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CRTC Chair Ian Scott is seen before appearing at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology on July 25, 2022 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Dear Readers,

I have a confession to make about Ian Scott.

The chairperson and chief executive officer of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission took me by surprise on Friday night. Not only did he keep a promise, he killed one of my columns in the process.

Rogers CEO says separating wireless, wireline networks in wake of nationwide outage will cost $250-million

Sure, the federal telecom regulator had given Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-A-T a July 22 deadline to provide a “detailed account” of the root causes of its recent network outage and its plans to prevent future failures. But I figured Mr. Scott and his fellow commissioners would take their sweet time to pore over the details before looping in the rest of us.

So I was about to slam the CRTC for taking too long to disclose the new information.

But the regulator had other plans. It did its job and posted the Rogers report on its website that very night. It was a rare timely release of information from a Canadian regulator that merits commendation, not criticism.

I misjudged Mr. Scott. Please accept this mea culpa instead.

Why did I think the CRTC needed prodding to do the right thing? Sadly, it’s because Canadians have come to expect secrecy, rather than transparency, from our federal institutions.

Far too often, our regulators offer talking points in lieu of answers. That’s why it was easy to assume the CRTC’s recent warning to Rogers was mostly theatrics designed to temper the public’s outrage.

“In light of the immense public interest in understanding what happened, commission staff expects Rogers to disclose information on the public record to the maximum extent possible,” CRTC stated in its recent letter to Rogers.

Although the CRTC also vowed to push back if Rogers was too heavy-handed with its redactions, that pledge also seemed too good to be true.

After all, the Telecommunications Act gives Rogers plenty of wiggle room to keep details off the public record. Moreover, the cable and wireless giant hasn’t been a model of corporate transparency over the past year.

But the CRTC refused to give Rogers cover in this instance – and it seems we have Mr. Scott to thank for that.

Yes, Rogers’ responses to the CRTC’s queries were partly redacted, but the regulator kept its word and divulged enough details to give Canadians a basic understanding of how a coding error caused the company’s network to malfunction earlier this month.

In addition to giving the public a crash course on network engineering, the CRTC has provided important lessons to other telecoms. Companies across the country can now use these details to audit their networks, improve oversight and bolster their own risk management strategies.

After all, the CRTC is already hinting its longer-term plan is to scrutinize their networks, too.

“This is the first step the CRTC is taking to improve network resiliency for all Canadians in response to this significant outage,” Mr. Scott said in a recent statement.

“Events of this magnitude paralyzing portions of our country’s economy and jeopardizing the safety of Canadians are simply unacceptable.”

Correct. I should have taken Mr. Scott at his word.

There is now no doubt the CRTC’s demand for transparency – along with added pressure from Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne – prompted Rogers to divulge additional details about its planned network investments in recent days.

In a letter to Canadians on Sunday, Rogers chief executive officer Tony Staffieri disclosed the company plans to spend $10-billion over the next three years to improve the reliability of its network. He also offered more details on Monday during testimony at a parliamentary committee about the company’s plans to separate its wireless and wireline networks.

Transparency is in short supply in this country, including in the telecom sector. That’s why Mr. Scott should be applauded for holding the line with Rogers.

He’s managed to show – and not just tell – Canadians that he has our backs. And this sometimes cynical columnist has never been happier to be proven wrong.

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