CRTC Chair Admits Canadians Pay Higher Cellphone, Internet Prices vs. World

Vicky Eatrides, the newly appointed Chairperson and CEO of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), shared her vision for the future of Canadian telecommunications in a speech on Monday. The focus of her address was on ensuring affordable and accessible Internet and cellphone services for all Canadians.

Addressing a crowd in Ottawa, Eatrides acknowledged the pressing need for better telecommunications services in Canada’s remote and Indigenous communities. Drawing from a recent public hearing held in the Yukon, she underscored the urgency of the situation by recounting the struggles of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, whose community lacks high-speed Internet, cellular service, and even reliable 9-1-1 emergency services.

The CRTC should really look into SpaceX’s Starlink internet for remote locations, instead of constructing fibre the old-fashioned way.

According to Eatrides, the CRTC is committed to adapting to the digital evolution and ensuring that all Canadians can reap the benefits of the digital age. This goal, she highlighted, will be achieved by striking a balance between lowering prices and maintaining incentives for companies to invest in high-quality networks.

Eatrides admitted that compared to other countries like the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe, Canadians pay higher prices for their Internet and cellphone services. However, she stressed that the CRTC’s mandate is to regulate in the public interest, taking into account a variety of interests while making its decisions.

“If you stop someone on the street today and ask them about the price they pay for their Internet or cellphone services, they’ll probably say “too much.” Some might even go a step further and say that we pay some of the highest rates in the world,” said Eatrides.

“And they wouldn’t be wrong. Compared with other countries – the United States, Australia and parts of Europe, for example – the prices we pay are higher,” continued the CRTC Chair.

The CRTC has already set wheels in motion to bring about change, claims the new head of the Commission. Last week, it finalized terms for regional competitors to gain access to large wireless companies’ networks, aiming to serve Canadians in areas where the regional competitors have not yet built their networks. The commission is monitoring negotiations and is prepared to ensure agreements are reached within 90 days.

Eatrides also announced that the CRTC is working on improving Internet services. In February, it made a decision on access to poles to facilitate the deployment of high-speed Internet networks. In March, it initiated a process to enhance Internet competition in Canada, especially enabling smaller competitors to sell Internet services over large companies’ fibre-to-the-home networks.

In addition to the focus on telecommunications, Eatrides also pointed out the CRTC’s role in shaping the future of broadcasting following the passing of the Online Streaming Act, or Bill C-11. The Act requires all players, including online streaming services, to contribute to the achievement of cultural and policy objectives.

But a recent document published by the CRTC drew ire from critics saying it was not impartial but rather echoed what the federal government wants Canadians to believe regarding Bill C-11.

“Let’s start creating the future today. Together. Right now,” Eatrides urged in her closing remarks, emphasizing the urgency to improve Canada’s telecommunications landscape.

How much faith do you have in the CRTC in supporting the interests of Canadians?