Our View: Cellphone gouging never ends

Think you pay enough for cellphone and internet service?

Well, think again. All three of the major phone/cable/internet firms – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – are either raising or have raised their rates.

Considering there are only three major carriers in Canada, who among them control how millions of us connect to one another, to the internet, and to our in-home entertainment, we don’t have much choice.

Apparently, the poor dears are strapped because of the falling Canadian dollar, and because of (of course) the cost of building new infrastructure.

These complaints are despite the fact that all three companies have hundreds of millions of dollars in profits annually in recent years. Even a bad year for Rogers recently meant earnings of just $255 million in net income. That was a bit lower than their chief rivals recently.

It’s difficult to see what we could do to change the situation, however.

Auctions of more parts of the spectrum haven’t really created much in the way of competition. Smaller firms have been either bought up by larger ones, or they haven’t extended their range enough to make them useful to many suburbanites outside of the downtown cores of big cities.

We could ask the government to step in, but their options are limited. They could break up the big conglomerates, but that would set a possibly dangerous precedent. It’s also no guarantee that we would actually see lower prices. Nationalizing cellphone or internet service sounds like a good way to stifle the industry and drive out investment.

Canadians at present still pay among the highest rates for cellphone service in the developed world. There are some reasons for that. We have a vast landscape that needs lots of infrastructure, and a relatively small market. But that doesn’t explain persistent high prices in areas that have been well blanketed by cellphone service for years. Unless we pry ourselves free of our phones, nothing will change.

– M.C.



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