Trudeau Liberals to Lower Cellphone, Internet Bills as Election Promise: Report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the governing Liberals want to lower your cellphone and internet bills as part of upcoming election campaign promises, sources inform Reuters:

The ruling Liberals will promise to help cut cell phone and internet bills in the upcoming election campaign amid widespread complaints about the cost of wireless communications, party sources said.

One option being studied is a cap on bills, the sources said, while another is to oblige major providers to offer wholesale access to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which are smaller outfits without their own infrastructure.

One source speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “There are two choices: legislate or push through measures to boost competition.”

When asked for comment, Rogers and Bell said talk to their industry group, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), while Telus did not comment.

Rogers, Telus and Bell control nearly 90 per cent of the Canadian wireless market.

CWTA President and Chief Executive Robert Ghiz, told Reuters in an interview, “When you get into an election campaign you get into emotion sometimes,” adding, “It’s extremely important that any political party make sure they don’t put too much short-term thinking into something that is going to drive our economy.”

As for the Conservatives, a “well-placed source” informs Reuters their plan to reduce wireless and internet bills would be a possible tax rebate.

The CRTC earlier this month lowered wholesale rates on broadband in an effort to promote competition. The rate change was retroactive to 2016, meaning major internet service providers would have to repay smaller internet resellers, a move seen as hitting the bottom line of major providers.

Bell said it would cut back rural investment of its wireless internet roll out by 20%, while Rogers said the change would affect its Q3 by $140 million. Videotron, Shaw, Cogeco, Eastlink and SaskTel similarly complained about the CRTC decision.

The ruling Liberals have been announcing various consumer protections leading up to this fall. In July, the CRTC said it would launch an Internet Code to protect Canadians in 2020. In June, the federal government directed the CRTC to “drive down” wireless prices with competition.

The NDP and Green Party also have pledged to tackle expensive cellphone and internet bills in Canada, which are some of the highest in the industrialized world.

On Monday, Trudeau told reporters, “Canadians shouldn’t be paying more for their already very expensive internet and communications services and that is something we will take into account.”