moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to my private member's bill, Bill , an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.
Access to quality Internet is essential, and rural Canadians, in particular, understand the devastating impacts associated with poor Internet service across our nation. If members of the House were to speak with Canadians across our country, they would realize that many feel cheated, misled and ripped-off by Internet companies. This is because millions of Canadians are frustrated to learn that the Internet quality they are paying for is nowhere near what they expected.
Consumers make purchasing decisions based on information. When it comes to the Internet, Canadians expect the highest quality of service. Unfortunately, when consumers are making decisions on what Internet provider is best for them, they do not have access to the most accurate and realistic information.
Canadians are exposed to advertisements and offers that display a maximum theoretical speed. Misleading words such as “up to” are used in these ads to convince consumers that a service is better than it is. These theoretical speeds and performance metrics that consumers are provided with do not always reflect the actual speed delivered to them.
A constituent recently told me that she signed up for a high-speed wireless Internet plan that advertised download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second. Many speed tests later, she was not even getting 10% of that speed. If she knew what speed she was actually going to receive, she would never have signed a contract for such a high price.
The problem is that the current legislative landscape allows Internet service providers to advertise theoretical speeds without providing consumers with the speeds they can realistically expect. This confuses consumers, prevents competition and contributes to customer complaints.
Sure, the speeds that companies advertise have the potential to be reached, but the highest speeds are most likely reached during the hours when the consumer is not using the Internet. Some Canadians have called this practice “false advertising”, but it is not. Internet providers are following the law, which is why we need to change the law so it will benefit Canadians.
Data released by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority found that only one-third of Canadians believed their household received the “up to” speed included in their home Internet package all or most of the time. That is it. Only 33% of Canadians believe they fully receive the quality for which they pay. These numbers are even lower in my home province of Manitoba.
Canadians deserve to know what they are paying for, which is why I have introduced Bill .
Bill would implement a simple change to ensure Canadians have access to accurate and transparent information. It would require Internet service providers to present a reliable indicator of the speeds and quality metrics that are in the public’s best interest.
The first pillar of the legislation is the requirement for Internet service providers to provide Canadians with typical download and upload speeds, not maximum theoretical speed but typical speeds. Canadians want to know what they can consistently expect to receive, not what they can receive once in a blue moon.
When Canadians visit any car dealership to purchase a new vehicle, there is a standardized label on the windows displaying the fuel economy of that specific vehicle. That number does not reflect the fuel economy when driving down a hill; it is a number that reflects what a driver can realistically expect to consume in fuel on average. This information is even divided into two categories to provide Canadians with better information, city and highway consumption. This enables consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions on what product best fits their needs. Consumers expect to know what they are paying for, and rightfully so.
The second pillar of the legislation would provide Canadians with the quality metrics that they can expect during the time that they will most likely use the service. I refer to this as the “peak period”. Few Canadians care what their Internet speeds are at 3 o’clock in the morning, but they do care what they are during work hours or family movie night. This is why Bill would require Internet providers to display speeds during peak periods. Consumers should understand how their Internet will perform when they are most likely to use the service.
Finally, the third pillar of the legislation would initiate a consultation process that would empower Canadians to develop a framework that is in the public's best interest.
Bill would empower consumers and industry to participate in public hearings that would contribute to a made-in-Canada model. Developing a model that works for Canada and clearly legislating the criteria is a better process than any policy directive led by the government.
We all know that access to accurate and transparent information is the bedrock of consumer decision-making and protection. Unfortunately, Canadians do not have access to it. As I mentioned earlier, this confuses consumers, prevents competition and contributes to customer complaints. Bill is a non-partisan pro-consumer bill.
The bill would not only enable Canadians to make informed purchasing decisions by providing them with accurate and transparent information, but it would also increase Internet quality within the industry. Competition is needed to ensure companies improve quality or decrease prices. When companies get too comfortable, they fail to innovate and improve.
