Harper Government Taking Action to Stand Up for Consumer Choice and Affordable Prices in Canada's Wireless Sector

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 18, 2013) - Industry Minister James Moore today announced that the Government of Canada will take legislative action on domestic roaming rates to better protect consumer interests in Canada's telecommunications market. Today's announcement is delivering on the Government's Speech from the Throne commitment to reduce roaming rates on domestic networks in Canada.

"The roaming rates that Canada's largest wireless companies are charging other domestic providers can be more than 10 times what they charge their own customers. For too long, Canadian consumers in the wireless sector have been the victims of these high roaming costs," said Minister Moore. "Canadians have been clear that they want their government to take action in the wireless sector to provide more choice, lower prices and better service. With domestic roaming rates on networks capped, Canadian consumers will benefit from more competition in the wireless market."

In the coming weeks, the Government will introduce an amendment to the Telecommunications Act that will put a cap on domestic wireless roaming rates, preventing wireless providers from charging other companies more than they charge their own customers for mobile voice, data and text services. Currently, high domestic roaming rates hold back many providers, especially new entrants, from offering more choice, lower prices and better service to Canadians. This measure will be in place until such time as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is now investigating the issue, makes a decision on roaming rates.

In addition, Minister Moore also announced new enforcement measures that will increase consumer protection in the telecommunications sector. These new measures will provide Canada's regulatory bodies with the tools needed to ensure that companies comply with the rules. The Government will amend both the Telecommunications Act and the Radiocommunication Act to give the CRTC and Industry Canada the option to impose monetary penalties on companies that violate established rules such as the Wireless Code and those related to the deployment of spectrum, services to rural areas and tower sharing. The penalties will encourage compliance and allow for more effective remedies should violations occur. The Telecommunications Act will also be amended to enhance information sharing between the CRTC and the Competition Bureau so that consumers benefit from greater cooperation.

"Our government is committed to ensuring that companies play by the rules for the benefit of all consumers. Canadian families deserve nothing less," said Minister Moore. "These new enforcement measures will safeguard consumer interests in the wireless sector."

Today's announcement is part of the Government's broader actions to support and safeguard Canadian consumers. Canadians work hard to make ends meet and expect their government to have their interests front of mind. These amendments, along with other consumer-related measures under way, will improve the bottom line for Canadian families and ensure that they are getting real value for their hard-earned dollars.

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Reducing Roaming Costs on Networks Within Canada

In the Speech from the Throne, the Government committed to taking steps to reduce roaming costs on networks within Canada. This issue can affect consumers when travelling outside their service provider's network area and can hinder the ability of some wireless providers, in particular new entrants, to offer competitive services to Canadians.

Wireless companies must enter into roaming agreements with other companies so that their customers have access to services outside their network footprint. Companies charge fees for this access. The roaming rates that Canada's largest wireless companies are charging for the customers of new entrants can in some cases be more than 10 times higher than those they charge their own customers.

The Government will amend the Telecommunications Act to prohibit Canadian carriers from charging their Canadian competitors roaming rates that are higher than what they charge their own customers.

This measure will be in place until such time as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is now investigating the issue, makes a decision on roaming rates. The CRTC will be responsible for enforcement.

This measure is in addition to the Government's rules for roaming and tower sharing under the conditions of spectrum licences. In 2012, the Government enhanced these rules, requiring all carriers to make wholesale roaming access available to all other carriers.

Administrative Monetary Penalties

The CRTC renders decisions that set out rules and regulations for Canada's telecommunications companies. The proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act will give the CRTC the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties (AMP) on companies that violate these decisions.

The ability to impose AMPs will give the CRTC an effective and efficient enforcement tool to ensure that consumers benefit fully from its decisions, such as the recent Wireless Code that establishes rules for wireless service providers in dealing with consumers. AMPs will encourage compliance with the Commission's regulations while allowing for effective remedial action when violations occur.

The amendments to the Radiocommunication Act will give Industry Canada the authority to impose AMPs for violations of licence and certification requirements that the Government has imposed to promote a competitive wireless market that benefits Canadian consumers. These include requirements to share towers and allow roaming on existing networks, provide services to consumers in rural areas, and comply with the rules related to the transfer of spectrum licences and to auctions. These and other such requirements serve to support a competitive wireless market. Additionally, Canadian consumers benefit from knowing that their wireless devices comply with standards and are safe to use.

The introduction of an AMP regime in the Radiocommunication Act will allow the Government to impose penalties on those who violate licence and certification requirements. These penalties will encourage compliance with requirements while allowing for effective remedial action when violations occur. This will ensure that Canadian consumers benefit from government policies that support competition in the wireless sector.

Information Sharing

Amendments will also be made to the Telecommunications Act to allow the CRTC to share information with the Competition Bureau. This action follows on an agreement between the Commission and the Bureau signed in September 2013, which committed to closer cooperation between the two regulators.

Contact Information:

Jake Enwright
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable James Moore
Minister of Industry

Media Relations
Industry Canada