Ottawa Launches Wireless Ad Blitz Against Big 3 in Newspapers, Radio

The Federal government has upped the ante in the wireless war against Rogers, Telus and Bell as late last week it began a new ad blitz to target wireless incumbents in national, metro daily newspapers and on radio, reports the Globe and Mail, a stark contrast when the Big 3 targeted Ottawa relentlessly over its wireless policies.

The timing of the ad campaign is an interesting one since incumbents are limited to what they can publicly say on the topic due to gag orders implemented by the 700MHz wireless spectrum auction. The print ads echo the messages seen on Industry Canada’s ‘More Choice’ website, launched at the end of August:

“Our largest wireless companies hold 85 per cent of the airwaves,” the government’s print ads note, declaring that, “The fact is Canadians pay some of the highest wireless rates in the developed world.”

Radio ads spread the message incumbents represent their interests, while Ottawa is here to defend the Canadian public:

“While Canada’s wireless companies represent their interests, the government of Canada is here to represent the interests of all Canadians,” the radio spot says.

Rogers, Telus and Bell (the latter owns 15% of the Globe) declined to comment in detail on the story but, Ken Engelhart, senior vice-president, regulatory, at Rogers, did comment on the taxpayer-funded ad campaigns:

“We were surprised to see that the government has launched this campaign. We’re not sure how this benefits Canadians or how it helps the government achieve its goal of a more competitive wireless sector.”

Ottawa said the ad blitz will continue through the fall and did not reveal the budget, according to Jessica Fletcher, director of communications for Industry Minister James Moore:

“The government of Canada has an obligation to inform Canadians about important policies, programs, and services it offers. The objective of the campaign is to provide Canadians with the facts about Canada’s wireless policy,”

The ‘More Choice’ website has been updated to provide a FAQ on the 700MHz auction and also key dates involved.

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Earlier this week Industry Canada revealed the list of upcoming bidders, which revealed 15 Canadian companies and zero foreign participants. What do you think of the Conservative government’s ad campaign firing back at the Big 3?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Al

    This is rather brazen (although I must admit, it got me a little fired up as it felt like a nice solid kick in the nuts to the big 3). But seriously, it’s a government attack on specific Canadian business. I don’t care how deserving of a smack upside the head the big 3 are, a government just can’t do that sort of thing! (bring on the expensive lawsuits). Plus, it seems pointless and a waist of money. How is it going to benefit the outcome of the auction?

  • Tim

    As Al said, I’m not sure how this matters at this point. The deadline for bid submissions has passed. It would be nice if Wind or Mobilicity entered the Quebec market. That would likely make it the most competetive market in the country.

  • FragilityG4

    I think this has more to do with the Stupid Threes smear campaign from earlier in the year. There’s a gag order on them now so they can’t fight back as the government attempts to right the ship that the Stupid Three wronged.

    Although it’s an attack on one specific industry, the intentions are for the benefit of Canadians and that is what we elected the government to do; protect our interests. Telecommunications is a different industry all together with an oligopoly that is taking advantage of Canadians.

    If the government wants to fight that, I’m on board … Despite there being better things to spend this money on.

  • Al

    Citizens and entities are allowed to pick on their government. But a government cannot be allowed to pick on its citizens or entities, when they have no done anything that is technically criminal. If the government bullied my business like that, to say I would be outraged would be a monumental understatement.

  • exaro

    Having pretty much failed in its attempt to create the artificial climate necessary for a successful fourth national carrier, the Harper government is now resorting to a media blitz telling Canadians they are being protected. It’s based on as much fact as other political advertising.

    For the record, Wind has never aimed to be a national carrier, concentrating on Ontario, Alberta and BC; provinces where there are not already viable fourth carriers.

  • FragilityG4

    Oligopolies walk a fine line of criminality.

  • Al

    Yet, not criminal. So, not an excuse.

    If it were criminal, they’d be in the courts. But the only thing the big 3 are guilty of is being money sucking assholes.

    I appreciate that the government took a stand earlier to entice competition in this market. But they cannot be allowed to say, “these 3 businesses suck” – which is essentially what they are now saying. That’s just morally and ethically wrong for a government to do and, as much as I dislike the big 3, I sincerely hope they kick the government’s ass in court for pulling an un-Canadian stunt like that on Canadian businesses.

  • FragilityG4

    All the government is doing is high listing the facts. There’s nothing criminal with that.

  • Cujo

    The biggest problem with this whole mess, is that people are generally poorly informed. So much noise about how another carrier would drive prices down and service up. Guess what? the new guys will be sending their signals over the incumbents networks (they don’t even have to pay to build their own). So service (actual phone calls and data moving around) will not improve.

    Customer service might be better – but even with existing choices, customers can see a difference in service and can vote with their wallets. Price? Even though Verizon was supposed to be the ‘white knight’ – do people realize that in the US, they are the premium-priced carrier? They are one of the highest priced in the US. What makes people think they will come to Canada and slash prices and profits?

