The federal government is introducing new legislation to cap domestic wireless roaming rates, responding to allegations that the Big Three – Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc., and Telus Corp. – are overcharging their smaller competitors.

In a move calculated to boost competition in the wireless space, today Industry Canada announced it would be making an amendment to the Telecommunications Act to prevent the top three Canadian wireless providers from charging smaller providers more than they charge their own customers for voice, data, and text services.

Sometimes, these smaller competitors pay mark-ups of more than 1,000 per cent, according to a Globe and Mail story published in October. As things currently stand, that means customers of Wind Mobile, for example, will typically pay more in roaming rates when leaving areas covered by their provider and having to use cell towers manned by the Big Three.

Industry Canada will also be bringing in an amendment to both the Telecommunications Act and the Radiocommunication Act, which would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and Industry Canada the power to fine companies that violate the Wireless Code and regulations on tower sharing, deploying spectrum, and providing services to rural areas. Another amendment to the Telecommunications Act would also see more information being shared between the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

“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 Industry Minister James Moore in a statement.

“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.”

The amendment will be in effect until the CRTC makes its decision on roaming rates. The CRTC has been investigating roaming rates since the end of October, but has yet to release any firm regulations.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association declined to comment.

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