CRTC Chair Won’t Recuse Himself from Internet Matters Over Allegations of Bias

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has rejected a request from an industry collective for chairman Ian Scott to recuse himself from decisions on internet competition over allegations of impartiality — reports The Globe and Mail.

A letter sent Tuesday by the CRTC’s senior general counsel, Stephen Millington, says that “the decision of a member of the commission to recuse themselves in respect of a matter is a decision that only the member can make.”

“Whether recusal is appropriate in a given case is a question that each member must decide each time they adjudicate a matter and the present situation is no different.”

The Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC), a group that represents more than 30 independent, smaller ISPs from across the country, earlier this month filed an application calling for CRTC chair, Ian Scott, to remove himself from internet competition proceedings and rulings because he appears biased in favour of large telecoms.

The request was the latest in a series of official challenges to the CRTC’s May 2021 ruling that hiked wholesale internet rates paid by Canada’s smaller ISPs to large telecoms back up to 2016 levels. Smaller telecom players in the country pay larger operators like Bell and Rogers CRTC-regulated rates for access to their networks, reselling that service to their own retail customers.

The 2021 ruling reversed the regulator’s own decision from 2019 to grant smaller ISPs lower wholesale rates. The move has been appealed on many fronts by the CNOC and independent providers. Mr. Scott’s conduct has been a central part of their arguments, with ISPs specifically questioning the CRTC chair’s December 2019 meeting at an Ottawa pub with Mirko Bibic — then-COO, now-CEO of Bell.

Mr. Scott defended the meeting and responded to allegations of bias during a virtual hearing before a parliamentary committee last week.

“I meet with everyone pursuant to the rules,” said Mr. Scott. “We make our decisions based solely on the public record of the proceedings,” he told MP Bernard Généreux during the hearing.

The CNOC and independent ISP TekSavvy have filed separate petitions asking the federal cabinet to overturn the CRTC’s May 2021 ruling. Furthermore, the Federal Court of Appeal has said it will hear a case brought against the ruling by TekSavvy.