Claire Anderson to the British Columbia Broadband Association


Richmond, British Columbia
April 23, 2024

Claire Anderson, Commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Check against delivery


Thank you, Bob (Allen, BCBA President), for your warm welcome and for inviting me to join you again for this year’s BCBA conference. My thanks, especially, to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for allowing us to conduct our conference on their traditional, ancestral and unceded territories.

The City of Vancouver acknowledges that the City “is located on territory that was never ceded, or given up to the Crown by the Musqueam, Squamish, or Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The term unceded acknowledges the dispossession of the land and the inherent rights of those Indigenous peoples to the territory.” So again, I pay my respects.

Thank you very much for inviting me back to speak with you at this conference. I’ve been looking forward to providing you with an update about what we have been doing this past year at the Commission. But I also love the opportunity to see familiar faces and hear about the work you’ve been doing since we last spoke. What are the success stories and what are the challenges?

I want to start by saying that your theme this year – Accelerating Connectivity in Western Canada – is something the CRTC actively supports. Our goal is to work with everyone to make sure all Canadians have access to reliable, affordable, and high-quality Internet and cellphone services.

The latest data from the Consumer Price Index suggests that is starting to happen. Prices for Internet access services are falling on a year-over-year basis, down 15.5% in March for Internet services. For cellphone services, the decrease was even better, with those signing up for a new plan paying 26.2% less than they paid a year before.

To continue to see this kind of improvement, we know we need to create a more competitive environment. Because, at the moment, not all service providers are able to compete. Our data showed that competitors to the largest Internet service providers were losing subscribers over the past few years. We are concerned when we see independent providers either being acquired by larger companies or putting up “for sale” signs in recent years. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the fact is that smaller providers are having a harder time navigating today’s marketplace. 

These are challenges the CRTC is working to address as we implement the government’s direction to renew our approach to telecommunications policy.

Our challenge is ensuring we achieve the right balance in promoting competition. We want to do this because competition has been proven to increase choice and affordability for consumers. At the same time, we need to create the conditions that enable companies to invest in high-quality networks and succeed so we have a healthy industry that delivers services that benefit everyone.

As a regulator, the CRTC has a role to play in making this vision a reality. And we know time is of the essence. That’s why we are actively addressing a range of priorities – from small cell attachments and support structures to transport issues and improvements to the Broadband Fund.

Let me briefly outline recent developments in these areas.

Small cells/Support structures

One of our most important goals at the CRTC is reducing barriers to connect underserved rural and remote areas.

And we know that the efficient use of existing infrastructure will help us achieve this goal more quickly. That’s why our decision last year on telecom poles established new, faster timelines for large phone companies to provide pole access to competitors. While we do not have jurisdiction over provincially owned utility poles, we determined that when incumbents provide access to support structures that they own or partially own or to which they have the right to grant permits for access, they are providing a telecommunications service, and are therefore within and subject to our jurisdiction.

Additionally, we know that thousands of additional wireless facilities, commonly known as small cells, will need to be deployed across Canada to support 5G networks.

We recognize that finding the best locations for them can be challenging and costly. To accelerate network deployment, including here in Western Canada, the CRTC launched a consultation in February to determine whether it should modify existing rules that allow competitors to attach equipment, such as small cells, onto poles across the country.

In it we asked important questions, including whether the CRTC has the jurisdiction over the deployment of wireless facilities on incumbents’ poles, if the current support structure tariff applies, and what technical considerations and modifications would be necessary to deploy them. While the deadline for interventions to this consultation passed earlier this month, we are still accepting replies until May 6.

Our decision from this consultation will be based on the evidence we received from stakeholders.


We know, too, that access to transport networks at reasonable rates is another barrier to network deployment for many smaller facilities-based telcos. We understand this affects the deployment of rural broadband and the viability of services like disaggregated wholesale network access.

That’s why we are currently reviewing the wholesale high-speed access service framework, and we held a public hearing as part of our review in February.

We know there is a crucial need for competitive transport services, especially in rural and remote areas. We are continuing to study their availability in these areas, and what barriers exist to their further development.

This work will play a role in informing our upcoming decisions, as will the contributions of all the intervenors. I am pleased that the BCBA contributed to this process as your input and insights are crucial to informing our decisions.

Broadband Fund

Additionally, the CRTC is currently looking at how we can improve access to high-speed Internet and cellphone services as part of the CRTC’s Broadband Fund. The Fund is our small role as part of a larger government-wide effort to connect all Canadians to high-speed Internet. It has already provided more than $300 million in funding, helping more than 230 communities to date.

Our third call received requests for more than $1.9 billion in funding, showing just how popular this program is becoming.

That fact makes it even more important that we improve the speed and efficacy of how we deliver funding. With this call, we’ve cut the time it takes us to issue decisions from the receipt of applications by 40%.

I’ll give you an example as to how we are already delivering results. In December, the CRTC announced that all communities in Nunavut will soon have high-speed satellite Internet service. Last month, we announced funding to build new cell towers along Highway 37, a vital hub for economic activity in northern B.C. Both projects were part of our third call for applications from last year, and we are looking forward to issuing more decisions soon.

Last year, we launched a public consultation on how to make the application process faster and easier. The review is also examining how we can better respond to the economic and social needs of Indigenous peoples and communities, and whether an Indigenous-only funding stream within the Fund is needed.

