NDP Unveils Plan to Cap Cell Phone and Internet Bills

The election cycle is continuing and digital issues continue to bubble to the surface. This is thanks to the NDP’s plan to cap cell and internet bills.

With the Canadian election being called just four days ago, it looked grim that anything digital related would become an election issue. That point was punctuated by the fact that Canada’s dedicated voice on the issues, the Canadian Pirate Party, is effectively absent from this election at this stage.

Hope started to be restored when Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, brought up the issue of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal during the first leaders debate, but with the way the debate was organized, that passing mention was quickly pushed back into the shadows with other issues being brought up in the process.

Now, it seems that the Canadian NDP is also taking a crack at bringing digital issues. Not content with simply waiting for anyone else to bring up the issues, the federal party unveiled a plan to cap Internet and cell phone bills. From their press release:

TORONTO – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Toronto today to announce his plan to protect Canadians from gouging by big telecom companies. Singh is calling for a cap on cell phone and internet prices, which would save families almost $250 a year.

“For most Canadians, having a cell phone and high-speed Internet is not a choice — they need these things for school, for work, and to stay connected with family and friends,” said Singh. “And Canadians who are fortunate to have access to reliable service pay some of the highest prices in the developed world. They can’t afford to give these things up, even as rising costs squeeze their budgets.”

Liberal and Conservative governments have left Canadians to go at it alone as telecom companies gouge them all while raking in billions of dollars. On Trudeau’s watch, the Big Five telecoms enjoyed profit margins of almost 40 per cent in 2017. To top it off, Trudeau rewarded Bell, Rogers and Telus with $50 million in subsidies and more than $700 million in contracts.

“Canadians deserve better than Liberal and Conservative governments that keep making life easier for their corporate friends and harder for everyone else,” said Singh. “I’m ready to fight for everyday people and stand up to rich telecom companies. Our plan to cap prices on cell phone and internet bills is part of our commitment to make life more affordable.”

As many Canadians know all too well, the Internet and cell phone service industry is dominated by big corporate monopolies – namely Telus, Rogers, and Bell. Thanks largely due to a lack of actual competition in the field, prices for both cell phones and Internet have remained sky high. Michael Geist has been following the story for some time and noted not only that Canadians are paying the highest fees in the world, but also how carriers are reaping the highest profits in the world in the process.

With howls of complaints from Canadians, there have been some efforts to rectify the situation in the past. During the Harper Conservative government, there was a wireless spectrum auction. The government at the time naively believed that the “free market” will somehow magically solve all of these problems just by offering more spectrum to the open market. Of course, reality set in as the major monopolies used their deep pockets to buy up a vast majority of the spectrum. The only exceptions being a regional carrier or two that are already established in the area (Sasktel being an example). The end result was the experiment wound up being an abysmal failure tacked on to Harper’s long track record of failures while in power.

Then, the Trudeau Liberal government took over and some hoped that something might finally be done about it. Unfortunately, the Liberal government started falling back on their old ways by letting the lobbying dictate the policy. As a result, throughout their full term in government, about all of nothing effective was done about it. With no real announcements during the election on this front, it seems that the Liberal government could care less about this massive issue affecting Canadians.

So, the NDP clearly wants to do at least two things. For one, demonstrate leadership by identifying a problem and finding an effective solution, and also separate their policies from at least the two larger parties. This obviously is an effective way of accomplishing both. What will be interesting to see is if other parties take notice and start rolling out similar announcements to keep up with the NDP and the Green Party.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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