuka Sai, joins John Lawford to discuss the epic battle between business, with an assist from the federal government, and consumers over privacy.
This battle centres on Bill C-11 and in particular, the part called the “Consumer Privacy Protection Act”.
This doublespeak title hides the facts that the bill will amend our present Canadian private sector privacy act, the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), to allow collection and use of your personal information for any “business purpose” without your consent. This is a reversal of the law that, what, they thought we would just not notice? Seriously? Also discussed is the issue of anonymization of data, the difference of that concept with pseudonymization, and why Bill C-11 totally fails by mixing up these two concepts under the umbrella of “de-identified” data. Guess what, under Bill C-11, “de-identified” data, whatever that is, can be used indiscriminately by business and can be shared with a third party, provided it is shared with a government-related institution for a “socially beneficial purpose”. What is a socially beneficial purpose? It’s what the government defines it as. Nice.
What’s being done with all of this data that everyone seems to want? It’s going into artificial intelligence (AI). Algorithms will be used on this massive amount of data, so that AI, not humans, can make decisions that affect you as a consumer, like, will you get an insurance policy and how much will your policy cost (if it lets you get one)? Under Bill C-11, a business will tell you if they are making decisions about you based on AI, but only if you ask. What if you object and want a human decision? Too bad. There’s no constitutional right to privacy in Canada, unlike in Europe. Is it time to change that?
So, we stand on the precipice of losing consumer privacy rights in Canada. Do you care? If so, please listen and join us in taking on the fight to defeat Bill C-11. Shame on them.
Lastly, for “told you so”, we discuss the dismissal of the Internet wholesale rate application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Now the CRTC has to reconsider the rates. Wait for it. Again.
Direct link: https://wefightforthat.simplecast.com/episodes/the-epic-battle-for-your-privacy-with-yuka-sai

“We fight for that” Podcast Episode 4: Broadcasting and Why it Matters to You with Monica Auer

The CanCon is coming! The CanCon is coming! Or not.  Today we discuss Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, phew!
Today’s guest Monica Auer, Executive Director of Canada’s Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) strives mightily to explain broadcasting regulation in Canada and how the federal government wants to change it.  What could go wrong? Turns out a lot, if you hurry to do it, have a very specific goal in mind but ignore the rest, and just rip the heart out of it. Surgery or a roadmap? You decide.
Also, we talk about hard questions to communications service providers about moving people against their will to paper billing  and why the FRPC told the CRTC months ago that CBC’s Tandem service was an abominable snowman.  Told you so.
Find Canada’s Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) at: https://www.frpc.ne
Happy holidays!
Direct Link to podcast: https://wefightforthat.simplecast.com/episodes/broadcasting-and-why-it-matters-to-you-with-monica-auer

We Fight for That – Episode 3: What the heck is wholesale with Matt Stein – now available

In episode 3 of PIAC’s podcast, “We Fight for That”, we explore the world of “wholesale” regulation of Internet service and why it matters to consumers with Matt Stein, CNOC President and Chairman, and Distributel CEO.  Download it here:

We Fight for That – Episode 3 – What the heck is wholesale with Matt Stein

Episode Notes

Wholesale regulation of Internet (and wireless, maybe?) is fundamental to competition in Canadian telecommunications services.  We give a short lecture on the concept and then interview Matt Stein, CNOC President and Chairman, and Distributel CEO, to bring listeners up to date on recent disputes about wholesale rates for Internet service and how this arcane regulatory question affects the price consumers pay for Internet as well as the choice of providers and innovation in the industry. Matt reveals why consumers should have optimism that things are going in the right direction – thanks for the positivity, Matt!  Plus, PIAC takes a victory lap on its COVID Alert Part 1 Application to the CRTC. Told you so.
ISP Summit online:  3 and 4 November 2020.  (Matt Stein keynote address on 4 November 2020, at 13:10 Eastern time)
PIAC’s “Application Regarding “COVID Alert” App, “ABTraceTogether” App and Related Matters
You may comment to the CRTC on PIAC’s Application until 27 November 2020.
Please note the scope of comments permitted is outlined by the CRTC in this letter.


  • John Lawford
  • Matt Stein

We Fight For That – Episode 2: Mystery Shopping with Marina Pavlovic – Your Internet Mileage May Vary – Mea culpa COVID appa


We interview Marina Pavlovic, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa and member of its Centre for Law, Technology and Society about the CRTC’s recent “mystery shop” of communications services in Canada. We also talk about another CRTC report claiming Canadians get all the speed they need from Internet services in Canada. And we fall on our own sword (sort of), explaining why we want CRTC to outline some rules for the COVID Alert app – because we want people to trust it cannot be misused, not that it should not be used.  Ah well.

"We fight for that" – Episode 1: PIAC’s podcast launched!

OTTAWA, 11 September 2020: “We fight for that” – the new podcast from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), launches today. This first episode includes an introduction to PIAC, asking and answering why you, as a Canadian consumer, keep asking “Am I Going Crazy?” when you have a problem with your purchases and subscriptions; and a detailed explanation of PIAC’s COVID Alert app CRTC Application, that seeks to limit government access to any personal information from contact-tracing in Canada.
The podcast is available on all major podcast providers.  Please find our main podcast page at this link.
We hope you enjoy listening!

Episode 1 Notes

“We fight for that” – is the new podcast from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) focussing on consumer protection in Canada.  This first episode includes an introduction to PIAC, asking and answering why you, as a Canadian consumer, keep asking “Am I Going Crazy?” when you have a problem with your purchases and subscriptions; and a detailed explanation of PIAC’s COVID Alert app CRTC Application, that seeks to limit government access to any personal information from contact-tracing in Canada.  Our last segment, which we hope will be fun, is “I told you so!” – where we call out government, regulators, the industry or even ourselves, when someone should have known better (and we already told them so).  This week: the freight-train wreck that is the CRTC and wireless companies’ efforts to stamp out “SIM-swap fraud” in cellphone number porting.  Why not just hold a public hearing where real consumers could help make sure the process of changing from one cellphone to another is easy and quick, but also that fraudsters cannot pretend to be you, take over your phone account, and steal your money? Why take the very people – consumers – out of the debate over the security of their most important device, their cellphone? C’mon CRTC – hold a public hearing – it’s not just PIAC but also a Parliamentary Committee that wants one.

Direct download link.

Government Hears Consumers and Orders CRTC to Inquire into Communications Overselling

OTTAWA – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed the announcement of a public inquiry into aggressive and inappropriate sales tactics in the telecommunications industry.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), the Hon. Navdeep Bains, today requested the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to open a public inquiry into how major telecommunications providers sell services such as home internet, cable TV and IPTV, as well as home phone and wireless service to Canadians, from door-to-door sales, to call centres, to retail outlets and online.

John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel at PIAC, said in reaction to the inquiry: “The government has heard the groans of Canadian consumers who too often end up with a bad deal for their Internet, TV and phone services,” he noted. “We are pleased that the Minister has reversed the CRTC’s previous refusal to inquire into these shocking sales practices and we hope that public trust in this industry can be restored as a result.”

PIAC had reacted negatively to a previous letter from the Chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rejecting PIAC’s call for the CRTC to pursue a public inquiry into reported inappropriate, aggressive and potentially misleading sales of communications services.

“We hope Canadian consumers and former and current sales representatives of the companies will tell their stories of overselling and underhanded tactics to the CRTC,” further noted Lawford. “We look forward to participating actively and asking tough questions to the major service providers” he added, noting that PIAC would actively participate in the review.

For more information please contact:
John Lawford
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
office: (613) 562-4002 ×25
cellphone: 613-447-8125