Close the loopholes in the wireless industry

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I write regarding Geoff Meeker’s column of Aug. 26, “More competition is always better than less,” page D1.

Canada’s wireless industry is ready to compete head-on with foreign-owned companies on a fair and level playing field, but we need to close

the loopholes before opening the border.

With respect to the upcoming spectrum auction, the rules were originally designed to encourage new Canadian entrants in the Canadian marketplace. Now, the unintended consequence of government regulation is the inadvertent creation of loopholes. In this case, enormous loopholes that could be exploited by giant foreign incumbents. That’s what our Canadian wireless companies face today.

To level the playing field, the government must close the loophole that allows two prime spectrum blocks to be scooped up by a foreign company when some Canadian companies can only bid on one each.

They must also close the loophole that would allow a foreign giant to piggyback on the networks built by Canadian companies, instead of deploying its own.

Why give others unfair advantage?

There is no reason for Canada to

grant these advantages to foreign companies when Canadian companies wouldn’t be granted similar advantages in foreign countries. The result won’t be smart regulation for consumers but effectively more government intervention and interference in the marketplace.

I support the federal government’s objective of ensuring that Canada is a world leader in wireless telecommunications. When it comes to the economy and creating jobs, the role of government must be as much about avoiding interference as it is trying to influence outcomes.

There is always a danger of causing adverse consequences tomorrow with a shortsighted focus on today.

 

Bernard Lord, president and CEO

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications

Association

Organizations: Wireless Telecommunications Association

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Pierre Neary
    September 04, 2013 - 20:33

    To bad no one is levelling the playing field for the consumer Mr. Lord.

  • Maggy Carter
    September 04, 2013 - 12:04

    This is a powerful oligopoly whose tentacles of influence reach far beyond the wireless communications sector. They exercise enormous control over Canadian media generally and hence are in a position to shape their own message - whatever message bolsters their already unseemly profits. They got where they are because successive federal governments provided them a playing field heavily tilted to their advantage. Canadian governments have repeatedly propped up these companies by skewing public policy to keep foreign competitors at bay. As a result we pay among the highest wireless fees anywhere in the world - and they are likely to get still higher. In an effort to inject some competition into the market, government allocated spectrum to small Canadian start-ups like Wind and Mobilicity. It didn't work - largely because Bell, Rogers and Telus already enjoyed a huge advantage and because the start-ups, or upstarts, simply lacked deep enough pockets. Government could have chosen to regulate industry pricing, but of course that would be counter to the Harper government's 'hands-off' policy toward big business. Instead it decided to allow non-Canadian companies like Verizon to buy into Wind and Mobilicity as a last ditch effort to open the market. Predictably the Big Three were not ready to take any of this lying down. They have put on a full court press to protect their turf from ANY competition - foreign or domestic. And, with the pull back of Verizon and the collapse of Mobilicity, clearly they have won. One final observation. What is particularly sad and grating is to see a former premier like Bernard Lord rent himself out to the wireless sector to help plead their case with government and with the public. No doubt it pays well but there are probably many other things this respected politician could be doing to help address society's problems. There is no reason that shouldn't include running a major Canadian company, but running a company that employs thousands of Canadians is not the same as being the mouthpiece for an industry association whose members have one of the worst reputations for bad service and price gouging in Canada.