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The bureau is calling for a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) policy that would require the Big Three to sell access to regional carriers like Freedom Mobile and Vidéotron, as part of a 51-page submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The sale requirement would be temporary and contingent on regional carriers expanding their own networks. The bureau is also calling for a reduction in roaming rates, and tower-sharing and site-access rules that would benefit smaller carriers. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The most significant ask from the bureau was echoed in the platform of the recently re-elected Liberal Party. Both want MVNOs to become a bigger part of Canada’s wireless landscape. There’s another powerful group pushing for the same thing: in July, my colleague Murad broke the news that Google was asking Ottawa to make it easier to expand MVNOs in Canada. The company already runs one, Google Fi, in the United States. Rogers, Bell, Telus and Shaw have all opposed widespread MVNO rollouts in their own recent submissions to the CRTC; the telecoms will now have until March 23, 2020 to submit to the CRTC again and challenge the Competition Bureau’s proposed regulatory framework. During the election campaign, the Liberals said they wanted to work with telecoms for two years and then step in if prices don’t go down enough. The bureau is offering the Liberals a path forward for how to do the latter.

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In a formal petition to the prime minister’s cabinet on Wednesday, Bell claimed the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s August ruling—which reduced the rates small internet providers must pay large ones like Bell by 15 to 43 per cent—has lowered wholesale broadband rates below the cost of service, disincentivizing investment in new products in the country. The company referenced Encana’s recent decision to move its headquarters to the U.S. amid an “already difficult” investment environment in the country. (Bloomberg)

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Talking point: Bell and other telecom heavyweights have argued that the new rates erode their resources to expand services in rural communities—which the government has made a priority—as smaller providers could eat into their market share. Bell said it would scale back its rural broadband initiative by 20 per cent in light of the CRTC decision, though the regulator said in its ruling that the company didn’t provide enough evidence to support its cost projections under the new pay structure. Still, the Federal Court of Appeal issued a temporary stay of the rulings for Bell and five other large telecoms in September.

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The telecom giant, which already streams HBO content on Crave, signed an exclusive agreement with Warner Bros. to start streaming HBO Max content in Canada in 2020. It will include original shows like “Green Lantern,” a reboot of “Gossip Girl” and a series inspired by the Dune science-fiction novels. However, the deal excludes films by Studio Ghibli, which will feature in the U.S. launch of the new channel. (The Logic, Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: This deal means HBO Max won’t launch as a standalone service in Canada, and sharpens Crave’s competitive edge in the increasingly crowded streaming market. Its basic monthly pricing starts at $9.99, but to access the platform’s full library of HBO shows and movies—including the incoming content from HBO Max—subscribers will have to pay $19.98. Though Crave said it won’t increase its prices because of the new deal, at its top tier—priced at $25.99—it remains one of the most expensive major streaming options in the country, costing more than Netflix, which tops out at $16.99; Amazon Prime at $7.99; Disney Plus at $8.99; and Apple TV Plus at $5.99. The last two services are set to launch in November.

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The Quebec telecom said that since it announced plans to focus on the province’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in July, Bell has been doing “everything in its power to block competition.” Bell declined to comment. (The Logic)

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Talking point: This is a small part of a larger war that’s been raging for months between Bell and Vidéotron’s parent firm, Quebecor. In April, Quebecor briefly cut off Bell subscribers’ access to its TVA Sports channel as part of a fight over royalty fees. In July, Bell purchased French-language streaming service Noovo.ca, prompting Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau to accuse Bell of trying to become a monopoly. The repeated claim that Bell either is, or is seeking to become, a monopoly comes as the Competition Bureau is looking for anti-competitive moves to investigate. In July, the bureau said it would focus on telecom and digital economy competition over the coming year. Quebecor has had some success raising concerns with other federal agencies about Bell; in September, the CRTC ordered Bell could not cut off Vidéotron customers’ roaming service.

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Bell said it will reduce its plan to build internet infrastructure for small towns and rural communities by about 200,000 households and lose in excess of $100 million. The company said the cuts are due to a ruling from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which reduced the rates small internet providers need to pay to large ones like Bell by between 15 per cent and 43 per cent. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The CRTC ruling is meant to stimulate competition in the telecom industry and lower prices for consumers. It specifically addressed Bell’s cost model, arguing that the telecom uses outdated metrics to set its prices. Bell said there’s no guarantee the CRTC’s cuts will translate into savings for consumers. But when the CRTC cut rates for third-party resellers in 2016, TekSavvy and Start.ca both lowered their internet-plan costs. Investing in rural internet infrastructure has been lucrative for Bell in the past. On the front end, it’s subsidized by the federal government. So far, the company has received 84 grants as part of Ottawa’s $515-million Connect to Innovate program meant to subsidize rural internet infrastructure. Once the infrastructure is built, Bell charges smaller companies that want to resell internet access to consumers. Bell’s cutbacks come as the federal government—which can overrule the CRTC if it wants—is making significant investments in rural internet infrastructure: earlier in 2019, it announced $1.7 billion for rural internet with the goal of getting relatively high speed internet to 100 per cent of the country by 2030.

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An application submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in late July outlines the Montreal-based company’s plans to launch a 90-day trial of the service, as first reported by The Globe and Mail. The service would use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify suspicious activity and fraudulent callers. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The service would be the first of its kind in Canada, and comes as fraudulent calls become more common—at the end of 2018, the RCMP said some 4,000 Canadians had lost a total of more than $15 million as a result of scam callers pretending to be the Canada Revenue Agency. In December 2018, the CRTC ruled that telecoms must apply additional protections that block calls from numbers exceeding 15 digits, or numbers that cannot be return-dialled. Providers were asked to implement those systems by December 19 of this year. A number of academics raised concerns about the ethics of the AI Bell intends to use, however, saying the company did not provide enough information in its proposal. “Machine learning and artificial intelligence raises questions about oversight and accountability that necessitate further public review in keeping with emerging best practices for fairness, accuracy, transparency and ethics,” wrote Fenwick McKelvey, associate professor in information and communication technology policy at Concordia University.

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The chief operating officer of Mosaic Manufacturing, an advanced manufacturing firm, is joining the board, along with Lisa de Wilde, chief executive officer of TVO, and Constance Sugiyama, president of ConMark Strategy. Former foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew will become the new board chair. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The Asia Pacific Foundation plays a key role in building ties between Canada and Asia. As Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put it Tuesday: “Canada is committed to deepening its ties in the Asia-Pacific region and the foundation is critical to informing Canada’s foreign policy interests.” In June, the foundation released a survey showing that two-thirds of Canadians believe Asia will surpass the U.S. as a source of tech capital. Over the past year, the foundation has also released reports on the opportunity for Canadian e-commerce startups in Japan and highlighted the work of a Toronto-based AI startup that’s growing in Japan and South Korea. Labelle has experience establishing supply chain partnerships in Asia. He’s also a board member of the Cansbridge Fellowship, which facilitates tech-focused internships for young Canadians in Asia.