Two Major Findings Reveal Canadians are Getting Screwed by Tech Giants

Canada is, by all accounts, one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth.

But damn, we sure are paying for it.

The Canadian-Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) recently released annual Communications Monitoring Report reveals that Canadians are getting priced out of world-class internet access.

This is happening in two ways: 1. Low-income Canadians are being forced to cut high-speed home internet access because they can’t afford it on top of rising mobile data costs; and 2. Canadian telecommunications companies are now raking in more money from mobile data overage charges than revenues from roaming.

First, some stats. According to the report, on average Canadian households spend a whopping $218 on telecommunications services per month. Around 40 per cent of that is committed to mobile services. Only 11% of subscribe to Canadians fixed broadband Internet access service with a downstream rate of at least 50 Mbps and an upstream rate of at least 10 Mbps – aka high-speed internet. This is despite the service being available to 85% of Canadians.

With the increase of internet prices for both home and mobile both outpacing inflation, one can conclude that many Canadians simply can’t afford to have the best of both. Seemingly, they’re parting with high-speed internet at home – as evidenced by another key finding in the report.

According to the numbers, carriers are now profiting more from overage fees than data roaming charges. Overage fees refer to extra charges incurred by exceeded one’s monthly mobile data limit, a problem exacerbated by the fact that unlimited wireless plans are rare.

“Given that retail wireless revenues exceeded $23 billion, annual overage charges in Canada easily exceed a billion dollars per year,” writes Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. “By comparison, wireless long distance revenues generated $547 million and roaming revenues hit $960 million.”

The problem, of course, is lack of competition. The Big 5 – Bell, Quebecor, Rogers, Shaw and TELUS – claim 83 per cent of total industry revenues. From a business perspective, why would they offer unlimited wireless data plans or affordable high-speed internet if there’s no challenge?

Market share for the Big 5 has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, so don’t expect the situation to improve anytime soon.