Benefiting Consumers is More Important Than Protecting the Big Three, Prime Minister Stephen Harper Says

by Istvan Fekete on August 12, 2013

CompetitionAfter Industry Minister James Moore emphasized that the government won’t back down on allowing large foreign companies to enter the Canadian wireless market, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken out and corroborated Ottawa’s “criticized” position. He said he is more interested in competition than protecting the incumbents.

While it may sound a bit harsh, it isn’t: PM Harper acknowledged that the big three must “protect their bottom line for shareholders”, but as he pointed out while speaking to the Canadian Press, he is refusing to change the government’s wireless policy, which allegedly gives deep-pocketed telcos such as Verizon an advantage, as there are rules intended to help kick-start smaller wireless players.

“Our government has pursued extremely consistently and extremely clearly a policy of fostering greater competition in this industry for the benefit of consumers,” Mr. Harper told reporters while visiting Miramichi, N.B. “We have every intention of continuing that policy in the interests of Canadian consumers and the broad Canadian public, including proceeding with the auction as we have laid out for some time.”

What triggered concern among the Big Three is that the current wireless policy allows foreign telcos to take over struggling wireless startups and bid for two blocks of spectrum during the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction due in January. This will leave one of the big three out of the game for the valuable spectrum, the incumbents claim in their harsh campaign against the red US carrier.

“They’re important parts of the Canadian economy, and they have a responsibility to protect their profits and to protect their bottom lines for their shareholders, for the people who work for them,” Mr. Harper said. “At the same time, the government has a responsibility toward a wider public interest, and Canadians are very clear about what that wider public interest is to us: They want to see enhanced competition, lower prices, better services in this area.”

While each of the Big Three welcomes competition, they don’t seem to understand the need for it, as the current state of the local wireless market is competitive — at least from their perspective. But we must not forget that it was these players who locked you into expensive three-year contracts.

Currently, the representatives of the wireless players are having 30-minute meetings with Industry Minister James Moore to share their thoughts and concerns. On the outside, they are continuing their campaign targeting both Ottawa and Verizon.

It may or may not come as a surprise that even the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has joined the incumbent’s protest against Verizon: it has issued a statement on Friday, saying it is worried that if Verizon is allowed into Canada, it will pass Canadians’ personal data to US intelligence agencies. The statement comes after Telus had already prodded the same sore spot of the US Carrier last week.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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