Canadians will elect a new government September 20. Each of Canada’s major parties has published a platform that describes the priorities it would implement if elected.
To help voters understand how the parties compare on important consumer protection issues, Consumers Council of Canada will publish platform excerpts. The issues selected were identified by the Council’s Public Interest Network (PIN) as the most important current consumer protection matters in recent questionnaires. Comparisons on other policy priorities are available from the CBC and elsewhere.
Topic: Canada’s Telecommunications Networks Pricing and Availability
Canadians commonly believe they pay too much for their wireless telephone and telecommunications services. There are also concerns that too much of the country does not have access to high-speed internet necessary to properly access the online economy, online education and online employment.
On pricing, the platform will require providers “offer a basic plan for wireless and broadband that is comparable with the affordable plans that are available in other countries. To put an end to surprise bills, we’ll require companies to offer unlimited wireless data options at affordable rates, as exist elsewhere in the world, and abolish data caps for broadband internet.”
It will introduce a Telecom Consumers’ Bill of Rights to address unfair wireless and internet sales practices “and put an end to gouging for good”.
The platform will declare high-speed internet an essential service and make sure “that every Canadian has access to reliable high-speed broadband within four years. This will include taking the first steps to create a Crown corporation to ensure the delivery of quality, affordable telecom services to every community.”
It proposes acceleration of delivery of broadband internet from coast-to-coast by 2025. The spectrum auction prices will be sped up with a “use it or lose it” approach to ensure spectrum is developed, particularly in rural areas. It will also require that Huawei equipment not be used “to protect national security”.
For consumer costs, it proposes a “four-part” affordability plan that includes accountability (“put consumers first and hold the big telecom service providers accountable for anti-competitive behaviour and practices that hurt consumers”), competition (to be promoted by allowing foreign companies to serve Canadian customers provided that the same treatment is reciprocated for Canadian companies in that company’s country, access (the aforementioned national high-speed network by 2025) and investment (promoting local and regional businesses to “reduce local and regional dependence on national telecommunications giants.”)
A Liberal government would “require those that have purchased the rights to build broadband actually do so. With this use it or lose it approach, Canada’s large national carriers will be required to accelerate the roll-out of wireless and high-speed internet in rural and Northern Canada by progressively meting broadband access milestones between now and 2025. If these milestones are not met, we will mandate the resale of spectrum rights and reallocate that capacity to smaller, regional providers.”