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

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.

Kieran Christison, manager of Daybreak Farms in Terrace inspects eggs on Oct. 30, 2020. Christison wants to transition to a zero waste, cage-free facility. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Daybreak Farms aiming to achieve zero-waste, cage-free facility

Kieran Christison, manager, presented the farm’s future plans to Terrace city council

Mercedes Trigo, assistant manager, said that Trigo’s Lifestyle Store in Terrace has experienced four broken windows and an attempted break-in recently, leaving her feeling unsupported by bystanders and the police. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Trigo’s management frustrated by property damage, theft

In a little over a month there have been four broken windows and an attempted break-in at the store

Two RCMP officers have been recognized for their actions in responding to an incident involving a man with a weapon at 4501 Park Ave. on the afternoon of April 27, 2020. RCMP say it was an isolated incident and there is no danger to the general public. (Jake Wray photo)
Terrace RCMP officers recognized for acts of bravery

Two involved in arrest of armed suspect

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

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. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read