CRTC needs to step up or go away

Mike's Musings

At the beginning of March, Canada’s cable companies revealed their new CRTC-imposed “skinny-basic” cable packages, demonstrating to the public, once again, that they don’t care what the people want. They just want their money.

And the CRTC – if they don’t step up and do something about it – will demonstrate that they, too, don’t have any interest in what the people of Canada want.

I knew, deep down, when it was announced last year that cable companies were being forced by their regulatory body to offer a basic cable package, that they would find some way to get their money.

I figured they would make the skinny-basic package so unappealing that nobody would want it, and then charge way more money for people to get the channels they want.

They’d find a way to make it equally – if not more – expensive for me to get my Golf Channel.

But when the offerings were released at the beginning of the month, I checked anyway, just to see.

I wasn’t surprised to find out that even if I only want the very few channels our household actually watches, it would end up costing more than we currently pay if we went to the “skinny” option with the additional channel offerings instead of the massive package that gives us seemingly hundreds of channels we never watch so that I can watch a few sports now and then.

I wasn’t surprised, but I was still disappointed.

Cable companies have huge amounts of data at their disposal, after all, and the resources to make use of that data to tell them when, where, what and how much television people are watching.

So they know what the people want.

And they think they’ll pay to get it.

But the outcry has been swift and loud.

Many, like me, are unsurprised but still disappointed, and the CRTC needs to do something about it. They work for us, after all, not the telecom companies. Or at least, that’s the idea.

But the cable companies have basically taken their marching orders from their regulatory body – who is supposed to work for us, remember – and said, “Okay, but you’re not going to like it.”

The CRTC, when asked by the CBC what they’re going to be doing about people feeling they’re still not getting a fair deal from the telecom providers, said they “will be watching how service providers implement these changes,” and that they “will not hesitate to act” if they see companies disregarding the spirit of the rules.

The “spirit of the rules” is, to me, the important part of this.

The regulations were brought in to give Canadians more control and choice over their spending on television.

Which the telecoms have done.

They have allowed us to choose “pay less and get basically nothing you want, but still something,” or, “pay more and get less than you had before, but nothing you don’t want.”

They have done what their regulator told them to do.

The problem is that the regulator hasn’t done what the public – who they work for – told them to do.

We told them those of us who watch less should pay less.

That’s the “spirit of the rules.”

Hold them to it, CRTC.

If you’re not going to work for us, we’ll find a way to fire you.

You know, like many of us are doing to the cable companies themselves, by cancelling their terrible service.

It’s getting to the point where I’ll be considering buying the full season of a show on DVD for $80 when it comes out rather than giving any more money to the company who gets it to my living room weekly.

And I’ll go golfing myself, I guess, rather than watch people who are actually good at it.