Final Submission : Media Access Canada (Intervenor 693)

Document Name: 2015-134.223960.2614303.Final Submission (1k17j01!).pdf
Media Access Canada (MAC) – Access 2020 Coalition of
Disabilities Stakeholders
25 May 2016
Ms. **** May-Cuconato
Secretary-General
CRTC
*** ***
Submitted Electronically

Re: Review of basic telecommunications services. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-134 - MAC/Access 2020 Coalition - Final Submission

**** Ms. May-Cuconato,

Media Access Canada (MAC) on behalf of the Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders is pleased to submit the attached intervention in response to the proceeding noted above.

Sincerely yours,
**** Tibbs
Acting CEO
Basic Service:
Setting the Bar for Canadians with
Disabilities
**** Hearing Intervention/Comments of

Media Access Canada – Access 2020 Coalition of Disabilities Stakeholders Regarding

Review of basic telecommunications services. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-134

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Media Access Canada/Access 2020 Coalition
Intervention/Comments
Outline
I. Executive Summary
II. Comments

A. Communications and coordination gaps: Disabilities Rights Office (DRO) B. Quality of Service: Basic Service Package with Minimum Service Quality Guarantees

C. Affordability of Services for Canadians with Severe or Very Severely Disabilities with Low-Incomes: National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF)

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I. Executive Summary

1. Media Access Canada (MAC)/Access 2020 Coalition is mandated to provide a united voice for a wide range of national organizations representing Canadians with disabilities. The objective of MAC/Access 2020 stakeholders is ensuring broadcasting and telecommunications are completely accessible by 2020 to all Canadians with disabilities, including those who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, hard of hearing or have cognitive of mobility disabilities.

2. Access to reliable and affordable broadband Internet represents a critical input for Canadians with disabilities to engage in social and economic activities. For many of our stakeholders, Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) that require reliable and affordable access to both fixed and mobile broadband connectivity are not just an augmentation of communication, but often serve as the basic tools for communication itself. We therefore agree with the vast majority of other parties participating in this proceeding who are urging the Commission to redefine “high-speed”/broadband Internet access as a basic communications service under the Telecommunications Act; and to design effective strategies for ensuring that all Canadians, including those with disabilities, can access a minimum basic level of fixed and mobile broadband service, regardless of their incomes or where they live.

3. Having reviewed the record of the oral hearings, we thank the Commission for inquiring about issues raised by MAC/Access 2020, as well as other representatives of the disabilities community that appeared before you. Under the Commission’s oral interrogatories, various large operators have confirmed what MAC/Access 2020 have highlighted to the Commission in this, as well as a number of previous hearings: Individual service providers have very limited economic incentives to train and equip their staff or design service profiles that meet the need of Canadians with disabilities for basic communications services.

4. We submit that responses by service providers to probative questions by the Commission were wholly inadequate and indeed provide substantive evidentiary support for MAC/Access 2020 Coalition’s three key proposals for addressing accessibility, service quality, and affordability gaps facing Canadians with disabilities trying to procure basic fixed and mobile broadband services.

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5. In this final submission, we further explore these proposals in the context of questions raised by the Commission during the hearings. Specifically:

6. Disabilities Rights Office (DRO): A capable DRO that acts as a single point of contact for Canadians with disabilities and customer interface points of regulated entities represents a cost effective approach to addressing institutional and coordination gaps MAC/Access 2020 and various other individuals and groups representing the disabilities community have detailed on the record of this proceeding. We noted questions and calls by the Commission on a number of incumbent operators to consult with the disabilities community. None of the regulated entities has attempted to contact MAC to follow up on these suggestions pursuant to the proceeding, nor those who we have contacted have responded to calls for constructive engagement by the Commission. MAC/Access 2020 Coalition reiterate our willingness to work with both the private and public sectors to address this pernicious barrier to the ability of Canadians with disabilities to access and use basic communications services they require. However, without leadership by the CRTC in establishing an independent and capable DRO, there is little reason to expect that incentives and practices of regulated entities with respect to Canadians with disabilities will improve in the future. We elaborate on our proposal for the design of a DRO at the CRTC in this final proceeding, estimating that a very low level of financial commitment will be needed to address this important institutional gap facing Canadians with disabilities.

