Under attack for poor customer services and price gouging, Canada's Big Three wireless operators played to stereotype this week when told they would have to make modest concessions to consumers -- they said they probably would increase rates. That's the kind of bullying and brinksmanship that can be expected when an oligarchy -- Telus, Rogers and Bell -- control 94 per cent of Canada's wireless spectrum, and it likely won't change soon. All the more reason consumers should welcome the federal government's announcement Tuesday it will not allow Telus to buy tiny independent Mobilicity, and it intends to keep reserving six per cent of spectrum for upstart Davids to challenge the three-headed Goliath. It's a long shot, but at least it's a shot.
And shots matter. It was largely a campaign by Openmedia, a lobby for open Internet use, that led to a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruling the Big Three must cut by one third the length of their contract periods -- to two years from three -- and allow consumers to buy their way out after 90 days. Those measures will only force the Big Three to offer Canadians the same options that are enjoyed pretty much everywhere else, but they address the most common service and pricing complaints.
The federal government says its stand on spectrum is in line with its determination to ensure competition for Canada's wireless consumers. But if it really wants to achieve that goal, all it need do is open the market to foreign competition.