Business

Maxime Bernier urges phase out of CRTC as telecom regulator

Conservative party leader candidate Maxime Bernier is calling for a phase-out of the Canadian broadcast regulator's role as telecom watchdog as part of his plan to deregulate the industry.
Conservative Maxime Bernier has called for a major overhaul of the way Canada regulates its telecome sector. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

The CRTC has discouraged competition in the telecommunications sector and should have a far diminished authority over the industry, Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier said Tuesday.

"It is not the role of the CRTC, it is not the role of the government to decide how this increasingly complex market should evolve," Bernier said in a speech at the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto. "It is up to producers. It is up to consumers."

The CRTC has stifled competition with some of its decisions, he said, citing as an example the regulator's ruling last year that requires major Internet service providers to sell space on their high-speed infrastructure to smaller rivals at wholesale prices. That decision was endorsed last month by the federal Liberal cabinet.

Bernier, a former industry minister who once oversaw the CRTC, also slammed the regulator's recent public consultations on broadband Internet services in Canada, calling them a waste of time and money.

The CRTC said it had no comment on Bernier's position.

Bernier said the CRTC's role as telecom regulator should be phased out over the next two or four years and that the federal Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development take over its remaining essential functions, such as 911 services, while the Competition Bureau oversee competition issues.

He said he plans to outline what he believes the CRTC's role should be as it relates to broadcast services later this year.

He also expressed his opposition to the setting aside of a portion of wireless spectrum to new entrants at spectrum auctions. He said it would be better to open that up to foreign investment.

"Companies that rely on subsidies to compete do not make strong competitors," he said. "My preferred solution was to have no set-aside, and to open the sector to foreign investments."

BCE's friendly deal announced last month to take over Manitoba Telecom Services also garnered Bernier's support. The acquisition requires approval from the Competition Bureau.

Bernier has repeatedly spoken out about the need to deregulate the telecom industry.

With files from CBC News

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