Until now the wireless war has been duelling spokesmen. Now it’s fighting Web sites.
Tired of being outnumbered by its critics, which include CEOs of major telecommunications companies, a union, some academics and industry consultants, the Harper government has launched a public relations offensive.
–20 per cent (it explains that since 2008 — when an auction for wireless spectrum allowed new carriers including Mobilicity, Public Mobile, Videoton and Wind Mobile to get into the market — the price of wireless service has dropped by almost that much)
–and 25 per cent (the increase in the number of jobs in the wireless industry, an apparent rebuttal to the Communications and Paperworkers Union, which alleges that if Verizon Communications enters the market jobs will be lost.
The site also tries to counter what it says are four myths opponents are firing at it.
Arguably the most important is that there is a “loophole” in the rules for January’s auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band that will allow Verizon (or any large foreign carrier that is an auction bidder).
Critics say when the government set up auction rules favouring new carriers it didn’t think a company the size of Verizon would take advantage of them — and put carriers like Bell [TSX: BCE], Telus and Rogers at a disadvantage.
Verizon has been considering buying Wind, and possibly Mobilicity, in time for the auction. It had to make a decision by Sept. 17. According to the Globe and Mail, it has put off a decision to buy a small carrier until after the auction. Meanwhile it may be a bidder on its own.
But, the website says, “there is no loophole. Our government is supporting increased competition in our wireless sector, which is intended to produce more choice and lower prices. Canada’s wireless industry is currently dominated by Canadian companies. The Canadian incumbents already hold 90 per cent of the telecommunications market and own 85 per cent of the wireless spectrum in Canada.
Other myths the government rebuts include
–“Canadians already have some of the lowest cell phone bills in the world.”
“Fact: Canada is ranked among the ten most expensive countries for wireless services in virtually every category by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The web site doesn’t say but the OECD report figures are 12 months old.
–“Canada’s roaming rates are competitive with other countries.”
“Fact: Canada has among the highest roaming rates in the world.