Recommendations: A Road Map to Fix our Broken Cell Phone Market

As long as three incumbents control almost 94% of the cell phone market136 there will be a lack of choice for Canadian wireless customers, with associated social and economic costs. As this study demonstrates, Canadians experience excessively high telecom costs, restrictive contracts, and disrespectful customer service. Because the alternative options are suppressed through unnecessary switching costs and other hindrances, the incumbents have little incentive to improve their services.

Industry Canada and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) are the main bodies mandated to repair Canada’s broken cell phone market, and quick, bold action will be needed from both to create incentives for choice and affordability.

Industry Canada has a responsibility to promote a level playing-field in the Canadian wireless market, so that independent service providers are able to compete with the incumbents and Canadians are given real choice. In early 2013, Industry Canada was preparing for its upcoming 700 Mhz and 2500 Mhz spectrum auction.137 Industry Canada also faces a decision regarding Rogers Communications’ plan to obtain key public spectrum assets from Shaw Communications that were set aside for new independent mobile options for Canadians. Both spectrum policy and Rogers’ proposed takeover of spectrum assets are opportunities for Industry Canada to make wireless market improvements for Canadians. These recommendations suggest ways to implement these positive steps.

The CRTC is also holding a proceeding to consider the specific rules it will put in place as part of a national Code of Conduct; this is an opportunity to build strong customer protections into a set of minimum standards. This code should build on existing provincial rules, and where differences exist, the rules with the stronger consumer protections should apply.138 The following recommendations for the CRTC should, where possible, be implemented through the Code process and outside of it where necessary.

New policies must be created in dialogue with citizens so that they reflect the lived reality of Canadians and further the growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy as a whole. Citizen stories highlighted four priorities for improvements to the cell phone market: real choice, fair contracts, reliable and respectful service, and transparency (see Appendix A for full methodology of the content analysis). The following recommendations are designed to address these citizen priorities.

Figure Eight

Priorities for Change (Major Categories)

Priorities for Change (Major Categories)

 

Footnotes

136. Winseck, D. (2012, April 7). “Ask the Wrong Questions and . . . : the CRTC’s Review of Wireless Competition” in Mediamorphis. Retrieved from http://dwmw.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/ask-the-wrong-questions-and-the-crt...
137. Industry Canada. (2012, March 14). Policy and Technical Framework: Mobile Broadband Services (MBS) — 700 MHz Band, Broadband Radio Service (BRS) — 2500 MHz Band. Retrieved from http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf10121.html
138. Israel, T. (2012, December 4). Intervention of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and OpenMedia.ca. Retrieved from http://cippic.ca/uploads/2012-557_Comments.pdf, p. 24

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