If you have a cell phone plan with one of the big 3 carriers in Canada, you might have noticed a disturbing lack of data. As in, unlimited data plans, even the ones that say they are unlimited but actually throttle back your internet speed to dial-up range, are going the way of the dodo.
Toronto City Council Stands Up
In our interconnected world where so much information is now accessed while we’re on the move, our fusty 5 GB, 1 GB or even 250 MB data plans are sadly outdated and inadequate. As one Redditor commented, just checking your Instagram feed gobbles down dozens of MBs worth in a few seconds. Struggling through an entire month on a 1 GB data plan means endless searching for open WiFi.
Toronto has apparently had enough of that. A couple of enterprising Toronto city councillors have tabled a request that all major Canadian carriers must provide reasonably priced unlimited data packages.
Canada has a small market for wireless communications, and an even smaller pool of large players to choose data plans from. Since that’s the case, Bell, Telus and Rogers have acted with impunity in their phone pricing, their data caps and their fees because, really, who are you going to go with if not them?
In Toronto, there might be a few startups that offer better plans. But Canada is large! Step outside the Great Toronto Area and you’ll find yourself climbing hills and trees just to get a bar of service. The big carriers offer the best coverage but you’re stuck accepting their rules: you can have a little data, but not too much.
How Canada Stacks Up
Compared to the US, which unarguably has a much, much larger market, Canada’s data plans are practically archaic. According to CBC, the five largest cellular providers in the US market all offer cell phone plans with unlimited data. Sure they still throttle it after a certain point, and prices vary, but something is better than nothing at all.
So why not Canada? Are we not worthy of unlimited data? Are we forever condemned to seeking out WiFi hotspots with dubious security or hoping that your local pub or cafe takes pity on you and passes out the coveted WiFi password?
Time for Change
With the higher data weight that many websites now carry, the proliferation of video on every news site in addition to YouTube, and image centric social media apps enjoyed by millions, the idea that we can somehow still make do with 1, 5 or even 10 GB of data per month seems absurd. What’s even more absurd is that it’s not as if Toronto councillors are asking for lower prices. No, no. They just want their Toronto constituents to even have the option of carrying unlimited data around with them, for which telecoms could presumably charge more.
Why can’t our telecoms catch up? It seems that everytime Canadians want to see some fair play in their wireless access, they have to call in the big brother of Canadian telecommunications - the CRTC.
Now Toronto councillors are pushing that ball forward. With their efforts, and perhaps some outcry from Toronto residents, the largest consumer market in Canada, the CRTC will make a move sooner rather than later and bring our feisty telecoms into the order that we want to see.
What do you think? Is Toronto on the right side of things? Or is forcing market changes through government action just a fool’s errand?
Let us know in the comments!