A woman holds two cellphones with the corporate logos of Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications in a photo illustration in Chelsea, Que., Monday March 29, 2021. A review of the proposed $26-billion purchase of Shaw Communications by Rogers Communications continues into its third day today in Ottawa before a committee of federal MPs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A woman holds two cellphones with the corporate logos of Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications in a photo illustration in Chelsea, Que., Monday March 29, 2021. A review of the proposed $26-billion purchase of Shaw Communications by Rogers Communications continues into its third day today in Ottawa before a committee of federal MPs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Academics, smaller telecoms say Rogers shouldn’t be allowed to buy Freedom Mobile

Ben Klass said the government needs to stick with aiming for a fourth wireless carrier in every region

Rogers Communications Inc. shouldn’t be allowed to buy Canada’s fourth-largest wireless service, Freedom Mobile, because it would undo attempts improve prices and services through competition, experts in telecommunications policy told MPs on Tuesday.

In a third day of hearings into the Rogers proposal to buy Shaw Communications Inc., which owns Freedom and Western Canada’s largest internet network, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist said regulators should require a spinoff of the wireless assets before approving the deal.

“While some seek to justify it or explain it away, the simple reality is that Canadians already pay some of the highest prices for wireless services in the world,” Geist said, echoing other opponents of the deal.

“If this merger is approved, the situation is likely to get worse. Indeed, when Rogers promises that it will not raise prices for Shaw Freedom Mobile customers for three years, it effectively signals that it will be raising them as soon as the clock runs out on that time.”

Shaw chief executive Brad Shaw and Rogers CEO Joe Natale told the same committee on March 29 that they’d be stronger competitors to Bell and Telus by combined their spending power and assets. That would allow the combined company to reach more rural and underserved areas, they said.

Brad Shaw also said the company founded by his father J.R. Shaw just wasn’t big enough on its own to fund the enormous investments required to build fifth-generation wireless networks.

Under questioning, Geist — an expert in internet and e-commerce policy — said the “most palatable” outcome would be to have Shaw and Freedom to remain independent rivals to Canada’s biggest three biggest telecommunications companies.

“Shaw is a viable, innovative competitor,” Geist said. “So taking them out of the market … is a loss ultimately for consumers.”

Ben Klass, a member of a research team studying ownership concentration in Canada’s telecom and media industries, said the government needs to stick with aiming for a fourth wireless carrier in every region.

Most of the new wireless competitors that emerged in 2008 and 2009 have been absorbed by the Big Three. Shaw bought the largest independent, Wind Mobile, rebranding it as Freedom after the 2016 purchase.

“What we’re left with is Freedom (in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.) Videotron in Quebec, Eastlink in the Maritime provinces,” Klass said.

“If this merger is allowed, it would be tantamount to the government’s admission that they’re no longer interested in supporting real competition in this space.”

The deal announced March 15 needs regulatory approval to go forward. Key officials, including the federal competition commissioner, are scheduled to address the committee on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Rogers plan to buy Shaw raises red flags about competition, especially in wireless

David Paddon, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Internet and Telecom

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

A native-to-B.C. wild queen bee (bombus melanopygus for those in the know) feeds on a periwinkle flower. (Submitted/Sarah Johnson, Native Bee Society of BC)
B.C.’s wild bees need messy gardens to survive

The year-long nesting period makes habitat a primary concern for wild bees

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Most Read