Cabinet decision denies Canadians affordable connectivity
Upholding the CRTC’s 2021 MVNO decision commits Canada to high cell phone prices
APRIL 14, 2022 — Today Cabinet refused to revisit the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) April 2021 MVNO decision, which denied MVNO access in most circumstances to Canada’s telecommunications market. The decision comes in response to an appeal to the Governor in Council from dotmobile, a startup MVNO looking to operate in Canada. Cabinet’s decision is the latest in a series of anti-consumer telecom choices from the government and the CRTC that have effectively kneecapped competition in our cell phone and home Internet markets, contributing to Canada paying some of the highest wireless prices in the world.
“Today the government re-committed to a broken system they know does not work,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “Infrastructure-based telecom competition has failed to lower our world-leading wireless prices for many years. And yet, Minister Champagne and Cabinet are once again backing that failing model as their only solution to the problem. Meanwhile, MVNO service is a globally-proven model for reducing wireless prices – and yet today’s decision continues to lock Canadians out of that service in almost all circumstances. We deserve a far better policy response from our government that actually addresses our telecom market’s obvious competition and affordability problems.”
Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs, are low-cost carriers that purchase access to existing telecom infrastructure and offer customers a cheaper alternative for their cell phone plans. The CRTC’s 2021 decision technically enabled MVNO service, but only for providers who have purchased expensive spectrum and will launch physical infrastructure within a few years, locking most would-be competitors out of the market.
A series of CRTC and government actions over the past year have contributed to putting competition in Canada’s telecom sector on the wrong path. In May 2021, the CRTC sided with Big Telecom in overturning their own rates for Canada’s wired Internet wholesale access regime. As a result, home Internet prices went up for many people in Canada, and smaller independent Internet providers have struggled to continue providing service. In December, in a sign that Trudeau is distancing from his 2019 promises to reduce the cost of connectivity in Canada, the mandate letters given to Ministers Champagne and Hutchings failed to mention lowering cell phone or Internet prices in Canada. A key pending decision is whether the government will approve Rogers’ bid to buy out Shaw, removing the most successful wired and wireless competitor to Bell, Telus and Rogers from the market.
A 2020 report from Finland-based telecom research firm Rewheel found that Telus, Bell, and Rogers ranked the top 3 most expensive amongst 168 wireless carriers operating in 48 countries around the world.
Over the past year, OpenMedia and other advocacy groups have delivered over 70,000 signatures and comments to the federal government calling on policymakers to block the Rogers-Shaw deal. Over 10,000 community members have signed an open OpenMedia petition calling on the government to appoint a public interest focused CRTC chair when current chair Ian Scott’s term expires this year.
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.