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Canada Trudeau has abandoned promise to lower cellphone bills, says NDP

03:10  15 september  2021
03:10  15 september  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Jagmeet Singh wearing a hat:  NDP leader Jagmeet Singh makes an announcement regarding cellphone prices in downtown Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward © Provided by National Post NDP leader Jagmeet Singh makes an announcement regarding cellphone prices in downtown Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday the Liberals have abandoned the promise they made in the last federal election to lower cellphone bills, accusing leader Justin Trudeau of siding with “big telecom.”

Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for wireless and internet service, Singh said in a press conference near the Rogers headquarters in Toronto.

“And it is because Mr. Trudeau and Conservatives beforehand, have allowed the big telecom companies to exploit us. There’s really no other way to put it,” Singh said.

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Cellphone and internet affordability hasn’t played as big a role in this campaign as they did in 2019, with the NDP taking the most “aggressive” stance on the issue, according to Laura Tribe, executive director of OpenMedia, which advocates for lower telecom pricing. Tribe said a big reason phone and internet bills haven’t been a central feature of this campaign is that the “Liberals have left it off their platform, completely.”

Singh has said he opposes a proposed merger between telecom giants Rogers and Shaw, which advocates have warned would drive up wireless prices if approved. “We think that’s going to make things even worse. It’s going to be even more of a monopoly,” Singh said Tuesday.

Since before the election, the NDP has also been calling for a May decision on wholesale rates by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to be overturned. Critics have said that decision will raise internet prices, and Singh said Tuesday one way to ensure there are low-cost options for Canadians is “changing a ruling by the CRTC which would allow low-cost options to use the existing infrastructure so they can actually compete.”

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The NDP platform includes a promise to institute a price cap on wireless and internet services that would peg prices to the global average. It’s also pledging to take “the first steps to create a Crown corporation to ensure the delivery of quality, affordable telecom services to every community.”

In the 2019 election, the Liberals promised to lower wireless prices by 25 per cent, a move the party said at the time would save Canadians $2,000. Singh criticized the Liberals for not including that promise in their 2021 platform, which doesn’t mention the issues of internet or wireless affordability.

“Voting for Mr. Trudeau is going to cost you. It’s going to mean he’s going to continue to not take on the big telecom companies,” Singh said.

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After the 2019 election, the Liberal minority government began tracking prices for two to six GB per month plans. Those prices have been dropping, though internal documents showed the government expected them to fall organically, without government intervention, as Canadians moved to higher-value plans not covered by the price drop promise. Canada’s big three wireless providers – Rogers, Bell, and Telus – no longer even offer plans in the two GB to six GB range under their main brands.

Tribe said the Liberals have been touting a 21 per cent reduction in the two to six GB plans, which is “both not 25 per cent but also, not at all the result of anything that they have done. That was guaranteed from the start,” given per-gigabyte costs have been falling for telecom companies.

Last week, Trudeau didn’t answer when asked whether his party, if re-elected, would overturn the wholesale rate decision or specify where he stands on the Rogers-Shaw merger. A petition to cabinet asking for that CRTC decision to be reversed is currently in front of the government, while the Competition Bureau, the CRTC and ISED are reviewing the Rogers acquisition of Shaw.

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said earlier in the campaign he would oppose mergers that “substantially reduce competition,” but he didn’t specify whether the Rogers-Shaw deal would fall in that category. He also didn’t answer directly when asked in a press conference whether he would overturn the CRTC wholesale decision.

The Conservative platform does include promises to lower wireless and internet bills. The party has pledged to do so by “allowing foreign telecommunications companies to provide services to Canadian customers, provided that the same treatment is reciprocated for Canadian companies in that company’s country.”

The Conservatives didn’t answer questions by deadline about how this promise would work. Canada’s foreign investment rules for telecom don’t ban foreign telecoms from providing service here – in effect, they only limit foreign companies from buying Canada’s largest telecoms.

The Conservatives did not answer by deadline whether the party is promising to change those rules to allow Bell, Rogers or Telus to be acquired by a foreign company.

Tribe noted there’s “not really much incentive for those companies to actually come into the Canadian marketplace given our size.”

Allowing a foreign company to buy one of the biggest telecoms would just be “reshuffling the chairs,” OpenMedia said shortly after that announcement, arguing there would be “no improvement in competition or choice, just another telecom overlord with a different name.”

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