Parliamentary committee grills CRTC chair on meeting with Bell CEO, reversal of internet decision

Ian Scott maintains everything was done by the books

Ian Scott told the parliamentary committee of industry and technology his meeting with Bell CEO Mirko Bibic in an Ottawa pub was by the rules.

The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) chair spoke at the committee on February 8th on the ongoing work the organization is completing. In his remarks, Scott said the CRTC understands the growing concerns by both the government and citizens to support competition and the affordability of internet service providers.

But his comments didn’t escape him from being grilled on the CRTC’s decision to reverse a 2019 finding that internet rates were too high in Canada and needed to be lowered. The decision came after the CRTC completed a review that lasted three years.

The decision was put on hold on May 27th, 2021.

“Now, why did we reverse course? To put it simply, we got the initial decision wrong. We couldn’t move ahead with rates that we knew were erroneous,” Scott said.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith asked Scott how they got it so wrong. “How can we have confidence in your continued work if, after three years of a comprehensive review, you get it so completely wrong?”

Scott said costing processes are complex, and the CRTC made a decision that was believed to be correct. After getting appeals from some telecom companies, a “thorough analysis” was conducted and “additional information from all parties” was sought, Scott said, leading to the reversal.

Regarding his encounter with Bibic, Scott said all of his meetings are “pursuant to the rules.”

Scott addressed the meeting for the first time in a February 2nd article with the Toronto Star. He told the publication, “nothing inappropriate was done.”

Conservative MP Tracy Gray asked Scott if any individual or company was told about the reversal before it became public.

“No one gets advice, or advised, or communicated commission decisions in advance of their publications,” Scott said.

Since the article was published, the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) filed an application with the CRTC asking Scott to rescue himself from decisions involving internet service competition until an appeal independent service provider TekSavvy filed with the Federal Court is heard.

CNOC’s application states the meeting his Bibic happened only one week after telecom companies, including Bell, filed an appeal against the CRTC’s 2019 decision.

Scott’s speech to the committee is available here.

Image source: CRTC (screenshot)