Friday, September 29

Bell CEO warns ‘interventionist’ regulations could lead telcos to curtail investments

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TORONTO — Bell Canada president and CEO Mirko Bibic warned Monday that increased regulation in Canada’s telecommunications industry could prompt companies to scale back investment and make cuts to service for underserved communities.

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Speaking at a lunch hosted by Canadian Club Toronto, Bibic took aim at the federal government and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for a shift “towards more micromanagement of Canada’s telecom industry.”

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He said some investments are “impossible to justify” when big companies are required to provide smaller competitors access to their privately built networks at heavily discounted rates.

“Our industry is quite highly regulated and we appear to be moving rapidly towards even more intervention,” said Bibic, adding that such an approach “generates market uncertainty.”

“Our regulator’s telling us that we have to give access to the new networks that our people, our partners and our capital are building and they’re telling us the rates we have to charge for that access. That’s not how a competitive market should be regulated. 1/8It3/8 certainly doesn’t strengthen the quality or resilience of the networks and services you all rely on.”

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Earlier this year, Canada’s telecommunications regulator announced it would lower some wholesale internet rates by 10 per cent and review whether big companies should provide smaller competitors access to their fiber-to-the-home networks.

The CRTC said the move was aimed at improving internet speeds and bolstering competition.

That came after federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne directed the regulator to implement new rules to enhance consumer rights, affordability, competition and universal access, which included a requirement for improved wholesale internet rates.

The CRTC also stated earlier this month that major telecoms would have 90 days to negotiate access agreements for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). That followed a policy set in 2021 allowing regional cellphone providers to compete as MVNOs across Canada using networks built by large companies .

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But Bibic urged Ottawa and the CRTC to ensure Canada’s four major telecom companies have incentives to invest and differentiate themselves from each other, which he said would lead to more customer value. He warned of “unintended consequences” if regulation continues s to ramp up.

“There comes a point where if government is too interventionist, all of us are going to have to scale back those investments, which is not good for consumers and businesses,” he said.

“If you’ve got to start cutting back on capital, what gets cut first? Does the GTA get cut first? Or does some northern community in Ontario get cut first? We know the answer to that.”

Bibic also pushed back against a “prevailing but false narrative” surrounding the state of competition in Canada’s telecom industry, as well as cellphone and internet prices.

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A report released in February by Wall Communications Inc., which conducts an annual comparison of Canadian phone and internet prices to other jurisdictions, found Canada still had among the highest prices internationally for cellphone and broadband service in 2022.

But Bibic noted that despite rising inflation, wireless prices in Canada have declined eight per cent over the past two years and almost 25 per cent since January 2020.

“We’ve all been in the US right? The service is terrible. So there is a quality dimension to it,” he told the crowd.

“ToO OFTEN, The Prevailing Narrates Based On the Studies that by DEFININITION CREATE AVERAGE BASKETS of Goods SOTTEMBLARARARARARARARARRARARRARERORARARARARAAAAEAORAAEAAAAAAAAAEAAEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEAAEEAAEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEAEEEEAEsssssssssularularEEctEEEsssssss way Ompare PriceS Across the World, But the Baskets of Goods DON’T’T’T’T’T’T’T’T’T’T’T’t Actually Reflect what people is bubing today .”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2023.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE)


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