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Disappointing CRTC ruling threatens to lock Canadians into a future of high wireless prices

Today’s decision effectively makes it impossible for Sugar Mobile and other new entrants to compete in a market that continues to be dominated by Bell, Rogers, and Telus

March 1, 2017 –The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ruled that Rogers can block customers of Sugar Mobile, a subsidiary of Ice Wireless, from roaming on its network. The ruling effectively paralyzes the startup, prompting calls for the CRTC to conduct a full review of existing rules around smaller companies roaming on incumbents’ networks, and for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to step in to ensure potential new providers can enter the market and compete fairly with Bell, Rogers, and Telus.

OpenMedia — which organized a 45,000-strong campaign and intervened at the CRTC in support of wireless choice — says today’s ruling will harm innovation, reduce choice, and keep low-income Canadians offline. Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for wireless services and a recent CRTC report revealed that one in three of Canada’s lowest income residents do not own a cellphone, compared with just five per cent of the highest income earners.

“This decision is very bad news for long-suffering wireless customers,” said OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist Katy Anderson. “Blocking new providers effectively gives the Big Three a licence to price-gouge consumers who are left with no alternative to their expensive plans. It’s no wonder prices are so high, and getting higher, when the market is almost entirely dominated by just three giant incumbents.”

Anderson continued: “Opening the door to innovative new providers is the only way to lower prices and ensure all Canadians can participate in the social and economic benefits brought by greater wireless choice and affordability. Today’s ruling proves that the barriers to new entrants are far too high. That’s why we need the federal government and CRTC to work together to open the networks and ensure all providers can compete on a level playing field.”

In this morning’s decision, the CRTC ruled that as of 50 days from now Rogers will be allowed to block customers of Sugar Mobile from accessing its wireless networks. Until now, Sugar was able to provide services to customers in the rest of Canada using an innovative hybrid model including wi-fi and roaming access on Rogers’ network, through an agreement between Sugar’s parent company, Ice Wireless — which offers services in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut — and Rogers.

Canada’s last remaining independent wireless provider, Wind Mobile, was bought by telecom giant Shaw last year, and has since been rebranded as Freedom Mobile. Independent providers Public Mobile and Mobilicity have also been bought out by the Big Three in recent years..

Over 46,500 people asked the CRTC to prevent telecom incumbents from blocking affordable new providers at https://act.openmedia.org/blocked

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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