Wireless Startups Criticize Telus and Bell for Challenging CRTC Regulatory Authority

by Istvan Fekete on October 7, 2013

Small wireless players say the incumbents charge “absurd” and “disingenuous” fees for roaming services, and criticize Bell and Telus for challenging the Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission’s authority to regulate these fees.

What’s interesting, though, is that the incumbents urge the CRTC not to regulate roaming fees, despite the authority not having yet shared its plans. So, we don’t know anything for sure, except that the CRTC has asked carriers for more information on both domestic and international roaming rates, and that the players had a deadline, which expired on September 27, to submit the required details. In other words, any speculation about the CRTC’s plans, such as regulation of roaming fees or other, is premature.

However, this didn’t stop Bell and Telus from urging the CRTC not to regulate roaming rates because — in case you haven’t guessed it yet — it would harm consumers, restricting their choices.

“Bell and Telus have been spending a lot of time and money lately challenging the government’s, and now the CRTC’s, authority to take action against their consumer-abusing practices, rather than changing their behaviour or arguing the merits,” said Simon Lockie, chief regulatory officer for Wind.

“The CRTC’s mandate is to promote competition and affordable prices for Canadians. … If the market for domestic roaming is competitive, which it most certainly is not, the CRTC will not act and the Big Three have nothing to worry about.”

“Even the threat of Commission regulation would undermine the negotiation regime established by Industry Canada. It would not be good policy for the Commission and Industry Canada to impose rules that create such operational conflict and could lead to confusion and interference with existing contracts and competitive market forces,” said BCE’s submission.

The CRTC has avoided regulating wireless rates and roaming fees on the basis that the industry is competitive enough to keep the fees in check.

Now the problem is that new players are relying on the incumbents’ network to provide wireless services to their subscribers who travel outside their network coverage area. This is obviously to the incumbents’ advantage, because they have the power to define even commercially unreasonable rates, which brings substantial profit. However, these terms were negotiated at “mutually beneficial” terms, they say.

From the incumbents’ perspective, any kind of roaming-fee regulation that would keep the fees “artificially” low puts potential rural area investments at risk, as the new wireless players would stop considering building their own networks.

In other words, the battle between the incumbents and wireless startups is heating up. While the CRTC is yet to announce its plans, its mandate is to promote competition and affordable prices for Canadians.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JohnN October 7, 2013 at 8:51 am

“However, this didn’t stop Bell and Telus from urging the CRTC not to regulate roaming rates because — in case you haven’t guessed it yet — it would harm consumers, restricting their choices”

Of course, Big Brother loves me!!!!!

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