Asking the CRTC to consider human health in regulations

February 29, 2020

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission held hearings as part of a comprehensive review of mobile wireless services this week.

I was there to testify on behalf of SafeEMF, also known as EMF Off!

It did not go well.

Commissioners didn’t seem to understand why we want them to consider Canadian health as they regulate the operations of every telecommunications operator in the country. They seemed to think that someone else has that job.

I hope that they were just tired and hungry and that the final report will include measures to protect Canadian health after-all.

You can the entire hearing, including our submission, on CPAC.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised at their disinterest.

Chairperson Ian Scott set up expectations at the beginning of deliberations. In part, he said:

Our objective is to ensure that the regulatory framework enables sustainable competition that provides better prices and innovative services for Canadians, as well as continued investments in high-quality networks across Canada.

The current framework for wholesale mobile wireless services was established in 2015. It requires Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus to provide wholesale roaming services to competitors at rates set by the CRTC. This regime was to remain in place for a minimum of five years to allow for competition to develop sustainably.

Since then, the CRTC has updated the Wireless Code, taken steps to make lower-cost data only plans widely available to Canadians and finalized wholesale roaming rates – all in an effort to empower consumers and ensure the marketplace continues to meet their needs. We also made access to mobile wireless voice and Internet services part of the universal service objective.

We want Canadians to have access to world-class mobile wireless services, in terms of coverage, quality and price.

Between 2016 and 2018, wireless service providers have invested more than $7 billion in their networks to expand their reach and improve the quality of their service. According to our latest data, 99% of the population has access to LTE coverage, and 95% has access to LTE-A technology. We want to ensure that network investment continues so that the quality and speeds of Canada’s wireless networks are among the best in the world.

In terms of price, there has been progress. Mobile wireless rates decreased by an average of 28% between 2016 and 2018. We remain concerned, however, that these price decreases may not be keeping pace with what is transpiring in other jurisdictions, and we want to see a broader range of affordable options for consumers.

Unfortunately, commissioners didn’t seem to understand why they should care about human health in their efforts to “regulate and supervise broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest” as they say on their website.

Ian Scott made it clear that they want to approve the 5G roll out as quickly as possible, when he said:

Our goal is to ensure that Canadians have access to a world-class communications system.

After watching submissions and seeing the questions commissioners asked throughout the week, I got the impression that the CRTC cares too much about innovation and has the rest of the possible elements of public interest.

Commissioners seem to be looking for a way to drop prices without regulating, although one commissioner definitely seemed to care a lot about access as well.

Those of us concerned about access, health and privacy were definitely in the minority during this hearing.

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Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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