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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wireless policy solid: Moore

Posted: 08/20/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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SASKATOON -- Federal Industry Minister James Moore is standing by the government's plan for more competition in the wireless industry, despite push-back from telecommunications companies and their workers.

Moore said the policy is geared at getting more competition for Canadians and he added more choice will result in lower prices.

The policy would allow a foreign company, such as U.S.-based Verizon, to buy two of the four prime blocks of radio waves that will be up for auction in January. Bell, Rogers and Telus can buy only one each.

"The policy was not invented on the back of a napkin," Moore said in an interview with The Canadian Press in Saskatoon, noting many who opposed the move had input as the policy was being developed.

"They were supportive of the policy when we first announced it. It's only because Verizon has made noises about possibly coming into Canada that the anxiety has arisen," he said.

Canada's big wireless carriers have launched a media campaign to warn that, under the current plan, they would be at a disadvantage if Verizon were allowed into the market.

Unions have also chimed in.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which has members who work at Bell, is calling for Ottawa to rescind what it perceives as advantages for Verizon.

The Telecommunications Workers Union, representing workers at Telus and Shaw, said last week Verizon's arrival wouldn't necessarily mean lower cellphone bills. The union said Verizon would probably want to operate in lucrative urban markets and ignore rural communities.

The rules allow foreign entrants to buy Canadian wireless carriers with less than 10 per cent of the market share.

There have been reports Verizon wants to buy Wind Mobile and possibly struggling Mobilicity as a way to enter the Canadian market. If Verizon decided to participate in the auction, rules prevent it from continuing to negotiate acquisition deals until afterward.

Moore said Verizon's entrance to Canada is speculation.

"We'll see if they come or if they don't come," he said. "The ad campaigns by the big three is about their business model and their self-interest, if Verizon were to come into Canada or not. The government's policy does not succeed or fail if Verizon comes into Canada."

The Opposition NDP is calling for parliamentary hearings.

Industry critic Chris Charlton says in a letter to the standing committee on industry, science, and technology there needs to be an examination to ensure long-term competition and access to mobile services across Canada.

"It is not too late to examine recent developments to ensure that all Canadians will have access to the highest speeds at the best prices," writes Charlton.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2013 B5

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