7. In addition to a strong consensus among Access 2020 stakeholders regarding the need for a DRO, standards of basic service and affordability of broadband connectivity represent important concerns for our stakeholders. To address gaps in terms of quality, we have proposed a standards-based approach to reforming the basic service regime in which the Commission defines a “basic service” package that includes minimum guarantees of service quality (5/5 Mbps for fixed and 1.5/1.5 Mbps for mobile to start). This proposal is partly inspired by the Commission’s adoption of the “skinny basic” TV package. MAC/Access 2020 Coalition are pleased that various other consumer advocacy groups with a broader mandate such as OpenMedia have also recommended the Commission mandates operators provide a minimum level of basic broadband service, as defined by technical service quality parameters specified by the Commission in this proceeding. In addition to Canadians with disabilities, evidence suggests 5

those without disabilities, small and medium sized businesses, pubic service providers, and other users that demand reliability and sustained service levels would also benefit from the approach MAC/Access 2020 have outlined in moving from the current world of “best effort” retail contracts by providing consumers with a wider range of service profile, specifically ones that include minimum service quality level guarantees. Evidence on the record of this proceeding clearly indicates that this approach to defining basic broadband services is both technically feasible and economically efficient as it motivates regulated entities to invest in increasing lower boundaries of basic service quality they deliver to Canadians.

8. Although the Commission has recognized the need for broadband access as a basic service, and we hope it adopts the approach we have recommended for addressing concerns about service quality, affordability of fixed and mobile Internet access services also represents an important problem for Canadians with disabilities. Having a severe disability has a strong negative impact on employment and income, which makes it challenging to procure necessities such as food, shelter, transportation and basic communications services. To address this gap and ensure affordability does not become a barrier to access and use of basic communications services of Canadians with severe or very severe disabilities and very low incomes (below $15,000 per year), we have recommended the Commission develops a National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF). Our proposed NDSF targets some of the most vulnerable low income Canadians who cannot afford to access basic communications services they need to utilize the wide range of opportunities provided by reliable connectivity to the Internet, both at home and elsewhere using mobile devices. The fact that any funds collected from the industry that are distributed to this group within our community will go back to regulated entities that dominate Canada’s fixed and mobile retail markets will minimize any potential negative impact of NDSF on other consumers or rates of return of regulated entities.

9. All three proposals noted above are designed to deliver a win-win strategy that benefits both Canadians with disabilities and service providers that choose to invest more in serving the needs of consumers with disabilities. In terms of prioritization, MAC/Access 2020 Coalition stakeholders strongly believe that establishing a DRO at the CRTC represents a low-cost/high-return strategy as a first step to improving communications channels among consumers with 6

disabilities and regulated entities that provide them with fixed and mobile broadband connectivity. Adoption of a basic service package that includes minimum service quality guarantees represents a feasible option for addressing concerns about basic service quality facing Canadians with disabilities, as well as apparently various other stakeholders participating in this proceeding. A targeted demand side subsidy mechanism such as the proposed NDSF might require some further consultations with lower levels of government and organizations that work with Canadians with severe or very severe disabilities, but should be easily feasible to design and execute over the next year or two.

10. Specific measures noted above have been developed by MAC/Access 2020 based on the set of questions outlined in the TNC CRTC 2015-134 Notice of Consultation. Implementing them is therefore within the scope of this proceeding and the authority the Parliament has assigned to the Commission. We support the calls by the Commission for future consultations on a broader national strategy and respectfully request that interests of Canadians with disabilities are included in any future discussion. However, prospects of future consultations to develop a national strategy do not represent a viable substitute for actions that are within the scope of this proceeding or responsibilities the Parliament has specifically assigned to the CRTC as an independent sector specific regulator with respect to scope, service standards, and implementation of basic service obligations. MAC/Access 2020 submit that time for action is today as the costs of waiting for some “advisory council” to come up with a national strategy or another CRTC review of basic services five years from now would be too high for Canadians with disabilities that require accessible, reliable, and affordable basic fixed and mobile broadband services they require for deploying Internet applications and services they need to participate in social and economic activities.

