The CEO Poll: Communication breakdown

Canadian CEOs vent about the CRTC.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is a popular target for scorn these days, mainly because of its decision to allow the big telecom firms to force usage-based billing on the smaller Internet service providers. The move caused public outcry, and the federal government is vowing to overturn the CRTC decision if the regulator doesn’t reverse its opinion itself.

A recent web poll conducted by Compas Inc. found the CRTC is no more popular with Canadian CEOs than it is with the general public. Respondents were asked to grade the CRTC out of 100 for its handling of the usage-based billing issue, and awarded it a mean score of just 38. The federal cabinet received a grade of 64 for its stance.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would like to see more competition in the space, but without usage-based billing in order to keep consumer costs down.

Only 31% agreed that usage-based billing is fair and maintains network efficiency. ‘This controversy is rooted in the false assumption that bandwidth is free,’ wrote one respondent. ‘There is no incentive to become more efficient if there is no price for consumption — whether it is water or bandwidth.’

The CRTC was back in the spotlight again recently when a federal court ruled that cabinet erred when it overturned a CRTC ruling in 2009 with respect to new wireless carrier Wind Mobile. The CRTC determined parent company Globalive did not comply with foreign ownership regulations. Cabinet, in the interests of furthering competition in wireless, disagreed, and overturned the ruling.

Respondents to the Compas poll awarded the CRTC a score of 49 out of 100 for its ruling on Globalive. They are predominantly in favour of more competition in the wireless space, with nearly 80% agreeing there is far too little of it in the market today.

Interestingly, the CEOs gave cabinet a score of just 46 — lower than the CRTC — for its role in the affair, even though the government purports to be bringing more competition to the wireless industry. The low score may have to do with just how the government has gone about instilling competition.

‘Instead of cabinet complaining about CRTC decisions, they should instead make clear, transparent and fair regulations and policies,’ according to one respondent.

‘Seems to me the government is ruling by public opinion rather than policy,’ wrote another.

Still, most of the ire was reserved for the maligned regulator. ‘The CRTC rarely makes decisions in the best interests of the public,’ wrote one CEO. ‘Disband them.’