The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports. If wireless carriers think they’re exempt from CRTC regulation, think again. The commission’s recent decision to force wireless carriers to pay into a subsidy pool for local hardwired telephony came as a stark reminder that being exempt or forborne from regulation doesn’t necessarily shelter you from the financial impact of regulation. Prior to the ruling, WSPs paid what amounted to pennies per minute of long distance. Starting January 1, that will balloon to about 4.5 per cent of revenue. WSPs were bracing themselves for a sting, not an ambush by a hive of angry wasps. The CWTA estimates that the wireless industry’s contribution of about $15 million for this year will skyrocket to about $200 million under the new regime. Add in the annual spectrum licence fees and it appears that WSPs are being unfairly taxed by various government agencies. By having more telecom companies pay into a subsidy pool, the CRTC hopes to lower the amount long distance carriers pay into contribution, and at the same time, stimulate competition and network development. But the wireless industry warns that overtaxing its sector may actually impede its growth. Service to rural areas is one example. Wireless companies have long been criticized for pandering to urban areas. From a purely business perspective, this is not a foolish strategy. A network in southern Ontario costs less to build and covers a larger part of the population than one in northern Ontario – and that translates into higher revenue per region. Over the past several years, WSPs have been making significant inroads to further expand coverage into smaller towns and rural areas. With a larger percentage of their revenues now heading to local telcos, what incentive will WSPs have for going into the less economically desirable regions of the country? When Microcell isn’t even in Regina or Saskatoon, today, is it realistic to expect them to build in Lac Laronge? Convincing the Cabinet to overturn the ruling is possible, though unlikely. The wireless industry must instead call on the government to take a balanced and single-handed approach to taxing their industry. Just because WSPs use the airwaves does not mean they should be taxed at a higher level than carriers who use public rights of way.