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II. Comments

11. Media Access Canada/Access 2020 Coalition of disabilities stakeholders act as the united voice for a wide range of national organizations representing Canadians with disabilities, including those who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, hard of hearing, or have cognitive or mobility disabilities. MAC/Access 2020’s objective is to achieve full accessibility of broadcasting and communications services by 2020 for all Canadians with disabilities.

12. Questions regarding the design of Canada’ basic service policy framework outlined in TNC CRTC 2015-134 before the Commission are of critical importance to the ability of Canadians with disabilities to access and use fixed and mobile broadband Internet access services. We therefore thank the Commission for the opportunity to participate in this proceeding and considering strategies that we have detailed for addressing gaps in accessibility, quality, and affordability of access to broadband Internet connectivity facing Canadians with disabilities.

13. To ensure that all Canadians, including those with disabilities, low incomes, or living in high cost rural areas, we submit that redefining “high-speed”/broadband Internet access represents a necessary first step in updating Canada’s basic service framework. If the federal regulatory framework does not reflect the reality that fixed and mobile broadband Internet connectivity has in fact become an essential necessarily in the daily lives of Canadians, then it will be very challenging for the CRTC to implement effective and efficient policy strategies we have proposed in order to improve quality and affordability of access to basic services available to Canadians with disabilities.

14. In our previous submissions we have detailed key concerns by our community about quality and affordability of basic services that are available to them, as well the limited incentives of regulated entities in developing efficient accessibility policies and procedures, communicate with, and invest in serving the disabilities community. We have further detailed a set of concrete measures the Commission can implement in order to help counteract gaps in access, reliability, and affordability of broadband connectivity that negatively impact the ability Canadians with 8

disabilities. In this final submission we elaborate on a number of questions raised by the Commission during the oral hearing about our proposals, as well as claims by other parties as they relate to the accessibility of basic services that are available to our stakeholders.

15. We thank the Commission for following up on a number of concerns raised by the disabilities community about policies and practices of regulated entities with them during the oral hearings.

Responses by operators that dominate retail markets for fixed and mobile connectivity to the Commission’s probative interrogatories help explain the volumes of evidence that has been provided by the individuals and organizations representing Canadians with disabilities in this proceeding, as well as long standing calls by MAC/Access 2020 for the Commission to institute and resource a Disabilities Rights Office (DRO) at the CRTC. According to regulated entities questioned by the Commission with respect accessibility issues, their existing customer service processes and procedures, quality and reliability of services they deliver, and pricing models are perfectly adequate for serving the needs of all their customers, including those with disabilities.

This characterization of the current state of affairs is not consistent with the experience of Canadians with disabilities as documented in the record of this proceeding.

16. Importantly, it is very hard to imagine that service providers believe they are already doing an adequate job or that they might be convinced to improve their policies and processes on a purely voluntary basis. Solving this basic problem will require substantive leadership by the CRTC and leverage of its legal authority. We acknowledge and thank the Commission for encouraging regulated entities to consult with the disabilities communities in this, as well as numerous prior proceeding in which we have participated. In this case however, MAC/Access 2020 have not been contacted by any of the regulated entities to follow up on the Commission’s request for constructive engagement, nor our outreach efforts have received a response. While we are not surprising by this, it is relevant to point out as it demonstrates the importance of CRTC leadership and commitment to ensuring that private service providers design their business strategies and procedures in a manner that is aligned with the public interest objectives of Canada’s telecommunications policy framework.

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17. MAC/Access 2020 Coalition is pleased that the vast majority of other parties participating in this proceeding agree with our recommendation for the Commission to redefine “high-speed”/broadband Internet access as a basic service under the Telecommunications Act. We submit that this formal recognition of the fact that multipurpose broadband networks have become the most basic platform for communications on top of which end users deploy other Internet applications and services will represent a critical first step to addressing gaps in access, quality/speeds, and affordability of services that have been detailed on the record of this proceeding by the wide range of participating stakeholders. We urge the Commission to build on this consensus by recognizing high-speed/broadband Internet access as a basic service.

