Digital Rights Advocates Skeptical of Trudeau’s Liberal Government’s Pledge to Reduce Wireless Bills

Digital rights experts are wary of Trudeau’s commitment to make Canadian telecommunications companies slash their cellphone prices by 25 percent.

Although three of the four major parties have shared plans to tackle mobile and internet affordability, they are all light on specifics, and digital rights experts say they don’t go far enough.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledged this week to reduce cellphone prices by 25 percent over four years, saving an average Canadian family $250 a year. He wasn’t clear on how that would happen, but said he would work with telecom companies to offer plans that are comparable to global prices.

While advocates were in agreement that Canadian indeed want to pay less for their wireless service, they did, however, question whether the Liberal government would actually follow through on its pledge if Trudeau is elected, reads a new report from Yahoo Finance.

Marie Aspiazu, digital rights campaigner at the advocacy group OpenMedia, is skeptical about the Liberals’ approach. “The Liberals say they’re going to work with Big Telecom to lower prices—I don’t buy that,” she said. “These are some of the greediest companies in Canada. They’re not going to lower their prices because the government kindly asked them to.”

Digital policy expert and University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist says the Liberal proposal contains “elements that are quite good,” but he’s not convinced that a 25 percent price reduction, which is what the NDP is offering as well, is enough. “If other countries are reducing it by 30 or 40 percent, during that same timeframe, then in fact Canadians fall even further behind from a global standpoint,” he said.

The advocates overall cited a lack of defined detail in the pledge, and the known fact that the telecom industry opposes governmental regulation to set wholesale prices they can charge network operators.

Even if these regulations are put into place, Laura Tribe, executive director of the consumer watchdog organization OpenMedia, says that it will take time until Canadians are able to feel the impact.

“If you launched a new provider tomorrow in Canada, it would take a while for a number of customers who wanted to switch to be able to leave their current contracts to do so,” she said.

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