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Canada Privacy

Here’s what happened when we met with Minister Bains

Our Executive Director, Laura Tribe, met with Minister of Innovation Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, to deliver your voices and talk about the future of Canada’s Internet. Here’s the rundown:

This week our Executive Director, Laura Tribe, met with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains. It is the first time OpenMedia has had the chance to meet with the Minister, and we wanted to make sure that we brought the voices of our community along with us. 

So, not only did we bring along the signatures of over 63,000 of our community in 6 different petitions calling on Minister Bains to take action — we also asked if there was anything you wanted to say!

So, in advance of the meeting, we asked you to send us your top concerns and priorities you wanted us to raise directly with the Minister. 

The response was overwhelming! Over the course of just a few days we received over 600 emails —  in addition to the dozens comments you sent over  social media!

We sorted through all of your comments, and identified four common themes: Access, Affordability, Choice and Privacy. Many commenters raised similar concerns, demonstrating to the Minister just how widespread these issues are in Canada. These were the most frequently raised issues you shared with us in each category:

We need to improve Internet access in Canada

  • We need to ensure high-speed Internet access in rural areas. As infrastructure in urban areas continues to grow, rural areas are not keeping pace — meaning the digital divide is growing, not shrinking. 
  • We need the government’s investments in telecommunications services to go to alternative providers, and support local communities — not more of the same. Particularly in communities that have been and continue to be underserved by Big Telecom. 
  • Net Neutrality must continue to be protected in all actions the government takes on telecommunications policy, including the current review of the Telecommunications Act. 

We need to address affordability challenges 

  • On wireless, and wireline Internet, concerns are widespread — the prices are too high — particularly for the quality of service we are receiving in exchange. 
  • People in Canada are both tired of, and increasingly unable to pay, the incredibly high prices for cell phones, and home Internet. 
  • As our data needs in Canada are growing, data is not matching pace in availability or affordability. We are tired of paying the highest data prices in the world, for service that does not even meet our needs.
  • There is a disproportionate impact of telecommunications costs on middle class families, seniors, rural communities, and disabled communities that is not being addressed. 

We need increased choices 

  • There needs to be a level playing field for Internet and mobile providers. It’s time to break up the Big Three, and support more providers entering the market. 
  • People in Canada want access to innovative new providers, including Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).
  • Canada has an extreme need for real competition. If we want to consider ourselves innovators, we cannot continue with the most expensive prices in the developed world. Until we address this problem of market concentration, we will continue to fall behind our international counterparts.  
  • Without guidance from the government, it’s unclear that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is able to regulate in the interest of customers and people in Canada, instead of just Big Telecom. 
  • It’s time to consider structural separation – breaking up the ability for telecoms to  manage both the infrastructure, and the services. Until we address how vertically integrated our telecom companies are, we cannot fulsomely increase choice.

On Privacy

  • We need stronger privacy protections for people in Canada by giving teeth to our privacy legislation, with strong enforcement powers and penalties. 

Based on this feedback, we took the following recommendations directly to the Minister:

1. Mandate wholesale access to wireless networks for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) at cost-based rates to encourage new entrants into Canada’s cell phone market

  • Failure to embrace service-based competition in the wireless market has contributed to Canada having the highest data prices in the developed world. It’s time for a change. We need to open up Canada’s mobile networks to new, innovative providers. 

2. Issue a new policy direction for the CRTC that emphasizes Canadians’ choice, affordability, and adoption of basic telecommunications services.

  • We need increased choice in our wireline and wireless markets, and have clearly seen the limitations of the current approach to support this. 

3. Heed the CRTC’s recommendations to establish a National Broadband Strategy that clearly outlines a plan, and timeline, to bring all Canadians online with high-speed Internet connectivity.

  • People need to know that the government is committed to eliminating the country’s digital divide — and has a plan to do so. 

4. Commit to consulting Canadian stakeholders about how to address the problem of market concentration in Canada’s telecommunications sector as part of the upcoming review of the Telecommunications Act.

  • Until the high levels of vertical integration and market concentration in Canada’s mobile market are addressed, it will be very difficult for new entrants to gain a foothold and prices to come down.

5. Give the Privacy Commissioner enforcement powers, as recommended by The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI).

  • Without enforcement powers, and strong penalties, the Privacy Commissioner is ill-equipped to prevent Canadians’ sensitive, personal information.

At the end of the meeting, we asked Minister Bains if he had a message that he wanted to send back to you. Here’s what he said:

Stay engaged! Keep messaging! We are listening, we do hear you, and your voices are so important. Thank you for speaking up, and showing how much you care about these issues.

Well, if there’s one thing we can assure you – it’s that we’re here to ensure that continues to happen. 

This meeting, and the feedback that we were able to provide, would not have been possible without the ongoing support of our amazing community. Your continued support of OpenMedia, and loud voices on these issues, ensure we are able to keep the pressure up. From joining our multiple campaigns to bring affordable wireless and Internet services to everyone in Canada to directly emailing us your concerns for the Minister, it was YOU who ultimately made this possible! 

But this meeting is not the end by any stretch – just an important milestone on our journey to improving the Internet in Canada. Now that Minister Bains has all of your asks, concerns, and priorities (and signatures!), it’s time for us to make sure that he takes the next step and translates these priorities into concrete actions. We’re not done yet!

Thank you again OpenMedia community and stay tuned for what’s next!