OTTAWA – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has unveiled his party's plan to help Canadians save money on their internet and cell phone bills, pledging to push telecom companies to expand what they offer consumers.
In an exclusive interview on CTV News Channel Monday, Singh spelled out how his party would improve the cellular and internet services that are becoming increasingly essential, and ways to make them more affordable.
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"We're very confident that people deserve and need access to affordable data," Singh said, adding that he thinks Canadians are "effectively being ripped off."
The plan would include the introduction of a price cap until the industry becomes more competitive. The NDP say that this would also lower bills by $10 per month on average.
According to the party's estimates, the average price of an internet plan with a 25 Mbps download speed and 200 gigabytes of data is $53 a month in Canada. In comparison the OECD average is $38 a month. The NDP’s proposed cap for such a plan would be $43 a month.
Similarly, for a cellphone plan with 300 calls and one gigabyte of data, the average price in Canada is $47 a month, compared to $29 a month in the OECD. The NDP proposes a $39 monthly cap for that plan.
Singh said that price caps have worked in other jurisdictions, though this is something that the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) disputes.
The NDP plan also includes:
- Require companies to offer a basic plan that is comparable to low rates available in other OECD countries;
- Abolish data caps for broadband internet and force companies to create unlimited data plans at affordable rates for wireless services;
- Establish a "Telecoms Consumers’ Bill of Rights," aimed at taking on sales and services practices; and
- Revisit how spectrum auctions work to make sure Canadians benefit the most from the revenue of these sales of licenses to transmit signals.
Speaking during a news conference on Parliament Hill Monday afternoon Singh said that young people are one group really feeling the burden of these big bills.
"We need access to internet, to data for work, for school, we need it to stay in touch with people, it's a way of communication, it's become a necessity and it's so incredibly expensive," Singh said. "Our plan today is to change that, we're saying 'you know what? Enough.'"
Singh said that Canadians pay the highest amount for internet and cell phone service in the world. He said both Conservative and Liberals governments have "neglected" to take on Canada's "big five" telecom companies, but his party will.
The NDP have put forward an opposition day motion calling on the House to push the government to move forward on its plan right away.
"Given telecommunication services in Canada cost more than most other countries in the world, leaving far too many Canadians with unaffordable, inadequate or no service at all, the House call on the government to implement measures that will make those services more affordable," the motion reads in part.
The CWTA is critical of Singh’s proposals, saying these changes would do more harm than good to the quality and cost of telecommunication services in Canada.
The group, which represents companies including Bell, Rogers, and Telus, said in a statement that the current regulatory framework is working when it comes to quality, coverage, and “reasonable prices.”
"Wireless plans that meet or are better than the NDP's proposed plans already exist in Canada’s wireless marketplace—all of this achieved without the sort of destructive regulatory intervention called for in the motion," CWTA spokesperson Greg Burch said in the statement. "The regulatory proposals seen in this motion would stop this momentum and set Canada back."
In a statement, President and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) Byron Holland said that while CIRA is glad to see internet policy issues picking up steam ahead of the fall election, “large gaps in access still remain,” due in part to the cost, but also access to high-speed access.
The governing Liberals vowed in the 2019 budget that, by 2026, 95 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses will have access to high-speed internet, something many in rural Canada are still without.
"The best way to address the digital divide is through greater competition in Canada's telecommunications sector, we are heartened to see political leaders of all stripes step up to the plate and help solve these connectivity challenges," said Holland.
With files from CTV News' Michel Boyer