18. Given the importance of mobile broadband Internet connectivity to the disabilities community, we ask the Commission not to exclude mobile broadband from the scope of the reformed basic service regime. Lower minimum basic service standards (e.g. speeds, latency) for mobile broadband (i.e. 4G, LTE) than fixed broadband might be utilized to account for potential technological and economic differences between the two modes of Internet connectivity.

Mandating that all fixed and mobile service providers offer unbundled data only plans that include some minimum threshold of service quality and reliability provides the CRTC with the opportunity to improve the quality and affordability of basic services that are available to consumers, including those with disabilities.

19. In the rest of this submission we focus on implementation issues around the three specific proposals that we have developed in order to address gaps in accessibility, quality, and affordability of what we hope the Commission will redefine as basic broadband services. We are encouraged by statement of the Chairman subsequent on 18 **** 2016, acknowledging the need for broadband as a basic service and focusing the proceedings on questions relating to gap identification, best strategies for addressing them, and the role the Commission can play. Having identified the gaps facing Canadians with disabilities and proposing specific mechanisms for addressing them, below we elaborate on low-cost/high-impact strategies for implementing the specific mechanisms that Access 2020 Coalition of disabilities stakeholders are asking the Commission to adopt in this matter.

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A. Communications and coordination gaps: Disabilities Rights Office (DRO) 20. As detailed in the MAC/Access 2020 submissions in this and previous proceedings, regulated entities have proven to have limited incentives to invest in accessible customer service capacities that adequately address the needs of Canadians with disabilities. The record of this proceeding is replete with evidence of this well known phenomenon to the disabilities community, and we suspect to the regulated entities too.

21. From an economic perspective, this problem can be viewed as a form of coordination failure among market participants mandated to maximize shareholder value. For individual operators, the costs of developing accessible customer interfaces, human resource capacity, and product design options evidently appear to be too large to motivate them to do so. This is even the case for some of the large and relatively resourceful operators that dominate Canada’s fixed and mobile broadband markets (i.e. the “big three”). If Canada had a thriving wholesale Internet access market, then in theory it is possible to imagine that specialized service providers could enter to fill this institutional gap between Canadians with disabilities and service providers that are available to them, but in reality this is not the case as more than 90% of retail market revenues accrue to local infrastructure duopolies, and in some rural areas monopolies. **** operators have even fewer resources to devote to accessible customer service and service offerings.

22. Expecting market forces to address gaps in communications and dispute resolution identified in the record of this and previous hearings does not appear to be a feasible economic solution as the fixed costs facing incumbent service providers of delivering accessible services are evidently higher than the private rates of return on required investments from the perspective of regulated entities. From the perspective of MAC/Access 2020 Coalition disabilities stakeholders the costs of hoping that market forces or good will of regulated entities will overcome their clear economic disincentives to invest in serving the needs of our community have been too high and will only continue to grow as broadband Internet access becomes more essential to social and economic participation. Having recognized long ago that market forces by themselves will not be sufficient to overcome economic disincentives of individual operators to invest in sufficiently 11

accessible customer services and services, there is strong agreement in the disability community about the need to establish a Disabilities Rights Office (DRO) at the CRTC.

23. In the recent review of the CCTS structure and mandate (CRTC 2015-239), MAC/Access 2020 provided a sketch of our proposed DRO in terms of its importance for helping resolve disputes and protect vulnerable consumers with disabilities from abusive practices by the regulated entities. In this proceeding, we have detailed how developing a DRO can reduce the overall costs facing regulated entities in delivering basic communications services to Canadians with disabilities for whom the standard customer engagement interfaces and procedures of private sector service providers are inadequate. Given that it could help address these two important gaps to Canadians with disabilities, which make up around 14% of the population, we submit that starting a DRO at the CRTC with an initial budgetary commitment of less than $5 million per year can have a very large payoff in terms of augmenting the consumer services departments of service providers and dispute processing responsibility the CRTC has delegated to the CCTS.

