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Wireless Competition Vanishing After Latest Spectrum Deal

OTTAWA – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) today warned that consumers’ hope for a fourth wireless competitor to the three major carriers, Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless and TELUS Mobility is vanishing in Canada.

PIAC and CAC reacted to media reports today that TELUS Corporation has entered into exclusive negotiations to purchase Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises Inc., doing business as Mobilicity, Canada’s second-largest “new entrant” wireless company.

“Choice in the cellphone market seems doomed,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel for PIAC. “This proposed deal is just another example of the three big providers, Rogers, TELUS and Bell, doing almost anything to return to a three-player wireless market.”

The groups remind the public that the federal government had gone to great lengths in the 2009 AWS auction to ensure that the spectrum would be used to launch new wireless services, competing with the big three “incumbent” wireless providers. The rules for that auction stipulated that no incumbent could, directly or indirectly, obtain the spectrum won by “new entrant” for five years so that wireless companies who had benefitted from “set-aside” spectrum could become viable competitors.

“The Minister should stand up for competition in wireless,” demanded Bruce Cran, President of the Consumers’ Association of Canada. “It seems he is not applying his Department’s own rules to the big three.” He noted that information about this deal came only weeks after an uproar over Rogers acquiring an option to buy Shaw Communication Inc.’s undeployed AWS spectrum, also in apparent violation of the 2009 auction rules.

Lawford added that Industry Canada had launched a consultation on wireless spectrum transfers, apparently in reaction to the Shaw-Rogers deal and that PIAC and CAC comments that supported a policy restricting anti-competitive transfers. However, he noted that in the meanwhile, deals that restrict consumer choice in wireless appear to be going ahead: “The Minister will continue to be pushed by the big boys of wireless to go back to the future for wireless. It’s time to offer consumers a truly competitive wireless future.”

The full text of PIAC and CAC’s comments to Industry Canada on the spectrum transfer consultation is found : here [pdf file: 0.09mb]

PIAC and CAC with the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO) and other public interest groups also signed a letter to the Minister in opposition to the Shaw-Rogers deal which is found here: full text of Letter to the Minister is found here.
For more information:

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
ONE Nicholas Street, Suite 1204
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 7B7
(613) 562-4002×25

lawford@piac.ca

Bruce Cran
President
Consumers’ Association of Canada
(604) 943-943-9181

bcranbiz@telus.net

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