Competition is key to better and more affordable Internet service

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The government of Canada recently took the first step to making Internet and cell phone services more affordable for people across the country. I’m proud to see my sentiments, CPC’s, and opinions of many of my colleagues reflected in the announcement.

The proposed policy directive would “require the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to consider competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation in its telecommunications decisions and demonstrate to Canadians that it has done so.”

“Our government is focused on improving the quality, coverage and, most importantly, the price of telecommunications services for Canadians—no matter where they live,” says The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “We are giving clear direction to the CRTC that Canadian consumers must be at the forefront of all future decisions. We are ensuring that telecommunications policy will be made through a consumer-first lens to ensure Canadians have access to quality services at more affordable prices.”

According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, wireless data services are up to 32% cheaper when there is strong competition in the region. It’s also of my belief that more competition spurs innovation and the improvement of services.

I like using Beanfield as an example. Rogers, Bell, and Beanfield all offer 1 Gbps symmetrical Internet for around $100 a month in certain areas of downtown Toronto. If Beanfield didn’t come into the picture, I think it would have taken Rogers and Bell much longer to get their services to this level. All you have to do is look at a lower-income area in Toronto where Beanfield is not offered, where fibre isn’t even available, to understand the importance of competition.

Last month when the Intelligent Community Forum announced the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2019, I shared a few findings from my informal 2014 study on the Smart21, Top7, and Intelligent Communities of the Year. I found that 75% of these communities (from 2004 to 2014) had municipally-owned broadband infrastructure. The share jumped to 90% when I factored in nationally mandated or funded broadband.

Clearly, all levels of government play an important role in the development of broadband infrastructure, so I’m happy to see the federal government pushing the CRTC to act responsibly and do right by the millions of students, families, and businesses that need reliable and affordable high-speed Internet to compete on a local and global scale.

Actions speak louder than words.  While this announcement, long overdue, are the words we consumers demanded to hear, the proof will be in the actions of the CRTC and the federal government in the weeks and months to come that demonstrate they can walk to the talk. With a federal election only months away Canadians must keep the pressure on the regulator and legislators to step up their game and fulfill these promises. 

Internet is an essential service.  Therefore, every Canadian must have equitable access to the Internet as it is a determinant of one’s equal access to healthcare, education, government and market places.  By equitable, I mean the same price and performance for each Internet connection, regardless of a household’s geographic location or demographic characteristics.

Campbell Patterson