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PIAC: Why Canadians Deserve Better Wireless Services

September 5, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

The main ‘interest’ of The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Canada is “Protecting the Public Interest” in all areas of concern – we are centering on the watchful eye of the Telecom category.  Within that category, the PIAC does a lot of work with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – their paths cross often.  Just last week they were fighting to have fees for paper billings eliminated – some progress was made, but the carriers would only commit to doing away with fees for special circumstances…definitely a step in the right direction, but even the PIAC and CRTC agreed it was not enough.  It may simply have to come down to some legislative action being taken to mandate the expulsion of any fees for paper billing.

The PIAC believes that Canadians deserve better wireless services from border-to-border, and what is encouraging is that the Canadian Government is in 100-percent agreement.  For years the Government has encouraged competition and is determined to develop a fourth major carrier – the PIAC and Government believe the key to better services is through competition.  Despite measures taken over the years, such as ‘bending the rules’ at the spectrum auctions to favor smaller carriers, the pricing is still too high for all Canadians to have access to “affordable, innovative, [and] competitive wireless service.”  John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel said, “The CRTC and Industry Canada are doing the right thing in wireless.  It takes time to change the wireless game in Canada.”  Geoffrey White, Counsel to PIAC said:

“When the conversation is about what can be done to improve wireless service for Canadians, too often the incumbent response is that there is no problem to solve, and that Canadians are actually doing well.  The evidence from the regulators, and from Canadians, doesn’t seem to support that.  It is a disservice to Canadians to suggest that more competition cannot be achieved, and that what Canadians receive is as good as it can be.” Studies have shown that an increasing number of Canadians rely heavily on their smartphones as their primary means of communications – whether it be phone calls, texting, email or web browsing.  It also shows that Canadians pay some of the highest prices for wireless service in the world.  While the Canadian wireless providers rank high in revenues among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the Canadian customers rank low in wireless penetration compared to other OECD countries.

More needs to be done to promote competition and eliminating the unjustly high roaming fees that the “Big Three” demanded from new entrants to the wireless world.  The Government, Industry Canada, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau recognize the problems in the wireless industry – “high retail prices, restrictive contractual terms and reluctance to accept restrictions on anti-competitive spectrum acquisitions, disposition and deployment.”  To suggest that Canadians should be happy with their current choices in not a “world class” approach to doing business. As a Canadian, we would love to hear your thoughts on the wireless industry in the area that you live. Please hit us up on our Google+ Page and sound off…as always, we would love to hear from you.