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Vendors urge feds to scrap existing telecom regulatory framework

The pressure is building for the federal government to change the current telecom policy and regulatory framework....

September 1, 2005  

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The pressure is building for the federal government to change the current telecom policy and regulatory framework.

Nortel Networks Corp. and Telus Corp. recently joined the list of vendors who have or plan to submit reports outlining theirs perspective on the changing telecommunications landscape.

The Nortel report puts forward 15 recommendations to the federal government, including a Canadian national strategy for information and communication technology (ICT).

Nortel submitted it to the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel established by Industry Minister David Emerson in April to conduct a review of Canada’s telecom policy and regulatory framework.

“At no time has the development of a telecom policy been more critical to Canada’s future,” said Brian McFadden, chief research officer, Nortel.

“In today’s highly competitive global market, Canada’s traditional leadership in many areas of telecommunications has been eroded .We must move quickly to build on past successes by establishing a bold national strategy that ensures Canada can compete at the forefront of the 21st century information economy.”

“The creation and deployment of new, technology-based applications and services will be critical to the success of businesses across all segments of the Canadian economy.”

Nortel’s report presents recommendations in response to specific questions identified by the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel in its Consultation Paper issued in June.

Central among them is the creation and implementation of a Canadian national ICT strategy led by the federal cabinet that focuses on a holistic and coordinated approach to strengthening Canada’s international competitiveness in communications technology and services.

“As a nation of 32 plus million people striving for leadership in the global marketplace, we need to ask ourselves what we are going to be really good at,” McFadden said. “Communications technology is a Canadian strength and should be nurtured.”

Janet Yale, executive vice president of corporate affairs with Telus said the approach now in place is contrary to the federal government’s commitment to end unnecessary and wasteful regulation.

“By denying the major telephone companies the opportunity to respond quickly to the dynamic telecommunications market, regulation reduces their ability and incentive to invest in new services such as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services,” said Yale.

“Indeed, it creates a double whammy by reducing the incentive for non-regulated companies to be innovative in response to the telephone companies’ offerings. It’s like forcing a runner in a race to wear ankle weights. The other contestants don’t have to run as fast to win.”

Bell Canada’s recommendations focus on the role of a more competitive and robust telecommunications industry in closing that gap. “Telecommunications is experiencing profound change at an unprecedented pace,” said Lawson Hunter, executive vice president and chief corporate officer, BCE and Bell Canada.

“An updated policy direction is needed to ensure the industry’s continued role as a key enabler of Canada’s overall economic performance.”

The submission states that addressing this challenge requires a public policy that promotes accelerated awareness, development and use of ICT. Bell said its recommended approach reflects best practices being developed in other countries, as well as the lessons learned from regulatory reforms adopted for other industries in Canada.

The new policy would establish specific targets for ICT-related research and development, investment and adoption, strengthen government’s role as a model user of ICT in its own operations and procurement process, and adopt a regulatory reform that relies largely on market forces.

“Public policy needs to focus on setting broad principles and frameworks, rather than setting detailed rules on services and prices,” Hunter said. “The right policy framework is one that will deliver meaningful choices in innovative, affordable and high-quality services to Canadian consumers and businesses.”