Studies on Internet service across the world have proven that service quality increases with an increase in product transparency. Research conducted by Dr. Reza Rajabiun and Dr. Catherine Middleton from the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management published work on the correlation between information transparency and overall industry quality. Their research showed that a problem existed within the telecom industry because companies could not fairly compete based on quality due to the inability to signal their authentic service to potential consumers.
Imagine two Internet companies competing in Canada. I will refer to them as company X and company Y. They both advertise the same maximum theoretical speed of 50 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload.
How do consumers know which service provider is better? They do not. On paper, both companies appear to offer high-quality Internet, however, we know they are advertising theoretical speeds rather than expected speeds. Although both companies advertise the same maximum theoretical speed, one provider may have much better service during the time when consumers are more likely to use the service.
For example, company X may be able to consistently deliver speeds 60% higher than company Y. This could be a result of multiple factors, including lower over-subscription ratios, improved operations or better equipment. However, company X cannot signal this quality due to the noise produced from the theoretical speed of company Y. As a result, company Y has no reason to improve its service to compete based on quality.
The researchers I mentioned earlier called this concept the “Lemons Problem” and stated the following:
Even if there are a large number of buyers of high quality products and sellers willing to meet their demand, the existence of the so-called Lemons Problem can generate markets where low quality goods dominate since providers of high quality goods cannot credibly signal the quality of their products due to the noise from their low quality rivals.
They also stated:
In addition to usual concerns about consumer protection, these considerations indicate that the potential for misleading advertising by low quality players in the market can distort platform competition and reduce the pace of technological change in the market for Internet connectivity.
If the House wants to improve telecom competition, we must allow Canadians to compare accurate information. Consumers will take their money elsewhere if a company's service quality is worse than its competitors.
Not all connectivity solutions require money; some require common sense. This legislation is truly a pro-consumer, common sense solution. That is why countries around the world are leading the way and have introduced similar policies that even go beyond the legislation we are debating today.
Australia is leading the way on this front. After consultation with the public and industry, the Aussies have implemented clear guidance and standards on advertising with typical speeds during peak periods, and consumers have benefited.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's 2018 report on the effectiveness of broadband speed claims, these changes have promoted more competitive and efficient markets for the supply of broadband services. Overall, the effectiveness report concluded that increased transparency resulted in better quality services and better consumer understanding of performance.
After the industry guidance was implemented, Australian bandwidth congestion began decreasing.
Section 2.23 of the effectiveness report stated:
Overall we consider the Guidance has assisted in improving the information and support available to broadband consumers and promoting competition among RSPs.
That is a powerful statement for those looking to improve connectivity in Canada.
The United States proposed a broadband disclosure label for Internet service providers that resembled a nutrition label so consumers could easily understand and compare Internet packages.
In the U.K., the Internet service providers must state the average speed that at least 50% of their consumers receive during the high-usage hours.
Furthermore, the European Union's open Internet regulation requires Internet companies to provide information relating to their normally available minimum and maximum speeds. Clearly, this is a solution that protects consumers and increases competition through better information.
I should also note that in June 2021, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology published report 7, and recommended the following:
That the [CRTC] require Internet service providers to make information available to consumers on the usual download and upload speeds they can expect during peak periods so they can make more informed purchasing decisions based on accurate and transparent information, thereby improving the industry’s competitiveness overall.
Not one party dissented in that report.
I have been extremely appreciative of the industry experts and organizations that have supported this legislation. It confirms the importance of this issue and the impact it is having on Canadians.
I want to quote a statement released by OpenMedia, an organization that works to keep Internet open and affordable. The statement reads:
When you sign up for an Internet plan, you deserve to know what you’re paying for.... It’s a simple matter of truth and transparency. If an Internet provider is advertising certain speeds, consumers have the right to know before they buy if those speeds accurately reflect average network performance. Other countries have handled this issue — Canada is falling behind. We hope to see every MP support and help pass Bill C-288.
