CLARIFICATION: Debate but no news on foreign telco ownership

Our reporter misinterpreted remarks by Hank Intven, leader of law firm McCarthy Tétrault telecommunications practice, at the International Institute of Communications Canada conference Tuesday, in the story Debate but no news on foreign telco ownership. Mr. Intven writes:

(The) quote gives the clear impression that I was opposing changes to the foreign ownership rules for telecom companies now. I did not say that. In fact, in everything I said, I was putting forward the position of the Telecom Policy Review Panel. The TPR report (extract attached) clearly supports the idea of a phased and flexible reduction of the foreign ownership restrictions on telecom carriers. The TPR report suggested a two phase approach. In the first phase, starting as soon as the law is changed, there would be a presumption that foreign investments in pure-play telecom start-ups or in companies with less than a 10% market share – ARE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST AND SHOULD BE ALLOWED.

Your writer seems to have been focusing on what I said about the 2nd phase of the TPR’s proposed reforms. When one deals with the 2nd phase, i.e. dealing with larger telecom companies and cable companies which have broadcasting as well as pure telecom assets, I believe we should move more cautiously. That is why the TPR recommended a broadcasting policy review before phase 2. That is where I cautioned that the two groups (telcos and broadcasting distributors) were increasingly competing and should be treated symmetrically. It is in phase 2 that government policy should be more cautious. But I did not say ” It would be difficult to change foreign ownership rules for telecommunications companies” now – it just has to be done in a phased manner that benefits the public.

Bottom line – as I said several times –  Canada should permit more foreign investment where it benefits Canadians (such as in new investments in small wireless and ISP competitors) – but not where there are risks it could hurt Canadian interests, such as in companies that own broadcast programming businesses.
We are currently working to correct the original story.