Liberals’ price cut a small step to wireless affordability in Canada
Mandated price cuts are positive, but do not address lack of choice in the market
March 5, 2020 — Today Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains announced the government’s targets and plan for reducing cell phone rates in Canada. The plan, first outlined as a campaign promise last summer, sets concrete targets for Big Telecom to lower some cell phone rates down 25% over the next 2 years, or else face more aggressive regulation.
The plan benchmarks Canada’s current rates at 2Gb ($50), 4Gb ($55), and 6Gb ($60), and will require providers to bring their plans down 25% from here. While a good step, these plans leave many in Canada out, providing no variety from current offerings. And they don’t substantially improve on rates already offered by regional providers, such as the 9Gb for $40 per month offered by Freedom Mobile.
“This is a first step to fulfilling the government’s election promise to Canadians,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “But it is not enough. Many people in OpenMedia’s community have been struggling to keep up with both their wireless bills and other essential services, and without meaningful choice, their needs will continue to be ignored.”
Tribe continued, “Unfortunately, a 25% reduction of low and mid level plans is a band-aid solution to a systemic problem: we lack real choices of providers and plans here in Canada. Without more concrete intervention, including the introduction of Mobile Network Virtual Operators (MVNOs), we won’t see the choice of providers, and plans, that we need. Our prices have been among the highest in the world for too long. Pressure will remain high on the CRTC to mandate MVNO access and more fundamentally address our wireless prices.”
The state of Canada’s wireless market is currently under review by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). As a part of the hearings, which concluded last week in Gatineau, the CRTC heard extensive testimony confirming that Canada lacks sufficient competition and choice, and that affordability is a key issue for people in Canada.
Over 18,000 members of the OpenMedia community across Canada made submissions to the CRTC’s recent wireless proceeding calling for mandated access for MVNOs. A further 10,000 community members participated in a detailed survey of their wireless issues that we shared with the CRTC.
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