24. In the absence of other options, MAC have been engaged in serving the disabilities community with many of the services that we have been proposing a DRO at the CRTC should take over. As a non-for-profit organization, we only have limited resources for helping individuals with disabilities communicate with, obtain basic services they need, and resolve their disputes with service providers. The magnitude of the institutional gaps our proposed DRO aims to solve is simply too large, and has become larger as fixed and mobile broadband Internet access has become increasingly essential to Canadians with disabilities. Importantly, by reducing the overall costs and promoting accessibility in the private sector, we submit that a centralized and effective DRO can help firms that choose to become more responsive to the needs of the disabilities community to attracts us as consumers and earn a more than reasonable rate of return on services they deliver to consumers with disabilities.

25. In addition to developing expertise and links to relevant offices/personnel at the regulated entities that are often needed to bridge communications gaps between service providers and consumers with disabilities, the objective of a DRO would be to ensure that concerns about equivalence of access and consumer protection relating to Canadians with disabilities are addressed in a timely and effective manner. A special purpose DRO at the CRTC will be able to 12

advice and educate both the Commission and private sector providers about disabilities issues in delivering basic services Canadians with disabilities need to utilize general or special purpose information technologies that meet their individual needs. This would include everything from knowing what products are available to Canadians with distinct needs and access service they require, assisting with paperwork, to explaining how to connect assistive devices and applications to the network. Importantly, the proposed DRO will be well positioned to act as an advocate of the disabilities community within the CRTC and build industry partnerships intended to educate service providers, Canadians with disabilities, and other stakeholders about how to address disabilities issues in supply and use of services that fixed and mobile broadband connectivity enable.

26. As a minimalist high-level estimate of commitments required to establish a DRO, it would require two classes of expert personnel with sufficiently deeps and diverse skills to both communicate with Canadians with distinct types of disabilities and advocate on their behalf with regulated entities, CCTS, CRTC, and potentially other federal agencies engaged in communications and media policy development with an impact on the disabilities community.

Given the two broad types of market failures that we hope a DRO will help mitigate, at a minimum it needs to have two departments with at least 5 expert personnel for policy advocacy and strategic management, 5 for administrative functions, and around 20 individuals with communications expertise with particular groups of Canadians with disabilities (in groups of 3-4). Assuming an average annual resource commitment of $100,000 for the 30 people needed for an effective DRO, this element of its total costs would amount to $3 million per year. Adding office space and other incidental costs can be limited to $1 to $2 million per year, which suggest around $5 million per year would be needed for a DRO. Given that the total annual budget of the CRTC is around $60 million per year, the operating costs of a DRO would be less than 10% of CRTCs total current expenditures (compared to the 14% of Canadian population with a disability).

27. Who pays for these costs is an important question, which we are relatively agnostic about and open to innovation by the Commission. One obvious option would be for the federal government to support the CRTC in developing a DRO by increasing its budget by at least the amount noted 13

above. MAC/Access 2020 will support the CRTC if it chooses to adopt this approach to funding a DRO at the CRTC. Alternatively, if the Commission chooses to implement the National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF) MAC/Access 2020 have proposed to support access to fixed and mobile connectivity for Canadians with severe or very severe disabilities, then part of the operational expenditures from the DRO could be allocated from the NDSF. We find direct industry funding for a DRO, as is the case for the CCTS, problematic as it will inevitably come at a cost in terms of governance and effectiveness of the DRO in advocating for Canadians with disabilities.

28. We strongly urge the CRTC to prioritize developing a DRO in order to demonstrate its commitment to efficient public regulations that support private sector incentives to deliver basic communications services Canadians with disabilities demand. We submit that CRTC leadership is required in this matter as establishing a DRO at other federal agencies or a decentralized approach that makes provinces and lower levels of the government, nor no-for-profit organizations such as MAC, responsible for the problem is not likely to be an effective strategy to counteracting persistent and evident market failures in serving the basic communications needs of Canadians with disabilities.

29. A DRO along the lines MAC/Access 2020 have recommended represents a low cost and high return option for addressing some of the gaps our stakeholders and various other representatives of the disabilities community have detailed before the Commission in this matter.

