Public Values

Telecommunications breakdown

Consumer groups say government deregulation without adequate protection for customers was a serious mistake.

Telecommunications breakdownby Peter Nowak, CBC News

September 9, 2008 — Why has all this negative sentiment toward telecommunications companies come to a frothing boil over the past year? Consumer groups say it's the result of a push by successive governments for deregulation.

"Deregulation is giving carriers even more chutzpah than they normally have," says the Public Interest Advocacy Centre's John Lawford. "This is what you get. It's the chickens coming home to roost."

The Liberals started the ball rolling in 1995 when then prime minister Jean Chrétien abolished the cabinet position of Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. The position's duties were folded into the new position of Industry Minister.

The Conservatives followed up by issuing a policy directive to the CRTC shortly after taking office in 2006 that effectively declawed the regulator. Following recommendations made by a Liberal-appointed industry review panel, then minister of industry Maxime Bernier told the CRTC to avoid regulating proactively. The agency should get involved in an issue only after a problem had been clearly established, he said.

The Competition Bureau, meanwhile, has been loud and clear that it is against intervening in the market. "I believe that regulation should always be viewed, not as a first step, but as a last resort," Competition Commissioner Sheridan Scott, a former Bell Canada executive, told the annual Telecom Summit in June.

The result today is that there is no consumer voice on a national level, Lawford says, which stands in stark contrast to the United States, where the Federal Trade Commission is a strong and well-respected rights protector. . .

Privatization vs. Public Values Frame
  Non-interference in markets / Protecting public's rights

Links and sources
  Disconnected, by Peter Nowak,, September 9, 2008

Posted: September 10, 2008

  Public services
  Front lines
  Voices of privatization

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