Canadian Cellphone Networks Suck

Canadian cellphone networks suck harder than a barrel full of leeches at the end of a Guinness World Record Setting hunger strike. They suck harder than a prostitute starfish. They are the black holes of suckerdom. They suck.

There are three national cellphone network operators in Canada, although this definition of ‘national’ might seem strange to anyone who has ever had exposure to a dictionary or an education. I don’t want to get too embroiled in this, but it’s a bold statement when a typical coverage map looks like the one below.

Cellphone Coverage Map Canada

Coverage from one of the "National" cellphone providers in Canada.

Here are some policies that are fairly standard in Canada:

  • Pre-paid (or Pay-As-You-Go) customers must top up every month. If they don’t, they are cut off and lose any credit they had. Even if it’s hundreds of dollars.
  • Pre-paid customers (on some networks) pay for incoming text messages.
  • Any vaguely desirable phone will typically require a three year contract
  • Voicemail tends to cost extra. As much as $10 a month.
  • Some networks charge a monthly “Network Access Fees”, or to quote the Chairman of Wind mobile, “nonsense fees for fictitious network services”.
  • Locking phones to networks still happens 100% of the time
  • Data roaming is essentially legalised theft. Typically around $30 for a MB without a plan, it would cost you around $2.50 to read the front page of this website.
  • Many functions that should be included as part of any data plan, tend to cost extra. Tethering, for example. Even paying for data on some pre-pay plans only entitles you to use WAP, not full browsing.
  • Many applications on the iPhone simply will not work over 3g (such as Facetime) or they are scaled back. For example, no HD video on Youtube and Skype is throttled to reduce the call quality to make you consider making a phone call instead.



Facetime: But not on 3G in Canada

So what is the problem? In my opinion, Canada is in this funny position where they’re not quite committed to a USA style open market where customers decide which companies live and die by choosing their network carefully and letting the bad ones rot. Neither is Canada particularly committed to a European style regulated market with competition rules and consumer protection.

Anecdotally, I have seen a dispiritedly large number of Canadians fighting on messageboards for an open market. The problem is that there just isn’t enough competition between the big three telcos for this to be viable. And anytime the Government creates space in the marketplace for new companies (by selling radio spectrum), the big three telcos go crying about how unfair it all is or how foreign those new funny networks are. And mummy Government listens to them.

Canada doesn’t seem to want to regulate. But it’s not as though they never do. For example, the cost of buying out of a contract used to be ludicrous. Now it is just mildly ludicrous, because there are limits to what the networks can charge. The reasons that the Canadian government don’t want to regulate… Well, the current (Conservative) government probably doesn’t believe in it. Also, they are weak under the pressure of the crying big three telcos.

The Industry Minister, the honourable Tony Clement, is the man who should be on the side of the consumer against the behaviour of the telcos. However, he seems unwilling to help for much of the time, and when he was recently caught on camera by CBC’s “Canada’s Worst Cellphone Bill”, he seemed downright arrogant and dismissive. Who the fuck votes for this joker?

It would be libellous for me to say that he is being bribed by the cellphone networks, but it is interesting to note that he has received donations for his election campaign (as Conservative MP for Parry Sound) from the big three telcos. $5,000 from Telus, $12,500 from Rogers and $20,000 from Bell.

Canadian cellphone networks suck so much because there is nobody on the side of the consumer. Although I’m considering moving to Parry Sound to vote for anyone but Tony Clement. Anyone willing to donate to my cause?

Except for the Telcos, I mean.

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