B. Quality of Service: Basic Service Package with Minimum Service Quality Guarantees 30. Even if the Commission established an effective DRO that helps increase awareness and capacity of service providers in serving the disabilities community, it will not address pernicious service quality and affordability gaps that are of significant concern for the MAC/Access 2020 Coalition stakeholders.

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31. For Canadians with disabilities, gaps in terms of quality of services (actual performance versus advertised “best effort”/“up to xMbps” rates) that exist in both urban and rural parts of the country represent a particular concern. This is because for our stakeholders, particularly those with severe and very severe disabilities, information technologies that reliable fixed and mobile broadband enable are not just an augmentation of communications, but represent essential tools for engaging in communications and socioeconomic interactions with others. Reliability and safety of use of various assistive, monitoring, and otherwise enabling applications also require some level of minimum service level standards. This is why MAC/Access 2020 have recommended the Commission adopts a basic service package that includes minimum service quality guarantees of reliability.

32. We are pleased that this recommendation has found significant support from other parties involved in this proceeding, including consumer advocacy groups with a broader public interest mandate such as OpenMedia and subnational government entities such as the Eastern Ontario ****’s Caucus (EOWC) who are responsible for delivering other public services that require reliable broadband Internet connectivity. The minimum standard based basic service package approach that we have recommended to basic service regulation represents a solution that will benefit consumers with and without disabilities, small and medium size businesses, as well as potentially service providers by encouraging them to care more about the minimum service reliability/speeds they deliver to their customers.

33. Our proposal does not call for restricting market forces or to limit the range of service plans regulated entities can offer to meet the needs of their customers, but only to extend the range of service profiles to include a basic service plan that includes minimum service quality guarantees (5/5 Mbps, up to 10/10 Mbps in 5 years, for fixed broadband; 1.5/1.5 Mbps, up to 2.5/2.5 Mbps in 5 years for mobile broadband). Our proposed approach is designed to promote market forces in the provision of basic services, and is therefore consistent with both Section 7.f of the Telecommunications Act and the relevant guidance under the 2006 Policy Direction.

34. Adoption higher “aspirational” speed targets for the future, as various parties including many service providers have proposed, should not be viewed as a substitute to establishing concrete 15

and verifiable minimum levels of service that regulated entities should be wiling to guarantee their customers who demand such warranties of service.

35. Our proposal for mandating some minimum level of service standards for fixed and mobile broadband is clearly feasible as a wide range of network control technologies already exist, and have been deployed by most network operators in Canada, that allow them to guarantee a minimum level of service to individuals and small and medium size businesses. Unfortunately, as responses by large fixed and mobile network operators from across the country to the second round of interrogatories, none of the regulated entities offers such guarantees in the retail market, only to larger businesses. Operators have argued that they do not guarantee their services because of a lack of consumer demand, a claim which is inconsistent with the experience of the disabilities community and the broader record of this proceeding. For many users, the “best effort” of their broadband access providers is simply not good enough.

36. We therefore submit that the best strategy for addressing this gap that plagues consumers with and without disabilities who need a minimum level of relatability in basic communications services they use would be for the Commission to mandate that all regulated entities must offer at least one basic service package that includes minimum service quality guarantees as specified above.

37. Our proposed approach to this problem will have the added benefit of addressing some of the concerns about discriminatory Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMP) of service providers, which the Commission is planning to review in the near future. Traffic prioritization/shaping practices of fixed and mobile network operators are a particular concern for Canadians with disabilities trying to access Internet services and applications designed for their needs, which are often not operated by large content and application delivery companies who are willing and able to pay broadband service providers for prioritizing traffic between them and their customers. This is just not the case with the specialized Video Relay Service (VRS) that is currently under development, but impacts the wide variety of existing and emerging applications designed for the needs of groups of consumers with distinct classes and combinations of disabilities.

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C. Affordability of Services for Severe or Very Severely Canadians with Low-Incomes:

National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF)

38. While having a disability increases an individual’s demand for basic communications services to engage in social and economic activities (i.e. the willingness to pay), severe disabilities have a strong negative impact on employment prospects and disposable income (i.e. ability to pay). In order to enable Canadians with severe or very severe disabilities with incomes below $15,000 per year to access and use fixed and mobile broadband, as well as related devices they might need depending on their disability, we have recommended the adoption of the National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF).

