Choosing a Local Home Phone Service

Competitive markets versus monopolies

In a competitive market, several companies can offer services and rates designed to attract your business.

A monopoly means that only one company serves an entire community, and that company has no competitors. Monopolies are often regulated to make sure that the prices and services they offer are reasonable.

Most areas in Canada now have competitive markets for local phone service. Once an area opens up to competition, companies offer products and services at competitive prices, so you can choose the package that best suits your needs.

To help ensure that Canadians can take advantage of a competitive marketplace for phone services, Canadians must be able to easily switch service providers. To that end, the CRTC prohibits providers of telephone services from requiring customers to give 30-days notice of cancellation.

Your service provider must cancel your wireless service as soon as it receives your notice of cancellation (unless you request a later cancellation date). This requirement will also begin to apply to home telephone services and internet services starting on January 23, 2015.

Local phone service

Local phone service enables you to call people or businesses in your local calling area without paying long-distance charges. Typically, you pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited calls to phone numbers within your local calling area.

While the CRTC no longer regulates areas with local service competition, it did set some requirements and rules that companies must meet for your benefit and protection:

  • you must be able to transfer to whichever local phone service company you prefer
  • you can keep your phone number when you transfer to another local phone service provider, as long as you stay in the same exchange (typically a community, town or city) and that your telephone number has not been suspended or disconnected
  • you can change to a new local phone company, usually without any effect on your other communications services (long distance, Internet or wireless). Internet access and television services may depend on how these services are provided by both your current and new service provider.
  • you can change to or between wireless companies, but there may be impacts on your long distance services

The CRTC also laid out minimum requirements for local service, including:

  • 911 emergency service
  • confidentiality of customers’ information
  • message relay service for persons with hearing impairments
  • marketing and billing information in alternate formats for persons with visual impairments
  • access to local networks by long-distance companies

Who are the local telephone service providers?

These links list the names of companies offering local telephone services:

Some companies, called resellers, purchase products and services from local exchange carriers (LECs) and resell them to consumers. Resellers are not directly regulated by the CRTC. However, the LECs can impose some regulatory requirements on them through terms and conditions in their resale agreements. 

What should I find out before I decide on a local phone service provider?

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What are the rates and charges for local phone service? What’s included in that rate?
  • Are there any up-front, one-time or service charges?
  • How much do call features (for example, call display, call waiting or voice mail) cost?
  • Will my existing services -- such as Internet access, long-distance, wireless or TV broadcast -- change in any way?
  • Can I change my features or package?  If so, are there restrictions and/or charges associated with making a change?
  • Do I have to subscribe for a certain amount of time to get the quoted rates?
  • What happens if I cancel my service before the end of a time commitment?
  • How long would it take to transfer my service? 
  • If you have any vision, hearing or mobility impairments, ask for more information on services like message relay service (MRS), special equipment (for example, with large key pads), voice command, TTYs (Text Telephone), operator assistance for call completion or directory assistance.

Keeping your phone number when you switch phone companies (number portability)

You can keep your phone number when you change phone companies, as long as you stay within your local exchange area. If you move out of your local exchange area, you may not be able to keep your phone number.

If you move from a wireless company to a wireline phone company you may keep your telephone number as long as your location to be served by this telephone number is within the exchange of your telephone number.

If you want to keep your number, don't cancel it

You have to ask your new service provider about keeping your phone number before you cancel your current service. You can only keep your present phone number if it’s currently being used. Generally, you can keep your phone number if you switch:

  • from a landline phone line to a landline phone line (provided by different companies)
  • from a landline phone line to a cellphone
  • from a cellphone to another cellphone
  • from a cellphone to a landline phone line; if your location is outside of the local exchange area for your telephone number, this may not be available

This ability (called “number portability”) is available in most, but not all, of Canada. The industry is working on getting number portability available across the country.

Find more information on Wireless number portability.

How do I transfer to a different local phone company?

To change local phone service companies, just call the service provider of your choice. That service provider handles everything about the transfer from your former provider, and lets you know when the transfer will be completed. You can switch any of your other services to your new service provider, but you don’t have to do so.

