Virtual Licence FAQs

January 9, 2002

1. What is the Virtual Radio Licence concept?

The Virtual Radio Licence will replace the Department's existing, paper-based, radio licence renewal process with one that is electronic-based and client friendly. Rather than consulting a paper document that may or may not be current, licensees will have anytime-anywhere access, via the Internet, to their licence information, with the option to print hard copies of their licences if they wish to do so.

2. Why is the Department implementing a Virtual Radio Licence? Why not continue to issue paper licences each year?

Under the current paper-based process, the Department issues approximately 300,000 renewed licences annually. For licensees with only a few licence documents, this may not be a burden but for licensees such as utility companies, police departments and telephone companies, this results in the filing of literally thousands of documents each year.

Moreover, given that most of these licences are identical to those that they replace, except that the expiry date has advanced by one year, there seems little benefit to the client or the Department in continuing with that practice.

3. When will this changeover take place?

Our target date for implementation is April 1, 2002.

4. How do you respond to those who would contend that there appears to be a reduction in service from the Department and should, therefore, see a reduction in fees?

Whether or not a paper licence is issued, the value of that spectrum, or the fee for its use, would not be affected. Radio licence fees are, in part, a recovery of cost associated with the management of the radio spectrum. The balance, i.e., the fee component over and above cost, is a payment designed to recover, for the people of Canada, some of the value of the benefits associated with the licence.

5. What will happen to the owners of aircraft and ships that are engaged in foreign voyages? Foreign administrations will want to see hard copy licences, not an entry in a database.

The Department prints and distributes 6000-6500 licences annually for such ships and aircraft. It will continue to do so to satisfy the requirements of foreign administrations.

6. What about those licensees that may not yet be "Web-enabled"? How will they get replacement copies of their licences?

For most licensees with "mature" radio systems, the information on their radio licences does not change from one year to the next. Thus, their most recent hard copy licence is likely to contain all the information that they need. Replacing that document, on an annual basis, provides little value but imposes costs that can be important.

Statistics show that Internet access is increasing in Canada. While only 26% of Canadians were accessing the "Net" from their homes in 1998 that number has risen to 46% in 2000. Over the same period, the number of Canadians accessing the Internet from their work has risen from 14% to 22%. Predictions indicate that nearly 8 million Canadian households and 6.5 million businesses will have Internet access by 2002.

Licensees, lacking on-site access to the Internet, are likely to have an alternate means of access, either from their own residence, that of a friend or neighbor or through the local library.

7. Will the Department continue to issue new licences? How are licensees to know what terms and conditions apply to their licences if they never receive any?

The Department will continue to issue new licences as well as amended radio licences for those stations that undergo a technical amendment (e.g. a change of frequency, station location or area of operation, etc.). Note that licensees will be notified when amendments are made either to their licences or to associated licence appendices. Should licences become lost or damaged, licensees will be able to access an up-to-date version at anytime from Industry Canada's Spectrum Direct website.

8. Are licensees still required to retain hard copies of their radio licences?

No. With increased access to the Internet and the availability of the Virtual Radio Licence, anyone requiring access to the information that normally appears on the face of the radio licence will be able to obtain that information on-line.

9. As a Canadian taxpayer, how is this transition to a Virtual Radio Licence going to benefit me?

During the 1999/2000 licence renewal season, the current, paper-based, radio licence renewal system cost the taxpayer $273,000 in printing and mailing costs alone.

10. Is the Minister not required by law to issue hard copy licences?

No. Neither the Radiocommunication Act nor the Radiocommunication Regulations specify the form in which a radio licence must be issued.

Section 33 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act permits any Minister of the Crown to "… use electronic means to create, collect, receive, store, transfer, distribute, publish or otherwise deal with documents or information whenever a federal law does not specify the manner of doing so." Section 35(4) of that Act notes that any federal law that allows for the issuance of a paper document now includes the authority to issue the document electronically.