Quebecor entry a positive development but more action required to stop cell phone price-gouging after Big Three gobble up most of key spectrum assets
Government must ensure more choice to save Canadians from price-gouging and disrespectful customer service
While Canadians will welcome an extra option for cell phone service, Industry Minister James Moore will need to take robust action to stop the telecom giants’ current practice of blocking Canadians from accessing smaller, independent, affordable wireless services. He will also need to make sure Quebecor uses its new spectrum, and doesn’t just squat on it as telecom giants have done in the past.
By denying smaller independent providers access to the networks, Big Telecom is effectively blocking Canadians from accessing affordable alternatives to their high-cost monthly plans. Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for cell phone service because they cannot access independent providers.
“Quebecor’s potential entry into markets outside Quebec looks like it could provide welcome additional cell phone choice for many Canadians” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “It’s important that Minister Moore make sure Quebecor use their valuable new spectrum to serve Canadians. More choice could be in the cards but the reality is that this auction will not fully address the high wireless prices that are holding our economy and country back. We need rules to ensure all Canadians have a range of affordable, independent options - but right now those independent providers are on life support.”
Anderson continued: “We welcome Minister Moore’s commitment to fix our broken wireless market - now he needs to build on this development to ensure Canadians have the choice and lower prices they deserve. Right now we have a patchwork of choice so more is required. Giant telecom conglomerates are acting as a deadweight holding back job creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs right across Canada. Our whole economy is being stifled by their high costs and terrible service. We need to move beyond this expensive, outdated system where just a small handful of giant conglomerates control the communications choices of almost all Canadians.”
“Canadians are looking to Industry Minister Moore to fully live up to his promises and deliver the change we need. For starters, Minister Moore should stop Big Telecom using their dominant position to block Canadians’ ability to access more affordable providers. The most sensible way forward now is to open the networks by splitting from off from the high-cost Big Telecom providers so that Canadians can finally have open access to affordable wireless services.”
The government raised $5.27 billion in the auction. OpenMedia.ca says this revenue should be reinvested into our digital networks so Canada can catch up to its global counterparts when it comes to tackling our growing digital divide and national digital deficit.
Over 70,000 Canadians are speaking out to call for lower prices and greater telecom choice using OpenMedia.ca’s online tools at https://OpenMedia.ca/gatekeepers and http://DemandChoice.ca
OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.
Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca, StopSpying.ca, and DemandChoice.ca OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law.
About the Demand Choice campaign
The Demand Choice campaign was launched to pressure decision-makers to take action for greater 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.
The Big Three cell phone providers recently unleashed an expensive PR campaign to mislead cell phone users. Canadians took to the Internet to ridicule and debunk the Big Three’s claims in a wide variety of ways - speaking out on reddit and on Facebook, and even creating parody websites, parody videos on YouTube and parody accounts on Twitter. We’ve also seen citizen-produced op-eds appear in newspapers across the country, taking the Big Three to task for their years of terrible customer service.
Over 60,000 Canadians have now participated in the Demand Choice campaign, with more standing up for wireless choice and affordability every day.
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
- Last remaining national independent provider withdraws from spectrum auction. Source: OpenMedia.ca
- 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
- Citizen-driven websites speaking out against Big Telecom’s claims: http://four4canada.ca/ and http://realfairforcanada.ca/