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New Wireless Rules will help stop Big Telecom gobbling up all our cell phone resources

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Industry Canada’s new rules on supporting affordable wireless options for Canadians are a welcome step forward, but more action is required to ensure choice and affordability in Canada’s broken wireless market. The new rules come in response to an OpenMedia.ca campaign calling for mobile choice that can be found at http://demandchoice.ca.

The new rules set out today by Industry Canada are designed to stop highly valuable wireless spectrum assets—which are crucial resources for mobile devices—from being hoarded by Big Telecom. OpenMedia.ca believes this is a welcome step, but that Canadians will never get the choice and affordability they deserve without clear action to ensure that new, affordable firms can compete on a level playing field with Big Telecom.

Canadians pay some of the highest prices for some of the worst cell phone service in the industrialized world – a direct result of the lack of competition in a market that is 94% dominated by just three giant Big Telecom conglomerates. More affordable, independent providers need spectrum to offer real choice.

OpenMedia.ca says it has also been hearing from Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs frustrated that it is still unclear whether Minister Paradis will apply the new rules to Rogers’ plan to take control of scarce spectrum assets that had been set aside for new entrants. The Rogers takeover plan and the response from the DemandChoice.ca campaign are what prompted these new rules.

OpenMedia.ca believes the Industry Minister must do the right thing and put a stop to the Rogers/Shaw deal. Experts have made clear in a letter to the Industry Minister that there is nothing stopping him from doing so, and Paradis’ earlier comments provided signals that the Minister does not approve of the plan. The continuing uncertainty around the Rogers/Shaw deal is a source of worrying instability in the wireless market.

“Today’s announcement is a good first step towards addressing the past policy neglect in this area, but it is not the bold clear action many were hoping for,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “Up until recently we have seen an incoherent approach from a government that refused to enforce its own rules, and which failed to set aside sufficient spectrum to ensure Canadians have access to quality, affordable wireless options.”

Anderson continued: “To begin to build trust with Canadians, the Industry Minister must now do the right thing and clarify his position on Rogers’ bid to acquire even more of the scarce assets that are desperately needed by independent providers. This deal should not be in limbo considering how important it is to mobile affordability in Canada. I also think it’s clear that the Rogers plan does not meet the requirements laid out in the new rules today so Rogers should do the right thing for everyone and just withdraw the plan themselves.”

“Canadians now deserve to see clear action to open up our nation’s wireless highways, which are currently controlled by unaccountable Big Telecom conglomerates. We would never accept a situation where only certain transport companies get affordable access to Canada’s roads and highways. I hope Industry Minister Paradis has had a chance to read our policy road map from our Time For An Upgrade report as he said he would, and is ready to move on the broader recommendations we’ve put forward.”

Canadians can continue to speak up for genuine cell phone choice and affordability in our wireless market by joining the over 56,000 citizens who have signed the petition at http://DemandChoice.ca.


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