This is not a partisan issue; this is a Canadian issue. I hope that every member of the House will join me in supporting this legislation that would provide Canadians with accurate and transparent broadband information.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this issue. I will start off by giving a very clear indication.
When we think of Internet or cell services, it is really important to recognize the fact that consumers do have rights. It is so important that we look at ways we can enhance competition. Nothing frustrates me or my colleagues more than when we get contacted by constituents, and we want to be able to send a very strong message that we are very much aware of the issues and concerns. We understand the importance of competition and the impact it has on prices and want to highlight the fact that consumers have rights.
We have seen through government actions, both present and past, that we have a government that is clearly there to support consumers. I will make reference to that for those who may be following the debate, as well as to how technology has advanced to the point where we are having these types of discussions here on the floor of the House and outside of the House in some of the arm's-length institutions that we have established to protect the rights of consumers.
It was not that long ago when, as a parliamentarian, the Internet was a new, wonderful thing. I was probably further ahead than most of my constituents back in 1988-89 when we required a telephone line. The first thing we heard was a dial tone followed by pushed buttons, and then these weird hook-up connections. Some might say I am a little older than others as I can still remember the era of the old-fashioned Apple computer. We just waited for the simplest of things to appear on the monitor. Today the expectation is far greater and we need to recognize that advancement.
Computers today are than more just something that we use to play games, watch a video or do a Google search. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of businesses that are very much there today as a direct result of having access to the Internet. Its speed is absolutely critical in terms of their future growth.
Today more than ever, people will consult with the Internet on all sorts of how-to repairs for something in their home, or to take a look at symptoms in regard to a health-related issue. Suffice it to say that the role that the Internet plays today is virtually an essential service.
The current government and all members of the House, as the member opposite indicated, it does not matter what side of the House one sits on, are all concerned about the issue of price points and consumer awareness, and what we can do to ensure that we are serving Canadians well through the responsibilities we have.
We do that in many ways. We have a who, over the last number of years, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in rural communities, from coast to coast to coast, to assist in building an infrastructure. Being in downtown Toronto, Vancouver or my own city of Winnipeg, there is a high expectation of fast Internet service.
One thing we can do to enable economic growth, whether in a high-density urban centre or a remote rural setting, is to invest in the Internet. Part of doing that is recognizing the services that are being provided through the private companies.
That gets to the core of the issue that my friend across the way is raising. Like him, all Canadians have seen the ads. The ads are plentiful with the whole idea of “up to” a certain set speed. A consumer looking at that would think that sounds awfully fast. For many consumers like me, it is hard to get an appreciation of how fast that actually is, let alone after factoring in the different times of day or a peak period versus three o'clock in the morning, which has been highlighted.
It has been pointed out that there is a difference in demand during a peak period versus those non-usage hours or those hours when the number of people accessing the Internet is down. In fact, often when one sees those packages one will see five or six items in one household that use the Internet as a way to be able to watch TV, communicate with a family member, do business transactions or do random Google searches. Whether using a desktop computer, a high-resolution TV or an iPad, the demand even within one household can be fairly extensive. These are the types of issues that will be best served if we are prepared to step up.
The member across the way brought forward Bill , which has some real substance to it. As I pointed out, there was policy direction given to the CRTC earlier this year, around April or May. How can we, through using the CRTC as an arm's-length organization, ensure that we protect consumers? We might at times have personal opinions and concerns in regard to the CRTC, but, all in all, it does a relatively good job for Canadians.
The CRTC has a mandate. It has been asked to look at the ways we can ensure we are protecting the interests of consumers, such as mandating broadband testing and performance reporting, which is absolutely critical. One does not need to read between the lines of what the member is proposing. That is the thing that would be required to provide the type of consumer awareness that many of us would advocate for.
