The Government Wireless Policy: $9 Million Spent on Empty Words?

by Istvan Fekete on December 9, 2013

The government has allocated $9 million for a campaign that aims to inform wireless subscribers about Ottawa’s pro-competition policy in the wireless sector. Obviously, the money is coming from Canadian taxpayers. Of this $9 million, $2.6 million has been spent on airing TV ads both in English and French in December and January 2014.

This amount seems high for airing two TV ads, but the Globe and Mail – which is, by the way, 15% owned by one of the incumbents, Bell – calls out the government spending by pointing to the costs.

Of course, they don’t mention how much the incumbents paid for the “Fair for Canada” wireless campaign during the summer, money spent only for battling the government over its wireless policy. That amount also came from you, dear Canadian wireless subscriber.

When launching the campaign, the government said it has an obligation to inform Canadians about the facts of its wireless policy. And these ads provide facts. “These ads provide those facts,” Jake Enwright, Industry Minister James Moore’s press secretary, insisted in an e-mail. “Our policy to increase competition in the wireless sector is providing Canadians with more choices and access to the latest technology at lower prices.”

The Globe and Mail writer, though, thinks differently: “The problem is that the website, the ads and the policy are an empty storefront. The federal government’s wireless policy is so far made up largely of rhetoric and bluster.”

“The campaign is disturbingly reminiscent of two other rounds of wasteful government ads – spots touting the Canada Action Plan long after the infrastructure money was spent, and a campaign to promote a job-grant program that still does not exist.”

This obviously provides a great opportunity to look back in time and see what the government has done and point to its failures. And there are a couple of issues highlighted in the article.

In fact, Ottawa’s original push for a competitive mobile landscape has partially failed: one of the wireless startups, Public Mobile, has been swallowed by the incumbents (Telus) and the fate of the other two – Wind Mobile and Mobilicity – is uncertain. More precisely, the fate of Mobilicity has been decided: the struggling wireless player will be auctioned off today, which represents another failure for the government.

What’s worth mentioning, though, is that Wind Mobile will be present at the auction, so we may see a possible bid.

Looking back to 2013, though, the government has sent clear messages to the incumbents that they cannot purchase set-aside spectrum.

Now, the success of the government’s wireless policy mostly depends on the forthcoming 700 MHz auction. Ladies and gentlemen, please note the January 14, 2014, date in your calendars.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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