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Led by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, a coalition of consumer groups will make submissions on behalf of consumers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) during a consultation to review access to basic telecommunications services in Canada. This is an opportunity to ask the CRTC to make changes to protect consumers, as the telecommunications market, which includes cellphone, landline telephone and internet companies, affects all Canadians.
“Now is the time to ask the CRTC to require Canadian telecommunications companies to do more for Canada. We intend to argue, and we think Canadians will agree, that access to telephone, cellphone and especially broadband Internet at affordable rates, acceptable data speed and quality of service is crucial for all Canadians, and for our success as a country, both socially and economically,” says John Lawford, counsel for PIAC, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization that provides legal representation, research and advocacy on behalf of consumers. PIAC will represent Canada Without Poverty, Option consommateurs and Rural Dignity of Canada.
The CRTC’s examination culminates in a public hearing starting October 25th, 2010. “An important issue for the CRTC to consider is access for all Canadians to essential telecommunications services on an equitable basis” added Lawford. “Many rural and remote communities are underserved or not served at all by cellular or broadband internet services. Broadband internet services are increasingly becoming essential business tools, and studies show that broadband internet access can reduce unemployment and create greater job opportunities, particularly for people with disabilities.”
Affordability of telecommunications services is another issue to be addressed. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) consistently ranks Canada near the bottom of the list for cellular phone service pricing. Canada’s broadband pricing and speed is also unimpressive, being ranked 25th out of 30 comparable countries by a recent Harvard study.
Canadians wishing to participate in the proceeding may file written comments with the CRTC or join an online forum on the CRTC website, or may contact PIAC.