The ‘Coalition for Cheaper Wireless Service’ has argued that mobile wireless prices are too high and that competition is weak in Canada.
The coalition consists of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), National Pensioners Federation (NPF), CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) and ACORN Canada.
At the CRTC’s public hearings on the mobile wireless industry, the coalition put forth a proposal for a mandated low-cost plan.
The proposed plan would include 4GB of monthly LTE-speed data with no overages, along with nationwide texting and calls for a maximum price of $30.
The coalition stated that two different groups would qualify for this program, the first being low-income Canadians who fall below the low-income cut-off after tax. The second group would be seniors on fixed incomes.
“Seniors and low-income Canadians are routinely misled on pricing and regularly oversold services that they cannot afford,” the coalition argued.
The proposed plan is designed to provide a fair wireless plan that allows for affordable access.
The coalition’s framework for the plan would require wireless service providers to notify customers of this type of plan, and then a third party would verify customers’ eligibility. A customer would then bring the eligibility code to a provider.
Further, the plan may be updated yearly with data inflation, according to the coalition. The program would then be reviewed every year to ensure that it’s working while also examining how people are benefiting from it. Lastly, the need for the mandated plan in light of competition would be reviewed every five years.
“We refuse to agree with the companies who state that what is already in the market is adequate to allow Canadians to use mobile wireless to participate in society,” it argued.
The coalition acknowledged that the Big Three’s flanker brands such as Lucky Mobile, Public Mobile and Chatr offer some plans at costs cheaper than its proposed wireless plan. However, the coalition argues that all of those plans fail to offer the 4GB of data, and that the plans are on slow 3G network speeds with speeds being throttled after the data limit.
Further, the coalition noted that it does not want a voluntary cooperative low-cost wireless program, and that it wants its proposed plan to be mandated. It referenced the ‘Connecting Families’ initiative, which is a low-cost high-speed internet program, and said that it was ineffective because it had a voluntary framework.
The coalition also said “that MVNOs can provide a potential route to improved competition and potentially lower prices very quickly. However, we also see slower, stable improvement due to efforts of existing regional facilities-based carriers.”
It believes that the CRTC can do both. The coalition said that the CRTC can support facilities-based regional competition and also allow MVNO entry.
“The major wireless service providers are acting like kings. This arrogance insults the millions of Canadians who pay high wireless bills that allow them to pay high dividends,” the coalition concluded.
“The Commission can change the market to help customers with excessive wireless bills.”