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Canada Cellphones Politics

Bill Proposes Canadian Cellphone Unlocking Rights 359

SJrX sends in a CBC report that the Canadian New Democratic Party has tabled a bill requiring all cellphone companies to provide unlocked cellphones. (Wikipedia notes, "The party is regarded as falling on the left in the Canadian political spectrum.") This reader adds, "The fact that there is a minority government currently should help this bill's chances of getting passed." "The bill proposes three rules: cellphone carriers would be required to notify customers at the point of purchase whether a phone is locked to work only on their network; they would have to remove such a lock free of charge at any point after the conclusion of the customer's service contract; and they would have to remove it if the customer does not enter into a contract within six months of buying the device up front."
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Bill Proposes Canadian Cellphone Unlocking Rights

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  • by al3 ( 1285708 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @08:58AM (#32611846)
    "Sure you're free to take this phone to another carrier, just don't circumvent the DRM to do it"
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      And what if I have my own phone purchased by other means - will I be able to purchase a subscription with a SIM card to it without any problems?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Depends on the carrier. But some of them actively encourage you to bring your existing unlocked phone to their network:

        http://www.windmobile.ca/ [windmobile.ca]

        Coincidentally, they're currently the only game in town that offers unlimited data/voice packages... I'm just waiting for them to put in a new tower in my town (they say it'll be up before the end of the year) to switch... I can get the same service I have now for less than half the cost. And no, I don't work for Wind. Actually, I work for Bell....

  • Oh Canada (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Friday June 18, 2010 @08:58AM (#32611852)
    Between laws like this, universal healthcare, low crime, etc. I'm considering hiring a coyote to smuggle me and my family across the border. All of the advantages of modern America without all the ultra-right-wing bullshit and wars. I'd pay higher taxes and put up with more snow for that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 )
      You should really think hard about that. I live in Canada and the Snow can be a real pain sometimes.
      • But global warming is helping us out with that tho.

        Fortunately I live an hour or so north of the border

      • by rxan ( 1424721 )
        Agreed. But there are plenty of places in the US where you get both the snow and the crazies. I'll take snow without the crazies, thanks.
    • Re:Oh Canada (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Genwil ( 943858 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:05AM (#32611896)
      And our taxes aren't even all that much higher when you add up all your state and local taxes. Plus a study has shown that citizens earning up to $85k/yr get back services worth more than that. We also live longer and do better in almost any social stat you can think of. But not to sound smug: we are far from perfect, and 30% of us seem hell-bent on voting for a party determined to be as Republican as they can.
    • >>>All of the advantages of modern America

      What about jobs? I've looked for an engineering job in Canada, managed to get one interview five years ago, and that's it. They seem a little scarce at least for my skillset (designing FPGAs).

      • Yes, this is definitely a problem in Canada. A lot of skilled workers go to the US. Although there are many software jobs in Canada, it is really lacking in hardware. The problem is, how can Canada compete with Silicon Valley? I heard that around 300K Canadians live in Silicon Valley. That's like 1% of Canada's population. Maybe RIM might need FPGA guys.
        • by cecille ( 583022 )
          Waterloo in general is a good place to look for engineering jobs. There's RIM, but there's also a bunch of other tech companies around there. My old company was hiring when I left, and the company that backed my master's work was also looking for VLSI people.
          • Yes, Waterloo has really good opportunities for tech people, but it is a social black hole for single people not in university. The male-female ratio is completely out of whack.
      • (designing FPGAs).

        Sir, forgive me if I'm way off here, but I'm having trouble reading your post through its ambiguous acronyms. Is this FPGA the ever-so-coveted "First-Post-Get Algorithm" that Slashdot Anonymous Cowards have been seeking their whole lives?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by purpledinoz ( 573045 )
      I think Canada has maintained a good balance between free markets and social needs. This is evident with the lack of bank failures during the crisis. I think this is due to the politics, with more parties to vote for and more awareness by the citizens. Canadians won't stand for any sort of corruption, even if it's for a meager $1M of crony contracts. Americans don't get angry enough about the massive corruption in the US government, like with Haliburton, the bank bailout for the rich, lobbyists buying polit
      • I disagree with a couple points:

        I think Canada has maintained a good balance between free markets and social needs. This is evident with the lack of bank failures during the crisis. I think this is due to the politics, with more parties to vote for and more awareness by the citizens.

