Big three continue to lobby Ottawa on wireless



Hoping that it ain’t over ’til it’s over, the country’s biggest cellular carriers are continuing to plead with the Harper government to close what they say are loopholes in its wireless policy with the possiblity of giant U.S. carrier Verizon Communications entering the market.

In news releases and interviews Thursday the day after Industry Minister James Moore flatly rejected weeks of lobbying, executives of BCE Inc. (which owns Bell Mobility), Rogers Communications and Telus Corp. insisted Canadians are concerned that carriers here aren’t able to fairly fight Verizon or any foreign carrier of that size unless Ottawa changes the rules for the upcoming spectrum auction.

They also revealed they’ve asked to meet the prime minister over the issue. No meeting was set up before Moore’s statement was released.

The trio also continue to urge Canadians to go to a Web site they’ve set up,

The site lets people read the letter carriers sent early last month to the prime minister and includes a collection of supportive articles from various publications.

But it doesn’t ask readers to do anything, like email their members of parliament.

Thursday’s statements to the media could be seen as a way to show the government that the trio aren’t willing to roll over just because of Moore’s statement. The Conservatives are sensitive to social media campaigns, as exhibited by their willingness to direct the CRTC to reconsider its Internet service provider wholesale pricing policy.

However, even Ken Engelhart, Rogers’ senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, admitted in an interview that Moore didn’t leave the government any wiggle room in his statement.

When asked why continue lobbying, he said “when you are in a position with a public policy that seems to be lacking in common sense and is costing your company billions of dollars I think you’re going to bring that to the public’s attention. And the government may change their minds, they may not. But we’re going to express our views.”

In particular Engelhart complained of rules for January’s scheduled auction of valuable spectrum in the 700 MHz range, which allows new entrant carriers — and if Verizon is able to buy Wind Mobile or Mobilicity it would qualify — to buy more spectrum than an incumbent like Rogers [TSX: RCI.B].

The big three also don’t like policies that mandate a company the size of Verizon would be allowed to use incumbent networks while it is building out its own. Verizon is big enought to build its own infrastructure, the three incumbents argue.

Finally, they don’t like their inability to buy a smaller carrier, arguing lack of open bidding for Wind or another carrier means Verizon would be able to get into the market at a relatively low price.

In their news releases Bell insisted there’s a “growing chorus of concern across the country,” Rogers said this is a “critical time in our industry,” while Telus urged Moore to think over his decision again.

“Tilting the playing field in Verizon’s favor could cause irreparable harm to Canada’s wireless industry that will take more than one election to fix,” wrote Ted Woodhead, Telus’ senior vice president of legal affairs. “It’s a bad call for Canada.”


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