CNOC Disappointed by CRTC Decision That Supports the Status Quo

·3 min read

Canadians will continue to pay among the highest prices for wireless in the world as ruling favours large telecoms and impedes independent service providers

TORONTO, April 15, 2021 /CNW/ - The Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) is disappointed by this afternoon's decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to not mandate the national wireless carriers to provide wholesale access to their networks by independent wireless carriers, and instead limiting to regional carriers who already own spectrum and facilities. CNOC had advocated for a fully open model in which the independents would become mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). The long-awaited decision is the result of a two-year CRTC consultation that began in February of 2019.

"This decision denies Canadians affordability, choice and service innovation," says Matt Stein, CNOC Chair and CEO of Distributel. Stein cites 2021 data from Rewheel/research that shows Canada's 4G and 5G pricing to be among the highest in the world. "Without the flexibility afforded through a full MVNO model, independent carriers are not set up to innovate on services and pricing. We've long advocated for fairness and choice for Canadians to help the country catch up to the global telecom landscape. Unfortunately, this decision sends us in the opposite direction and is simply bad for Canadians."

Decision Runs Counter to Government's Campaign Promises
The outcome goes against the Liberal government's election promise of a 25 percent cut to wireless pricing (which has not yet been achieved), in order to make telecom services more affordable for Canadians and enable a stronger middle class. CNOC has repeatedly called on the government to make good on that promise.

Declining to mandate MVNO access to more than the largest players also goes directly against the government's 2019 policy direction to the CRTC, in which it called for "encouraging all forms of competition and investment." "The government's lack of action on this commitment says they're not putting Canadians' needs first," says Stein. "Canadians are continuously denied the choice and affordability that the rest of the world enjoys. This will surely be a key issue in the upcoming election, and all the parties will need to demonstrate how they're going to address it. Canadians have had enough."

Industry Consolidation Exacerbates the Issue
The timing of this decision is particularly damaging given Rogers' bid to acquire Shaw Communications Inc. If successful, the acquisition will strengthen the existing oligopoly in Canadian telecom. The big telecom companies have repeatedly made it clear that their primary goal is profits, as recently demonstrated when they took COVID-19 CEWS wage subsidy payouts while paying out billions of dollars in dividends to their shareholders. Mandated MVNO status for the independents would have leveled the playing field somewhat, in what is an extremely difficult environment. Instead, this decision rewards the national incumbents' (Bell, Rogers and TELUS) oligopolist behaviour and puts profits before Canadians.

"Canada is revered around the world for many things, but our wireless pricing is definitely not one of them," says Stein. "If the government is not careful, there won't be much of a competitive industry left in this country. We are committed to pushing for change, to bringing fairness, choice, and competition to all Canadians, but this is unquestionably a setback. This effort is taking years, and every delay creates further harm to consumers. This decision is bad for Canadians and bad for the country."

About the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC)
CNOC is the voice of Canadian independent ISPs, representing more than 30 competitive telecommunications providers that operate wireline and/or wireless networks in many regions of Canada. CNOC's mission is to increase the level of competitive choice, add more value and boost innovation in the delivery of communications services to Canadians. For further information, visit www.cnoc.tech.

SOURCE Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC)

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