Ottawa: ‘Fair for Canada’ Campaign was Motivated by Fear of Verizon

Speaking with the Globe and Mail, Industry Minister James Moore stepped up Ottawa’s ongoing battle with incumbent carriers, saying their “Fair for Canada” campaign was motivated entirely by fear of Verizon as competition, rather than a campaign to stand up for Canadians.

Rogers, TELUS and Bell argued Ottawa’s wireless policies were ‘unfair’ and contained ‘loopholes’ for foreign competitors such as Verizon, plus also cited how massive job losses would ensue if the US carrier came to town.

As for the current status of the “Fair for Canada” campaign? Minister Moore says it has fallen quiet now after Verizon confirmed it was no longer interested in Canada:

“So for them [the Big Three] it was not about being fair for Canada. It was about trying to stir up concern about Verizon possibly coming into the Canadian marketplace,” he said Wednesday.

Moore was pressed by reporters if he has chosen this fight with the Big 3, but he denied the idea, saying he has “fine” relationships with incumbents and they “get along fine,” citing he had dinner recently with Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and soon will have lunch with Telus CEO Darren Entwistle in Vancouver.

After criticizing the government all summer, some carriers fear Ottawa might become a larger telecommunications regulator, something echoed by John Gossling, chief financial officer for Telus:

“I think regulatory is always at the top of our risk list. It is just something that we can’t control obviously, and sure, there is heightened attention right now,”

“And I think with the bidding deadline now passed, hopefully that gives a bit of, you know, time to clear the air and things will settle between now and the auction, I think. We’d like to have a constructive discussion with Ottawa on this and I think there are lots of attempts to do that.”

Rogers has tried to distance itself from the “Fair for Canada” message, despite contributing to the campaign; Nadir downplayed any possibility of blowback from targeting Ottawa and its policies:

“It’s been like watching a bit of a soap opera,” deputy chairman Edward Rogers told conference delegates. “Rogers has tried to be not as engaged in the dramatics of it and tried, as best we can, [to] offer more of a practical alternative for government, for industry.”

BCE’s chief financial officer, Siim Vanaselja denied the company’s recent slashing of US roaming charges by 50% was a move to ward off potential regulation of the industry:

“Our intention would be to continue negotiations with the global carriers that we deal with in our reciprocal roaming arrangements … and be able to offer our customers improved roaming rates because we know that the one area where customers are truly dissatisfied with pricing is on roaming.”

Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera was quoted earlier this week as saying the Big Three acted like “raving lunatics” with their “aggressive” summer multi-million dollar “Fair for Canada” campaign, as it only angered consumers.

Lacavera believes positive outcomes will follow with potential CRTC regulation of the industry; the company earlier declared its intentions to participate and bid in the upcoming 700MHz wireless spectrum auction:

“We’re actually feeling quite bullish about the go-forward and including possibly the CRTC regulating elements of the industry, specifically roaming and tower sharing, which would be very significant for us,”

As for foreign carriers jumping into the spectrum auction mix? Don’t count on it, according to Jeff Fan, a telecommunications analyst with Scotia Capital, says none of the major four U.S. carriers have decided to participate in the 700MHz auction.

What do you think has been the outcome of the Big 3’s “Fair for Canada” campaign?