Big Telecom’s good idea: National standards to protect consumers
You read that title correctly. Here’s the idea: Rogers recently filed an application with the CRTC asking “for stronger protections for customers of wireless services”, not long after Telus made a similar request. Their ask is for minimum national standards to protect wireless customers, as opposed to differing provincial rules.
Believe it or not, this idea of Big Telecom’s could actually benefit Canadians. No, I know. I was surprised too. Telus’ Michael Hennessy told The Globe and Mail: “...it would be a tremendous benefit to all consumers if there was one simple, transparent and enforceable set of terms of service that apply to wireless contracts regardless of where you live in Canada.” And we agree.
This is Big Telecom we’re talking about though, and Canadians know from experience that they’ll only act in ways that are of direct benefit to themselves. In this case, Big Telecom would save time and administrative costs by having only one set of regulations to deal with, especially as they lay claim to the cell phone markets in most of our provinces.
Beyond the benefits of simplicity, we’re also sure that the cell phone giants are pushing this as a way to overturn what are some good citizen-centric rules in certain provinces. In provincial legislatures Big Telecom is losing the debate, and responsive governments are giving more Canadians more power and control over their cell phone services. So far Manitoba and Quebec have passed good legislation and now it looks as through Ontario is next. Big Telecom may be able to bypass these rules by having the CRTC pass a set of weaker national rules.
While nationalizing the rules is, in general, a good idea, Canadians need to be sure to pay attention so that Big Telecom doesn’t take advantage. These companies are self-interested; given the opportunity they will shape the rules to cater to their narrow interests, regardless of the interests of the pro-Internet community and Canadians writ large. If the CRTC moves on this issue, we should definitely see it as both a threat (it could further disempower cell phone customers) and as an opportunity to enable customer control and independent cell phone options.