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    The CRTC's Simultaneous Substitution Problem

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    Tuesday January 28, 2014
    The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications has spent the past year-and-a-half trying to reinvent itself a pro-consumer regulator. On the broadcast front, the most obvious manifestation of that approach is the gradual move toward pick-and-pay channels, which seems likely to emerge as a policy option later this year. Establishing mandated pick-and-pay would  be a political and consumer winner, but there are still reasons for Canadians to vent against the regulator. The retention of simultaneous substitution policies is one of them.

    I made the case for gradually eliminating the simultaneous substitution policy late last year, arguing that the policy hurts Canadian broadcasters (by ceding control over their schedules to U.S. networks) and Canadian content (which suffers from promotion). Moreover, simultaneous substitution will become less important over time as consumers shift toward on-demand availability of programs. There are still supporters of simultaneous substitution, but few come from the consumer community.  Indeed, even the CRTC is hard-pressed to identify consumer benefits in its FAQ on the policy. In fact, its Super Bowl commercial FAQ claims viewers benefit from signal substitution during the broadcast, but the Commission can't seem to identify any benefits.

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    Rogers' Changing Tune on Fully Opening Canadian Wireless to Foreign Investment

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    Friday January 24, 2014
    Rogers' executive Rob Bruce in 2012 on changes to Canadian foreign investment rules that removed restrictions for companies with less than ten percent of the market:

    “Our view is 'bring it on. As far as competition goes, we've always been a full-speed-ahead competitor and we're ready to go with whoever comes to market.”

    Rogers' CEO Nazr Mohamed in 2013 on Canadian wireless foreign investment rules:

    Mohamed repeated that Rogers favours opening foreign investment for large telecom players too, which can't be more than one-third foreign owned. "If the Canadian government decides to open up foreign ownership, it should open it up for everybody," he told reporters later.

    Rogers Deputy Chair Edward Rogers yesterday on Canadian foreign investment rules:

    It's a complex topic but I think our view is as Canadians we better really study and understand what that is before we do it, because the model we have now, I believe, allows Canadians to have the best wireless industry, the best cable industry, and some fantastic media assets in Canada. And I personally don’t want to just sell that. So, the shareholders maybe the richest executives enjoy that. But we have the hollowing out of Canada after that. I don't think there's any formula where any of these companies are own outside of Canada and they do better for customer. I think there is a lot you could argue that if we were a branch plant that Canada would be last.

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    Rogers Tries to Distance Itself From Spectrum Battle But It Can't Run From its Record

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    Thursday September 19, 2013
    The Globe and Mail reports that Rogers Communications is trying to distance itself from this summer's spectrum auction/Verizon battle. Edward Rogers apparently told an investor conference:

    "It's been like watching a bit of a soap opera. Rogers has tried to be not as engaged in the dramatics of it and tried, as best we can, [to] offer more of a practical alternative for government, for industry."

    Uh huh. So Vice-Chair Phil Lind claiming in July that "everything that they could possibly ask for they're doing for Verizon" was staying out of the fray? Or CEO Nadir Mohamed warning in August that the government's approach could result in slower wireless speeds was offering a practical alternative? Sending a company-wide pre-written email urging employees to write to the government and registering 13 board members to lobby the government was not engaged?  Running advertisements about employees losing their jobs in Moncton wasn't dramatic? Arguing that a fourth carrier won't work in Canada was another practical alternative? The record speaks for itself and no amount of spin will change the fact that Rogers, Bell, and Telus will have to live with the consequences of behaving like "raving lunatics" (in the words of Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera).
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    James Moore on Wireless Lobbying: Canadians Know Dishonest Attempts to Skew Debates

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    Wednesday August 14, 2013
    Industry Minister James Moore came out swinging yesterday against the incumbent's campaign against Verizon's entry into the Canadian market and a letter from BCE director Anthony Fell. Moore may have been particularly angered at suggestions that the big three were disrespected after a 30 minute meeting with him when few companies have as much access to government officials as BCE. After defending the government's policy, Moore states:

    I do not believe the public is misinformed.  I think Canadians know very well what is at stake and they know dishonest attempts to skew debates via misleading campaigns when they see them.  Equally, Canadian consumers know instinctively that more competition will serve their families well through better service and lower prices.

    The description of the Bell, Telus and Rogers campaign as dishonest and misleading by the Industry Minister comes on the heels of Prime Minister Harper confirming there would be no change in government policy, company employees talking about being pressured to write letters in support, and competitors such as Videotron calling out the big three for running "a shrill propaganda campaign designed to sow fear." Unless there is some hidden game plan, the scorched-earth lobby tactics employed by Bell, Telus, and Rogers may go down as the most ill-conceived in Canada in recent memory.
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