Bell is pursuing an outdated business model that reduces customer choice, forces subscribers to pay for content they don't want, and banks millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies. It seems that Bell's priority is getting as much money out of Canadians as possible, without any consideration of what citizens actually want.
Matt Buie, a financial planner and father living in Burnaby, B.C., was recently stunned by a $22,000 roaming charge on his cell phone account incurred by his 11-year-old while on vacation. After Buie spoke out in the media and talked to other cell phone users he quickly realized that he was not alone in feeling price-gouged, and is now taking action.
This week, Industry Minister Christian Paradis finally began to respond to the recommendations in our report that would help facilitate new independents entering the telecom market, currently dominated by the Big Three. But instead of listening to the stories we helpfully pulled together for them, Big Telecom lobbyists have responded by essentially plugging their ears and callously refusing to take ownership over these experiences.
The government is on the defensive. Since OpenMedia.ca released our community-powered report on Canada's cell phone market, Canadians have been sending it to their MPs, calling for their support. But the Conservatives are trying to work their positive spin, supporting Big Telecom and saying that everything is just fine. We've decided to address their claims point by point, so that it's clear that bold action is necessary to improve Canada's cell phone market. If the Conservatives are serious about ending price-gouging, and ensuring that Canadians have real choice, fairer contracts, and reliable service, they must do more to facilitate new independent service providers.
A study released today by non-profit organization OpenMedia.ca shows a majority of Canadian respondents report being forced into accepting poor -- often disrespectful -- service. The group identifies the lack of choice in the cell phone market as the cause, pointing out that nearly 94 per cent of the market is controlled by three large players: Bell, Telus, and Rogers.
A CRTC hearing took place last week, where a draft code of conduct to protect cell phone users was broken down, debated, and negotiated. Up for discussion were contract length, automatic renewals, notifications of overages, caps on fees, device unlocking, and much much more. Now if you think a week of telecom hearings would be dull, you'd be dead wrong. There's a lot at stake as Canada falls behind the rest of the industrialized world in many things digital. After years of being lobbied by big telecom and all but shutting citizens out, policymakers are just starting to take note of the problems Canadians are facing.
As the International Telecommunication Union's negotiations move closer, more worrying developments are coming to light. At Openmedia we recently posted about some of the main concerns raised by the secretive negotiations, which threaten to change the Internet as we know it. A recent report highlights concerns that the proposals are particularly harmful to the developing world because accessing Internet content will become more expensive. Some content providers might choose to simply stop servicing regions with customers that have limited buying power. It's the role users play in Internet governance, not governments and big telecom conglomerates, that should be expanded.
We are deeply troubled by the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU) proposals that seek to apply outdated telecommunication policy to the Internet. Any ITU process pertaining to Internet governance should be decentralized, transparent, accountable, and open to participation by Internet users and all stakeholders, with equal footing.
Imagine a world where you could receive a fine, and possibly be dragged before a judge, just for clicking on the wrong link, or where big media companies could demand your private online information. Here in Canada, our government looked at giving this kind of control to big media, yet the public opposition led them to decide against it.