New CRTC chair promises revamped internet pricing model coming soon

'What we've done is not working,' Vicky Eatrides told MobileSyrup

Canadians pay some of the highest internet prices in the world, and Vicky Eatrides wants to change that.

It’s a lofty goal, but in her new position as the chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Eatrides wants Canadians to know the plan has precedence.

“It’s a top priority for the organization because what we’ve done is not working,” Eatrides told MobileSyrup. Clarity on a new model will come soon, she promised. “We’re talking about within the coming months; we’re not talking about a year away.” The lack of specifications doesn’t bode well for the long-sought-after promise to lower internet prices, but Eatrides has made commitments that beg for a little patience. “This is, I would say, imminent.”

After all, Eatrides is only in her fourth week on the job, and she has already taken action on another important file: mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

MVNOs operate in addition to existing networks, similar to how independent service providers (ISPs) use existing broadband infrastructure to provide Canadians with internet access. Back in October, the CRTC published the terms and conditions for MVNO agreements between regional providers and incumbents Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel. The hope is that MVNOs will increase competition in the wireless market.

Last week, the commission published a letter asking the incumbents to share a status update on negotiations. They have until February 8th to answer which regional providers requested to begin negotiations, the status, and when they’ll set agreements.

“[We] are holding large wireless providers to account,” Eatrides said.

Despite her leading goals, the two files aren’t the only things she wants to accomplish during her time at the CRTC. With hundreds of “complex files” on the go, along with the potential responsibilities of Bills C-11 and C-18, there is a lot to tackle.

The two bills, which are currently making their way through the appropriate avenues, will see the CRTC govern streaming content and the way online platforms use news content. Eatrides confirmed the CRTC has started to prepare internally to “gear up” if the bills are passed.

Critics have looked at Eatrides’ appointment with optimism. She brings over 20 years of experience and has worked both in the private and public sectors, including the Competition Bureau. She also served as the Assistant Deputy Minister at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) before taking her current role at the CRTC.

Eatrides says the experiences she acquired in her previous roles will assist her in this new venture.

“I really want for the CRTC to be able to make a difference in the lives of Canadians, and I really want people to associate the CRTC with doing good things for them.”

Image credit: CRTC