Canada Access Free & Open Internet

Hostage-taking by Big Telecom can’t be allowed to crush affordable wireless

Telus’s threat to drop investment if forced to open networks is a last gasp effort to stave off much-needed market competition

February 20, 2020— During today’s CRTC Wireless Hearing, Telus CEO Darren Entwistle claimed Telus would withhold $1 billion of network investment over the next five years and fire 5,000 of its employees if Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are given wholesale access to Telus networks.

MVNOs are a key solution the CRTC is considering this week as a possible redress to increasing competition in Canada’s oligopolistic telecom market. Canadians pay some of the highest bills in the world for their wireless service, with some of the lowest data caps and consumer data use of any OECD country.

“This is a brutal bullying tactic, and further evidence of how Big Telecom holds way too much power in our wireless market – and they know it,” said Laura Tribe, OpenMedia’s executive director. “But enough is enough. We won’t be bullied any longer. These blatant threats and scare tactics have gone on for decades, and it’s time for this to stop. Every time incumbents have been faced with the threat of new competition, they’ve made the same threats to withhold investment – and yet investment has always continued.”

“What we saw today at the CRTC was fear. Fear of competition, and fear of Big Telecom losing its stronghold,” Tribe continued. “But customers aren’t a poker chip for Telus to bargain with to keep their profits – and neither are their employees. Connectivity is an essential service. And we need to make sure that every single person in Canada has access to affordable cell phone service, from a choice of providers. Facilities-based competition hasn’t worked, and MVNOs are the solution. Big Telecom may not like it, but the time for change is finally here.”

Stable investment in infrastructure has continued for decades in wired internet connections in Canada, despite a similar wholesale model. Many European countries that have adopted MVNOs for wireless have also seen solid investment and meaningful price drops for consumers.

OpenMedia will be testifying to the CRTC next Friday, February 28, representing tens of thousands of people in Canada who are extremely concerned by the state of wireless services in Canada, and calling for change.

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