I look forward to hearing from the CRTC and some of the recommendations that it will bring forward. For me, put quite simply, I like consumer labelling that is simplified so that the average person can truly understand it. I want to know what sort of speed is there during that prime time. Being able to do a comparison between companies is really important. It is very hard to do that given the current system. That is why we do need change. I acknowledge that.
I am anticipating that, in early 2023, we will be hearing something that is positive and encouraging from the CRTC. I look forward to that.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the bill from the member for .
The member and I have had the opportunity to discuss it and I told him this week that the Bloc Québécois agreed to allow this bill to be studied in committee. In fact, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology already made a recommendation to the government in June 2021 in its report on the accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services in Canada.
This enactment amends the Telecommunications Act to require Canadian carriers to make tacitly available certain information in respect of the fixed broadband services that they offer. It also requires the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, to hold public hearings to determine the form and manner in which this information is to be provided to the public.
In 2016, the CRTC declared that broadband Internet was an essential service for all Canadians. This bill is part of the measures that will not only allow consumers to finally have a better experience on the Internet, but also ensure that actual speeds are closer to expected speeds, in other words, that people actually get what they pay for.
It also takes aim at competition between Internet services providers, or ISPs, which will now need to make more detailed and accurate descriptions of the services offered. The quality we are looking for, in addition to reliability, is the ability to recognize the actual browsing speed offered to consumers. Thus, consumers will be able to make informed purchasing decisions and will be able to appreciate the full value of their purchase.
For several years now, Internet service providers have been criticized for shortchanging the public. At least, that is the impression that consumers have of them. Consumers pay astronomical prices for Internet services, particularly in the regions, only to realize, in most cases, that the speeds they achieve are much lower than expected.
The experience with the Internet is very different for residents of rural areas. Internet service providers are well aware of it and I understand that they are working hard to ensure that this reliability can be achieved. However, it is time to do better. The public no longer want to settle just for the maximum theoretical speeds that the network can offer. As we know, this is due to the current legislative framework, which allows ISPs to only mention maximum theoretical speeds in their advertising.
The download speed in question here refers to the speed at which downloads take place, usually calculated in megabits per second. People are entitled to receive the download speed they signed up for. Internet service providers use words like “up to”, leading consumers to believe that their Internet access services are better than they really are.
Bill seeks to correct that practice and bring Internet service providers to sell the speed that consumers will receive during the hours they are most likely to use those services. Bill C‑288 will therefore provide order and have a significant impact on how Internet services are sold in Quebec and Canada.
Under section 37 of the Telecommunications Act, ISPs are already required to provide various data to the CRTC, including data on download and upload speeds. Since they already have that information, it will be easy for them to make some of it available to their customers.
Earlier, I mentioned that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology had supported a Bloc Québécois recommendation in 2021 in its report entitled “Affordability and Accessibility of Telecommunications Services in Canada: Encouraging Competition to (Finally) Bridge the Digital Divide”. That recommendation is as follows:
That the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission require Internet service providers to make information available to consumers on the usual download and upload speeds they can expect during peak periods so they can make more informed purchasing decisions based on accurate and transparent information, thereby improving the industry's competitiveness overall.
All the parties agreed on this issue in 2021 because most of the witnesses and many society stakeholders agreed that consumers are entitled to have this information.
If they do not have the exact information when making a purchase decision, consumers may find themselves paying too much for a service or not purchasing the one that best meets their needs. The deployment of Internet in rural areas has caused its share of dissatisfaction and led to many complaints to the CRTC. There is no denying that all the barriers to competition in the telecommunications industry must be eliminated.
In the current context, it is impossible for an ISP that advertises the real quality of its service to compete with providers that advertise theoretically misleading speeds. ISPs therefore have little incentive to improve the quality of their service or reduce their price to attract customers. The bill gives the CRTC the flexibility to require that Internet service providers make other indicators of the quality of their service available to the public, such as wait times or the level of instability. Paragraph 24.2(2)(c) will also allow the CRTC to require disclosure of any other information that is in the public's interest.
