Think your phone bill is expensive? You’re right.
A report released this week by the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) confirms that Canada ranks among the top three most costly countries for mobile wireless plans. Comparing the U.K, Italy, France, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. on six tiers of pricing—which looked at talk-time, texts, and data—the document shows that Canada is the most expensive for mid-range and higher-tier plans. Or, to put it another way, if you want to have a contract that lets you surf the internet, you’re going to get hosed.
In a press release accompanying the report, Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, pointed out the positives. Prices for lower tier plans— which are offer talk, text, and 1 GB of data and under—have declined in Canada compared to 2016. Low-use mobile wireless plans were also cheaper in Canada than the U.S. for the first time since 2013.
For any plans that offered over 1 GB of data, however, the cost has increased since 2016—rising 0.7 per cent for contracts with 2 GB; 8.2 per cent for 5 GB; and 14.1 per cent for 10 GB. When looking at any plan that included internet access, Canada was in the top two highest prices at every level, with contracts in other countries offering prices up to 71 per cent lower.
As apps consume more data and society increasingly requires individuals to be connected online, various consumer activist groups are concerned at the trend towards growing charges.
“It is unacceptable that Canadians continue to pay ever-rising prices year after year for something as critical as mobile communications services,” said Katy Anderson, Digital Rights Advocate at OpenMedia.
“We hope this is a wake-up call for ISED Minister Navdeep Bains and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission,” Anderson continued. “It was encouraging to see ISED recognize Canadians’ affordability struggle when it comes to mobile wireless prices […] but more needs to be done. Canadians simply can’t afford to keep paying the price for the lack of mobile competition.”
Unsurprisingly, regions with a number of competitors in the mobile wireless space offered the least expensive plans. In Canada, Montreal registers as the cheapest for low-use contracts: those featuring just talk-time and texts. At 18 per cent below the national average, Winnipeg ranks the best for mid-use contracts, which offer between 1200 and unlimited minutes, 300 and unlimited texts, and 1 to 2 GB of data. Regina is the most inexpensive for high-use mobile wireless plans, featuring between 5 and 10 GB of data.
Overall, the prices of regional operators such as Vancouver’s Freedom Mobile, Fido, Koodo, and Virgin Mobile are significantly less than those of national companies—Bell, Telus, and Rogers.
What does it all mean? Firstly, we’re likely going to be stuck paying hefty prices for mobile use until more carriers can offer serious competition to the big three. Secondly, it’s worth shopping around before you sign anything—because paying rent in Vancouver is hard enough.
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