Liberals Pledge To Lower Canadians’ Wireless Bills

Canadians’ wireless bills look set to become an election issue this fall.

The federal Liberals are promising to help cut cell phone and internet bills in an upcoming election campaign amid widespread complaints about the cost of wireless communications.

One option being considered is a cap on bills, while another is to oblige major providers to offer wholesale access to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which are smaller outfits without their own infrastructure.

The Liberals, tied in the polls with the official opposition Conservatives ahead of the October 21 vote, want to tackle wireless bills they say are much higher than in other industrialized nations.

Liberal officials knocking on doors as election preparations ramp up say the cost of phone bills and internet is one of the most frequent complaints they hear.

The three main wireless providers – Bell, Rogers and Telus - account for 90% of the Canadian wireless market. Consumer complain that this leads to gouging that hurts consumers. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates the industry, said wireless costs account for almost 9% of the household income of the bottom 20% of Canadians.

In December, Canada’s innovation ministry released an independent report that showed Canadian monthly wireless plans with two gigabytes of data cost an average $75.44. The equivalent price in the United States is $61.26 while in Rome it is $21.11. In Australia, like Canada a vast underpopulated country, the figure is C$24.70.

The major telecommunications providers disagree with the study and the governments assertion that wireless prices are too high, saying costs are roughly comparable with those elsewhere. Earlier in August, the CRTC this month ordered a cut in the rates that third-party internet re-sellers pay the major firms for access.