New report from CRTC confirms Canadian telecom sector remains dominated by large conglomerates, keeping prices high and blocking Canadians from new affordable options
Despite promises from government to encourage greater choice and affordability, new report confirms Canadians are still being price-gouged by telecom giants
OpenMedia.ca Campaigns Coordinator Josh Tabish had this to say, “Today’s report confirms what Canadians have been saying for years: we are being over-charged and under-served by Canada’s Big Telecom giants when compared with our global counterparts. Our economy and everyday Canadians will suffer for as long as just three large conglomerates control 90% of our telecom services. It’s time decision-makers take bold action and confront our broken and dysfunctional telecom market by opening the networks so that new, affordable, and innovative services can flourish in Canada.”
Tabish continued: “Today, the government’s own report shows that while Canadians are interested in using more online services and data than ever, it’s coming at huge cost to everyday users. Unfortunately, the telecom giants are exploiting this increased usage as an opportunity to price-gouge Canadians, and they can get away with it because of their dominance of the market. Internet users in other countries experience far more flexible and affordable plans because they have far more choice. This has to stop: Canadians have had enough.”
Key takeaways from the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report 2014 include:
- Between 2012 and 2013, the Big Three mobile providers – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – have maintained 90% control of wireless subscribers across the entire market, allowing just a few giants to keep prices high and hold Canadians hostage with their expensive services.
- Despite promises from Industry Minister James Moore and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, new wireless entrants to the market are still facing barriers to entry from large telecom conglomerates, and as a result they continue to hold 5% market share between 2012 and 2013.
- The price of telephone, television, and Internet services rose up to 3.7% year-on-year, while inflation was at 0.9%. This reinforces a recent StatsCan finding that showed telecom price increases were vastly outpacing the increasing costs of living in Canada.
- On the crucial metric of average revenue per user (ARPU) – which gives a sense of how large Canadians’ bills are at the end of the month – Canada is the highest of the countries surveyed. This falls in line with study after study showing we continue to experience some of the highest prices in the industrialized world.
- Prices for basic wireless service are show to be the highest amongst the eight industrialized nations compared in the report. This disproportionately hurts low-income Canadians who rely on these basic plans to connect with their friend, family, or pursue new economic opportunities.
- Of the countries surveyed, Canada is dead last when it comes to mobile device penetration. The U.S. mobile phone penetration rate is now 25% higher than Canada’s, with Italy, Germany, and Australia nearly twice as high.
- On mobile broadband penetration, Canada is at the back of the pack. Comparing our mobile broadband penetration with our neighbours to the south, the U.S. is shown as having almost double Canada’s mobile broadband penetration, with Australia showing more than double. This confirms data showing thousands of rural and remote Canadians are living without access to high-speed Internet services.
OpenMedia.ca has laid out crowdsourced policy plans for both wired and wireless telecom service that aim to ensure Canada can catch up to its global counterparts. OpenMedia.ca also recently kicked off a campaign calling on decision makers to Unblock Canadians from Big Telecom giants. Thousands have taken part in the campaign at https://UnblockCanada.ca
OpenMedia.ca is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
About OpenMedia’s telecom campaigns
OpenMedia.ca has campaigned for years for action to improve choice and lower prices in Canada’s cell phone market. Early in 2012 OpenMedia.ca launched a campaign decrying the price-gouging poor customer service and lack of choice in the cell phone market at StopTheSqueeze.ca.
OpenMedia.ca then highlighted Canadians’ Cell Phone Horror Stories in a crowdsourced submission to the CRTC, and released a citizen-driven report entitled ‘Time for an Upgrade’ detailing their findings and recommendations. This citizen pressure resulted in a broadly positive new set of customer-friendly rules for wireless companies – national rules that reign in punitive three-year contracts, make it easier to switch to a new affordable provider, and impose caps on data roaming fees.
Recent examples of unfair practices by Canada’s Big Three include:
- Suing the government for passing positive customer protection rules.
- Blocking Canadian wireless provider Ting from being able to offer affordable services in Canada.
- Unleashing a massive misleading PR campaign against greater wireless choice
- Engaging in “unjust discrimination” against independent provider Wind Mobile.
- Bell’s court challenge against new cellphone roaming and tower-sharing rules to improve choice for Canadians.
- CRTC Media Release, July 31: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=872099
- In 2007 the Conservative government made a promise to reserve key spectrum assets for new entrants. Source: Reuters
- The Conservative government’s 2011 platform promised “to increase competition and choice and to lower costs for wireless consumers”. Source: Conservative Party 2011 Platform, page 15
- For an explanation of why your high cell phone bill has nothing to do with Canada's size, check out this article by OpenMedia.ca's Catherine Hart.
- Industry Canada clearly stated that only "new entrants" were eligible for the AWS wireless spectrum set aside in 2008. Industry Canada further stated that “changes made after the application deadline which create an Association with another applicant are not permitted, and any applicant who has formed such an Association will be disqualified from participating in the auction.” Source: Industry Canada
- Canada’s wireless industry is overwhelmingly dominated by Bell, Telus, and Rogers. Source: The Globe and Mail
- Recent independent reports confirm that Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for cell phone service. Source: OECD 2013 Communications Outlook
- Ben Klass: “I am Canadian, a reply to Bell’s Open Letter”
- Background on Spectrum. Source: Public Interest Advocacy Centre