Archived — Notice No. DGRB-005-01

New! — Note: Comments must be received no later than September 28, 2001.

Radiocommunication Act

Notice No. DGRB-005-01 —  Consultation on the Modification of the Policy Regarding the Release of Radio Licensing Information

Introduction

Since the inception of the electronic interchange era, Industry Canada has committed itself to building the appropriate policy and regulatory framework to improve Canada's information infrastructure. In reaching beyond its traditional role as a facilitator and regulator, the Department is moving full-speed ahead on the information highway. With the implementation of an advanced electronic service system, all Canadians will soon have the opportunity to carry out their transactions with various governmental organizations in the most efficient manner possible. The Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications (SITT) Sector is becoming a leader in this field with, among other things, implementation initiatives that use state-of-the-art informatics technology for issuing radio authorizations.

In the Speech from the Throne to open the Second Session of the Thirty-Sixth Parliament of Canada, the Governor General set a goal for the Government of Canada. By the year 2004, our goal is "to be known around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, with Canadians able to access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing." To attain its objective to make Canada a centre of excellence for electronic commerce, the government must review policies and procedures that, although appropriate when originally adopted, may require modification lest they hinder the development of new practices.

As part of this review, Industry Canada is launching a consultation with interested parties on a proposal to amend the current policy regarding the release of radio licensing information that appears on radio licences.

Background and Context

Electronic commerce is the best way to conduct spectrum management processes in an era where telecommunication allows instantaneous communications between business entities. It will drastically increase the speed of service, suppress time and space limits, and improve overall business relationships between spectrum users and Industry Canada. As the working environment evolves, doing business in an electronic medium will become a competitive necessity rather than simply an enhancement to progress.

Over the past few years, Industry Canada has put considerable effort into establishing means by which users of the radio frequency spectrum could interact with the Department electronically. One such initiative makes it possible for applicants to perform on-line studies of the radio environment, allowing spectrum users to consult Spectrum Direct in order to analyse radio station proposals, find solutions to interference problems among themselves and perform other activities related to the sound management of the radio frequency spectrum. The accuracy of the results of such analyses is currently limited, however, due to restricted access to the radio licensing database that may deny to the analyst relevant technical information.

The radio frequency spectrum is a scarce and vital public resource from which licensees derive substantial benefit through its access and use. Licensing information concerning such access should generally be available as a matter of public interest. Because of congestion in the radio frequency spectrum and the difficulty to effectively manage it to provide interference-free communications, the Department encourages users to co-ordinate their planned and actual radio activities with other users. Radio system technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex. Much of the homogeneity traditionally present within any given band is giving way to diverse topologies, modulation schemes, bit rates and performance objectives. Proponents are best positioned to assess the impact of their radio systems on each other, their costs and their business objectives. Such assessments require that the proponents have a complete appreciation of the prevailing radio environment.

Section 5(1)(c) of the Radiocommunication Act allows the Minister to make available to the public any information set out in radio licences. In Canada Gazette Notice SMRR-005-90 (PDF, 118 KB, 1 page) Release of Licensing Information, published on December 22, 1990, the Department announced its intention to "make the information that appears on radio licences publicly available, with the exception of the following:

  • classified information for reasons of national security;
  • information pertaining to federal, provincial, regional and municipal police operations; and
  • information pertaining to foreign governments and embassies.

The Department is well aware of the characteristics that differentiate communications related to the operations of various Canadian police forces from those of other spectrum users. In response to their concerns, the policy provides police force licence holders with some limited "protection" against unwanted interception and other threats to their communications by restricting access to their licensing information. However, since the 1990 policy, development of radiofrequency scanner technology, combined with the proliferation of Internet information, has meant that despite this policy, information about radio licences such as the frequencies appearing thereon as well as their use, is now widely available to the public. It is now acknowledged that the only way to completely guard against the interception of communications is by encrypting radio transmissions. Many manufacturers and service providers already offer this technology to their clients.

Access to Information Act

The Access to Information Act works on the principle that the head of each federal institution is responsible for ensuring that their institution complies with the Act. There is also a provision for a designated Minister to undertake the government-wide co-ordination of the administration of the Act. The President of the Treasury Board fulfills this role.

