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Gouge, gouge, gouge

Coming on the heels of the news-that-will-shock-nobody that Canadians pay the highest cell phone bills in the world, someone’s taking notice… and it ain’t the CRTC:

Unlimited wireless data plans are almost unknown in Canada, and that’s a strategy telecom carriers elsewhere are starting to emulate as they look for ways to cope with booming demand and capacity limits.

BCE’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp  – Canada’s “Big Three” telecoms – command profit margins that are the envy of the industry. They have an historical advantage over their peers because Canadians accept that they have to pay for as much capacity as they use.

Or, maybe it’s because the CRTC is more interested in protecting those profit margins that are the “envy of the industry” than in protecting consumers, in our price-fixed, oligopolistic market.

And it’s got consequences. Less affordability translates to lower smartphone penetration, which means companies have less incentive to stay ahead of the curve on wireless development, which means Canada will – as usual – continue to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to innovation. That’s bad news for everyone… unless, of course, you happen to be an executive at Bell, Rogers or Telus.

We’ve lagged behind the rest of the world long enough. We’re supposed to “accept” things that are unheard-of in the rest of the world, like punative three-year contracts with ridiculous cancellation fees, “system access fees” of $8.95 a month, being charged for incoming voice minutes and even text messages, and ridiculously high data plan pricing. Us Canadians don’t “accept” that we have to pay as much for data as we do; we’re forced into it because we have no choice. That is, no choice other than opting out of owning a smartphone entirely, which is the choice I’ve made.

Instead of admiring our market, the world should be mocking it. And instead of protecting the anachronistic, anti-competitive marketplace, the government should scrap the CRTC and throw the doors open to real competition. Until then, consumers and businesses will be the big losers.

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