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CRTC’s wireless affordability decision will further Canada’s digital divide

Today’s decision on low-cost data-only plans treats those who need affordable plans as second-class citizens.

December 17, 2018 — Today the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its decision on low-cost data-only wireless plans. The proceeding was intended to address the lack of affordability in Canada’s wireless services, but instead leaves the market largely as-is. The CRTC has accepted a small range of disproportionately expensive proposals as put forward by the incumbents, many of which are already in operation. These plans, which range from $15 to $30 per month, for 250MB to 1GB of data, are so out of balance from other plans in the market, they completely fail to meet the data needs of low-income people in Canada, and will only further perpetuate Canada’s digital divide.

“Today’s decision makes one thing clear: The CRTC is failing to meet its objective of ensuring affordable connectivity for Canadians. This entire year-and-a-half long process was always a band-aid solution, but in the end the CRTC failed to even provide that,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “How long do Canadians have to wait for someone to intervene? We’re tired of hearing that we know there’s a problem – we all know that. What we need is someone with the courage to actually stand up to Big Telecom, step in, and do something about it.”

Tribe continued, “Connectivity is not a luxury – it’s essential. And affordable plans are critical to ensuring that everyone in Canada is able to to participate in our digital society. But with the CRTC is unwilling to take action to address Canada’s wireless affordability issues, it’s now up to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains. In his three years as Minister, affordability has been a key issue for Bains – but asking the CRTC to provide the solution is clearly not working. It’s time for him to take the next step: open the market to innovative new providers, and bring choice and affordability to our cell phone market.”

Today’s decision is the conclusion of a lengthy process launched by Innovation Minister Bains in 2017, as he asked the CRTC to reconsider their decision on Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) – low-cost alternative wireless providers – and address the lack of affordability in Canada’s wireless market. Instead, the CRTC rejected the call from Minister Bains, and launched this proceeding, proposing low-cost data-only plans from the incumbents as a solution. But this process has been criticized from the start, and today’s decision shows why – true affordability solutions have now been delayed for a year and a half, only to end with a decision that acknowledges that affordability remains an issue.

Accepting these plans proposed by Big Telecom, despite widespread opposition from public interest groups, shows the CRTC is completely detached from the lived experiences of people in Canada. These plans treat those who need affordable, low-cost plans as second-class citizens, while disregarding a range of ongoing problems in the broader wireless market.

Over 8,000 people across Canada submitted their personal stories to the CRTC telling the regulator how much you pay for data each month, if they were forced to pay high data overage fees, and what they thought a fair price for data is via act.openmedia.org/AffordableDataNow.

People can demand more affordable wireless services at: lowermycellbill.ca

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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