(Toronto) Bell Canada big boss Mirko Bibic warned Monday that increased regulation in Canada’s telecommunications industry could cause companies to cut investment and cut services for underserved communities.
Speaking Monday at a luncheon hosted by the Canadian Club Toronto, Mr. Bibic took aim at the federal government and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), denouncing their shift “towards a micromanagement of the telecommunications industry in Canada”.
He says some investments are “impossible to justify” when large companies are required to provide smaller competitors with access to their private networks at heavily discounted rates.
“Our industry is highly regulated and we seem to be moving quickly towards even greater interventions,” Mr. Bibic pointed out, adding that such an approach was “generating uncertainty in the market”.
Earlier this year, Canada’s telecommunications regulator announced it would reduce certain wholesale internet rates by 10% and consider whether large companies should provide smaller competitors with access to their fiber networks up to at their clients’ homes.
The CRTC explained that this decision was aimed at improving internet speeds and strengthening competition.
The move came after Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne ordered the regulator to implement new rules to strengthen consumer rights, affordability, competition and universal access, which included a requirement for wholesale internet rate improvements.
The CRTC also said earlier this month that major telcos would have 90 days to negotiate access agreements for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). This followed a policy established in 2021 allowing regional cellphone providers to compete as MVNOs across Canada using networks built by large companies.
Mr. Bibic believes that Ottawa and the CRTC should ensure that Canada’s big four telecommunications companies are incentivized to invest and differentiate from each other, which would lead to greater value for customers. He warned of “unintended consequences” if regulation continues to escalate.
“If you have to start cutting your capital expenditures, what will be cut first? Will the Greater Toronto Area be cut first? Or will a northern Ontario community be cut off first? We know the answer to this question. »
Mr. Bibic also dismissed a “widespread but false story” surrounding the state of competition in the telecommunications industry in Canada, as well as about cellphone and internet prices.
Findings from a February report by Wall Communications, which does an annual comparison of phone and internet prices in Canada versus other jurisdictions, found that prices in Canada were still among the highest in the world for cellular and broadband services in 2022.
But Bibic noted that despite accelerating inflation, wireless prices in Canada have fallen 8% over the past two years and nearly 25% since January 2020.
“We all went to the United States, didn’t we? The service is appalling. So there is a quality dimension to that,” he argued.
“Too often the mainstream narrative is based on these studies which, by definition, create these average baskets of goods, so there’s some semblance of trying to compare prices across the world, but these baskets of goods don’t really reflect what people are buying today. »