A consumer advocate feels Saskatchewan residents will pay more for cell phone plans if the government sells off 49 per cent of SaskTel.
“It’s going to lead to further market concentration and that will cause prices to go up,” said David Christopher, Communications Manager with OpenMedia.
The Sask. Party recently passed Bill 40, which allows for up to 49 percent of Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations to be sold without requiring a provincial referendum.
“Any step to privatization is bad for consumers,” Christopher said. “The taxpayer will also lose the benefits of profits they get in the province every year as they will have to split the pie.”
Christopher said there will be a lot of speculation on privatizing all of SaskTel.
“The company who’s partnered with SaskTel will continue to try and obtain the other two percent right away,” he said.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba have enjoyed the lowest cell phone rates in Canada. But Christopher said he expects rates to go up in Manitoba follwing Bell’s recent acquisition of MTS.
“It will have a disastrous impact on wireless rates within a year in Manitoba,” he said.
Christopher said the reason Canada doesn’t have cellphone competition like the United States is because of regulations imposed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
“They make it really hard to allow small companies to come in and operate on a level playing field,” he said. “The big three – Telus, Bell, and Rogers – are allowed to block anybody from coming on the network, but in places like the United Kingdom they have consumer-friendly rules to get on the networks.”
Christopher said OpenMedia is pressuring the CRTC to open up the networks.
“More cell phone companies will come in and offer better rates for consumers,” he said. “We will keep up the fight.”