Telus and Bell Outraged at Early Rogers TTC Wireless Launch

Rogers rolled out wireless service on select sections of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway system last Wednesday, and the move has its rivals Telus and Bell unhappy, as a federal consultation on the issue is still underway.

“Rogers has demonstrated a complete lack of co-operation on access for all riders, refusing to meet with other mobility providers or grant roaming access,” said Richard Gilhooley, a spokesperson for Telus, to The Star. He emphasized that the TTC is a public service funded by Toronto’s citizens and argued that “everyone should have equal access to connectivity and the added safety it provides.”

The service launch comes four months after Rogers acquired BAI Canada, the company that secured the contract for the TTC’s cellular network in 2012. According to federal regulations, telecom companies are required to provide network access to competitors, although the exact terms are usually hammered out between the companies themselves.

In July, the federal government jumped into the waters to try and bring wireless service for all. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) launched a consultation process to accelerate these negotiations.

Rogers spokesperson Cam Gordon countered the claims by stating, “Bell and Telus have been playing games instead of negotiating on behalf of their customers.” He noted that Rogers’ new service enhances 911 access for all riders, including Bell and Telus customers. “You cannot have one improvement without the other,” Gordon added.

During the consultation, both Bell and Telus urged ISED to consider stopping Rogers from rolling out their service on the TTC until other providers had the chance. Despite the ongoing consultation—whose deadline for initial submissions was this Monday—Rogers turned on its service anyways.

“Rogers clearly continues to seek to advantage itself at the expense of Toronto residents and is showing brazen disregard for the ongoing consultation,” said Ellen Murphy, Bell’s spokesperson. She further criticized Rogers for ignoring community groups advocating that TTC wireless connectivity is a public safety issue that should be made universally accessible as soon as possible.

This tension between telecom providers comes amid a series of violent incidents on Toronto’s public transit, escalating calls from both riders and politicians for better connectivity and safety measures. Previously, Telus had submitted a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), accusing Rogers of granting itself an “undue preference” by failing to engage in timely negotiations.

Rogers responded by calling the allegations “tactical and convenient,” adding that they’ve invited “good faith negotiations from the outset.” They also labelled Telus as “hypocritical,” citing unsuccessful attempts for two years to secure permits to add their equipment to Telus infrastructure.

“Rogers’ accusations against Telus are just another example of them attempting to mislead the public, the regulator, and the government as they continue to flout the rules,” shot back Telus’s Gilhooley.

Rogers maintained that they remain committed to working with all carriers “in a timely way while prioritizing safety,” stating they will “continue to respectfully participate in the federal government’s consultation process.”

For now, only Rogers and Freedom Mobile customers have wireless access on the TTC. You can bet this early debut from Rogers now forces the hands of Telus and Bell to fast-track negotiations so their customers don’t miss out. The consultation process continues and as it stands, start refilling your popcorn folks.

Update August 29, 2023: Rogers told iPhone in Canada in a statement, “We’ve been working hard to bring more reliable access to 911 and 5G service to the TTC subway system. Bell and Telus have been playing games instead of negotiating on behalf of their customers — after showing no real interest for over 10 years in providing wireless services or raising public safety concerns about the limited coverage in the TTC. We continue to respectfully participate in the federal government’s consultation process.”

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