He said he wanted to intervene more in the wholesale internet price dispute between incumbent network owners and independent service providers that has been unfolding at the CRTC since the summer of 2019, but it was one of those battles that PIAC was largely forced to sit out – just one of many the organization doesn’t have time to take part in. “I have a number of [intervention files] sitting on my desk, but I just can’t get them done,” Lawford said.
Consumer advocate groups face an even bigger imbalance politically. None can afford to hire full-time lobbyists to meet with government officials and bureaucrats on a regular basis, and certainly not with the frequency of large telecom companies.
For example, during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, between mid-March and the end of July, Canada’s three largest wireless companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – met with government or CRTC officials 128 times according to Canada’s lobbyist registry, or nearly once a day. PIAC and OpenMedia had no such meetings registered over the same time frame.
The problem here is fundamental, the groups said. “[With] the current framework in how it’s designed and how regulation is designed, I don’t see a way for us to work through that without some sort of major innovation,” said Williams of the First Nations Technology Council.