Minister Seeks Wireless Pricing Assurances Before Rogers-Shaw Approval: Report

Industry, Science and Technology Minister François-Philippe Champagne wants concrete commitments on cellular service affordability from both Rogers and Quebecor before he approves the transfer of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile’s licences to Vidéotron, which will allow Rogers’ proposed $26 billion takeover of Shaw to proceed — reports The Globe and Mail.

According to the publication’s sources, Minister Champagne is seeking written undertakings from Rogers and Quebecor that will guarantee consequences if the companies fail to keep their promises.

The $2.85 billion sale of Freedom Mobile to Quebecor’s Vidéotron has been positioned as a remedy to antitrust concerns over the Rogers-Shaw merger. Rogers, Shaw, and Quebecor on Monday extended their self-imposed, mutual deadline for both transactions from January 31 to February 17, 2023.

Minister Champagne’s approval has become the last checkpoint for the Rogers-Shaw deal after the Federal Court of Appeal rejected the Competition Bureau’s appeal of a federal tribunal decision to greenlight the transaction.

The minister said last week that he “will render a decision in due course.” Last year, he said his approval of the Freedom-Vidéotron deal would be subject to two conditions — that Quebecor holds on to Freedom’s spectrum licences for at least 10 years, and that the company commits to bringing wireless prices in the rest of Canada down to Quebec levels.

While Quebecor has agreed to both conditions, it hasn’t done so in writing or under threat of enforceable consequences.

The Industry Minister is also facing political pressure to delay his decision. Last week, several Conservative members of Parliament urged Minister Champagne to wait for the outcome of an investigation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Independent telecom operator TekSavvy has also petitioned the CRTC to look into the merger once again, alleging that the wholesale internet rates Rogers is offering to Quebecor as part of the deal are “unlawful.”