Making Interventions in Uncertain Times: The Development of a Mandatory Code for Canada’s Wireless Industry - Panel Proposal

TitleMaking Interventions in Uncertain Times: The Development of a Mandatory Code for Canada’s Wireless Industry - Panel Proposal
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Shepherd, T., C. Middleton, L. R. Shade, K. Sawchuk, and B. Crow
Affiliation (1st Author)Ryerson University
Section or WGCommunication Policy and Technology
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeCPTF4b
Slot Code (Keyword)CPTF4b
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitlePANEL: Making Interventions in Uncertain Times: The Development of a Mandatory Code for Canada’s Wireless Industry
Submission ID6806

 In December 2012, Canada’s federal regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) solicited interventions into its proceeding to establish a mandatory code to articulate consumers’ rights and service providers’ responsibilities for mobile wireless services. The response from a diverse group of constituents, including industry players, public interest groups, academics, and especially the general public, was overwhelming. Over one thousand submissions detailed the unfair consumer practices of Canada’s “big three” telecommunication companies – Rogers, Bell and Telus – which control 95 percent of the country’s wireless market. Clearly, the implementation of a Wireless Code is an urgent need in a country that has lagged behind globally in terms of its non-competitive cost and low quality of service. The brunt of these high costs and inferior services tends to be borne disproportionately by lower-income, rural, and vulnerable groups, who desire or need access to wireless services but are often impeded by current consumer options.   This panel discusses the recent CRTC Wireless Code consultation in relation to a joint submission that the panelists prepared to intervene in these proceedings. Our intervention suggested that a Wireless Code would require increased clarity of contracts and pricing plans, special considerations for vulnerable consumer groups, an inclusion of specifics for mobile data in addition to voice services, and a set of complementary resources for consumer education. These recommendations were based on evidence from research with youth and seniors on their negotiation of wireless services in Canada, along with an examination of similar provisions in Australia and the United Kingdom.   The first paper describes our overall recommendations in greater detail, noting how the specific objectives of the CRTC’s proceeding might be met in relation to the content, enforcement, and promotion of a Wireless Code for Canada. These recommendations are based partly upon the precedents set in similar telecommunication markets like Australia and the UK. Our recommendations also draw upon original research with particular consumer groups. The second paper describes young consumers as a group that tends to be specifically targeted by wireless mobile advertising campaigns, but suffers from the unfair pricing plans and lack of transparency in contractual agreements. Similarly, the third paper describes how elderly consumers negotiate the high costs of wireless services while facing a number of popular misconceptions around seniors and technology. The fourth paper offers an overview of the process of synthesizing this research in the context of our submission, and it traces the trajectory that CRTC interventions take within the consultation process in Canada. Together, these four papers tell the story of how regulation around new wireless technologies has been approached in the Canadian context, where the continuing lack of sufficient market competition reflects an uncertain relationship between telecommunications regulation and industry dynamics.   Panel chair:  Tamara Shepherd, Ryerson University Discussant:  Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green University

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