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Rogers’ proposed takeover of Calgary-based Shaw has raised eyebrows in Ottawa and beyond. Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, for one, said earlier this week that the would-be $26-billion merger would create “very serious issues and very important issues when it comes to maintaining that level of competition.” Tom Zubko, CEO of a Northwest Territories telco, said the mating of Rogers and Shaw would only birth outsized internet prices for customers in far-flung regions like his.
And then there’s Pierre Karl Péladeau. The Quebecor CEO, whose company owns internet provider Videotron, lashed out against the deal today while testifying at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology—and hinted he might be looking to expand Videotron beyond Quebec. Here are the highlights:
The government was right to expand competition: “The consequence of the absence of real competition in Canada’s wireless sector is that Canada has some of the highest rates amongst industrialized countries. In 2008, the government vigilantly and persistently pursued a policy of having a fourth player in the market, with its own infrastructure across the country. Videotron in Quebec and EastLink in the Maritime provinces were the workhorses of this policy, and we were successful. [Videotron] has since invested more than $2 billion in order to offer the best networks and the most innovative services in Quebec. The result: Quebecers pay the lowest wireless rate in Canada. It’s not me saying it, but the Competition Bureau.”
Rogers must be stopped: “The Rogers proposition to acquire Shaw will have the effect of bringing us back to zero in terms of eliminating the fourth wireless player that is essential in maintaining competition,” Péladeau said. “Don’t consumers in other provinces deserve the same experience as consumers in Quebec and the Maritimes? That is to say, to buy their services from a reliable provider like Videotron that isn’t a member of the oligopoly of the Big Three?”
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Videotron might spread: Responding to a question from Bloc Québecois MP Sébastien Lemire about whether Quebecor was interested in buying Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile, whose network spans well beyond Videotron’s Quebec, Péladeau was frank: “We were interested in [the bandwidth spectrum] in 2008. We would certainly be the candidate with the financial wherewithal and the experience, as well as the expertise in telecom and commercialization, to have success.”