Minister Champagne’s inaction will lead to collapse of telecom competition in Canada
Internet choice and affordability in Canada approaches breaking point.
OCTOBER 2, 2022 — OpenMedia is urgently calling on Innovation, Science, and Industry (ISED) Minister François-Philippe Champagne to take immediate concrete steps to halt the rapid decline of Internet competition, choice, and affordability in Canada.
Competition and pricing in Canada’s telecom market are deteriorating at an accelerating rate. In May 2022 the federal government announced a new telecommunications policy direction for the CRTC, instructing them to reprioritize affordability for ordinary Canadians. But in the past 6 months alone, Bell announced plans to buy independent Internet service provider Distributel, Québecor purchased VMedia, and new federal data was released showing Internet prices are rising for consumers. Rogers’ pending plan to buy out Shaw — Canada’s fourth largest internet provider — is also still under regulatory review.
“We’re seeing the rapid extinction of even the small amount of competition that existed in our telecom market,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “That fact should scare Minister Champagne. He was warned the CRTC’s decisions were making it impossible for small competitors to survive. Now we see those warnings were right. We can’t wait another year for a new CRTC chair to settle in and notice what’s happening. By then, there may not be any independent competitors left.”
“Lowering Canada’s sky-high Internet bills — some of the most expensive in the world — can only be accomplished through adding competitors in the market, and making it possible for the few competitors we already have to stay in business.” continued Hatfield. “But at every turn, Minister Champagne and his predecessors have systematically refused to take any action to get us there. If he doesn’t act now, we’re not going to be stuck with the dismal status quo; we’re accelerating towards a world where only Bell, Telus and Rogers exist, with a real possibility they may merge too. That’s why people in Canada are demanding the Minister finally take a stand and set aggressive affordability and competition targets for the CRTC to implement as soon as they possibly can.”
The CRTC’s 2021 decision to abandon fair wholesale access to networks for small ISPs, and failure to functionally facilitate wholesale access to fibre Internet, has made the business case for small telecom competitors in Canada grim — and led to more expensive home Internet bills across Canada. Despite this year’s new policy direction on affordability, the government set no concrete targets for the CRTC on how to undo the damage their recent decisions have caused, or how to begin catching Canada up to our global peers in terms of price and competition. The rapid closure of several leading independent ISPs in 2022 suggests competitors are not confident that the government’s new policy direction will have any positive impact on the CRTC’s 2023 decision-making.
Since 2020, OpenMedia community members have taken action nearly 120,000 times calling on the government to reverse the CRTC’s wholesale rates decision and support competition, choice and affordability in Canada.