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Is the appointment of Cabinet heavyweight as Industry Minister a sign that the government is ready to rein in Big Telecom?

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Stephen Harper’s new Cabinet was announced yesterday morning, and Canada has a new Industry Minister -- James Moore, M.P. for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam. I for one welcome Mr Moore to his post, and look forward to working with him on the digital policy priorities that matter to Canadians. As some commentators have pointed out, Christian Paradis was likely demoted from the post due to the telecom policy neglect and incoherence that occurred under his watch.

James Moore is widely seen as a heavyweight within Cabinet and the Conservative Party, and I believe it’s a positive sign for Canada’s digital future that the Prime Minister has named him as our Industry Minister. His appointment will raise expectations that the government will finally take the bold action required to open our communications networks to new more affordable services for Canadians.

The Internet community of active and engaged citizens and businesses underlines the growing political importance of Internet freedom and digital economy issues in Canada. In just the last few years we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of Canadians speak out to prevent Big Telecom from metering Internet usage, to kill a proposed warrantless spying bill, and to demand much more choice and affordability in our wireless market.

At this point everyone knows Canadians pay some of the highest prices for some of the worst cell phone service in the industrialized world. The most recent report from the OECD confirms this sad situation once again. We need clear government action to tackle the Big Three cell phone providers that control over nearly 94 per cent of our mobile phone market, with similar levels of domination over wired Internet pricing.

After years of policy neglect and incoherence, we’ve recently seen the government start to take positive but limited steps to help ensure Canadians get the choice and affordability we deserve. However, much more needs to be done if we are to catch up to our global counterparts.

Canadians have laid out a clear road map forward for the future of our wireless market -- a road map which Minister Moore’s predecessor Christian Paradis promised to read closely. When it comes to wired Internet access there’s a crowdsourced policy action plan ready for that as well. Everyone within earshot should be encouraging Minister Moore to take clear action to undo many years of Big Telecom regulatory coddling.

The fact is Minister Moore can’t act fast enough. Let’s do a tertiary review of recent telecom history:

-  The big cell phone providers are actually going to court  to delay parts of a new and very popular cell phone code of conduct put in place to protect Canadians. They even named “members of the public” and consumer groups in court documents.

-  Rather than listen to Canadians Bell and Telus both just used the new cell phone code of conduct as an excuse to raise their monthly rates.

-  The Big Telecom lobby group CWTA has just taken out misleading full page ads wrongly suggesting we don't pay high rates in Canada.

-  Most recently, Telus has apparently started touting our 18th out of 19th country ranking for wireless affordability in a recent OECD report as a great success story.

-  All of this activity comes after these Big Telecom bureaucracies lost their credibility with their clumsy use of old data in attempts to undermine complaints about their service, while putting their overgrown sense of entitlement on display at regulatory hearings.

This cannot continue.

The post-partisan Internet community will be watching our new Industry Minister’s performance closely -- and with a high degree of expectation. The appointment of a political heavyweight like Moore has opened up the possibility for bold action and real change to finally bring Canada in line with our global counterparts.

Here at OpenMedia.ca our mission is to amplify the voices of Canadians and to ensure those voices are heard at the heart of government. I look forward to working with Industry Minister Moore to to fix our broken telecom market. I know Canadians will be looking for bold swift action and I hope Minister Moore is ready to deliver.

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