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Saskatchewan: Wheat fields, modern cities.. but no VoIP

When I think of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, I envision wheat and barley fields as well as the compact, modern cities of Saskatoon and Regina.But no VoIP.

When I think of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, I envision wheat and barley fields as well as the compact, modern cities of Saskatoon and Regina.

But no VoIP. Not a one.

According to Michael Hennessy, President of the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association, this is because SaskTel, the exclusive telephony provider in the province, is so hostile to the eight-year-old competition-encouraging policies of the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission
 that it refuses to provide VoIP.

The key reason seems to be because they don't feel they have to.

"Eight years after the local competition decision, there is still no local competitor, no Vonage and no number portability in Saskatchewan," Hennessy says in a statement provided for Canadian cable television trade publication Cablecaster magazine.

"SaskTel claims that the competitive safeguards contained in the VoIP and prior decisions are not appropriately applied to Saskatchewan on the grounds that: (a) larger competitors from outside the province would not be price regulated in Saskatchewan; and (b) the CRTC decision will have the effect of keeping consumer prices artificially high in that province," Hennessy writes. "In our view, so long as SaskTel retains 100% of the local voice market, the first claim is irrelevant and the second is simply wrong.

"The only thing standing between consumers and lower prices in Saskatchewan is SaskTel itself," he continues. "Under the CRTC decision, SaskTel can introduce a lower priced VoIP service and expect expedited CRTC approval. Bell Canada received expedited approval for its digital voice service within two weeks of its application.

"With no competition to date," Hennessy concludes, "SaskTel remains firmly in the driver's seat. SaskTel can immediately offer a discounted VoIP service to the general public - before a single local voice competitor enters the province."