The Access to Information Act establishes an enforceable right of access to records under the control of government institutions in accordance with the principles that:

  • government information should be available to the public;
  • any necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific; and
  • decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

The Act also states that it is intended to complement, and not replace, existing procedures for access to government information, and is not intended to limit, in any way, access to the type of information that is normally available to the general public.

The Access to Information Act, sections 15(1) and 15(1)(c), stipulates that "The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, any such information relating to the characteristics, capabilities, performance, potential, deployment, functions or role of any defence establishment, of any military force, unit or personnel or of any organization or person responsible for the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities."

In accordance with the Access to Information Act and its underlying principles, and taking into account the significant technological progress made over the past ten years, the Department plans to update its policy on the release of licensing information.

Proposal

Continuing to limit efficient access by all clients to reliable and constantly updated licensing information would create a major constraint for Industry Canada in its goal of making Canada a leader in electronic commerce and in realizing important efficiency and effectiveness goals in spectrum management. In fact, the successful establishment of several initiatives in respect of electronic services depends upon the Department's clients having access to the greatest possible portion of the radio licensing database.

It is proposed that the policy regarding the release of licensing information be amended to allow access by certain specific parties to radio licensing information that is currently not released to the public. Those specific parties would be those organizations who are regularly engaged in licensing related transactions and with whom Industry Canada had entered into an agreement for the efficient conduct of such transactions via electronic exchange. Typically these organizations would be major spectrum users or their agents, umbrella organizations acting on behalf of multiple spectrum users or organizations performing frequency coordination services. Under this proposed policy change, information in the radio licensing database concerning federal, provincial, regional and municipal police operations, and foreign governments and embassies that is not currently released to the public could be made available to certain specific parties.

Additionally, licensing information regarding radio licences awaiting authorization also resides, in a pending state, in Industry Canada's radio licensing database. Some examples of radio licensing information residing in the radio licensing database in a pending state are, new radio licences awaiting confirmation of successful international frequency co-ordination, radio licences awaiting final confirmation of technical operating parameters and radio licences issued to authorize temporary site installation at different geographical locations. Industry Canada recognizes that Canadians should have access to the fullest possible information with respect to not only the public spectrum resource authorized for private exploitation but also with respect to that spectrum resource being sought. Therefore, in addition to the proposed release of radio licensing information to certain specific parties, it is also proposed the public have unrestricted access to radio licensing information residing in the radio licensing data base in a pending state.

These modifications to the policy regarding the release of licensing information will include a "notwithstanding clause" to be used exceptionally by federal, provincial, regional and/or municipal police forces or national security agencies. Hence, on a case-by-case basis and based on Section 15 (1)(c) of the Access to Information Act, the Minister would not disclose, to certain specific parties or the public, radio licensing information where such disclosure could be injurious to the defence of Canada or the prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities. Under this clause such radio licensing information would likewise continue to be excluded from appearing in Spectrum Direct.

Prior to allowing certain clients such access, consultation needs to take place in order that the potentially affected parties, other radio licensees and the public are given an opportunity to make their views known to Industry Canada.

Request for Comments on the Proposed Modifications to the Policy Regarding the Release of Licensing Information

In order to determine the public's view on the proposed modification to the policy on the release of licensing information, Industry Canada seeks comment on its potential impact as well as the criteria that could be established to determine those clients to whom the release of such radio licensing information would be desirable. Notwithstanding the recognition that procedures for information dissemination must be reviewed from time to time to meet changing expectations and to respond to changing technologies and services, in proposing such criteria respondents should be mindful of existing access legislation and government policy.

Respondents are strongly encouraged to provide their comments in electronic format (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF or ASCII TXT) to the following e-mail address: RLIP@ic.gc.ca . Comments may also be submitted in writing to:

Organization:
RLIP, Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch, Industry Canada
Address:
Room 1588D, Jean Edmonds Tower North, 300 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C8

Submissions should cite Canada Gazette Notice reference number DGRB-005-01, and should carry the heading "Comments in Response to the Consultation on the Modification of the Policy Regarding the Release of Licensing Information".

Comments must be submitted no later than 60 days after the date of publication of this Notice.

All responses will be posted on Industry Canada's Web site at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum (English); http://www.ic.gc.ca/spectre (French).

Jan Skora
Director General
Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch

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