Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Canadian Government to Push Cable Providers to Unbundle Channels


“We don’t think it’s right for Canadians to have to pay for bundled television channels that they don’t watch. We want to unbundle television channels and allow Canadians to pick and pay the specific television channels that they want,” Industry Minister James Moore said during an appearance on CTV’s “Question Period.”

I do wonder how much more we’ll end up paying as a result. This would be a great idea if Canadian ISPs and TV service providers — which are the same thing these days — didn’t treat their customers so poorly.

We have two major providers in Calgary: Telus and Shaw. There are smaller companies, too, but they largely resell the same Telus and Shaw pipes. Telus has traditionally been more expensive than Shaw, and it became a local waiting game of seeing which company would budge first. Unfortunately, it was Shaw — I’m with Shaw — who raised their prices across the board. My package’s price increased by 50%, which is atrocious. These prices took effect just prior to a few laws which affected major ISPs.

My cell plan, on the other hand, is with Telus. In December, new laws are going into effect which will prohibit the three-year contracts all Canadian wireless companies default to. As such, new two-year plans are being rolled out across the board which increase the already-exorbitant monthly fees we pay.

The CRTC appears to be operating with the best of intentions: I don’t want to pay for Spike TV, TLC, and the Speed Channel just to get Discovery, and I suspect most people are the same. But the regulation of these industries needs to run even deeper. Canadians already get charged some of the highest prices in the world for internet and cellular service, and it’s going to get worse without meaningful regulatory action. The traditional free market models don’t work in a necessary oligopoly.1

  1. The cost to start up an ISP or cell network is prohibitively high. Telecom is one of a select group of industries that is naturally controlled by very few players. ↩︎