A perfect example of why open-access Internet is essential

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Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail published a story about David Ramsay, the Toronto man who took Bell Canada to small claims court.

We all dream of doing something about the rising prices of telecom services, but very few of us actually attempt to take on such a giant organization.

What happened with Ramsay was that he purchased TV and Internet services with Bell over the phone and the customer service associate gave him a 24-month price guarantee. Shortly after, he received an email from Bell, notifying him of a $5 increase per month. This happened just two months into his contract.

Long story short, one and a half years later, Ramsay beat Bell in small claims court, winning $340 in damages and $770 in costs. Symbolically, this is a big win, but other than that, it just draws attention to how much room big telecom has to flex.

This is an example of what happens in a system where competition is scarce. The sad thing is, Ramsay is probably the only one that took legal action. Everyone else just got frustrated and started paying an extra $5 a month.

The fact is that Canadians pay some of the highest Internet rates in the world, and rates are still increasing.  

In order to promote competition and deliver reliable and affordable high-speed Internet to homes, schools, businesses, and other public facilities, there must be open-access broadband infrastructure, including ubiquitous and equitably accessible fibre-optic, WiFi/WiMAX and LTE
connectivity for everyone.

Open-access broadband infrastructure opens up the playing field to smaller, independent Internet service providers (ISPs). The more ISPs there are, the better the services and the more competitive the rates. Currently, there is an oligopoly with the Big Three calling the
shots, blocking competition in broadband access and transport to nimbler third-party providers, which stifles innovation.

High-speed Internet has become a necessity, making broadband infrastructure an essential utility, as important as water, hydro, and roads. Businesses can’t function well without highly available and scalable connectivity with supportive quality of service (QoS) and coverage from a Service Level Agreement (SLA). In the near future, consumers will require the same level of services as businesses do today in direct proportion with their growing dependency on Internet connectivity to provide access to healthcare, education, governments and marketplaces. 

We commend Ramsay for his persistence, fighting for what he knew was right, but even more so for helping draw attention to the fact that Big Telecom shouldn’t be allowed to push around the families that rely on their services.

We also call on Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS) to fulfill its mandate to protect consumers, which it seldom does today. The CCTS must cease treating each consumer complaint as discreet cases when clearly, as in this instance, there are hundreds of such complaints for the same reason.

Where complaints are numerous and are indicative of systemic attempts to mislead or dupe consumers, CCTS should treat the victims of this behaviour as a class of complaints. CCTS must demonstrate action that shows they take these complaints seriously and institute remedies for the consumers that will have a significant financial and public relations impact on the perpetrators. Telecoms portray these complaints as isolated cases and claim that employees who practise deceit are rogue.

Finally, we call on the CRTC to properly regulate and enforce access and transport services in wireless and wireline services to ensure a competitive, consumer-oriented telecom marketplace.

Lucas DeClavasio