Vertical Integration, PIAC recommends skinny service packages

In its final comments filed this month to the CRTC Broadcasting panel examining Vertical Integration, PIAC recommended the adoption of a much reduced (“skinny”) basic service for cable and satellite services that would be costed and capped.
PIAC noted that basic service rates have doubled since deregulation (CRTC transcripts) of basic service for broadcast distributors (BDUs). It was necessary to make basic service  actually basic to eliminate the rent seeking behaviour of vertically integrated entities when it came to their own product.  As well, PIAC noted that a skinny basic service would also ease the transition from analogue to digital for current over the air (OTA) analogue signals recipients that may not be able to afford BDU rates and not have access to digital OTA.
PIAC also endorsed the non-exclusivity rule for content available on all media platforms, together with expeditious dispute resolution.

Canadians plagued by unwanted phone charges

“Janet Lo at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) says Canadians are complaining about getting charges for premium text messaging services they didn’t sign up for and are having a hard time fighting the charges,” Rebecca Lindell wrote for Global News Winnipeg on July 14, 2011.
In June PIAC released a report called “Paying a Premium: Consumers and Mobile Premium Services”. The report is on PIAC’s website.
“We think the CRTC is the appropriate regulator to look after the services,” (Lo) said. “We think the CRTC needs to examine the contracts that are in place between the wireless service providers and the mobile service providers and make sure there are safeguards in place.” Currently, the practice of sending premium text messages is regulated in Canada by the telecommunications industry,” Global News reported.

UBB, Bell billing idea will stifle internet competition, PIAC says

On July 13 PIAC presented to a “CRTC hearing to determine how small ISPs are charged for network access that they rent wholesale from large telecommunications companies such as Bell. Bell and other “incumbent” telecommunications companies are required to rent access to their networks to independent ISPs — their wholesale customers. That allows the small ISPs to create internet packages to sell to their own retail customers and meet the CRTC’s goal of boosting internet competition,” CBC News reported on July 13
“Lawyers with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which represents consumer groups, opposed both Bell’s and CNOC’s usage-based billing proposals in its presentation Wednesday afternoon, saying it is against policies that “penalize users based on their use of the internet”.
CBC News reported: “Canadian consumers and businesses should be encouraged, not discouraged, from making use of the growing range of applications, sources of information and entertainment made available by the internet,” said John Lawford, counsel for the group.

Les familles ont du mal à se loger

« Dans l’ensemble, selon la Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec, le parc locatif du Québec compte 1,3 million de logements. Ils ont plusieurs enfants. Ils en ont même un peu trop de l’avis de certains. Parmi les associations de locataires, le mot circule en effet qu’il est de plus en plus difficile pour les familles relativement nombreuses de trouver un logement » Caroline Montpetit a écrit pour Le Devoir le 2 juillet 2011,
« À Option Consommateurs, où on suit les ménages en difficultés financières, Sylvie de Bellefeuille, avocate consultante, relève qu’une forte proportion de ménages doivent consacrer bien plus que 25 à 30 % de leur revenu net au paiement de leur loyer.  «Il n’est pas rare de voir des gens consacrer 50 à 60 % de leurs revenus à leur loyer, dit-elle. Cela a comme conséquence qu’ils ont des difficultés à payer leurs autres factures, dont l’électricité. Ensuite, on voit des problèmes d’endettement parce que les gens se servent de leurs cartes de crédit pour payer l’épicerie » Le Devoir a rapporté.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement contradicts the Copyright Act

’ … The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which has been negotiated in secret by 37 different countries, including Canada. While Canada has not yet signed on, ACTA would force the government to harden its copyright rules to be in sync with those negotiated by the member countries, and could cut off Internet access for a year to those suspected of illegally downloading copyrighted songs or movies,” Jason Magder wrote for the Montreal Gazette on July 13.
“Speaking for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an Ottawa-based non-profit consumer advocacy group, counsel Janet Lo said the ACTA agreement …  appears to contradict the most recent reform of the copyright act (which died on the order paper at the last election) … ACTA would allow copyright holders in other countries to gain the identities of those who have made illegal downloads from ISPs,” the Montreal Gazette reported
“We are concerned about how that might affect the current copyright enforcement regime,” the Gazette quoted PIAC’s Janet Lo.

CRTC, Canadian consumers have Miss Grundy for a champ

“The CRTC has always had to manage an image in the public almost like Miss Grundy from the Archie comic series – effectively there to prevent access to things that Canadians might want to watch. When someone thinks of the CRTC, that’s the group that doesn’t allow you to watch the Super Bowl ads from the United States,” said Michael Janigan, executive director of the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “They start off with an image of a naysaying bureaucrat, and it’s very difficult for them to assume the mantle of consumer protector as a result, and people don’t necessarily look at them like that,” Sarah Schmidt wrote for Postmedia News on July 11, 2011.
“Said Andrew Cardozo, who served two terms as a CRTC commissioner, until 2003: “It is in some ways a consumer protection agency, but I would say that their consumer credentials are not very strong.” …  Industry experts, in a 2010 telecom survey carried out by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, found the majority of those asked – including industry reps – said they disagreed that commissioner appointments have been made in an open, professional and transparent process “that has ensured the best qualified have been appointed,”Postmedia News reported.

