Industry Minister’s open letter says more wireless competition is better for Canada

‘Fair for Canada’ is the name of a campaign that Bell, TELUS and Rogers started to inform the government – and ‘misinformed Canadians’ – of various policy loopholes that potentially favour ‘giant American corporations’ who might interested in entering the Canadian wireless space.

Much of this has to do with the recent rumours of Verizon buying WIND Mobile, thus possibly bidding in the upcoming spectrum auction. Their dedicated site states that the Big 3 are not opposed to competition, but that they want a ‘level playing field’ and “giving special access to foreign wireless companies will hurt Canadians,” plus is “unfair and will have massive consequences for Canadians.”

Late Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared he wants more competition in Canada and will not close the so-called ‘loopholes,’ specifically saying that “Our government has pursued this very consistently… a policy of fostering greater competition in this industry for the benefit of Canadian consumers over the past few years… While I appreciate some companies have interests that are very important, our government’s first priority is the wider Canadian public and Canadian consumers and we are convinced this is where they want to see us go.”

Things are now getting interesting.

In a letter, published by the Financial Post, to PM Harper by Anthony S. Fell, a Director of BCE, reveals this topic is getting personal. Fell noted that he finds it disrespectful that James Moore, the newly appointed Industry Minister, only gave George Cope, Darren Entwistle and Nadir Mohamed – who are ‘three of the most capable Chief Executive Officers in Canada’ – half hour to present their case. They each should have had more time with him to express the full scope of the impact of ‘Fair for Canada.’

Fell stated that “the biased spectrum auction and other major subsidies being proposed for Verizon have all the hallmarks of a political populist initiative to capitalize on a mis-informed public view that the Canadian cellular market is uncompetitive and Canadian cellphone charges are much higher in Canada than in the U.S… if the Canadian market is so uncompetitive and if cellphone charges so high and Canadian telecos so profitable, why can’t Verizon enter the market with no subsidy just like everyone else?”

The Prime Minister didn’t respond, but Moore did. He openly blasted Fell’s letter. The Minister happily responded to his questions and concerns, clearly stating the “letter is filled with assumptions.” Moore outwardly declared, even though he was not Minister of Industry at the time, that since 2008 the Canadian government has always served in the best interest of Canadians, not shareholders of corporations: “I have tremendous respect for the leaders of Canada’s telecommunications firms and their drive to do what is best for their shareholders. However, our responsibility is toward a broader public interest, and we are serving Canadians with our policy approach.”

Finally, to cap off the topic that Canadians are misinformed: “I think Canadians know very well what is at stake and they know dishonest attempts to skew debates via misleading campaigns when they see them. Equally, Canadian consumers know instinctively that more competition will serve their families well through better service and lower prices.”

Check out the entire letter called “A Telecom Policy for All Canadians” here.