The proposed Rogers-Shaw merger was back in the news last week as Canadian Industry minister Francois Philippe Champagne held a mid-week press conference to announce that the original deal was dead, but that a reworked deal that brings in Videotron might be a possibility if certain government expectations on restrictions on transferring spectrum licences and consumer pricing outside of Quebec were met. Keldon Bester is a co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP), a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an independent consultant and researcher working on issues of competition and monopoly power in Canada. He’s been one of the most insightful and outspoken experts on the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss where things stand and the big picture weaknesses of Canadian competition law and policy.
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 144: Keldon Bester on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Problem with Canadian Competition Law
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 138: John Lawford on the Legal, Regulatory and Policy Responses to the Rogers Outage
Rogers has provided some answers to the many questions about its massive outage last month that affected millions of Canadians. Yet there is still considerable uncertainty about what the government and CRTC are prepared to do to address ongoing concerns in the telecom sector. John Lawford is the Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC, the Public Industry Advocacy Centre, which has been a leading consumer voice for decades in Canada. PIAC was the first to file a request with the CRTC seeking an inquiry into the outage. John and I were both participants at the Industry committee hearing into the outage and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss what we learned and what more can be done from a regulatory, legal, and policy perspective.
The CRTC Shrugged: A Special Law Bytes Podcast on the Industry Committee Hearing Into the Rogers Outage
The Rogers outage came to Parliament Hill yesterday as the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology conducted four hours of hearings into the issue. The day started with Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, followed by Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri, CRTC Chair Ian Scott, and a panel of consumer and public interest voices. I was pleased to be part of the final panel and I’ve posted my opening remarks below and created a special Law Bytes podcast featuring my opening remarks and the question and answer session with MPs.
Responding to the Rogers Outage: Time to Get Serious About Competition, Consumer Rights, and Communications Regulation
Like many Canadians, I spent most of the massive Rogers outage completely offline. With the benefit of hindsight, my family made a big mistake by relying on a single provider for everything: broadband, home phone, cable, and wireless services on a family plan. When everything went down, everything really went down. No dial tone, no channels, no connectivity. Work was challenging and contact with the kids shut off. It was disorienting and a reminder of our reliance on communications networks for virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
So what comes next? We cannot let this become nothing more than a “what did you do” memory alongside some nominal credit from Rogers for the inconvenience. Canada obviously has a competition problem when it comes to communications services resulting in some of the highest wireless and broadband pricing in the developed world. Purchasing more of those services as a backup – whether an extra broadband or cellphone connection – will be unaffordable to most and only exacerbate the problem. Even distributing the services among providers likely means that consumers take a financial hit as they walk away from the benefits from a market that has incentivized bundling discounts. Consumers always pay the price in these circumstances, but there are policy solutions that could reduce the risk of catastrophic outages and our reliance on a single provider for so many essential services.
Why the Government’s New Telecom Policy Directive Means More of the Same for Canada’s Communications Competition Woes
Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne unveiled the government’s proposed new telecom policy directive yesterday, hailing it as a “historic step.” However, a closer look at the policy suggests that the only thing that is history are any immediate hopes for a more competitive communications marketplace in Canada. Once again, the government has shown itself unwilling to take a strong stand in favour of consumers and competition, instead releasing a directive that largely retains the status quo and sends the message to CRTC Chair Ian Scott to stay the course. Indeed, the primary purpose behind the announcement would appear to be an attempt to shield the government from criticism over its decision to leave the controversial CRTC decision on wholesale Internet access intact, thereby denying consumers the prospect of lower costs for Internet services.