TekSavvy rallies support for lower internet prices

The "Pay Less To Connect" campaign aims to get Canadians to support a CRTC decision and oppose a petition from larger telcos.
TekSavvy Solutions Inc--Big Telcos to Cabinet- Forget -very dist

Internet service provider TekSavvy has launched a campaign to get Canadians on its side and oppose a petition from major telcos that would impact its ability to offer lower internet prices.

This comes just months after several telco companies, such as Bell and Rogers, formally requested that the federal cabinet reverse a CRTC decision that cuts what they can charge smaller internet service providers for access to their high-speed networks. TekSavvy claimed, in a Monday press release, that the “big telcos” wanted to “hike internet prices instead,” citing the fact that it had been able to lower its own prices as a result of the decision.

“We think Canadians are interested in that,” says Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s VP of regulatory and carrier affairs. “Cabinet consultations like this aren’t necessarily the most accessible thing. So we’re creating some tools so Canadians can make their voices heard.”

Some tools Kaplan-Myrth is alluding to is a form found on the “Pay Less To Connect” website, which a constituent can fill out and send to their respective MP, advocating for lower internet bills.

“We think the CRTC did the right thing, and we want to explain that to Canadians and give them a chance to make their voices heard to the government,” he says.

In addition to the website, the same message will be reflected in billboards, transit, radio and social media ads across Canada, which drive to the website. Following the CRTC’s initial decision last fall, TekSavvy launched a PR push that explained how the decision allowed it to cut its prices, a message relayed on customers’ invoices – however, it’s unclear if that will be a method employed this time.

The CRTC noted in October that the revisions to the proposed rates were “required in order to ensure that the interim rates are not based on overstated costs.” Revised interim rates were not just set for Bell Canada and Rogers, but also Cogeco, MTS, SaskTel, Shaw and Videotron. The interim approved rates were cut by up to 43% for wholesale capacity rates and 77% for access rates, depending on the carrier.

The campaign is positioned as a broader advocacy campaign, but Kaplan-Myrth says disclaimers on the site let visitors know it’s from TekSavvy, in the interest of transparency. He also notes the company is currently looking to partner with other ISPs, though couldn’t point to specific companies.

For their part, telcos that are petitioning to have the CRTC decision reversed have said they are doing so not to raise prices, but because it impacts their ability to invest in infrastructure. Caroline Audet, media relations contact for Bell, did not speak specifically to TekSavvy’s campaign when strategy posed the question, referring instead to Bell’s reasoning for opposing the CRTC decision. “Reducing the rates re-sellers pay to access carrier networks to below cost will negatively impact [the] future investment in Internet infrastructure. That’s a real problem because resellers invest little to nothing in networks themselves,” she says.

Rogers did not provide a formal comment, but referred strategy to sections of a November 2019 “Petition to the Governor in Council,” which states that, according to the CRTC’s own data, “resellers have made minimal investments in Canada’s wireline networks” and that resellers “accounted for only approximately 0.36% of total investment in wireline plants and equipment.”

“The CRTC’s responsibility with costing, which they did in their August decision, is to set wholesale rates that compensate the carriers for their costs,” Kaplan-Myrth says about the telcos’ stance regarding infrastructure. “Fair wholesale rates compensate the incumbents for the costs of building and operating their infrastructure, which we all depend on. Above that level, the carriers are just inflating rates to keep all Internet prices high. By bringing rates down to fair levels, the CRTC is ensuring that the carriers can continue to build out infrastructure as well as enabling competition that can drive down prices for all consumers.”

TekSavvy had over 300,000 customers last March, when it expanded outside of Ontario and Quebec by launching internet service in Manitoba, Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.