We are also investigating how we can address transport gaps and reliability, as well as whether and how to shift into operational funding, which has been mentioned at this conference in previous years and was discussed on the record of our Broadband Fund review process.

For example, as part of the Broadband Fund’s transport projects, we support initiatives that enhance broadband Internet transport network capacity to one or more interconnection points. This provides higher speeds, better quality of service, and more data for underserved communities.

Ensuring the Broadband Fund provides the best results for Canadians is fundamental to our review.


In addition to connecting all Canadians, we want the telecommunications networks to which we connect them to be reliable. This is crucial both for everyday telephone and Internet use and emergency services.

Those of us living in Western Canada over the past few years know better than most the importance of these services when communities are confronted with forest fires, landslides, and flooding – our new reality in a world of climate change.

Because connectivity is so critical today, the CRTC has taken action to lessen the disruptive impact of service outages on Canadians, reduce their occurrence and length, and ensure that essential services such as 9-1-1 and emergency alerts are available when needed.

Amidst an increase in complaints by consumers regarding network interruptions, we now require all service providers to notify the CRTC within two hours of any major service outage. They also must provide a comprehensive report within 14 days, detailing the causes of the outage, its impact, and their plan to make sure similar events do not occur in the future. We are considering public comments to ensure permanent outage reporting rules are in the public interest and a decision will be out in the coming months.

Finally, the Commission is working with emergency service experts on what can be done, in the event of an outage, to improve the reliability of 9-1-1 and emergency alerting. This is another report we will soon release.

Beyond these studies, the CRTC intends to launch additional consultations to explore measures needed to improve network reliability and consumer protections during and after an outage. Among the areas we’re interested in exploring further are improving access to emergency services, consumer communication and compensation, the impact of outages on accessibility services, and the imposition of penalties on service providers.

Action in such areas will better protect Canadians by improving network reliability and ensuring access to critical services. They also will contribute to the CRTC’s broader policy objectives of fostering reliable, affordable, and high-quality Internet and cellphone services for Canadians. 


Another topic I want to highlight today relates to Internet measurement. More specifically, I want to draw your attention to the third phase of our Measuring Broadband Canada project.

We hope the project will give us a clearer picture of different service offerings across the country so consumers can make better informed decisions. The results also may enable service providers like you to improve your networks to better serve existing customers, diagnose potential issues and promote products to potential customers.

The CRTC is working hard to improve networks and services to all Canadians, and this includes a traditionally underserved segment of our population: Indigenous peoples. A month ago, the CRTC launched the Indigenous Relations Team to support Indigenous participation in CRTC proceedings. We want to ensure the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples are considered across our work.

Reporting burden

The last thing I want to talk about today – which I suspect is of particular interest to many of you – is simplifying and reducing the reporting burden. 

We heard loud and clear during public consultations that we need to move faster and be more transparent in making decisions given their impacts on consumers, businesses, and the economy.

Before I explain what we are doing to address that, let me first stress just how important it is that we receive your input on a range of issues. This includes our consultations, of course, but also our Annual Telecom Survey, which just concluded for this year. The survey gives us an incredible amount of data that form part of the public record upon which we base our decisions.

For instance, your input on our processes and surveys is how we know that, as of the end of 2022, there were almost 300 telecom providers in Canada reporting fixed wireless Internet coverage to more than 825,000 retail subscribers. That number of subscribers has grown on average 8% annually over the past five years. Retail revenues for fixed wireless services totalled more than $874 million in 2022 alone. Closer to home, it’s how we know that the availability of services meeting our 50/10 universal service objective is 95% in BC, and that 75% of BC’s First Nations reserve population have this access. These kinds of valuable insights help shape our understanding of your business.

Unfortunately, not every fixed wireless Internet provider responds to CRTC surveys. Ideally, we would have complete, accurate and timely reports from all providers. It’s why we encourage telecom companies to file their data with us on time. I’m pleased to report that you are responding to these calls.

Now, I realize that completing these surveys is often perceived as a reporting burden, especially for the smallest companies. As my colleague Commissioner Abramson said at the Canadian Association of Wireless Internet Providers: “time spent filling out forms means an afternoon not getting in the truck and fixing antenna placement.” 

I recognize, too, that you report to the CRTC Data Collection exercise and, again, annually to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services. And then again to the number portability consortium. It’s a lot. But this input is instrumental in helping us make sound decisions in the public interest.

Also know that we take reporting concerns seriously and have publicly pledged to do better. We are actively working on ways to eliminate duplication and make your filings more efficient. 

We are committed to working with our counterparts to streamline all these processes, so you don’t have a bunch of different entities all asking you the same thing.

We at the CRTC understand that one of our most basic jobs in serving Canadians more effectively is to take some of that regulatory burden off your shoulders so you can focus on what you do best: serving your customers.


And despite the challenging conditions you are operating in, you clearly are doing just that. 

I want to assure you that the CRTC is committed to our common goals as we collectively accelerate connectivity in Western Canada. From small cell attachments, to improving the Broadband Fund, to simplifying reporting requirements, we are working to connect as many Canadians as possible to the services they need to live and work.

Thank you for your time today, and I look forward to continuing our work together.


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