        We had a financial meltdown in the 1920s which led to strict rules being put in place to prevent what happened in 2008 with the subprime mortgage mess.

        Canadians won't stand for any sort of corruption, even if it's for a meager $1M of crony contracts.

        We put up with far more shit then we should. The current federal conservative government needs to get tossed out on their asses for the amount of bullshit they've pulled in the past couple years. Unfortunitely, none of the other parties can get their shit together well enough to get it done. And this is the opinion of a forme

    • You should at least consider trying to do the immigration thing legally though, because immigrating to Canada looks like it's far easier than immigrating to, say, the United States. Particularly if you're a "skilled worker".

      Read all about it: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/index.asp [cic.gc.ca]

    • by hey ( 83763 )

      Its not a law. Its a bill.

    • If you live in Vancouver, you get to avoid the snow most of the year too :)

      PS I love being Canadian, come on up.

    • Canada's taxes in reality are little different from that of the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Income_Taxes_By_Country.svg [wikipedia.org]

      And depends where you live, but parts of southern Ontario and BC see very little snow. States to the south like Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania all get more snow on average.

    • Re:Oh Canada (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @12:03PM (#32613862) Journal

      All of the advantages of modern America without all the ultra-right-wing bullshit and wars.

      Not really. I have become increasingly distressed at the direction Canadian politics have headed. The only thing saving the politicians from selling Canada to the United States wholesale is this minority government. The problem with this is that it paralyzes the government, and generally lets things be run by big business, which is precisely what is wrong with the United States.

  • While I agree with the premise here, I'm not sure I like the idea of forcing companies to do this. I mean, the advantage of an unlocked phone is only apparent if there are other networks in the country that phone can run on.

    Maybe this isn't a problem in Canada like it is here in the US...?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This news comes on the heels of some of the larger Mobile carriers recently launching their GSM (most 3.5G) networks.

      Before very recently there was only one company in the entire country that utilized GSM and that was Rogers [rogers.ca]. Every other company was CDMA. There were a few other company names that used GSM, but they simply bought/rented bandwidth off of Rogers towers. The largest of which was Fido [www.fido.ca], however they were eventually bought up by Rogers.

      This sounds like a good thing to me and I hope it goes through

      • by mirix ( 1649853 )

        Fido was entirely independent with their own set of towers at one point in time. (microcell).
        However Rogers bought 'em out and consolidated equipment/towers.

        Every other GSM provider (up until recently / soon, but after the rogers-fido merger) just leases rogers' network, though. (7-11 and.. whoever else).

      • by hey ( 83763 )

        You probably know didn't state it... Bell and Telus got together to build a GSM network. Because of the iPhone and to cash in on roaming charges during the Olympics.

      • by lxs ( 131946 )

        My provider is set to launch their GSM network in a few weeks and I'm pretty excited.

        As a European, this comment takes me right back to the heady days of 1994.

    • I can buy an unlocked I phone from the Apple web-sight in Canada.

      Then I could use it as a wi-fi phone.

    • Previously I'd say the differing network technologies were a concern. Bell & Telus operate mostly on CDMA while Rogers runs on GSM. Most of the smaller carriers operate piggybacked onto these networks, or are owned outright by these three carriers. Wind Mobile is the exception (using AWS).

      More recently however, all three of the major carriers have been implementing HSDPA+ (Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org]) on UMTS 850 / 1900MHz. So if you're buying a Smartphone that's a "world phone", chances are you can use it in on all

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FingerSoup ( 928761 )
      Rogers Bought Fido, and merged their two GSM networks. Telus and Bell, who both used CDMA, are in bed together now, and created their own GSM network, so they could get the iPhone. So now, we actually do have a choice where we get our contracts from. The only problem is that the plans are so similar these days, that they all cost about the same for the same amount of minutes, data, etc... If I didn't know better I'd say they were price fixing.... hopefully the new wireless companies (Wind, hopefully
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Do Canadian cell phone carriers still lock their phones so they will only play ringtones from the carriers store?

  • This is already required if not in all of the EU, then in most of the northern European countries. Cell-phones are instead sold with minimum-time subscriptions, so you may change operator but you still have to pay for the old subscription until the minimum time runs out.