If you want, you can request your new service provider to cancel any services you may have with your old service provider that you no longer need from that service provider. The types of service that your new service provider can cancel on your behalf are landline telephone service, internet, long distance, wireless and television.


However, it’s your responsibility to finalize any payments or resolve any contractual or other issues with your former service provider for any services that are cancelled by or transferred to your new service provider.

Giving your authorization to switch local phone service providers

If you decide to switch to a new local phone service provider you, or your agent, must authorize the switch. Also, if you decide to have your new service provider cancel any of your services, such, as Internet, long distance, wireless or television, you or your agent must also authorize your new service provider to act on your behalf. Your agent can be an adult member of your household. There are several ways to give authorization. If you don’t give your authorization in one of the ways listed here, the service provider is not allowed to transfer your service:

  • written consent
  • oral authorization, which must be verified by an independent third party
  • oral authorization, where the carrier has an audio recording of the consent
  • electronic order authorization, where you dial a toll-free number given to you by the company
  • confirmation via the Internet
  • consent through other methods, as long as an objective documented record of your consent is created by the carrier or by an independent third party

What happens to all of my other communications services when I switch?

Most of your communications services are not affected when you switch to a new telephone service provider, but be sure to let your new telephone company know about all the communication services you subscribe to.

Some long-distance services may depend on the agreements that your new service provider has with the companies providing these services.

Internet access and television service may depend on how these services are provided by both your current and new service providers.

Will I still have 911 emergency services?

Yes. The CRTC requires telephone service providers to support 911 service access to emergency services, wherever such services are available. However, 911 emergency access service is not available everywhere in Canada.
Also, the type of 911 service available to you may depend on the type of telephone service you have. For example, with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), many service providers support only basic 911 service. That means if you make a 911 call, you must tell the emergency operator your location, because it’s not automatically provided. The emergency operator may also ask for other information in order to be able to provide the help you need.

Will my number still be in the phone book? Will I get a phone book?

No matter who provides you with local telephone service, you’ll still get the same telephone book.
Your name, address and phone number will also continue to be listed in the phone book and in online directory listings. Local telephone service providers must provide their directory listings to companies that print or maintain these types of telephone directories.

If you prefer to have an unlisted number or a special listing, talk to your new telephone service provider.

If you have wireless service, your telephone number is not normally included in telephone directories. Also, if you are changing from landline telephone service to wireless service your telephone number will only remain in the current telephone directories. When, the next telephone directories are published, your wireless number will no longer be included, unless you specifically request your new wireless service provider to ensure that your telephone number remains in the telephone directories. This is because all wireless numbers are treated as unlisted telephone numbers.

Will there be any change to the telephone wiring and cabling in my home?

Generally, the wiring or cabling in your home stays the same, since you are usually responsible for the phone wires and cables in your residence. You can contact your telephone service provider to confirm who is responsible for the wiring and cabling in your home.

If you are switching between a traditional landline service provider and a cable company for your telephone service there may be a change in how the wiring in home is connected to your new service provider’s network. If any required changes are needed, these will be handled by your new service provider.

Will my special needs be accommodated?

All companies that provide telephone services are obligated by the CRTC to support the special needs of persons with hearing or visual impairments. Examples of these services are:

  • message relay service
  • discounts off basic toll rates for users of teletype devices
  • service information and bills in alternate formats
  • special needs wireless handsets
Discuss any special requirements with your potential new local telephone service provider before committing to their local telephone service.

Can I go back to my previous local service provider?

Yes, you can. You can contact your former telephone service provider or any other telephone service provider at any time. But keep in mind that you may still have a contract with your current service provider.

I have a complaint about my local phone service provider

Contact your local phone service provider

If you have a complaint about your service, contact your local phone service provider directly. It’s in the company’s best interest to respond to your concerns.

If you are not satisfied with your service providers’ response, you may contact the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS).

The CCTS is an independent agency that helps resolve your complaints about telecommunications services.  Contact them at:

  • email: info@ccts-cprst.ca
  • mail: P.O. Box 81088, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1B1
  • fax: 1-877-782-2924
  • toll-free telephone: 1-888-221-1687
  • toll-free TTY: 711 or 1-800-855-0511 (voice)