CRTC says cheaper data-only plans on the way

The country's three national wireless carriers have agreed to offer "broad range" data-only plans through their second- and third-tier brands, including $30-per-month plans with more megabytes than previously suggested, the industry's federal regulator said Monday.

Plans with 250 MB of data to start at $15 a month with 1 GB priced at about $30

The CRTC says it has agreement from the Big 3 telcos to provide cheaper data-only plans. (Getty Images)

The country's three national wireless carriers have agreed to offer "broad range" data-only plans through their second- and third-tier brands, including $30-per-month plans with more megabytes than previously suggested, the industry's federal regulator said Monday.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered Bell, Rogers and Telus in March to come up with low-cost data-only plans to fill a void in the marketplace.

But there was widespread criticism from individual consumers and consumer advocacy groups about the price of the initial proposals filed in April.

Bell, for instance, had offered a single new option that cost $30 per month for 500 megabytes of data. Rogers also had a single new option, that cost $25 per month for 400 megabytes of data. Telus had offered to introduce plans that would charge $30 for either 500 megabytes through Koodo or 600 megabytes of data through Public Mobile.

The CRTC now says all three companies will offer at least one plan that charges $30 per month or less for one gigabyte of data (1,000 megabytes).

Telus will offer two $30-per-month plans with one gigabyte of data, through Koodo and Public Mobile, while Rogers will offer a similar one gigabyte plan for $30 through Fido and Bell's Virgin Mobile will offer the same amount of data for $28 per month, according to the CRTC.

It listed only Bell Canada's Lucky Mobile and the Rogers Fido and Chatr brands with $15 data-only plans with 250 MB per month. Telus had previously noted it had a Public Mobile plan for as low as $20 per month for 250 megabytes of data.

The federal regulator said it will monitor the implementation and availability of plans by Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus over the coming months to ensure that the national wireless providers honour their commitments.

The plans are to be available within 90 days.

OpenMedia executive director Laura Tribe was critical of the offerings, saying they fail to meet the data needs of low-income people in Canada.

She pointed out that Canadians have waited 18 months, through a lengthy hearing process, to get the CRTC to insist on affordable plans that work. The regulator has failed in that task, she said.

"Connectivity is not a luxury — it's essential. And affordable plans are critical to ensuring that everyone in Canada is able to to participate in our digital society. But with the CRTC unwilling to take action to address Canada's wireless affordability issues, it's now up to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains," she said.

With files from CBC News

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