Toothless CRTC decision guarantees more unaffordable cell phone prices for Canada
Regulator has yet again failed consumers, as it rejects innovative new cell phone providers and doubles down on a failed strategy
April 15, 2021 – Today the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued a decision that largely rejects introducing new mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) – non-facilities based wireless service providers – to Canada. Instead, the decision doubles down on the failed model of facilities-based competition, hoping that regional carriers will be able to challenge Big Telecom’s market share alone.
Under the terms of the decision, full MVNO access to incumbent networks will not be mandated by the CRTC. Instead, a short list of existing regional wireless telecommunications providers, such as Videotron and Xplornet, will be allowed to purchase access – but only within regions where they’ve already purchased spectrum, and only for seven years. At which point, they will return to only selling services where they have built their own networks.
“Today the CRTC failed Canada, siding yet again with Big Telecom. Canada continues to have the most expensive cell phone prices in the world – yet today’s decision does the absolute bare minimum. It’s nowhere near good enough. It’s clear the CRTC will not tackle Big Telecom’s stronghold until the government forces it to,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe.
Tribe continued, “Within their own report, the CRTC outlined that they know full well that Canada’s wireless is too expensive and not globally competitive; they’re just not interested in doing anything about it. Enough is enough. The Liberals campaigned on cell phone affordability. And yet here we are almost two years later, with things only getting worse. It’s time for Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Champagne to stop talking and make good on their promises. They must mandate full MVNO access at fair rates, and block Rogers’ bid to purchase Shaw. If the CRTC doesn’t believe it has the mandate to make change, it’s time for the government to give it to them. We’ve been waiting for years – we won’t wait any longer.”
A 2020 report from Finland-based telecom research firm Rewheel found that Telus, Bell, and Rogers ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most expensive amongst 168 wireless carriers operating in 48 countries around the world.
Today’s decision comes just weeks after the national Affordable Internet Day of Action brought together dozens of civil society groups, consumer advocates, telecom experts, small ISPs, and more, who are demanding significant change to Canada’s unaffordable Internet services.
Over 68,000 members of the OpenMedia community in Canada have spoken out in favour of adopting MVNOs, including 18,000 community members who intervened in last year’s CRTC’s wireless proceeding in support of MVNOs. Nearly 20,000 OpenMedia community members have signed a petition calling for the federal government to block Rogers’ purchase of Shaw.
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.