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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake / Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take / Pointing a finger at eternity / I'm sitting in the middle of this ecstasy
— Bruce Cockburn, Wondering Where the Lions Are
February 5, 2011
When The CRTC Failed Canadian Cell Phone Owners

Well, it’s been an interesting week for the CRTC. For starters, he controversy over usage based billing continues to develop without a firm resolution. The CRTC is facing down the Industry Minister over the issue to see who blinks first.

The courts stepped into another decision on Friday which might actually reinforce the CRTC’s decision on UBB and hurt the government. Late last year Canada’s cell phone market saw its first new entrant in some time after a spectrum auction which saw Globalive pick up a significant swath of spectrum. The problem is that Globalive has a substantial amount of foreign investment. The CRTC ruled that Globalive couldn’t operate, but the federal cabinet overruled the decision and Globalive started up.

Globalive’s arrival has been good for consumers. Though they serve only a few markets, they’ve introduced more competition and some innovative pricing ideas. For the first time in almost 10 years, Canada’s cell phone market is more than just a cabal run by Telus, Bell and Rogers—the big three.

This week’s court ruling is bad news for Canadian cell phone consumers. It sets us back several years. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s not the first time the CRTC has let us down. A few years ago they made a decision that handed the big three a monopoly, stifled competition and sent cell phone rate spiralling upwards after years of going down.

The CRTC allowed Rogers to buy Fido, and it never should have happened.

Fido was the little company that could, owned by Microcell and doing quite well for some time they launched City Fido which for $40 a month gave you truly unlimited local calling, making a cell phone a viable replacement for a home phone for the first time in Canada. It was great while it lasted. It was also—and I have this on good authority—_making money in Vancouver_, though the Ontario launch was more costly.

Fido was also the first Canadian company to launch a GSM based network. If Fido hadn’t done this, Rogers likely would have maintained their TDMA network thanks to a lack of competition. CDMA? Don’t even get me started. It’s the biggest mistake the industry’s made.

If the CRTC care about consumers they would have never allowed an existing player to absorb Fido. It stifled competition and allowed one company to solidify its market share without having to attract consumers. It effectively eliminated consumer choice, and the end result has been the situation we’re in now: Canada has amongst the highest cell phone rates in the world and a regulatory body that seems to be doing everything it can to reduce competition and make them higher.

Something needs to give here, or Canada’s truly going to be left behind in the new economy. I’m hoping its not too late already.

Posted by skooter at 9:12 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Bell, Cellular Phones, CRTC, Fido, Rogers, Telecommunications, Telus, Tony Clement

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