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Bring down Canadian cell phone bills by opening competition: advocacy group

Last Updated Feb 20, 2020 at 11:57 am EDT

FILE - A man speaks on a mobile phone outside Rogers Communications Inc.'s annual general meeting of shareholders in Toronto on April 22, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Summary

Opening market to competition will lower cell phone bills, group says


CRTC holding hearings on mobile wireless regulation


Liberals promised to bring cell rates down 25 per cent during the election


The Canadian government should open the telecoms industry to competition to bring down cell phone bills across the country, according to a consumer advocacy group.

Rodrigo Samayoa, a digital campaigner with Open Media, said Canadians pay some of the highest data rates in the world thanks, in part, to the domination of the country’s “Big Three” telecom companies: Rogers, Telus and Bell.

To bring rates down, Samayoa said, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should open those companies’ networks to smaller companies, allowing them to buy wholesale access and resell it to customers.

That’s the message Open Media is bringing to CRTC hearings on mobile wireless services this week in Gatineau, Que.

Samayoa said governments in the U.S. and Europe have opened cell phone networks to competition and consumers have benefited.

“It has been the proven method to bring in more competition and lower prices,” he added.

 

But a Rogers spokesperson challenged Samayoa’s claims in an emailed statement.

“The price of wireless data at Rogers has decreased 50% over the last five years and is continuing to come down,” she said.

Citing a study Rogers commissioned from industry expert Richard Feasey, the spokesperson said there is no need to open the company’s network to smaller companies known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO).

“As we enter a world of 5G, it is critical that we encourage investment in network technology, the backbone of the Canadian economy,” she said. “We need to balance driving affordability with investing long-term so Canadians continue to enjoy world-class networks.”

Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé also countered Open Media’s claims.

“Telus believes that mandated wholesale access offers no consumer benefits, distorts competition, stalls innovation and disproportionately harms rural consumers,” she said. “The notion that MVNOs are a means to increase competition and lower prices has been disproven in a number of jurisdictions around the world.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to Bell for comment and will update this story with any response.

The Big Three have de facto monopolies in some regions of Canada, particularly in rural areas, he said.

“Once you build a network in a region, it becomes a lot harder for another company to enter that region,” he said. “It’s important for the government to step in and ensure that these companies don’t use their monopoly power to take advantage of customers.”

During the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised to bring cell phone bills down by 25 per cent over two years by “using the government’s regulatory powers.”

Editor’s Note: Rogers is the parent company of NEWS 1130.