  • Gaining My Support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:08AM (#32611916)
    I'm a Liberal and have been since I started voting. For the most part, I sympathized with the NDP (since they are a left party and I am similarly left in most of my views) but just didn't think most of their agendas were in line with my interests and goals. Of late, however, they have taken new "modern" issues very seriously and are coming out on the side I support, which is to say the side of the populace rather than corporate overlords. As the Liberals languish in a bygone era and the Conservatives drive further towards a system that I loathe (and all other options simply not worth considering unless I've already put a bullet in my head), I find myself becoming increasingly inclined to vote NDP in upcoming elections. Kudos to them and I hope they keep forcing the other parties to seriously consider consumer rights as various subjects are discussed and debated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DarthVain ( 724186 )

      I have been an NDP voter for the last number of years, and I could not put it better myself. They are also the only party with a progressive copyright stance. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are totally quiet on it, while trying to pass corporate media backed laws in the background. The NDP do seem to be tackling more "modern" topics than the other two parties, who seem stuck in the same old rut. I am sure it has something to do with the demographic of the NDP party likely being less than 40, while

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:12AM (#32611958)
    Keep in mind that the Neo Democrats (NDP) are a minority party. As long as the ruling conservatives get the backing of the liberals (the main opposition party), they can beat the project and kill it outright. Stephen Harper has shown time and again to be a shill of the MPAA and RIAA, so this outcome is the most likely one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by c_sd_m ( 995261 )
      But the NDP is a pretty big minority. If the liberals and NDP stick together on an issue, the tories can't overrule them. Or did I miss another election?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by anthonyfk ( 1394881 )
        They'd need the support of the Bloc as well. Liberals + NDP = 114 seats to the Conservatives 144.
    • The Conservatives and the Liberals don't agree on anything. So good luck on that happening. What is much more likely is the NDP getting the Liberals and the Bloc on their side with this bill and getting it passed.
  • Cue the..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:16AM (#32611982) Homepage

    Phone company sympathizers that will claim it hurts business...

    wont someone think of the rich CEO's!

    • It's not the CEO's who'll suffer, it's the jobless pimps and poor blow-farmers in Afghanistan who ultimately lose out!
  • by migla ( 1099771 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:22AM (#32612032)

    Over here in Sweden, 3rd party unlocking of phones is legal. (or at least has been, haven't seen much advertising for that lately, come to think of it.)

    You could pay the equivalent of $50 or something to some bozo with a computer and a cable to crack the operator lock.

    Obviously, if you signed a contract with monthly fees for a number of months, you'd still have to pay those, but there were some marketing stunt where you could get a locked phone without monthly fees virtually for free. You could then unlock it and sell with a nice profit.

    That kind of deals obviously don't come often. Maybe there was just the one.

  • Ted, however, is against it on the grounds that it's totally bogus.

  • by Lythrdskynrd ( 1823332 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @09:28AM (#32612096)
    I sent this letter to my local NDP representative 8/25/09

    I am writing you due to my concern and displeasure with what I feel are unacceptable, anti-competitive practices in Canada's mobile phone industry.

    Foremost among my concerns is the practice of "Cell Phone Network Locking". Cellular phones are expensive pieces of equipment. Consumers nowadays can expect to either pay hundreds of dollars or be required to lock themselves in to a three year contract in order to get a handset subsidized by their network provider.

    I understand and respect the network's need to protect their investment in terms of the "minimum contract time", but my problem arises at the end of the contract term (or immediately, in the case of the consumer who purchases their hardware outright).

    Networks sell their hardware in a "Network Locked" state. This means that a phone purchased from Rogers will only work on Rogers owned networks, Bell only with Bell and so on... If a consumer who owns their phone outright is in any way unsatisfied with their service or have to switch providers for any reason, they are forced to abandon their hardware and "start again" with a new and expensive handset or enter another long contract.

    Modern cell phones will typically cost $500 but can climb to almost $1000 for top-of-the-line hardware.

    A recent article in the news cites Canada's cell phone rates as being amongst the world's most expensive (http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/08/11/canada-cellphone-rates-expensive-oecd.html).

    Though many countries do not have laws regarding the practice of SIM locking, a number of countries do seem to have been able to strike a fair balance between consumer protection and corporate profits.

    I would urge you to consider pursuing Canadian regulations like those described in the following countries: Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore and Spain. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIM_lock) All of these countries have regulations that in one way or another allow the consumer to freely own their handset after they have paid for it. Often there is some fair and reasonable period of protection for the company.

