The need for change in Canadian telecom practices

No matter what way you look at it, owning a smart phone in Canada is a rip-off.

editorialoption1Recently, I cancelled the caller I.D. service on my smartphone, in an effort to save money. It was a monthly $8 fee, which I thought was a little steep just to be able to see when a telemarketer or credit card company was calling. I was surprised, then, when I found out that those $8 paid for quite a bit more.

Without the service, I figured it’d show me “Unknown” or the name of the caller if their number was in my contacts. Instead, all numbers, even those saved in my phone, appear as “Unknown”. What’s more, the phone doesn’t take any kind of record of the call – save when it was received – so I can’t even call those numbers back.

Consider that for a moment: the default set up on a phone (as caller I.D. is an extra feature) makes it so that you can only make outgoing calls or receive calls at the time they come in. This standard set up makes it impossible to call anyone back. That’s a phone? A smart phone?

As I stated before, this cancellation was made to save money because I felt my phone bill was large  enough already. That being a $50/month set up with dismal minutes and data; unfortunately, its the cheapest one that has unlimited texting, the only thing I actually need.

On top of that, consider the phone itself; at the moment, standard Canadian  telecom contracts are three years long, but the standard smart phone becomes obsolete in only a year. That is, even if you bought a brand new phone the day it came out, a new model of the phone will be out in the next 18 months. Even if the new model isn’t truly “innovative” enough to make the current obsolete, companies (Apple, in my case) find other ways to age it. The last model of the iPhone I had was a fine device, but halfway through my contract term with it, they just stopped making newer apps for its OS. More on this nonsense in a bit.

The steep pricing and limited service mentioned above is based around the fact that the big three telecom companies in Canada – Rogers, Bell and Telus – have a 90 percent market share, giving them a lot of control and little competition.

Luckily for Canadians, telecom Giant from south of the border Verizon made public plans this summer to expand their business to the great white north. This began an aggressive campaign by the “Big 3″ to dissuade Canadians from supporting their move. Despite the fact that some real competition could have stimulated the market and brought prices down, Rogers, Bell and Telus worked hard to convince Canadians that a American company would worsen service to rural areas and take jobs away.

Whether due to their efforts or not, Verizon has recently announced that they would not be moving into Canadian telecom territory. This way, they can better focus on more profitable ventures (like buying the 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless currently held by Britain’s Vodaphone). Furthermore, its simply easier than fighting Canada’s “Big 3″ at every turn.

It’s a shame that we won’t be getting any attention from Verizon, as it could have led to a great deal of progress in the current market. People can only be taken advantage of for so long, and the awareness of inequity between neighbouring markets (Canadian and US) is only spreading. Hopefully someone will step in and take Verizon’s place.

-Tim Stacey

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