The measures proposed in the bill are not new. They have been successfully implemented in other countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom and European Union member states. We see provisions in this bill that encourage competition between Internet service providers, which will bring prices down over time and improve the overall quality of the network. Consumers are entitled to have access when they need it most to the download speed to which they agreed.
I will digress for a moment because it is such an important issue in the regions. A service is provided, but the infrastructure is often outdated or lacking. Too many users can overload a given band, particularly during peak periods. As a result, the quality of the services is often lower in the regions. In large cities and urban areas, there is competition, and different providers can meet those needs. In rural areas, however, there is often only one provider and, if they are overloaded, the entire service cannot be offered. This has repercussions on all economic development measures in some villages, particularly in agriculture.
I am thinking of home education in rural areas, Facebook posts and the ability to stream videos, music or television shows. It is really an essential issue. If Internet service providers ensure that they give the right speed and invest in their network to make it more robust, stronger and more resilient, everyone will win. For too many years, we have seen lower quality Internet services in rural and regional areas due to a lack of investment.
Bill addresses many concerns from people in my riding, Abitibi—Témiscamingue, and will allow them to make informed decisions while improving service quality throughout the industry.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning and contribute to this debate on Bill . I want to start by thanking my colleague, the member for for bringing this forward. I understand that it has been brought forward in previous Parliaments, and perhaps this time we will have a chance to pass it.
This is a bill that does something that I think is fairly simple and that most Canadians probably take for granted or assume is already articulated somewhere in regulation or law. It requires companies to clearly and transparently and honestly depict the services they are selling, so that when consumers purchase those services, they know what they are buying. This is a basic tenet of consumer protection and one that I believe has broad support across our country.
The bill, as has been mentioned, amends the Telecommunications Act to do a couple of things. First, it requires carriers and Internet service providers to provide transparent, clear-to-understand information about the real-world performance of the Internet services they are selling. Second, it lays out a consultation process, a series of public hearings, that would be used to create and inform the framework by which this bill would be enacted and rolled out. These are things most people can get behind. They are pretty basic requirements and they have a number of benefits.
I mentioned the benefit in terms of consumer protection. This is particularly important for seniors, for people who may not have a detailed understanding of some of the nomenclature that is used when talking about Internet services, for people who did not grow up with access to digital services, and for people who are vulnerable to being taken for a ride by companies that are less than honest about the products they are selling.
This is also positive because, as many know, Canada does not stack up well when it comes to our telecommunications sector. When it comes to transparency, when it comes to competition and when it comes to pricing, Canada is among the worst countries in the world. Any measures, in terms of regulation and reform, that tilt the scales in favour of consumers are, I think, warranted.
It is good to see that the Conservative Party supports reasonable regulations in the interests of consumers. I know, in many ways, it is more of a fan of deregulation, but this is certainly one area where we can find broad agreement across party lines.
Finally, it is always good to catch up with other countries around the world and, in this case, catch up to where Australia was over a decade ago. That is good to see. We can certainly look to their experience and their example to inform this process moving forward.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not offer some of my concerns, the first of which is that this bill could go much further in terms of protecting Canadians, particularly in the area of affordability. Perhaps I will run through some of the areas I have questions about.
The first is enforcement. I raised this a few minutes ago in my question to the member. It is one thing to require companies to provide transparent and honest advertising about the services they provide. It is another thing to enforce that provision.
Thinking about how this could take place, we can envision either a complaint-driven process or an audit-driven process. I am trying to imagine how it would look for a consumer to lodge a complaint with the CRTC based on the provisions in this bill, particularly because this bill acknowledges that service delivery can vary depending on the time of day.
If we look at the Australian model, some of the advertising that is consistent with their regulations is pretty broad. It is hard to see how someone would prove an infraction when, for instance, consumers are promised a standard evening speed of between two and 23 megabits per second. That is a pretty broad range.
