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Government should step in after disappointing CRTC ruling closes door to new affordable wireless alternatives

Today’s CRTC ruling means Big Telecom can continue to block more affordable Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) from setting up in Canada.

Wireless customer advocates are disappointed following a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), that means large telecom conglomerates can continue blocking more affordable Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) from setting up in Canada. MVNOs offer more affordable rates because they purchase network access at wholesale prices from network operators.

The request to gain fair access for MVNOs was initiated by the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, and was supported by OpenMedia in a 21-page filing. Nations that have embraced MVNOs, such as the U.K., have wireless plans available for a fraction of what Canadians pay. For years, Canadians have paid some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for wireless, with the CRTC’s own report stating costs are rising at 3 times the rate of inflation.

Today’s decision is bad news for any Canadian who owns a cellphone. In effect, this amounts to a license for price-gouging, as our telecom giants can continue to block new providers and charge Canadians exorbitant prices. This is especially true now that Canada’s last independent affordable provider, WIND, is being acquired by Shaw. Canadians will soon have no affordable alternatives.

For MVNOs like Sugar Mobile, entering Canada’s market is akin to opening a locked gate, only to be faced with a brick wall. Meanwhile, Canadian MVNOs like Toronto-based Ting can operate in the U.S., but not in Canada. With Canadian companies facing this dysfunction, and customers facing some of the highest prices in the industrialized world, it’s time for Innovation Minister Bains to step in, and let Canadians choose from a full range of independent, affordable options for wireless service.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of news that Sugar Mobile has filed a complaint with the CRTC, regarding actions by Rogers that threaten the future of the company. New entrants are unlikely to enter the market in the absence of fair open access rules permitting MVNOs.

Canadians are speaking up for greater choice and affordability in our telecom market at UnblockCanada.ca