More foreign competition won't make wireless cheaper

MONTREAL, June 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's largest telecommunications union says the federal government's plan to increase foreign ownership in the telecommunications sector will not result in cheaper wireless service, and that it will undermine plans for universal access.

Speaking at a conference of telecommunications workers yesterday in Montreal, Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, said CEP-commissioned research from a leading investment firm disputes claims that wireless services are more expensive in Canada than in other countries.

"Existing studies compare pricing in markets that have very different usage, that don't have special plans with unlimited minutes, or free phones, for example, like we do in Canada," he said.

"When taking all of that into consideration, Canadian pricing is low compared to other countries. And more foreign competition will not make it lower... Bringing fresh capital to Canada is not what we need. Shaw, Bell and Telus are all flush with capital. We already have lots of competition in telecommunications."

Coles also told delegates to the two-day conference that more foreign competition will result in poorer service. "Profit-oriented companies will not be interested in providing access for rural and remote areas," he said. "This must be achieved by consultation and regulation through the CRTC. Foreign ownership will undermine our ability to ensure access to telecom services for all Canadians, including in rural areas and the north."

"Also missing in the whole discussion is the critical role that telecommunications plays in maintaining Canadian cultural sovereignty," Coles said, noting that CEP, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting have been granted intervener status in a case before the Federal Court that claims the federal government has ignored the Canadian ownership requirements of the Telecommunications Act.

The case was initiated by Public Mobile last year after the Conservative government overturned a CRTC decision to deny Globalive a license to operate in Canada because it is owned and controlled by foreign investors.

Canadian culture and identity are at risk because telecom companies are also broadcasting companies and we'll lose Canadian control of our media and cultural industries. "Obviously this would be a major concern in Quebec. There is also a threat to individuals' privacy and to the security of our nation if our critical telecommunications infrastructure were under foreign control."

SOURCE Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

For further information: For further information: Dave Coles, 613 299-5628 (cell)

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