For a claim that around 50% of customers achieve download speeds greater than 50 megabits per second, I think it would be tough for an individual consumer to call up the CRTC and lodge a complaint, claiming they were in the 50% that was not served properly, and have the CRTC investigate that. Having some sort of independent verification of the real-world performance of these telecoms would be beneficial. Of course, that would require a system and some cost, so we need to understand how these rules, if they come into force, are actually going to protect consumers.
My biggest concern is that, while these regulations and this legislative change may benefit consumers in areas where there is competition for Internet services, there are vast areas of our country where there is simply no competition in purchasing Internet. This is something we need to turn our minds to. How do we deliver transparency in advertising, and how do we deliver choice, competition and affordability for rural and remote residents of our country?
I will tell members a bit about the part of the country I get to represent. It is a vast, rural area. Many of the communities are tiny, remote communities with limited services, particularly when it comes to Internet service. I cannot tell members the number of residents who have approached me with concerns about the lack of choice and service they have for access to Internet. This is a big deal when it comes to ensuring economic development in and attracting residents to remote communities, and when it comes to delivering a basic quality of life in an era when so many of the services that we rely on are moving online.
I was recently contacted by a fellow named Lee Marion. He is the postmaster in Telegraph Creek, which is a tiny and remote indigenous community hours away from the nearest neighbouring community. It is way up in northwest B.C., and it only has one Internet service option. The service speed and quality of that service is insufficient for him to conduct the basic operations of the post office.
This is an area of huge concern, and it is one that I do not believe this bill will address. It might help the residents of Telegraph Creek understand what speed they can expect, but if that speed is insufficient, knowing that fact is not going to help them very much. To put it a bit more simply, if one is in a position of “take it or leave it”, it is not terribly helpful to know more about what “it” is.
The residents of Findlay Lake, an area just north of Terrace, is not a particularly remote area, but it has similar challenges. When Telus built out its fibre optic infrastructure in the area, it stopped just a few kilometres north of the city, which left out dozens of households that are relatively close to a built-up urban area. They are not able to access proper Internet service. They rely on hubs and wireless service that is, frankly, at speeds that do not allow them to conduct the basic operations necessary to work from home or attend school from home, things that are and were, especially during the pandemic, so important to Canadians.
In rural areas, we really need to look at this issue of affordability. The Liberal government's approach to affordability when it comes to the telecom sector relies almost solely on competition. The fact is there are vast areas of this country where no competition exists in the sector, and folks in those areas are stuck with whatever price the companies want to charge them or feel they need to charge them. We need some assurance that, moving forward, we have a mechanism to drive affordability. I am not sure that greater transparency in advertising is going to achieve that.
The NDP has a policy proposal that would require all telecoms in Canada to provide a basic service that is comparable, affordability wise, with the basic services provided in other countries, and I think we are going to need that kind of regulation moving forward, especially for rural residents.
There are a bunch of related issues I could speak to, but I am excited to see this bill move forward. It is something we can get behind. I hope it gets strengthened, and I hope that when it gets to committee, some of these questions around enforcement and potential areas of improvement can be addressed.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to debate Bill , an act to amend the Telecommunications Act concerning transparent and accurate broadband services information.
I was originally planning to speak to the predecessor of this bill on June 23, 2021. There is nothing like 16 months of intervening time to allow me to really collect my thoughts on this matter, but I am pleased that my colleague and friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa has revived his bill from the previous Parliament to provide Canadian consumers with the important information they need when it comes to rural broadband services across our country, so I thank him for raising this issue.
Something I have said many times in the House of Commons and in public to my constituents at events is that reliable high-speed Internet ceased being a luxury a long time ago. For Canadian families, businesses and communities, it is an absolute necessity. When members are given the opportunity to bring forward private member's bills, there are often a lot of competing priorities, which members see as being important to their communities and their ridings. When members win the lottery and have a high-up number in the private member's business lottery, like my friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa did, it is great when they are able to pick a priority like this, which is important for folks not only in rural communities like Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, but also in places like Perth—Wellington and across the country.