39. As we have designed it, the NDSF represents a mechanism that targets only one of the most vulnerable segments of the Canadian population using a very restrictive income threshold for means testing. Depending on the range of services that are included for eligibility for demand side subsidies through the NDSF targeting those with severe or very severe disabilities and low incomes, as well as the take-up rate from this group for available funding for procuring fixed and mobile Internet access, our initial estimates suggest that it will cost between $150 and $300 million per year. This amounts to around 0.5% of total annual telecommunications sector revenues, which we think is reasonable given that around 7% of Canadians have severe or very severe disabilities that limit their ability to engage in social and economic activities.

40. Importantly, and as we discussed during the oral hearing, requiring regulated entities to fund the NDSF will not necessarily impose a cost on other consumers or reduce the long term rates of return of service providers. This is because most of the funds operators will be required to contribute to NDSF will go back directly to service providers, particularly those that choose to become more sensitive to the needs of consumers with disabilities and serve our needs better than their counterparts in the market. Consequently, there is no reason to think that entire account costs of our highly targeted NDSF proposal will automatically be passed on to average consumers at all. Indeed, if the so-called “positive externalities” from increased access and use by marginalized communities are large enough, this redistributive mechanism can actually lead to long term gains both to the industry and other consumers by increasing aggregate demand. For this reason, we do not believe it would be appropriate to simply pass on the accounting costs of 17

NDSF as a separate item on subscribers’ bills as some sort of dedicated “fee” on others (as is the case for 911 for example). **** term accounting costs might be easy to estimate, but the longer term balance between economic costs and benefits of the type of targeted demand side promotion policy for the industry and other consumers are actually likely to be positive. As such, NDSF and the DRO can be viewed as a form of investment promotion vehicle intended to counteract market failures in the provision of services to persons with disabilities, much in the same manners as proposals for the Commission to develop a rural cross-subsidy mechanism to address market failures in the supply of fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure in relatively high cost communities.

41. Even if we are wrong about positive externalities associated with NDSF and DRO, and their all their accounting costs were to be passed on to the industry and therefore other consumers (due to low price elasticity of demand for Internet connectivity), then a consumer with an average bill of $100 per month in telecom services would have to contribute somewhere between 50 cents to $1 per month to fully fund NDSF, as well as the DRO if the federal government does not commit to increasing CRTC funding to account for the costs of establishing a DRO at the CRTC. This is a relatively low, and we submit reasonable, level of contribution for ensuring that those with severe or very severe disabilities and very low incomes (below $15,000 per year) can access and use the Internet.

42. The adoption of an NDSF in combination with the industry education and engagement functions that the proposed DRO is designed to spearhead should be viewed as complementary strategies for encouraging service providers to invest in building their operational capacity and business models in a manner more closely aligned to the needs of consumers with disabilities. We hope that CRTC leadership in setting up a DRO and mandating dominant operators to contribute to the NDSF will motivate at least some of the fixed and mobile service providers to start building accessibility considerations more effectively into their business models, service profiles, and consumer engagement processes.

43. **** fixed and mobile broadband connectivity should be eligible for funding from the NDSF, as should subsidies for devices and software that might be needed to ensure this segment of 18

consumers with disabilities have an opportunity to benefit from the wide range of new technologies and applications that Internet connectivity enables.

44. We strongly disagree with parties such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who have characterized industry funded models for addressing quality and affordability concerns of Canadians, such as the NDSF or different approaches to rural subsidies as some form of tax increase on Canadians. Addressing gaps in access, quality, and affordability of essential network infrastructure such as broadband can actually lead to a long term reduction in tax rates by making it cheaper to deliver other public services, including education, healthcare, emergency services, and other everyday functions provinces and municipalities deliver to their residents and businesses. This is precisely one of the reasons various provinces and municipalities are participating in this process and have asking the CRTC to implement policies that ensure all Canadians have access to broadband Internet connectivity, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic background.

