Sunday, April 23, 2017

OSI model layered approach to CRTC policy required to get quality of service

Re: Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2017-49: Review of the competitor quality of service regime


While the consultation is in the form of a series of questions, my intervention requires context.

While necessary at this time, I consider the "competitor quality of service regime" to be a transition policy to deal with problems caused by the way we managed convergence in Canada.  My recent submission to the Canadian content in a digital world consultations was focused on convergence policy.

If we are to solve the underlying problems on a more permanent basis we need to adopt policy that mirrors the OSI model layered approach of the underlying digital communications technology. The digital transition involved moving from purpose-built networks to a layered approach, and our regulations should have adapted from regulating as if the underlying technology were still purpose-built.

In short, this would mean:
  • Municipal layers 1 and 2 (or rather, what is now often called layer 2.5) should be treated as a utility and be owned and managed by different levels of government as is the case for other utilities.  While I will use the term "last mile" as a short-form, this is a municipal network that shouldn't require private sector entities to make multiple connections to the same municipality.
  • All services built "over the top" on layers 3 and above should exist in a competitive private sector marketplace.
The problem with trying to discuss a "competitor quality of service regime" is that incumbent last mile providers are providing layers 1-2.5  and claiming their own "over the top" (layer 3+) services should be regulated differently than other companies "over the top" (layer 3+) services.   They have re-defined the concept of "over the top" in an anti-competitive manner to mean services of competitors, rather than adopting neutral technology-driven language.

I made an intervention in front of the CRTC on 2009-12-09 to make these points.  I live and work in Ottawa, and can be available to discuss this with commissioners and staff at the CRTC in a formal or informal setting.

Q1. How has the current Q of S regime performed in fostering competition?

While the current regime might have disallowed private-sector last-mile providers from completely wiping out businesses built on layers 3+, I do not believe it has fostered competition.

Q2. Are market forces sufficient to ensure a high level of service or are Q of S regulatory measures required?

Market forces cannot function unless the market is correctly defined.

When a new retailer opens it does not have to get "permission" from a competing retailer for its customers to use the roads required to get to the retailer.  If Walmart claimed ownership of all the roads in a specific town we would never suggest that "market forces" were sufficient for any public policy goal.

Q3. If a competitor Q of S regime is required, what should its objectives be?

We should be trying to migrate from the legacy analog-era regulatory regimes to a digital layered approach.  The objectives of the Q of S regime should be to seek to achieve in the current vertically integrated marketplace conditions as close to those that would be possible if we had structural separation.

Customers of different layer 3+ services should not be getting different treatment from layer 1-2.5 providers.    As long as last mile providers are allowed to also provide layer 3+ services, strongly enforced regulations will be required.

Q4. If other regulatory measures are required, what should they include?

The problems I am identifying are not specific to the Q of S regime, but all areas of CRTC policy (Broadcast and Telecom Acts) where the lack of structural separation has an ongoing impact.

My intervention in front of the CRTC in 2009 was in the context of local television, as I see what is traditionally called "Cable Television" in the analog era to be yet another layer 3+ service in the digital era.  While many more people have "cut the chord" (transitioning from analog-era video services) than 2009, my intervention still applies to the current situation.

Q5-Q8:

These questions relate to the rate rebate plan (RRP). As long as last mile providers are allowed to also sell layer 3+ services, financial as well as other incentives to provide good services to all layer 3+ companies is required.  This will require both carrot and stick, as vertically integrated providers will always want to privileged their own branded services.

Q9. What criteria should be used to select the types of services, if any, that should be included in the competitor Q of S regime?

All layer 3+ services should be included in the Q of S regime.

We need to transition from thinking of IPv4 and IPv6 with publicly routed addresses as being "special" compared to other protocols or private network addressing.

There is no legitimate reason why only Bell should be allowed to provide a "Fibe TV" style service. Other BDUs should be able to form to provide those services and directly compete with the services of any existing layer 1-2.5 provider.  We need to break the current oligopoly which, among other things, includes inappropriate policy in Bill C-11 from 2002 which defined  “new media retransmitter” in such a way as to disallow layer 3+ companies which weren't also last mile layer 1-2.5 providers.

Q10. What specific services should be subject to the regime?

What is called “Wholesale Network Access” should be the bare minimum immediately, but this should quickly expand to all layer3+ services.

While not explicitly part of this consultation, I also support CNOC's proposal to apply the Wholesale Network Access regime to fiber to the premises.  We have experienced this problem within our family where my parents-in-law moved into a condo where the condo corporation had already made a deal with a specific vertically integrated provider.  My father-in-law was unable to move his existing Internet service (with Teksavvy) to his new home, and there is no competition within that building.

Q11. Should the competitor Q of S regime be expanded to include cable carriers, wireless carriers, small ILECs, and Northwestel? If so, should the competitor Q of S regime apply to all such carriers or should there be a threshold based on the size of the company and/or other factors?

All private sector last mile wired or wireless layer 1-2.5 providers should be under Q of S.

Exceptions can be negotiated for specific public sector entities, such as very small municipalities who might not have the resources to provide quality of service for other than a bare minimum of communications services.

Northwestel is owned by Bell Canada, and need not be listed separately from other private sector entities.  Regional governments should have an incentive to own their own networks, and private sector providers being under more rigorous regulation should be one of those incentives.

Q12. Does the complaint-based system continue to be the best means of monitoring Q of S for small ILECs?

Most customers of communications services are not aware of who they should complain to.  Then a last-mile provider provides poor service it is the layer 3+ provider that often gets blamed.  The onus should not be on communications customers to understand these different layers, but for the regulator to work closely with layer 3+ providers to adequately regulate layer 1-2.5 providers.

Q13-17:

Further questions are at a level of detail that goes beyond the focus of this intervention, so I will leave unanswered.

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