In my community of Perth—Wellington, the issue of rural broadband is one I hear of time and again. On a nearly weekly basis, if not sometimes on a daily basis, I will receive an email from a constituent, a phone call from a family, sometimes even a printed letter in the mail because the Internet is so bad, asking when they might finally see rural broadband fibre optics coming to their communities. Just this morning I spoke with a business owner in Wellington North, in the north part of Wellington County, who was talking about how his business was affected by not having access to reliable high-speed Internet. The speeds he is able to get, based on his current Internet service provider, are simply not adequate for him to carry out his business.
Later today, after I have downloaded this video and upload it to my website, my Facebook page and YouTube, many of the constituents in my riding will not be able to watch it. They will not be able to watch it because their high-speed Internet is simply not adequate. They would spend most of the day watching it buffering rather than actually watching this, or any other video or business communication.
There are challenges affecting Internet across the country. I will be honest that it takes a lot of infrastructure investment in order to get reliable Internet and telecommunications services in a country as large, rural and remote as Canada. One of the challenges is that there are very few Internet service providers in Canada, and this market is dominated by a couple of large corporations.
I do not think it is a surprise to anyone in this chamber who those large corporations are that dominate the marketplace. This lack of competition leads to the lack of choice for Canadians. In many parts of my riding, my constituents have no choice and are stuck with one provider. In a lot of cases, that is old ma Bell herself.
There are several, often community-owned, Internet service providers that are trying to do the hard work to make sure that fibre is installed along every concession road. They are trying hard. They are working hard, and they are committed to providing reliable high-speed Internet, but they are often unable or struggling to compete with the large Internet service providers that often engage in marketing that, while legal, is really pushing the boundaries of what is believable and consistent.
In my riding, I am very proud of community businesses such as Quadro, Wightman and Mornington, which are working to connect rural subscribers and rural residents with fibre-optic Internet service that would have up to one gigabyte of download speeds. This is an amount that is simply unbelievable for so many in my community right now because they are dealing with speeds as low as 2.5 Mbps, megabytes per second, which is simply not sufficient to carry on a business, participate in community events or communicate with family members.
Canadians need accurate information about the speed of their Internet service, which is why I support this bill. The theoretical speeds, hypothetical service and best-case scenarios are all advertising mechanisms that some of these large corporations use. They hinder us and prevent us from making meaningful decisions when deciding what Internet service provider to go with.
What does help Canadian consumers is realistic expectations based on data regarding what the download and upload speeds are going to be with the specific Internet service provider in their community.
Let us step back just a little to look at what has been happening in the past number of years. Throughout the first 15 years of the 21st century, Internet access expanded dramatically. Service, quality and speeds increased during that period, albeit not always consistently across the country.
What we have seen in the last seven or so years is that progress has slowed and stalled. In fact, I would say that the progress of the government on expanding high-speed Internet across the country has been slower than dial-up. I have raised this issue of poor Internet service time and time again with different Liberal members of cabinet over these past seven years. Unfortunately, the responses we get are either disappointing or, quite frankly, misleading.
The Liberal government has pointed to the different federal funds and dollar totals that it claims to have invested, but in typical Liberal fashion, it measures success based on the amount of money it spends rather than on the actual results it achieves.
One small example of this is when, in November 2018, I raised a question during question period about a report that was criticizing the government's failed process to improve rural Internet. I raised this in question period, and the now , who was the parliamentary secretary at the time, responded simply by telling me how much more money they were spending, how many more dollars were being put into it rather than focusing on results. Here we are, four years later, and people in rural and remote communities across Canada simply do not have access.