45. It is relevant to note that if the CRTC chooses to accept our recommendation for a Disabilities Rights Office (DRO), but the federal government is not willing to commit to the estimated $5 million per year in operational costs of a DRO by expanding the budget for the CRTC, then a DRO may be funded through industry contribution to the NDSF, that is if the Commission also chooses to adopt our recommendations for both the NDSF and the DRO.

46. We therefore submit that the NDSF represents a modest, reasonable, and efficient proposal for ensuring that affordability does not become a barrier to access and use of basic communications services to persons with severe or very severe disabilities with little or no incomes. Affordability of access to basic services is clearly stipulated as a policy objective under Section 7.b of the Telecommunications Act. Parliament has also provided the Commission with the authority to collect funds from regulated entities in order to address gaps in the provision of basic services, both in terms of rural infrastructure subsidies and with respect to the type of targeted demand side affordability subsidy mechanism MAC/Access 2020 Coalition are urging the Commission to develop pursuant to this proceeding.

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47. The CRTC is the only party with the legal authority to mandate regulated entities cooperate with the disabilities community by establishing a DRO, defining basic service standards, and collecting contributions for NDSF. Consequently, MAC/Access 2020 Coalition submit that leadership by the Commission will be critical for reducing barriers to access and use of communications technologies that require fixed or mobile broadband Internet connectivity. In allocation of the subsidies however, it would be more efficient for the Commission to work with provinces and other public agencies that already work closely with Canadians with disabilities to distribute the funds to those who need them most (using a voucher that is redeemable from any fixed and mobile service provider for cash value from the funds CRTC collects for the NDSF). If the Commission chooses to build on our recommendations and to collect funds from regulated entities for the NDSF, then it be will essential for the CRTC (hopefully DRO staff within the CRTC, if the Commission also institutes a DRO) to work with relevant provincial ministries and other agencies responsible of accessibility and service delivery agencies.

48. As we noted during the oral hearing, we do not believe that concerns by Commissioner **** with respect to potential claw back of NDSF basic communications subsidies by the provinces are warranted. However, to alleviate any potential concerns, if it chooses to take the lead and adopt the NDSF, then the CRTC can ask the provincial governments to commit not to engage in such a practice, as well as start a dialogue about how it might be best to deliver the scarce funds the Commission mandates large service providers to contribute to the NDSF to those who need them most. We are confident that most provinces will be happy to make such a commitment not to claw back basic incomes, and many might be happy to contribute their own resources and work with the CRTC (or the DRO within the CRTC if it is developed) to improve accessibility and affordability of services that are available in their jurisdictions for persons with disabilities.

As documented in various submission by provincial and municipal governments, improving broadband connectivity represents a key priority for many of them because it can help reduce the costs of delivering other public services. Consequently, we submit there is significant room for building constructive cooperative arrangements across different levels of government once the CRTC decides to take the lead and implement the DRO and NDSF mechanisms that we have demonstrated are needed to help achieve basic service objectives the Parliament has authorized the CRTC to pursue in the public interest. As we have argued in our previous proceeding, 20

MAC/Access 2020 Coalition believe that policies that are in the interest of Canadians with disabilities are also in the broader public interest of all Canadians.

49. On behalf of organizations represented in the Access 2020 Coalition we urge the Commission to consider the gaps we have identified in our submissions and concrete solutions we have detailed for addressing them. With the exception of the design of mechanisms for distributing demand side subsidies from the NDSF to those with severe or very severe disabilities and low income, which needs multilevel public sector coordination, the Commission is the only competent authority to establish and house an effective DRO, mandated minimum service standards and a basic service package, and require telecommunications companies to contribute funds to address gaps MAC/Access 2020 and other representatives of the disabilities community have documented on the record of this proceeding.

***End of Document***
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Final Submission : Media Access Canada (Intervenor 693)

Document Name: 2015-134.223960.2614304.Final Submission (1k17k01!).html

Raisons pour comparaitre / Reasons for appearanceWhile it is not anticipated that further hearings will be held in respect of this consultation, MAC would seek leave to appear if such a hearing were to transpire, given our involvement in the earlier proceedings.