Low Cost Canadian Cell Phone Plans are Garbage

The requirements the CRTC has given the cell phone service providers to create low cost plans look like something written up from 2012, with features and prices that just don’t make sense for modern times. It looks like the big-three will continue to make huge amounts of money, even off these “discount” plans.

Proposed requirements for low-cost cell phone plans

Minutes

They have made it so that the actually inexpensive plans, the prepaid occasional use and the postpaid occasional use plans have such restrictive amounts of minutes that it’ll be unlikely you’ll want to use your phone at all.

One hundred minutes is just over an hour and a half per month, and four hundred minutes for the year means no more than thirty-three minutes per month. A job interview on the phone could easily burn through that time. A tele-medicine call could use up more than another thirty minutes.

I get that the phone portion of the cellular network might not be the least expensive component of their offerings, but a bit more common sense and value could have been found here.

Text Messages

I don’t see why unlimited text messages wasn’t fought for at every plan level. A combined availability of 400 text messages for a year and then $0.50 per message above that doesn’t fit the world we live in. I receive text messages for two-factor authentication sometimes. I receive text-messages for package delivery notices. I receive text-message reminders for dental appointments. It’s not just communicating with family or friends, text-messaging has become part of how I interact with the wider world of services and it’s such a small amount of digital data that it is outrageous that it isn’t included with every plan level.

If they absolutely had to have a limit to avoid abuse, something in the few thousand range seems much more fair to me.

Data

For the monthly plan, three gigabytes seems relatively fair, though I think the price for the plan is a bit high in my opinion, at every other plan option, I think they weren’t thinking about how data is used and useful to consumers today and how low-cost it has become over the last decade.

Each of the plans should include a minimum of one gigabyte of data and none of them should include overages for going over. Instead, the plans should require the vendors to throttle data to 3g speeds to reduce how much data can be consumed without the potential for overages in costs. The only added this overage safety in the postpaid occasional use plan.

Bring Your Own Device

The cellular companies know that most people don’t bring their own device when getting set-up on a cell phone plan. Phones are fairly disposable, so most people looking at these plans might have to pass on them and pay more per month because they can’t afford to spend around one hundred to two hundred dollars to purchase a budget phone.

Also, what isn’t mentioned is that most of the cell phone providers in Canada typically offer some small discount if you bring your own device, though that language is often buried these days because they don’t want you to bring your own device as you can then easily move to another network when they have a better offer. They want you locked in for two years on their network and they do that through phone subsidies.

I think at least the monthly plan should have the option to have a device included, especially the lower cost options that exist in the market.

What the CRTC Should Have Mandated

Here’s what my mandate might look like if I were able to move the CRTC towards something better for low-cost plan requirements. Is it perfect? No. I just tried to adjust the few line-items that they currently have to create plans that are a bit more fair and reasonably priced.

With my own diagram, I set the initial low-cost plan at what I consider to be a low-cost at only $25 per month and provided the requirement for sub-$500 devices be available to this plan as a zero-cost way of getting a reasonable phone. This makes a ton of sense to me and would likely see adoption by many users. The profit on this plan might be low, especially since I tried to reduce the amount of opportunities for companies to get more money from people through punitive overages, but I think it’s overall a fair and useful plan for most users looking for a lower-cost plan.

I kept the other two plans the same price as they were, but I changed some numbers and features around. I think the biggest change is data, where I quadrupled the postpaid occasional-use plan from 250 MB to 1GB of data minimum required and went from zero data to 4GB of data for the year on the prepaid occasional-use plan. I also think that my changes to texting are much more useful and reasonable.

The other big change I would want to see is overages cost less. Even on plans that exist today, most of the overage prices are out of line with reason and reality and are heavily punitive. They are often set-up in such a way to make you move up a plan level so that the communications companies can consistently make more money from a user.

Canada is one of the worst when it comes to pricing and we have to push our elected officials to convince the CRTC to force the giant corporations to do better. Corporations are focused on making as much money as they can, and it’s only through government intervention that we, the people, get any opportunity to push back, especially when there are no reasonable competitors in the market.

Update: It shouldn’t have to be said, but the data on these plans should be at full LTE speeds until they have used up their allotment. The practice of selling these CRTC mandated plans at 3G speeds is another punitive decision that is horrible! If I buy a 250MB data plan, it should be the latest connection and speed that my provider offers. I am so angry right now that they went ahead and made the data on these plans 3G speeds.

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