Affordable connectivity for Northerners past due: MP Hughes

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes

SUDBURY – Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for telecommunications services, including Northern Ontario communities. Last week, Bell Canada announced that it would cut back telecommunication services expansions to 200,000 households. Carol Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing says this demonstrates the failure of Liberal and Conservative telecommunications policy that helps large companies profit off the backs of everyday Canadians while offering very limited services in many parts of the country.

“Liberals and Conservatives have always tried to keep the big, well-connected telecom companies happy instead of making it easier to expand telecom services for remote communities,” said Ms. Hughes. “People are tired of being left out from connection coverage just because they live in the North. New Democrats believe that everyone deserves to have access to affordable telecom services, wherever they are.”

There is already a lack of quality services in Northern Ontario. Northerners in many cases don’t get the cell phone and broadband coverage they pay for. People are being gouged every month because instead of standing up for people, the Liberal and Conservative governments have left it to industry to set the prices, she explained.

“The bottom line is that with the CRTC decision (which came in August and is designed to increase competition for internet services) that companies like Bell and Rogers feel they have to reduce instead of expand service because they will be forced to sell access to their infrastructure to smaller internet providers to improve competition and lower prices to third-party providers,” Ms. Hughes told the Recorder. 

“I’m with provider costs being less with more access to services,” said Ms. Hughes. “Bell for instance says it will not be able to expand and will have to cut back services because of all of this. The fact is these companies are making big profits. And when you look at Australia which has comparable challenges for population and geography as we do in Canada, consumers pay less for internet and cell services. The CRTC ruling will force the biggest telecom companies to lower the price they charge smaller competitors for wholesale network access. While there is no doubt this will cut into profits, the claim that this must be addressed by scaling back expansion and even existing service in rural areas amounts to a threat to Canada’s plans to improve service to these areas.” She said the NDP government would address the gap in rural connectivity.