I will note that some other strategies have been promoted more broadly on the issue of spectrum. I would note that the government still has not followed up on the use it or lose it policy that would actually make sure that spectrum is actually used and not kept in corporate coffers as some kind of bargaining chip or future asset that they could sell or re-sell in the future.
Many of the projects being funded across the country have gone to some of these large telecom companies rather than going to the smaller telecoms. In fact, I would note that the so-called rapid response stream of the universal broadband fund gave $7 million of taxpayer funding to Bell in November 2020, whereas a lot of small, local, often community-owned, Internet service providers in rural communities could have used that $7 million to actually get fibre in the ground.
I would note as well, in terms of the failure of the Liberal government, that despite the fact that 10% of the underserved population lives in southern Ontario, the Liberal government's connect to innovate program did not invest a single dime in southern Ontario. Again, there was a big show, lots of announcements, the citing of big dollar figures, but 10% of the population is not being served in Ontario.
There is a program in southern Ontario, the SWIFT program, which is a collaboration among Internet service providers, municipalities, counties and private business. Hopefully, at some point there will be some further funding from different levels of government because they are ready to do the work necessary to make sure that fibre is in the home of all Canadians. However, when it comes to the program like the connect to innovate program, not a single dollar is being invested in southern Ontario.
I want to refocus on why this bill is important. As the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa mentioned earlier, the phrase “up to speeds” and misleading types of advertising are simply not acceptable when Canadians are making important decisions about rural high-speed Internet. We need to do more. We need to act. I am very excited to support Bill .
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to talk about the importance of affordable, high-quality Internet services and the need for consumer protection in the telecommunications industry.
To start, we all know how important access to the Internet is for Canadians as we work, learn and socialize online more and more every day. To make progress against our key goals for the telecom sector, the government continues, contrary to what we just heard, to introduce new policy measures to enhance the quality, coverage and affordability of telecom services.
One of the key parts of our forward agenda is a new policy direction to Canada's telecom regulator, the CRTC. The policy direction would provide the CRTC direction that aligns with the government's priorities, and one of our government's key priorities is to ensure that Internet service is affordable for all consumers. The policy direction would tackle this issue and help consumers. In particular, it targets improvements to strengthen competition in the telecom sector.
The proposed policy direction sets out a renewed approach to wholesale regulation. It would instruct the CRTC to take action to have more timely and improved wholesale rates available, and to consider external expertise for international best practices as it sets these new rates. Ultimately, these changes would encourage more sustainable competition, and this would lead to better prices and better outcomes for consumers.
Within the wholesale regime, the CRTC requires large telephone and cable companies to provide other service providers with access to their networks. The CRTC does this by mandating wholesale access and regulates the rates charged for these services. This allows other service providers to offer their own services to Canadians. I am glad that we have taken the action to strengthen the ability of these alternative Internet providers to compete, because I know it has meaningful impacts on prices in the marketplace.
The proposed policy direction also includes a range of measures to strengthen consumer rights. For example, our government understands that having competitive service providers in the telecom sector is important, but consumers also need to be able to easily switch providers when they find a better deal. That is why the policy direction would require the CRTC to make it easier for consumers to cancel their service or change their service provider so that Canadians can take advantage of better offers.
Another key part of the proposed policy direction would require the CRTC to take measures to promote the clarity and transparency of pricing information and service plan characteristics in marketing materials. This would allow consumers to better understand their choices in the Internet market.
I regularly hear from Canadians, including those in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who are having difficulty with their telecom service providers. I know that my colleagues hear about these issues as well. Questions about quality and a lack of satisfaction with how these issues are resolved can be very frustrating for our constituents. Poor quality service can lead to lagging Zoom calls for students in virtual classrooms, frustration for parents working from home and missed opportunities to connect with family and friends.
To deal with issues like this, the Government of Canada helped to establish the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services, or the CCTS. The CCTS is an independent organization that provides consumers with recourse when they are unable to resolve disagreements directly with their telecom service providers.