Time for a "Third Way" approach to fix broken cell phone market, says citizen-backed group OpenMedia.ca
August 27, 2013
Today’s emergency meeting comes after months of Canadians fighting back against a highly misleading PR and lobbying campaign being run by Canada’s big three cell phone giants. Just three large conglomerates control over 93% of wireless market revenues - and this lack of choice means Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for cell phone service, as confirmed by multiple independent reports.
More affordable, independent Canadian providers are currently being blocked from reaching cell phone customers by the Big Three. The most glaring example is Toronto-based Ting that provides services to U.S. customers but is blocked from reaching Canadians.
Ensuring independent providers have equal access to Canada’s wireless infrastructure would go a long way to fix the current asymmetries between the Big Three and startups. This idea has worked successfully in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, resulting in their residents paying far less for cell phone service than Canadians.
At the moment the Big Three control 85% of the public infrastructure required to reach Canadians. Much of that infrastructure was provided virtually for free.
OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson said: “We’ve heard from Canadians that they are sick of having money price-gouged out of their pockets then spent on a misleading PR campaign. It’s insulting to say the least. We’re happy to see Industry Minister Moore stand up against the Big Three to prevent them from taking over the rest of our digital infrastructure. It’s now time for Canada to take the next logical step forward by enabling independent Canadian providers to reach all Canadians. This ‘Third Way’ approach of supporting new Canadian startup providers is preferable to the false choice between different telecom giants. From everything I’m hearing, Canadians nearly unanimously agree that we need to support new Canadian-grown cell phone choice.”
Anderson continued: “We cannot allow the Big Three to continue to block innovative Canadian providers from offering affordable mobile service to Canadians. It is ridiculous that affordable, Canadian providers like Toronto-based Ting are only able to offer their services in the U.S. because they are blocked by the Big Three. The best way to lower cell phone prices and support job creation is to enable innovative Canadian providers like Ting equal access to Canadian infrastructure.”
At the moment Canada lacks oversight and cost-based infrastructure rates for indie providers to access the infrastructure (towers/roaming) required to reach Canadians. New ‘virtual’ providers like Ting are prevented from reaching Canadians entirely.
Over 60,000 Canadians are speaking up at DemandChoice.ca for choice, affordability, and open networks, with more signing on every day.
OpenMedia.ca worked with thousands of Canadians to put forward a roadmap to made-in-Canada choice that can be found at http://openmedia.ca/upgradeCanada/recommendations
OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.
About the Demand Choice campaign
The Demand Choice campaign was launched to pressure decision-makers to take action for greater choice and lower prices in Canada’s cell phone market. Early in 2012 OpenMedia.ca launched a campaign decrying the price-gouging poor customer service and lack of choice in the cell phone market at StopTheSqueeze.ca.
OpenMedia.ca then highlighted Canadians’ Cell Phone Horror Stories in a crowdsourced submission to the CRTC, and released a citizen-driven report entitled ‘Time for an Upgrade’ detailing their findings and recommendations.
This citizen pressure resulted in a broadly positive new set of customer-friendly rules for wireless companies – national rules that reign in punitive three-year contracts, make it easier to switch to a new affordable provider, and impose caps on data roaming fees.
The Big Three cell phone providers recently unleashed an expensive PR campaign to mislead cell phone users. Canadians took to the Internet to ridicule and debunk the Big Three’s claims in a wide variety of ways - speaking out on reddit and on Facebook, and even creating parody websites, parody videos on YouTube and parody accounts on Twitter. We’ve also seen citizen-produced op-eds appear in newspapers across the country, taking the Big Three to task for their years of terrible customer service.
Over 60,000 Canadians have now participated in the Demand Choice campaign, with more standing up for wireless choice and affordability every day.
Communications Coordinator, OpenMedia.ca
In 2007 the Conservative government made a promise to reserve key spectrum assets for new entrants. Source: Reuters
The Conservative government’s 2011 platform promised “to increase competition and choice and to lower costs for wireless consumers”. Source: Conservative Party 2011 Platform, page 15
For an explanation of why your high cell phone bill has nothing to do with Canada's size, see this article by OpenMedia.ca's Catherine Hart.
Industry Canada clearly stated that only "new entrants" were eligible for the AWS wireless spectrum set aside in 2008. Industry Canada further stated that “changes made after the application deadline which create an Association with another applicant are not permitted, and any applicant who has formed such an Association will be disqualified from participating in the auction.” Source: Industry Canada
Canada’s wireless industry is overwhelmingly dominated by Bell, Telus, and Rogers. Source: The Globe and Mail
Recent independent reports confirm that Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for cell phone service. Source: OECD 2013 Communications Outlook
Background on Spectrum. Source: Public Interest Advocacy Centre
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.
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