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Fighting Big Telecom: Good Things Happen When Canadians Speak Out

09/20/2013 12:37 EDT | Updated 11/20/2013 05:12 EST

Good things happen when Canadians speak out! For months, tens of thousands of citizens from right across Canada have stood up to demand the government take action for authentic choice in our broken wireless market.

Last Monday, over 35 of Canada's leading innovators and entrepreneurs joined our growing movement. The group, which includes some of the top names in Canadian business, have called on Industry Minister James Moore to take action to stop the Big Three telecom giants from blocking smaller, independent providers from reaching cell phone users.

In a hard-hitting joint letter, the group explained why Minister Moore needs to take action:

"Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for what is often horrible service. OpenMedia.ca's recent report, Time for an Upgrade, shows that Canadians face systematic mistreatment from cell phone companies. We should be working towards telecom solutions that make Canada more competitive globally and are free of roadblocks for new telecom services."

The media picked up on the story, which secured positive coverage in the National Post and in the Huffington Post which gave the news top billing as their lead business story.

The initiative was also big news on Global BC1 -- British Columbia's 24-hour news channel -- which featured an extensive interview with innovator Phillip Djwa on their main evening news show, Unfiltered with Jill Krop. You can watch the full interview here.

Even more encouraging, our list of innovators who are speaking out just keeps on growing -- we now have over 45 of Canada's top entrepreneurs calling for authentic wireless choice. If you're a business person and you'd like to add your voice to this growing movement, you can do so at https://openmedia.ca/innovator

All this pressure is really starting to have results, as decision-makers sit up and take notice of our growing campaign. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joined the rising call to stop Big Telecom giants from blocking our access to more affordable startup providers -- asking her 35,000 Facebook followers whether they were "sick and tired of sky-high cell phone prices?":

Sick and tired of sky-high cell phone prices? For lower prices we need to open our networks to new Canadian providers. Check out this great effort by @OpenMedia.ca and over 35 leading Canadian innovators at https://OpenMedia.ca/Innovator

In a statement NDP Industry Critic Chris Charlton joined with OpenMedia.ca and Canadians in calling for "concrete steps to improve mandatory roaming and tower sharing provisions so that smaller Canadian players can compete and bring down prices." Her NDP colleague Peggy Nash echoed the call for more access to independent providers by calling for greater "use of set asides for new entrants, stringent rural roll out requirements, and that companies purchasing valuable wireless spectrum would be forced to 'use it or lose it'."

Despite being encouraged to support your access to affordable independent telecom services the Liberals have not put out a statement during this debate. Previously, senior Liberal MP Marc Garneau weighed in saying: "We need competition and to do that we need to make sure more spectrum is available to competitors instead of being hoarded and sitting idle with the incumbents." The Liberals have a new industry critic, Judy Sgro, and we hope she'll reiterate these sentiments soon.

Canadians deserve to know who is on their side and there's a clear crowd-sourced policy roadmap that's been laid out with the help of thousands of people across the country, so every party and MP should know what that means.

Industry Minister James Moore also responded to the letter from entrepreneurs saying: "We appreciate receiving the submissions of groups that share our position of ensuring Canadians have more choice in our wireless industry."

We're glad the that the Minister is reiterating his promise to create more telecom choice but the statement notably failed to address the specifics of the entrepreneurs' request that the government "take measures to enforce cost-­based wholesale access and resale roaming that would allow new innovative providers to enter the market without the need to create redundant Canada­-wide infrastructure."

We look forward to a more substantive response from Minister Moore and appreciate that he has so far refused to buckle after Big Telecom unleashed a massive lobbying campaign to undo existing customer protection rules.

What's really striking here how the Big Three's backfiring ad campaign has alienated so many Canadians from all walks of life and political background. Poking fun at the Big Three's misleading ads has become something of a national sport, with Canadians fighting back in a huge variety of creative ways.

With Canadians, innovators, and decision-makers all now speaking with one voice to demand authentic choice and open networks, surely it's time for Minister Moore to uphold his promise and rein in Big Telecom before they do more damage.

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