Feds direct CRTC to bring down cost of internet, cellphone bills

Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) has tabled the final version of a policy direction that requires the CRTC to take steps to bring down the cost of internet and cellphone bills for consumers.

“As long as Canadians pay too steep a price for their cellphone and Internet bills, our government will take extraordinary means to continue driving down the prices of telecommunications services. We are also fostering a climate of investment and innovation for Canada’s telecom service providers to improve the quality of services delivered to Canadians. Today, we are giving clear direction to the CRTC that consumers and innovation must be at the forefront of all future telecom decisions,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

ISED data indicates that domestically, wireless data plans in regions with strong competition are up to 32% cheaper than the national average.

Bains first introduced the new “consumer first” policy directive in February. It followed the release of the commission’s heavily-criticized report on misleading and aggressive sales practices in the telecommunications industry.

Following consultation, the final version of the directive features several small, but significant changes. Effective immediately, the policy must be adopted across all areas of decision-making, not just regulatory hearings. It also includes more specific language around rights related to accessibility, telecommunications access in rural and regional areas, and suggests all forms of competition and investment be encouraged.

CRTC chair Ian Scott issued a statement saying the finalized policy direction will be applied going forward.

“As we continue our work to ensure that Canadians have a choice of innovative and affordable telecommunications services, this policy direction will be applied to current and future telecommunications proceedings, including the review of mobile wireless services and other proceedings where final submissions have not yet been made,” Scott said.

“People before big telecom”: OpenMedia

Laura Tribe, executive director of consumer advocacy group OpenMedia, said the directive clearly sends the message that it’s time for the CRTC “to put people before big telecom.”

“This marks a significant shift for choice and affordability in Canada,” said Tribe in a blog post. “All barriers to innovative new providers like MVNOs, which would challenge the stronghold of Big Telecom and dramatically reduce the costs of cell phone prices in Canada, have effectively been removed. At this point, all eyes turn to the CRTC to see if and how they follow through to make the government’s clear vision for affordable connectivity for all throughout Canada a reality.”

Independent telecom providers like TekSavvy Solutions Inc. also welcomed the new policy direction.

“Today the Government ordered the CRTC to put competition and consumers at the heart of its decision-making,” said Marc Gaudrault, TekSavvy’s CEO. “Now it is up to the CRTC to make decisions so that competition lowers prices and improves service offerings.”


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