Is C-11 doing its final lap around the Parliamentary oval? Also, news on wholesale ISP pricing.

March 10, 2023

This week was so packed full of media news that the National Post’s beat reporter posted a tweet in which she good naturedly begged newsmakers to take a break, having written three stories in 20 hours.

One can already hear community news journalists reacting ‘three stories, that’s a morning’s work for us.’

But point taken and the week isn’t over: this afternoon at 1 p.m. Heritage Committee MPs will have a go at Google executives for throttling Canadian news in an oafish attempt to intimidate Canadian Parliament.

The update on the Liberals’ Online Streaming Act C-11 is that Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has accepted most of the Senate’s amendments but not the most contentious.

The big change to C-11 the Senate wanted was to confine the regulation of uploaded videos and music streaming on YouTube, Spotify and TikTok to the commercial products of conventional broadcasters and music labels, forever ousting the CRTC from dealing with content uploaded by independent YouTube and TikTok artists but also any kind of ‘digital first’ content in the distant future.

That’s been rejected by the government. The MediaPolicy view is that the CRTC should retain the authority to regulate but exempt YouTuber and TikTok activity for now and review it all in a few years if the trends in content distribution change.

The Bill has gone back to the House, which must vote on the Minister’s yes’s and no’s to the Senate amendments.

The reaction of the two Independent Senators (Paula Simons and Julie Miville-Dechêne) who crafted the ‘YouTuber’ amendment, winning a majority of Senate support, was of course disappointment.

The Toronto Star spoke to Simons, the former Edmonton Journal columnist:

“I certainly fought for this amendment, in a way frankly, that I never have before as a senator,” Simons said, sharing how, behind the scenes, she and her Senate colleague had phoned, emailed and “buttonholed” a series of cabinet ministers to get them on board.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we do next, because I don’t think either of us is really prepared to just shrug and say, ‘Oh, well, we did our best.’”

The former Radio-Canada journalist Miville-Dechêne struck a less combative tone about a Senate push-back in an interview with La Presse Canadienne:

La sénatrice ne s’avance pas sur la possibilité qu’on assiste à un «ping-pong» législatif entre la Chambre des communes et le Sénat qui retarderait l’adoption du projet de loi.

«Il y a 80% des sénateurs en ce moment qui sont des indépendants, donc on va devoir voir. Je pense que tout le monde va réfléchir à ça, lire les amendements, réfléchir à ce qu’ils vont faire, mais je n’oserais pas prédire ce qui va se passer», dit Mme Miville-Dechêne.

The Minister’s revisions are destined to pass the House as neither the NDP nor the Bloc appear to have wavered in their support.

On the floor of the House the debating points haven’t changed much after two years and countless days of committee hearings. However Conservative MP Rachael Thomas had an amusing new talking point, that C-11 is being driven forward by not only traditional broadcasters but by “the big union bosses.”

It seems common ground that Senators would not be flouting Parliamentary convention if they voted down at least once a House version of C-11 missing their key amendment.

That bicameral ping-pong would be likely if it was only up to Senators on the Transportation and Communications Committee, but it’s anyone’s guess if the full plenary of Senators are similarly invested in their amendments given the clear will of the House.


Meanwhile in the world of paying the household bills, CRTC chair Vicky Eatrides didn’t take long to respond to the February 13th Policy Directive from Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne on wholesale ISP regulation.

The new chair announced a CRTC proceeding that she expects to result in lower wholesale prices offered by telcos to independent ISPs like TekSavvy.

Confident that a ‘just and reasonable’ wholesale price should be lower than the rates set by the Commission in 2021, Eatrides jump started a months-long legal process by ordering an immediate ten per cent cut to the portion of the wholesale rate calibrated to the Independents’ daily traffic on the telco networks.

That’s possibly a five per cent cost savings for the Independents that potentially could get passed along to consumers. A TekSavvy spokesperson dismissed the rate reduction as insignificant.

Eatrides also suggested the Commission was warm to an interim order granting the Independents access to Bell and Telus’ ‘last mile’ fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks which are key to Independents being able to offer customers download speeds greater than 50 mbps.

Only last week MediaPolicy opined that Eatrides was going to have produce some regulatory magic to ‘do something’ in response to the Minister’s clear demands for lower prices and more widely available high-speed downloading.

Eatrides managed this by pushing out a written decision on an outstanding (since the fall of 2021) CRTC proceeding on network configuration, declaring the Commission’s 15-year-old plan to transition Independents to a superior business model of ‘disaggregated’ network access to be dead as a door nail, a failed experiment that could never have worked.

This allows her to clear the legal decks for revisiting lower rates on the current ‘aggregated’ network and FTTH.

There’s more: the new chair also mused aloud that retail price regulation was back on the table if prices don’t come down, a regulatory verboten for a generation. 

An excellent summary of Eatrides’ announcement can be found in Cartt magazine here.


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Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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