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New rules needed to improve competition in Canada’s telecom industry

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OTTAWA – The final version of a new telecom policy directive first unveiled by the federal government in May of last year is now in force.

The government’s new directive to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) means the agency must put in place new rules to improve competition in the telecom industry even for one of the best internet providers in Quebec, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Monday.

“Under the Telecommunications Act, the CRTC is responsible for implementing the policy direction and is required to take certain steps and approach all of its future decisions in a way that is aligned with it,” Champagne said in a statement.

“I trust that the CRTC will act on this important work, and I look forward to seeing the direction being put into action soon.”

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The directive rescinds a 2006 policy direction that said the CRTC should rely on market forces in making decisions.

Instead, the federal government is now emphasizing consumer rights, affordability, competition and universal access.

The new directive will require the CRTC to take action to have more timely and improved wholesale internet rates available. Too-high wholesale rates discourage competition, but rates set too low discourage the company’s largest telecom providers from making costly wireless infrastructure upgrades.

The government is also directing the CRTC to improve its hybrid mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model and says it is prepared to move to a full MVNO model to support competition if necessary.

MVNOs are wireless providers that buy cellphone network service from the big carriers at a wholesale rate and then sell access to customers at a more affordable rate.

Ottawa is also calling on the CRTC to address what it calls unacceptable sales practices and lay out new measures to improve clarity around service pricing and the ability for customers to cancel or change services. It also wants to see service providers implement mandatory broadband testing so Canadians will understand what they’re paying for.

The directive also calls on the CRTC to improve consumer protection in the event of a service outage. In July of last year, a major Rogers Communications network outage affected more than 12 million mobile and internet customers across Canada.

Some of Canada’s independent telecom companies said last May that the federal government is putting too much faith in the country’s regulator to foster competition and ensure internet and wireless services are more affordable.

But some telecom analysts have said the new policy direction appears to signal a shift in favour of internet resellers and regional wireless operators in the medium term.

In a client note last May, RBC analyst Drew McReynolds said the outcome won’t be “game-changing” for major companies like BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp., but is likely to be “directionally negative over time” for these big players.

Ottawa’s telecom policy directive comes into force just days before the Feb. 17 deadline set by Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. for their proposed $26-billion merger.

The deal still requires Champagne’s approval, though the Minister has said he is not bound by the companies’ timeline. The deal has already received approval from the Competition Tribunal, a decision that was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals last month.

On Monday, non-profit advocacy organization OpenMedia said that without any indication of what Champagne intends to do about the Rogers-Shaw merger, the new federal policy directive’s promise to enhance competition in Canada’s telecom sector lacks teeth.

“Today the government issued long overdue guidance to the CRTC, but Champagne’s promises will have little impact without concrete action to back it up,” said Matt Hatfield, OpenMedia campaigns director, in a release.

“If Champagne greenlights that deal, he’ll be taking back the new competition gains and then some.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2023.

CTV News is a division of Bell Media, which is part of BCE Inc.

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B.C. cyberattack: 1.5 billion ‘unauthorized access attempts’ daily

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Careful attention to government statements and legislation is required to get a handle on the level of risk British Columbians’ information is under, as investigators probe multiple breaches under a continued barrage of attacks.

Government sources have confirmed to CTV News that various government ministries and agencies, along with their associated websites, networks, and servers, face approximately 1.5 billion “unauthorized access” or hacking attempts daily. That represents an increase over the last few years, and explains why the province adds millions of dollars per year to its cybersecurity budget.

Public Safety Minister, Mike Farnworth, sought to reassure the public that “there’s no evidence at this point that any sensitive personal information was accessed” and was adamant that no ransom demands have been made yet. He confirmed police and federal agencies are involved.

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But Wednesday’s late-afternoon statement from the premier’s office acknowledging the provincial IT infrastructure had been compromised, a week after CTV News was first to report public employees began receiving urgent bulletins to immediately change their passwords, includes important clues. 

It notes “sophisticated cybersecurity incidents,” plural and that government has notified the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The OIPC declined our interview request and referred us to provincial legislation requiring public bodies to notify his office when there are privacy breaches that “could reasonably be expected to result in significant harm” to physical well-being, reputation, finances, employment, or property.

While Opposition Leader, Kevin Falcon, blasted the government for withholding notification of the attack for at least a week, and doing so an hour before a highly-anticipated Canucks playoff game, one expert is siding with Farnworth’s insistence that delay was necessary.

