It is time to fire a broadside into the monopoly communications environment in Northern Canada. For much of the past century, the principal telecoms service provider in Canada's North has been NorthwesTel (NWTel). The NorthwesTel monopoly accomplished its goal: communications were brought to the North. Dial tone is available, at a price, in every community.
But communications in the 21st Century has evolved. Communications today is much more than dial tone, just as communications on the high seas has evolved beyond the hoisting of different-coloured flags.
Companies with fresh thinking, innovative solutions, new services and leaner operations are eager to raise canvas and sail into the northern marketplace as service providers. Their promise? Lower prices, better service and more innovation.
It's been 14 years since the CRTC opened the communications markets of the south to competition. The time has come to offer Northern citizens the same options and the same benefits.
What are the costs to Northern citizens of inaction? Higher prices.
To prove the point, we looked at the hypothetical costs of dealing with NWTel as though it were selling the McDonald's Big Mac. Our calculations were based on NWTel's markups for both its retail and wholesale services against typical prices in southern Canada, and the results were astounding: if they were selling burgers, they'd be charging $61 – and that's wholesale!
The title of this paper suggests piracy – that is admittedly hyperbole, but it is not too far off the mark. Given that this is government-mandated activity, it could best be described if not as outright piracy then definitely as buccaneering. After all, NWTel is plundering the North, legally, under the monopoly regime established by the CRTC!