Wireless Playing Field Finally Leveled in Canada

wirelessIn this era of cloud-everything, Michael Geist reports on a hugely important story for Canadians—the CRTC, the regulatory body that deals with telecommunications issues, has released a new ‘Consumer Wireless Code’ that addresses a number of consumer complaints about cell phones. Significantly, it effectively eliminates onerous three-year contracts by phasing out the cancellation fee for customers whose contract has lasted a minimum of two years.

The new rules also put limits on fees for cell phone roaming and data overages, and require carriers to permit unlocking of any paid-for phone.

From the article:

“The issue of contract length was the top issue raised by consumers, who argued that Canadian wireless contracts were longer than most other countries and that they represented a significant barrier to effective competition.”

I am grateful to Mr. Geist for his tireless advocacy in this area, and I am curious to see where the CRTC will turn its sights next. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings went famously on-record to compare Canadian Internet infrastructures to a ‘third-world country.’ Perhaps the CRTC might look into the costly internet plans and onerous data charges next?

2 Comments on Wireless Playing Field Finally Leveled in Canada

  1. Yes, three year contracts (and three year interest free loans to buy a cell phone) have been outlawed. The current contracts by all three providers allow you to pay $100 for a $700 phone and “pay off” the $600 in 36 months simply by remaining a subscriber. You can leave anytime and pay off the balance — no penalty. The government now says you can’t do that, you have to do the exact same thing in 2 years. Ok. That means the $100 price upfront will become $300 and you have 24 mths pay off the remaining $400. How is this better?

    There are no overages for data roaming, in Canada or internationally, *provided* you sign up for a plan. It’s only à la carte that runs into overages today. It’s possible à la carte plans will simply be removed from the market. Or, if you hit the limit while travelling your phone will simply shut off. How is this better?

    Every carrier already unlocks your phone exactly as set out under the guidelines. How is this better?

    Finally, calling Canada’s Internet infrastructure “third world” is churlish and simply wrong. Try getting 50 mbps service in Mexico; yet in Canada you can buy this in virtually every city and often from multiple providers. As a further irony, Netflix itself produces statistics on “average thruput” of major ISPs in the US and says 2 mbps is average for almost every name provider; Canadian experience ISPs no longer even sell anything that slow. Go figure.

  2. Yes, three year contracts (and three year interest free loans to buy a cell phone) have been outlawed. The current contracts by all three providers allow you to pay $100 for a $700 phone and “pay off” the $600 in 36 months simply by remaining a subscriber. You can leave anytime and pay off the balance — no penalty. The government now says you can’t do that, you have to do the exact same thing in 2 years. Ok. That means the $100 price upfront will become $300 and you have 24 mths pay off the remaining $400. How is this better?

    There are no overages for data roaming, in Canada or internationally, *provided* you sign up for a plan. It’s only à la carte that runs into overages today. It’s possible à la carte plans will simply be removed from the market. Or, if you hit the limit while travelling your phone will simply shut off. How is this better?

    Every carrier already unlocks your phone exactly as set out under the guidelines. How is this better?

    Finally, calling Canada’s Internet infrastructure “third world” is churlish and simply wrong. Try getting 50 mbps service in Mexico; yet in Canada you can buy this in virtually every city and often from multiple providers. As a further irony, Netflix itself produces statistics on “average thruput” of major ISPs in the US and says 2 mbps is average for almost every name provider; Canadian ISPs no longer even sell anything that slow. Go figure.

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