No Cell Service in Subways? Blame Canada’s Wireless “Big Three”

Soknacki: If Elected Mayor, Would File Competition Complaint, Other Sanctions to Deliver Existing City Bid for Service

(TORONTO) Toronto’s TTC riders could have full cell phone access in subway stations and tunnels – but mayoral candidate David Soknacki says “the City of Toronto must stand up for our right to pick a winning bidder” for that to happen.

After a competitive bid, in December 2012, Toronto awarded a tender to bring full cell phone and data service (not just WiFi) to transit riders in underground stations and transit corridors.

It’s a service other global cities – like Hong Kong, Vienna, Budapest, and San Francisco – already offer to build ridership and improve safety. To deliver the service, one firm builds the necessary infrastructure, while other firms allow wireless access for subscribers through that conduit.

But over eighteen months later, there has been little progress on the file in Toronto. It’s not through any fault of the winning bidder, BAI Canada. The lack of progress is because Canada’s major wireless carriers refuse to play ball to allow for subscriber access, perhaps hoping to secure contract rights for themselves. In Montreal, Canada’s largest wireless firms waited out winner of a bid to provide similar services until that deal collapsed; those firms (Rogers, Bell and Telus) then stepped in to offer the same service as a consortium alongside Videotron.

“By denying service to a common carrier that won a competitive bid, Canada’s protected, coddled wireless firms are leaving their own customers and our transit riders in the lurch,” Soknacki said, noting that a Big Three subsidiary participated in the competition to serve as the common carrier, and lost. “Further action is certainly fair to defend Toronto’s interests, and consumer interests,” Soknacki said.

Soknacki committed that if elected Mayor, he would:

  • File a complaint with the Competition Bureau of Canada, seeking an investigation of wireless firm policy in this field in both Toronto and retroactively in Montreal;
  • Ask Council to extend the deadline for BAI’s contract to eliminate any chance that competitors could simply wait out the contract terms to their advantage, and;
  • Penalize any wireless firms that chose not to work with Toronto’s chosen common carrier in any future competition for service contracts with the City of Toronto.

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