Scott Hutton to the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology


Ottawa, Ontario
February 26, 2024

Scott Hutton, Chief, Consumer, Research and Communications
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

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Good morning and thank you for inviting us to appear before your committee.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people.

I am joined today by my colleagues Ian Baggley, Director General in Telecommunications, and Anthony McIntyre, General Counsel.

As you know, the CRTC is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that operates at arm’s length from government. We hold public hearings on telecommunications and broadcasting matters, and we make decisions based on the public record.

In the telecommunications industry, our work focuses mainly on Internet and cellphone services. We promote choice and affordability for Canadians, encourage investment in reliable and high-quality networks, and improve access to telecommunications services in Indigenous, rural, and remote communities.

These goals were brought into greater focus in February 2023 when the government directed the CRTC to renew our approach to telecommunications policy. It asked us to, among other things, act quickly to provide clarity to the market, and consider how our decisions would promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation.

A good example of how we have renewed our approach is in cellphone competition. In May of last year, the CRTC established rules that allow regional competitors to compete across Canada as mobile virtual network operators using the networks of large cellphone companies. With this access, regional companies can expand their reach and offer Canadians more choice.

Our work appears to be having a positive impact on the rates Canadians pay. The Consumer Price Index shows that cellphone service prices in Canada have declined overall 16% in the last year.

Clearly, we need to continue our work, and we will be closely monitoring cellphone service prices to ensure that the recent price increase announced in January does not become a trend.

At the same time, we are also working to enhance choice and affordability in Internet services.

In March 2023, we launched a proceeding on the Internet services market to increase competition, create more choice and lower prices.

We knew we had to act quickly. Our data showed that competitors to the largest Internet services providers had been losing subscribers over the past two years. That’s why last November we released an initial decision to provide competitors with a workable way to sell Internet services using the fibre-to-the-home networks of large telephone companies. We took this initial step in Ontario and Quebec, where competition has declined most significantly.

This work continued earlier this month when we held a public hearing on the issue. We continued to build our public record by hearing from service providers, competitors, consumer groups, individuals, and government agencies. Ultimately, we need to find a solution that allows consumers to benefit from greater choice, while producing robust investments in networks.

As we work to improve the affordability and quality of telecommunications in Canada, we are also working to ensure everyone across our country has access to these services.

Our goal is to help connect all Canadians. The CRTC plays a small role as part of a larger government effort to bring affordable and high-quality telecommunications services to all Canadians.

To support this effort, the CRTC helps fund projects in rural, remote and Indigenous communities through its Broadband Fund.

In our most recent call, we received more than 100 applications seeking roughly $1.9 billion in funding. We are moving quickly to make decisions on these projects, while at the same time making our application process faster and easier. We are also looking at creating a new funding stream specifically for Indigenous communities.

As you can see, we have been busy, and we don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon.

We remain committed to promoting competition, as a means of providing all Canadians with access to reliable and high-quality Internet and cellphone services at affordable prices. We know that Canadians are not satisfied with the prices they pay and more needs to be done.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today, and we look forward to your questions. 


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