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Higher rates maybe, better service definitely: Bell's pitch to Manitobans

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The MTS Building at 333 Main Street. </p>


The MTS Building at 333 Main Street.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/5/2016 (1511 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MORRIS, Man. - BCE Inc. and the Manitoba government would not rule out higher cell phone and broadband Internet prices Friday if the company's plan to purchase Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. is approved by regulators.

But one certainty, they promised, is faster, more reliable coverage across the province.

"I think it's way too early to speculate on (price changes). What I know with certainty is that quality will go up," said BCE group president Wade Oosterman.

Premier Brian Pallister noted "you get what you pay for."

"We've had cheaper, limited services. Now we get better service," he said.

Montreal-based BCE Inc. (TSX: BCE) announced earlier this month a friendly deal, valued at $3.9 billion, to have Bell buy Manitoba Telecom Services, or MTS. The move would leave Manitoba with one less cellular and Internet provider.

The deal requires approval from regulators including the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. As part of the deal, Bell is promising to spend $1 billion on improvements over five years.

Oosterman, Pallister and others were on hand Friday to announce the first of those planned improvements — three cell towers to fill in dead zones along highway 75, the major link between Winnipeg and the United States border.

Pallister said he is hopeful the Bell-MTS deal will lead to filling in other dead zones in the province, such as the Vita area in the southeast, where municipal and emergency officials have long complained about a lack of communication infrastructure.

"I would make the case on the basis of public safety that we need to continue to expand our access to cell coverage around the province," Pallister said.

The government is willing to consider putting money on the table to make that happen, he added.

Oosterman would not specify what other parts of the province might see improvements but said, generally, some areas that are out of service range now will be brought in.

The opposition New Democrats in Manitoba said the Bell-MTS deal will be bad news for consumers.

"In jurisdictions with less competition — such as Toronto — cell phone rates are almost double the cost as in Manitoba," Maloway said in a written statement.


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Updated on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 12:14 PM CDT: Adds photo, related items

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