We Never Promised Lower Cable Bills, Only More Choice: CRTC Chief

The CRTC has promised to give Canadian cable customers more choice, not to reduce the cable bill, the regulator’s chairman Jean-Pierre Blais has told the Globe and Mail in an interview.

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The new regulation that requires a “skinny basic” cable package offering for $25 per month from service providers is actually one of the available tools to solve the problem, the chairman said and used a personal anecdote to make the point:

“I myself … looked at my offerings and slimmed it down,” Mr. Blais said, after giving a speech about anti-spam legislation in Toronto on Tuesday. “Was it easy? No. … You have to keep going up the chain into [the] loyalty program. It requires effort.”

“This will take time and I’ll repeat it again: Canadians will have to do some work,” Mr. Blais said. “They will have to be ready to at least threaten to change providers.”

It’s still too early to decide whether the new regulation is a failure, since an important part of the new rules allowing customers to pick and pay for individual channels will not take effect until December 1.

The rules are the results of Let’s Talk TV, a hearing that produced a series of decisions affecting the TV industry. Before the “skinny basic” bundle rule has taken effect, the regulator’s chairman warned cable and satellite execs that they will watch them closely and check whether they comply with the rules.

However, since March 1, customers who have considered the basic bundle have been unsatisfied with what they have got and some have also complained that by opting for the skinny package they lose eligibility for additional bundle discounts.

Blais also cooled down an earlier CBC report which claims the regulator was flooded by 600 complaints, putting the number into perspective: The commission gets 3,000 to 4,000 communications in a quiet month. “There’s 11 million households [with a TV subscription] in this country, so let’s get a little bit of perspective.”

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