Knives out for Verizon

A group of CEOs and a major union are the latest to oppose any special treatment for U.S. company Verizon when it comes to buying small Canadian wireless companies and radiowaves used to operate the cellphone networks.

A group of CEOs and a major union are the latest to oppose any special treatment for U.S. company Verizon when it comes to buying small Canadian wireless companies and radiowaves used to operate the cellphone networks.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada say domestic and foreign companies should operate under the same level playing field as Canadian companies.

Council president John Manley, whose group represents 150 chief executive officers from various industries, says favouring a foreign competitor over Canadian companies sets a bad precedent.

Verizon, which has more than 100 million wireless customers, has said it’s eyeing the possibility of entering Canada.

There have been reports that Verizon is planning to buy new carrier Wind Mobile while also is in talks with financially struggling Mobilicity — two of the new generation of wireless carriers competing with Rogers, Telus and Bell (TSX:BCE).

In June, Ottawa blocked major carrier Telus (TSX:T) from buying Mobilicity and made it clear it wants four wireless competitors in every region.

“One of the directors put it this way: We encourage Target to come into Canada, but we don’t tell Canadian Tire they have to give up 30 per cent of their shelf space to Target to help them get established,” Manley said Monday.

“Because of the depth of Verizon’s pockets, they can easily buy up two of the four blocks. That leaves a Canadian player out of that spectrum… and spectrum is the oxygen for wireless communications.”

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union is also opposed to any advantages the Harper government is offering New York-based Verizon Communications.

“Granting one of the biggest companies in the world special rights to public airwaves (spectrum), to buy small players and to existing companies’ networks may be the most ill-conceived policy the Harper government has come up with,” CEP President Dave Coles said in a statement.

“In its ideological crusade to open the telecommunications sector up to foreign ownership, the Conservatives are ’gaming the rules’ in favour of a major US-based multinational.”

Early next year, the federal government will hold an auction for 700 megahertz spectrum, a sought-after bandwidth frequency which allow telecommunications companies to rapidly transmit large amounts of data. The service will improve cellphone connections in rural areas as well as elevators, tunnels and other places where service is often spotty.

Canada’s wireless carriers want to be able to bid for the same amount of wireless spectrum that Verizon will be able to bid on as a new player in Canada.

Analysts have noted that current rules on the sale or transfer of radio waves don’t allow Bell, Rogers or Telus to bid on and win more than one block of spectrum, but this wouldn’t apply to new entrants such as Verizon.

Foreign ownership restrictions have been removed for small wireless companies with less than a 10 per cent of the market, which opens the door for Verizon and other foreign companies to enter Canada. However, big carriers still can’t be more than one-third foreign owned.

Manley noted there are three and four cellphone competitors already in many of Canada’s markets.

“It’s hard to understand what the objective (of the government policy is). You’ve got pretty good pricing in Canada, certainly good compared to the U.S,” he said. “You’ve got high quality of product. You have competing infrastructures, you have an obligation to supply rural and remote communities, which is high cost. What exactly is the problem you are trying to solve?”

The Globe and Mail reported that senior executives for Bell, Telus and Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) were in Ottawa Monday to meet with Industry Minister James Moore.

A spokeswoman for Moore would not confirm who the meeting was with, only saying that the minister was privately “meeting with representatives from various sectors in the coming days and weeks.”

Last week, the three telecom companies joined together in calling for Ottawa to change its policy on foreign ownership of small Canadian wireless companies. Together, they have about 25 million wireless customers.

The three Canadian rivals say they have been put at an unfair disadvantage that allows foreign carriers like Verizon to buy small Canadian wireless carriers while denying them the same opportunity.

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

Just Posted

Nicole Buchanan, chair of Red Deer Public Schools board, says it’s too soon to say how the provincial government’s 2021-22 will impact the district. (Contributed file photo)
Red Deer school boards react to provincial budget

It’s still too soon to say how the latest provincial budget will… Continue reading

Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said allowing Red Deer College to become a university  would create a gap in programming.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer College continues 2021-22 budget planning

Red Deer College is continuing its 2021-22 budget planning, a day after… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP were dispatched to a report of a break and enter in progress on Sunday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer woman among two arrested by Didsbury RCMP

Two people are facing drug-related charges after RCMP searched a home in… Continue reading

Satnam Singh Sandhu, 42, was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter on Friday in Red Deer Court of Queens Bench. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake man sentenced to six years for choking his wife

Satnam Singh Sandhu pleaded guilty to manslaughter

Some workers are terrified at the prospect of returning to work at Olymel, where hundreds were infected with COVID, says a worker.
Advocate file photo
Second death linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta Health confirms

A second death has been linked to the Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

This image released by Briarcliff Entertainment shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a scene from the documentary “The Dissident.” (Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)
US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based… Continue reading

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US strike, first under Biden, kills Iran-backed militiaman

BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in Syria targeted facilities belonging to a… Continue reading

Conservative member of Parliament Michael Cooper holds a press conference as he is joined virtually by fellow members of Parliament, Canadian geriatricians, mental health professionals and Indigenous leaders in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, regarding the Senate amendments to Bill C-7, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Address anti-Indigenous racism in health care before expanding MAID: advocates, MP

OTTAWA — The federal government should not expand access to medical assistance… Continue reading

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Most Read