University of British Columbia associate professor, Thomas Pasquier, specializes in cybersecurity investigations and agrees with government technology experts and third-party advisors who prioritized securing the networks and finding where the breaches were successful.

“It’s important to understand the source and understand what has been done after the initial compromise and how it propagated,” he said. “It could be multiple things, including a phishing attack or a misconfigured database and an attacker got access.”

The federal Communications Security Establishment, which oversees the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, confirms: “we are working with officials in British Columbia to support their efforts to mitigate the incident” but wouldn’t provide further details. In their email statement they emphasized “cyber threats remain a persistent threat to Canadian organizations, as well as critical infrastructure owners and operators.”

Pasquier urged the government to provide more transparency, but also speculated “the attack may be still ongoing and the investigation is not clear, potentially, about the exact source and the exact extent of the compromise.”

 

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Canfor shuttering sawmill and pulp line production in B.C.

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Canfor Corp. (TSX:CFP) will permanently shutter a sawmill in Bear Lake, B.C., indefinitely curtail one production line at a pulp mill, and suspend a planned investment to revitalize its shuttered sawmill in Houston, B.C.

Canfor blamed “persistent shortage of economically available timber and challenging operating conditions in northern British Columbia” for the closure decisions.

The closure plans include permanently shutting down its Polar sawmill in Bear Lake, north of Prince George. That closure alone will affect 180 employees.

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Canfor Pulp Products Inc. (TSX:CFX) simultaneously announced it will indefinitely curtail one production line at its Northwood facility in Prince George. The curtailment of that production line is expected to affect 220 works.

Canfor also announced that a previously announced plan to invest in the revitalization of its Houston, B.C. mill, which it previously shut down, has been shelved.

Last year, Canfor announced it was shutting down its Houston sawmill, but said planned to redevelop the mill. That announcement came after the company announced it would permanently shut down its pulp mill in Prince George.

But Canfor said Thursday it is shelving the Houston mill redevelopment. The company blamed provincial policies for a shrinking timber supply.

“The ability to reliably access enough economic timber to run our manufacturing facilities is critical for our business,” Canfor president Don Kayne said in a press release.

“Unfortunately, while our province has a sufficient supply of timber available for harvest as confirmed by the Allowable Annual Cut set by BC’s Chief Forester, the actual harvest level has declined dramatically in recent years.

“In 2023 the actual harvest was 42 percent lower than the allowable cut, a level not seen since the 1960s. While this decline is partly the result of natural disturbances – beetle infestations and wildfire particularly – it is also the result of the cumulative impact of policy changes and increased regulatory complexity.

“These choices and changes have hampered our ability to consistently access enough economic fibre to support our manufacturing facilities and forced the closure or curtailment of many forest sector operations, including our Polar sawmill.”

Canfor Pulp CEO Kevin Edgson likewise said a lack of fibre was to blame for the decision to shut down one production line at its Northwood pulp mill in Prince George.

“The persistent shortage of economic fibre, particularly in the Prince George region, has led to the closure or curtailment of a number of sawmills, which in turn has dramatically reduced the volume of chips available to meet the needs of our pulp operations,” he said in a press release.

“Despite exhaustive efforts, including expanding well beyond our traditional operating region, there is simply not enough residual fibre to supply the current production capacity of all our operations.”

Canfor Pulp operates two pulp production lines at its Northwood mill in Prince George and one production line at its nearby Intercon facility. The company said it will continue to operate both lines at Northwood over the next few weeks, then wind down operations to a single production line at the beginning of the third quarter.

 

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TD Bank caught up in drug money-laundering scheme – The Globe and Mail

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For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to The Decibel on your favourite podcast app or platform: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pocket Casts and Youtube.


TD Bank TD-T has been plagued by concerns about its anti-money-laundering capabilities for over a year. In March, 2023, they tried to acquire the U.S.-based bank First Horizon Corp. Regulatory issues delayed the acquisition, and in May, 2023, the deal fell through.

The extent of TD’s anti-money-laundering issues weren’t clear until now, when it’s revealed that TD is involved in a U.S. investigation of a US$653-million money-laundering and drug-trafficking operation. Tim Kiladze, financial reporter and columnist for the Globe, is on the show to talk about TD’s alleged lack of oversight and what this means for the bank – and its customers – going forward.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email us at thedecibel@globeandmail.com

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