CRTC shreds Liberal promise to reduce Canadians’ cellphone bills

Consumer rights advocates say Canada will likely "lose competitive service options and pay more for Internet" because of the May 27 ruling


When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the G7 Leaders’ Summit in the UK on June 11, he’s not likely to talk about cellphone bills.

The reality, however, is that Canada has the highest mobile-data fees of all G7 countries – by far.

Malawi, Benin, Chad and Yemen are among the few countries where it costs even more than what Canadians pay.

But Canadians still fork over far higher monthly fees to the telecom companies than residents in the vast majority of countries, including the United States.

All of this was made obvious in a chart released last year by the Visual Capitalist, which tells data-driven stories through graphics.

CRTC upholds telecoms’ appeal

Canada’s sky-high cellphone and Internet bills were the subject of a recent Toronto Star article by Christine Dobby.

Carrying the  headline “In the end, Bell always wins”: Why did the CRTC backtrack on its bid to lower wholesale internet rates?, Dobby noted that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) reversed an old rate reduction, reinstating higher prices.

In her article, Dobby mentioned a tweet from former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies, who declared “In the end, Bell always wins.”

According to the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), consumers will likely “lose competitive service options and pay more for Internet” because of the May 27 ruling.

“Both the CRTC and the federal government lost their nerve in dealing with the major Internet providers,” PIAC executive director and general counsel John Lawford said in a news release. “They backed away from a fair wholesale rate that would have increased consumer choice and lowered internet prices for Canadian consumers.”

Meanwhile, the executive director of Open Media, Laura Tribe, bluntly declared over Twitter that “any remaining confidence the  CRTC would side with Canadians is gone.”

The recent ruling also makes a mockery of a Liberal campaign promise in 2019.

Back then, the Liberals acknowledged that Canadians “pay some of the highest prices in the world for cell phone services, while Canadian Telecom companies are among the most profitable in the developed world.”

“To help lower monthly cell phone bills and bring costs in line with what people pay in other countries, we will move forward with cutting the cost of these services by 25 per cent in the next two years by using the government’s regulatory powers, saving an average middle class family of four nearly $1,000 per year,” the party declared.

The prices may have dropped somewhat for a couple of years, but they’re likely to go right back where they stood before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was reelected, in the eyes of the CRTC’s critics.

In the meantime, these are good days for shareholders in the telecom giants.

Since the end of March, shares in Telus Corp. are up more than 11 per cent. Rogers Communications Inc. Class B shares have risen nearly nine percent over the same period. And the share price of B.C.E. Inc., parent of Bell Canada, has increased by more than four per cent.

Malawi, Benin, Chad, and war-torn Yemen are among the very few countries with higher mobile-data charges than Canada.
Visual Capitalist

Malawi, Benin, Chad, and war-torn Yemen are among the very few countries with higher mobile-data charges than Canada.

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.

@charliesmithvcr

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