Aviation Safety News, Transport Canada safety side-steps

Aviation Safety News is a project of Transport Action Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Public Interest Advocacy Centre monitors aviation legislation. PIAC has standing before the Canadian Transportation Agency and the courts. Transport Action Canada is represented on the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council. The Aviation Safety News readers’ group includes top aviation safety authorities, industry and civil service professionals.
This issue of Aviation Safety News covers reports by journalists  on Cougar Helicopters Flight 491 Sikorsky S-92A helicopters, Continental Connection Flight 3407, Swissair Flight 111 aircraft wiring and Air France Flight 447 pilots made a series of mistakes.  The issue includes calls on Transport Canada by the Transportation Safety Board for action on long-standing safety initiatives and a report on Transport Canada’s legal strategy of last minute out-of-court settlements in liability cases.

Facebook Skype fees, Watch out PIAC warns

“Facebook’s plan to offer one-button access to Skype video calling is unlikely to tax Canada’s Internet infrastructure. But it could easily lead to added fees for unwitting users who exceed the monthly limits on their Internet service plans, one consumer advocate warns,” Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew reported for the Toronto Star on July 7.
“My concern is that folks are going to get a big fat bill,” said John Lawford, lawyer for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a consumer advocacy group that has closely followed the usage fee issue. “I sure hope people know they will be blowing their limits and get charged overage fees. If they use it on the Smartphone, they’re really going to get wacked because those limits are much lower,” the Toronto Star quoted PIAC’s John Lawford.

New broadcasting participation fund expected to be running next spring

“Consumer groups say they are underrepresented in the CRTC’s broadcasting consultations but that they hope a new fund will soon help level the playing field and allow them to keep up with the big industry players. “I’ve spoken to quite a number of groups over the years and asked them why they weren’t intervening, and they say, ‘We just can’t afford it, there’s no compensation,’” Catherine Edwards, spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Community Television User Groups and Stations (CACTUS), said in an interview,”  Karen Fournier wrote for Wire Report on July 8.
“In March, the commission approved a request from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to direct a portion of the tangible benefits flowing from BCE Inc.’s acquisition of CTV to create the Canadian Broadcasting Participation Fund (CBPF),” the Wire Report story said.

PIAC and CIPPIC do not endorse OECD Principles on Internet Policy Making

On June 30, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, as part of a coalition of more than 80 civil society groups, have declined from endorsing a set of Internet Policy Principles presented by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)… Intended to instil consistency in International online decision-making processes, there is much value in the itemized set of Principles found in the OECD’s Communiqué on Principles for Internet Policy-Making.
PIAC and CIPPIC are particularly supportive of principled commitments in the Communiqué to better global privacy protections and to preserving an open and innovative Internet, as well as to cooperative multi-stakeholder processes as a means of resolving Internet policy conflicts. Concern stemmed from the Communiqué’s attempts at more detailed articulations of these principles which, in many cases, served to completely undermine the itemized Principles it was attempting to establish. “Paying lip service to high-sounding principles is not enough,” said John Lawford, counsel for PIAC. “A Principle aimed at limiting liability for Internet intermediaries for their customer’s content, for example, should not be written to push on them the role of intellectual property police.”

Competition Bureau’s $10 million fine a strong message to industry, PIAC says

“The Competition Bureau’s $10 million fine against Bell Canada for “misleading advertising” on Tuesday came as a surprise to industry insiders who say it marks a more active approach from the tribunal in the telecom sector. John Lawford, counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), said it makes sense for the bureau to turn its attention to an industry that affects most Canadians and where advertising spending is “astronomical’”, Mark Burgess wrote for the Wire Report on June 29, 2011.

Produits ménagers verts, une surabondance des écolabels non-officiels

« À l’approche d’une intense période de déménagement au Québec, et par le fait même de nettoyage, le produit vert dans le secteur des produits d’entretien ménager chez-nous est-il aussi vert qu’il le prétend? L’Observatoire de la consommation responsable (OCR) de l’Université de Sherbrooke rend public aujourd’hui un important rapport sur les stratégies de positionnement vert dans le secteur des produits d’entretien ménager au Québec qui démontre notamment l’importance de créer un processus d’identification officiel (Éco Logo) plus crédible aux yeux des » Telbec a rapporté le 28 juin .
« La multiplication des logos environnementaux  crée de la confusion chez les consommateurs et les empêche de faire des choix éclairés », affirme François Décary Gilardeau de chez Option consommateurs, dont l’association a pour mission de promouvoir et défendre les intérêts des consommateurs ainsi que de veiller à ce qu’ils soient respectés.

“No policy or regulatory outcomes” from CRTC online video consultation

“The CRTC launched the consultation in late May  … The CRTC approach raised two immediate concerns for consumer groups. First, the short deadline provided little time to research the issue and respond in a constructive manner … Second, by labeling the consultation a “fact-finding exercise”, it took it outside the full public consultation process that offers public interest groups the opportunity to seek compensation for their costs,” Michael Geist wrote for the Toronto Star on June 26 2011.
“When Canadian consumer groups voiced these concerns to the CRTC, they were summarily dismissed. … The Public Interest Advocacy Centre raised concerns about exclusion of costs for consumer groups in a letter sent to the CRTC on June 6th. A week later, the Commission affirmed that the intervener cost rules did not apply to the fact-finding exercise since ‘no policy or regulatory outcomes will be determined on the basis of this exercise’,” Geist wrote for the Toronto Star.