    Whether it be like Hong Kong's "until the phone is paid for", or Denmark's "Six Months" isn't really an issue for me, but for the time being it seems that relying on Canadian providers to voluntarily provide unlock codes to consumers is not working. I believe a legislative implement will be what is best for Canadians.

    Competition is good for the consumer as is choice, allowing customers who have paid for their hardware to choose which provider to get their service from will hopefully improve our situation.

    A second issue which seems to be getting coverage elsewhere is the move to charge consumers for receiving text messages. I am strongly against this as it opens the door for consumers to be forced into paying "Junk Mail".

    Although I'll admit that I'm not necessarily an NDP supporter regularly, I am certainly in agreement with their current "I'm Against The Text Message Cash Grab" campaign that they seem to be running (Even if the language is a bit inflammatory for my tastes, the message is clear). Should you find yourself in a position to suppourt a bill on this issue, I would be pleased if you did.

    Thank you very much for your time,

    And here we are nearly 10 Months later and they're introducing a bill?

    Could it be possible that the political system actually works? Surely there's some other explanation. Please, Oh Please, let there be some other explanation... I'd hate to be forced into voting for the NDP as the only party that isn't completely incompetent.

  • I use T-Mobile in the US and when ever I needed a phone unlocked I simply asked them, and they did it for me. No fuss, no bother. Generally they would ask me why and I would say because I am traveling overseas and want to get a local SIM card. At one stage I had considered switching to AT&T (because T-Mobile coverage in my own house sucks) and unlocking was an issue for me. The AT&T rep I spoke with assured me that that was possible - however I have not put it to the test.

    It may be a case of YMM

  • A bill is 'tabled' (put off until a later date) when either there are more pressing issues, or there are not enough votes to get it passed. They did not 'table' this bill, they introduced it.

    • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

      A bill is 'tabled' (put off until a later date) when either there are more pressing issues, or there are not enough votes to get it passed. They did not 'table' this bill, they introduced it.

      "Tabling a motion" in pretty much everywhere except the USA means beginning the process of discussion, not ending it (ie: "I put this paper on the table so [everyone seated at the table] may discuss its contents").

  • unlock the owned cable boxes as well so any cable system in Canada can use any Owned cable box there.

  • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Friday June 18, 2010 @12:35PM (#32614288) Homepage

    This bill is good intentioned, but practically useless, given the state of affairs of the cell phone market reality in North America (yes, USians, you too!)

    In Europe, Africa and most of Asia, everyone standardized on GSM. You ask the network for a phone number, and they give you a SIM card, you go to any shop and buy any phone and it is guaranteed to work with any network you choose. Not only that, but phones work everywhere from Hong Kong to Dubai to Spain to Johannesburg. Nothing special, other than getting a SIM card if roaming is too expensive.

    In the USA and Canada, we the consumers, have accepted things that are never acceptable elsewhere. For example, we had CDMA, which is used only in the USA, Canada, Japan and perhaps another one or two smaller countries. CDMA does not have a SIM card. The phone is made by the manufacturer and locked to a certain network that sells you the phone.

    Even when GSM came to North America, it was done in bands that were not the standard ones used elsewhere in the world, which was circumvented when quad band phones were put on the market. Meaning they work in Europe and Canada/USA, but they have a higher price and have more silicon inside to handle this fragmentation.

    When 3G came by, more fragmentation occurred. The governments started selling "spectrum", and companies like Google and Cricket grabbed certain bands (WINDMobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile in Canada did the same). AWS was invented.

    This means that a phone from Rogers will not work with WINDMobile and vice versa.

    So what use will the bill be if they are operating at different frequencies?

    Not only that, we see industry lobbyists asking for "more spectrum". The excuse is that spectrum is too crowded, but the real reason is more fragmentation and balkanization so they can lock in customers more and more. Why does Europe which is more densely populated, or Egypt have more carriers, yet all handsets work on all networks?

    See this article I wrote earlier: Mobile phone carriers lobby for more balkanization by asking for more spectrum [baheyeldin.com] as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cimexus ( 1355033 )

      You can add Oceania to your list in the second sentence too (i.e. Australia/NZ etc.). Unless you consider that part of Asia (most people here generally don't). But we too are completely standardised on GSM in the same way as Europe etc.

      As a regular traveller to North America (both US and Canada), the state of cell phones over there has pissed me off for almost two decades now. Even in the mid 90s, I could take my Nokia brick (GSM) to any other country on earth, step off the plane, and be roaming without iss

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