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Rogers, Telus, Bell Ask CRTC to Deny Wireless Resellers Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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Rogers, Telus and Bell recently filed new submissions to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), asking the industry regulator to deny mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) access to their networks, blaming the current economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Globe and Mail, Canada’s ‘Big 3’ wireless carriers argued to the CRTC the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt revenues and allowing MVNO access would disincentive telcos to invest in their networks.

MNVOs would purchase wholesale wireless network access from incumbents and resell to Canadians, at prices which would compete against established players.

Rogers detailed its declining revenues in its submission, noting Q1 saw a 5% drop, as two weeks of the quarter included the COVID-19 lockdown, while also stressing Q2 would see similar shortfalls.

“The financial and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten investment in every industry, and telecom is not immune,” wrote Bell’s submission, adding if MNVOs were allowed, 5G network deployment would be delayed, along with the expansion of rural broadband.

Telus said it believes COVID-19 has made wireless carriers lose revenue to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while at the same time having to spend $100 million to keep up with surges in customer demand during coronavirus.

“Now is not the time to inflict further damage on the industry by imposing mandated MVNO access,” said Telus to the CRTC.

Despite the dramatic language used by incumbents, the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC), which represents independent internet service providers across the country, told the Globe now is the time for more affordable wireless competition as Canadians face economic uncertainty during COVID-19.

The CNOC says big telcos are still able to weather the current economic storm and are doing just fine and still generating huge profits.

“The commission should not believe any claims by these [companies] that the COVID-19 pandemic has somehow put undue pressure on their financial resources,” added the CNOC.

The CRTC is still deciding whether or not wireless carriers in Canada will have to sell network access to MVNOs. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to lower wireless bills by 25% within two years, part of the Liberal Party’s re-election platform.

Back in December, Trudeau responded to a question regarding MNVOs in the House of Commons with, “We made the commitment in the last election to decrease cellphone bills by 25% for Canadians. That is something that we will do by working with the industry and if they don’t bring down their prices, bring in significant measures around more competition for Canadians–for ah, in the industry to provide better options, opportunities for Canadians. This is a commitment we’ve made that will save Canadian families thousands of dollars. We know that lowering cellphone prices is a priority for Canadians that we are going to take up.”

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