The CRTC's Wireless Industry Review, Explained

In advance of the public hearing this month, we thought it was worthwhile to breakdown the CRTC's full review of the wireless industry for our members. What is it, why is it important, and what can you do to help us when we take the stand on February 27, 2020.

Who is the CRTC?

The CRTC, or the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, is a regulatory body that operates independently from the governing party. The government does, however, provide the CRTC with direction and objectives. How those objectives are met is up to the CRTC.

So what exactly to do they do? Essentially, they are in charge of the rules and regulations for broadcasting, internet access, and phone services. They ensure that Canadian content (music, TV, movies) is available for Canadians and not completely overtaken by our neighbours south of the border.

They are also responsible for policies that enabled companies like Public Mobile (now TELUS), Mobilicity (gone) and WIND Mobile (now Freedom/Shaw) to enter the market. A number of years ago they introduced the Wireless Code of Conduct which eliminated contracts longer than 2 years and abolished locking of phones to a specific provider.

They’ve recently ruled in favour of wholesale home internet providers, like TekSavvy, to improve competition and affordability. They have the power to do the same for wireless services in Canada.

Why are they reviewing the wireless industry?

In early 2019, the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development issued a new directive to the CRTC. The government doesn’t set the rules, but they do give direction to the regulator, and it had been over 10 years since the last update to their directive.

The new directive was signed into law on June 17. In response to the new directive, the CRTC initiated a complete review of the wireless industry.

Source: "Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implementing the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives to Promote Competition, Affordability, Consumer Interests and Innovation: SOR/2019-227"

(a) the Commission should consider how its decisions can promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation, in particular, the extent to which they

(i) encourage all forms of competition and investment,

(ii) foster affordability and lower prices, particularly when telecommunications service providers exercise market power,

(iii) ensure that affordable access to high-quality telecommunications services is available in all regions of Canada, including rural areas,

(iv) enhance and protect the rights of consumers in their relationships with telecommunications service providers, including rights related to accessibility,

(v) reduce barriers to entry into the market and to competition for telecommunications service providers that are new, regional or smaller than the incumbent national service providers,

(vi) enable innovation in telecommunications services, including new technologies and differentiated service offerings, and

(vii) stimulate investment in research and development and in other intangible assets that support the offer and provision of telecommunications services; (...)

Why is the review important?

Everyone in Canada knows we pay too much for wireless service.

When it comes to how much data we use, Canada ranks 31 out of 37 developed countries. We also have some of the highest prices. The cost per megabyte of data is improving for top-end users, but getting worse for anyone who needs just a bit of data or doesn’t need it all the time.

In other countries where the prices are better and everyone uses more data, the biggest difference is competition. Where there is more competition, prices are lower and there is a greater variety of products, services, and prices.

Canada has tried to foster more competition by making it easy for a few more companies to build more towers and compete with infrastructure. Only one of the three national new entrants from 10 years ago is still standing. Why did the others fail? To start, building a new, competing network is expensive and takes a long time.

The fact is that the big three already share networks. They know it doesn’t make sense to build redundant networks on top of each other all the time.

In other countries, this is taken one step further. They allow companies to operate as a virtual network operator (or MVNO). They use some part of the existing networks, at a minimum the towers, and provide their own service to consumers.

In Canada, we already have this for home internet, but the big companies have blocked the same from happening in wireless.

The hearing will decide, when, if, and how virtual providers will operate in Canada.

When will the hearing happen?

The hearing starts very soon - February 18, 2020 - and runs for two weeks.

Data On Tap Inc. (the company operating dotmobile) will be taking the stand on February 27th. We will provide our closing remarks, summarizing our submissions to date and defending the spirit of the directive.

You can read our submissions if you’re in the mood.

How can you help?

We believe that Canada wireless needs more competition, better prices, more variety and more innovation.

If you agree, sign up as one of our members for free at

Next, help us reach our first goal of ten thousand members before we take the stand!