Rogers-Bell-TELUS Collage

AH Primetime: Big Three’s Mobile Price Gouging is Uniting Canadians

May 20, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

There is an underlying of discontent in Canada concerning the Big Telecom’s and the Government’s handling of both the price and performance of their wireless internet network.  According to the Canadian watchdog, OpenMedia.ca, there is nothing that can bring together Canadian consumers like the price gouging of Rogers, TELUS, and Bell.  OpenMedia believes that it is about time that someone actually does something to look into and alleviate this situation.

It has been a little over a month ago that the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Peggy Nash, who is serving as Official Opposition finance critic and she also sits as Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, announced support for a motion to study the wireless price-plan increases.  This motion is to specifically look into how the latest price increases by the Big Three are impacting the everyday lives of most Canadians.  This is certainly a step in the right direction, it is a far cry from allowing Canadians the choices and affordability in wireless plans that they deserve.

The Canadian Industry Minister James Moore and Prime Minister Stephan Harper claim to have a tight grip on the Big Three, but there seems to be no progress and one might wonder if they are hindering, rather than helping the Canadians in the end.  Promises are constantly being made, but with the recent across-the-board increases, one has to wonder if the Government is really doing anything to help. It would not be so obvious, except that the current Government has used affordability and increased choices for wireless plans as a cornerstone of its agenda.  The Government has turned down TELUS’s many offers to buy failing Mobilicity because they do not want the Big Three to grow bigger, but to spawn a fourth wireless company to compete with the established carriers.

OpenMedia highlights four areas that tell them that bold actions are required to get Canadians the wireless service that they deserve.  The first are the recent price hikes across the board.  We have done numerous stories on our site only weeks apart that indicated the blatant $5 per month increase from of the major carriers seemed to be a lot more than simply coincidence.  OpenMedia wants to know “OK, who’s running the show here: Big Telecom, or the Government?”

The second area that OpenMedia brings to our attention is the failure of the Canadian Government to create a $5.27 billion digital endowment.  During the recent sale at the highly coveted 700MHz spectrum auction, there was a surprising large surplus of over $5 billion, money that the Government could earmark to reinvest in their aging wireless networks – but it looks like it will simply go into the Canadian Government treasuries.  That money could be better spent to help get Canada on par with their global counterparts in terms of “cost, speed, and affordability.”

The third item on OpenMedia’s list is that there is no real digital strategy within the Canadian Government – they have gone through three Ministers of Industry, four years of delays, and are using data from studies that are five years old.  The result is a plan that looks like it was designed for the last five years, not into the future.  The ‘usual suspects’ were all accounted for – plans are too expensive and a wireless network that is inadequate to handle the increase in future demand…but where is the Government’s strategy to fix those deficiencies.

The fourth and final reason that OpenMedia claims there is needed some bold action is they believe that the Big Three Telecom companies are picking and choosing what mobile internet services they will allow downloaded to a subscriber’s smartphone.  Rather than allowing neutral internet services, the Big Three are restricting certain ones in favor of their own content.  OpenMedia claims that individuals have filed complaints about this practice directly with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), but nothing has been done to correct that situation.

The Canadians continue to wait and see what will happen – with cross-partisan support into the investigation, you would think that would yield quicker results, but so far nothing has been announced.  Industry Minister Moore promises to change the rules to make it a more level playing field and offer better service at more competitive pricing, but so far there appears to be no legislation in the works.  OpenMedia urges all Canadians to write and complain.