    The most unfair thing is that the “evil 3” spent billions of dollars to build these networks and businesses, yet there seems to be a feeling that someone else should be able to come along and benefit without putting in the sweat and effort to build it themselves. Even the government’s propaganda doesn’t refute this. This would be like the government in the 1980’s saying that Toyota and Mazda can come to Canada because we want competition, but to help them out, GM, Ford and Chrysler have to let them use their factories and distribution networks so it will help them be more competitive faster…..and stop complaining you Big 3 automakers, we’re just trying to win votes.

  • BeGoneBig3

    big 3 are such a money sucking greedy assholes.
    $85 for a 1GB plan is just ridiculous. Sure they offer cheaper plans with less data except they are only available with “select” devices which are just cheapo smartphones only grannies would use… If the big 3 are robbing people the way they do right now, I certainly believe they deserve this kinda thing from their own government.

  • kkritsilas

    Speaking of poorly informed:

    “The most unfair thing is that the “evil 3″ spent billions of dollars to
    build these networks and businesses, yet there seems to be a feeling
    that someone else should be able to come along and benefit without
    putting in the sweat and effort to build it themselves…..”

    The Big 3 did nothing of the sort. The networks were paid for by the subscribers through “system access fees”, “network improvement fees”, :”government regulatory fees” and any other term used to increase the actual billing amount while advertising lower plan prices. This went on for over 20 years, granted with government approval. The Big 3 really have very little cash investment in the networks, and I submit that not only did those fees pay for the network roll out, they have paid for maintenance for the next 10-20 years forward, and have added to the bottom line of all the big 3. And they never paid for any of the original spectrum licenses. They are paying for on going, although very minor, license fees for the spectrum they do own, but this is a small fraction of what the original spectrum licenses would have cost if they were sold instead of given away. In addition, not only did the new entrants pay for their spectrum licenses up front, they also pay the on-going license fees. The new entrants entered the market hundreds of millions of dollars in debt before even signing up their first customers.

    “Even though Verizon was supposed to be the ‘white knight’ – do people
    realize that in the US, they are the premium-priced carrier? They are one of the highest priced in the US. What makes people think they will come to Canada and slash prices and profits?”

    I never did think that Verizon was going to be a low priced carrier. What they would have done, is become a catalyst to encourage competition, long term. Short term, they would have had to offer cell plans at a lower cost, due to their inheriting Wind’s/Mobilicity’s customer base, and weak network. Verizon, initially would not have been able to charge a premium price without having the full coverage network to back it up (they do have a full coverage network in the US, which is why they can charge premium prices in the US). This initial lower pricing would have forced the Big 3 to start competing for business in a meaningful way, unlike the current situation. In the longer term, the hope on my part was to have a monthly plan, from all carriers,at around $60/month that included unlimited nationwide calling/text/MMS, Caller ID, Voicemail, and 5-6GB of data. This was possible with the entry of a fourth, financially stable carrier. With Verizon now not coming to Canada, that same plan will stay in the $90-100/month range.

    Kostas

  • kkritsilas

    “For the record, Wind has never aimed to be a national carrier,
    concentrating on Ontario, Alberta and BC; provinces where there are not
    already viable fourth carriers”

    And your source for the above statement is what? On what record is this? I think that Wind would have liked to have been the 4th national carrier if they had the finances or the government would have properly enforced the tower sharing agreements. This may not have been a short term thing, but I honestly believe that it was a long term plan.

  • kkritsilas

    I see the goverment ads as trying to get the truth out there. The Big 3 were distorting the facts to suit their purposes, painting the gov’t as being unfair to the Canadian cellphone companies. Reality is, if the Big 3 didn’t like the rules as they were written, then they didn’t have to bid for AWS spectrum, nor is anybody putting a gun to their heads to bid on the 700MHz spectrum. They will be be allowed ONE BLOCK in any area. Those are the rules, They are not subject to change based on the desires and wishes of the Big 3. The Big 3 knew this going in; in fact, they were consulted on the rules before they were formalized, and didn’t have any problems with them. When Verizon started to make some noise, this is when the Big 3 started up the PR machine. The rules were fine by the Big 3 as long as they could outbid any other potential bidders. If Verizon did come into Canada, that would not have been the case; Verizon had the money to bid on two blocks, and outbid the Big 3 had they decided to do so. All of a sudden, the Big 3 get worried, and start up the anti-gov’t smear campaign.

    I don’t have any issue with the gov’t explaining its position and policies using tax money, on this or any other issues. I do have a problem with a gov’t using tax dollars for partisan propaganda.

    I wonder if the shareholders will take the Big 3 to task for spending money on an essentially useless ad campaign.

    Kostas

  • Chrome262

    Actually they have been in violation of price fixing and they haven’t implemented network sharing to its intent. While it’s ultimately the Governments responsibility to impose this laws and or regulations, it doesn’t mean they haven’t blatantly disregarding them. These are what they should spend the money on, investigation and fining the big 3. But saying that, countring the miss information is also the job of the Government. They haven’t actually attacked a specific company.