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OpenMedia to Cabinet: MVNOs are the only path to cheaper cell phone prices

OpenMedia and CIPPIC just filed a submission urging Cabinet to order the CRTC to mandate MVNO wholesale access in Canada.

Last week, OpenMedia and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) filed a comprehensive submission to Cabinet regarding the CRTC’s recent decision to tank affordable cell phone prices in Canada. In our filing, we told Cabinet point-blank that ordering the CRTC to mandate MVNO wholesale access in Canada is the only sustainable path to wireless affordability. You can read our final submission by clicking here.

On April 15th, 2021, the CRTC issued a decision that largely rejected introducing new mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) — low-cost alternative providers — to Canada. Instead, the decision doubled down on our current dysfunctional cell phone market. As our submission states, this decision has helped “cement Canada’s place as dead last among its peers in terms of mobile affordability and connectivity”.

To quickly refresh: MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operator. They’re essentially third-party carriers who buy access to wireless networks owned by other companies in order to resell services to you and me without building physical towers themselves. 

And why would we want that? Put simply: MVNOs are key to lowering our cell phone bills! If the CRTC were to fully open up Canada to these alternative providers, they could permanently sell services to people in Canada for less than we’re currently paying with Big Telecom, offering up greater choice of carrier, more affordable plans, as well as putting pressure on providers like Bell and Rogers to lower their own prices to compete.

Unfortunately, the CRTC’s April decision didn’t do that; instead, it slammed the door on almost all MVNOs. For more background and analysis on the decision itself, check out these blogs from yours truly as well as CIPPIC’s Tamir Israel.

With Parliament gearing up to resume with a new mandate, it’s vital that Cabinet understands how the CRTC’s crushing blow to MVNOs impacts everyday people and the future of wireless affordability in Canada. Our submission to Cabinet is just one part of making that happen — and there’s more work to be done still.

We can’t thank you enough for your support as an OpenMedia community member; without your help over the years, we could never have completed this submission. We would also like to especially thank Tamir Israel at CIPPIC for his work on this filing.

You can read our final submission to Cabinet here.

Image credit: "A Person Holding a Smartphone”, by Maksim Goncharenok, licensed under CC0

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