Opinion: Rogers-Shaw Settlement Subsidizes Quebec and Pierre-Carl Pelado at Taxpayer’s Price

Quebecor’s president and chief govt officer, Pierre-Carl Pelado, arrived on the Competitors Bureau on Oct. 27 in Ottawa for mediation talks on the Roger-Shaw deal.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Duai Ghose is the principal of Ghose Funding Corp. His purchasers embrace Telus Communications Inc. He’s the previous head of worldwide analysis and strategic growth at Cannacard Genuity Group.

On the face of it, it is smart to permit Rogers RCI-BT to purchase Shaw SJR-BT, if the latter’s Freedom Cellular is offered to Quebecor QBR-BT as presently proposed. Since 2009, Quebecor has efficiently constructed a fourth wi-fi provider in Quebec, profitable 20 p.c of market share and serving to to drive low costs. Independence underneath Quebecor would definitely cut back any considerations that Rogers-Shaw would unfairly dominate the built-in market.

Why is that this not sufficient to win the help of the Competitors Bureau, which is presently difficult the deal earlier than the Competitors Tribunal? The actual drawback is that this: Whereas wi-fi costs in Quebec are decrease than the remainder of Canada, much less is thought about how this was achieved – By means of the billions in subsidies given to Quebecor by the central authorities.

Promoting Freedom to Quebecor offers extra advantages to Quebecor shareholders on the expense of taxpayers throughout Canada. Sarcastically, Quebec nationalist and former PQ chief Pierre Karl Péladeau, Quebecor’s controlling shareholder, would be the largest beneficiary of the deal.

Since 2008, the Conservative and Liberal governments have been subsidizing spectrum – the airwaves used to transmit wi-fi alerts – to new wi-fi entrants. networks (Rogers, Telus, and Bell) that they didn’t develop on their very own.

Explainer: How the Rogers-Shaw connection ended up earlier than the Competitors Tribunal

Taking a look at how a lot Quebecor has spent to amass spectrum, Quebecor is getting an enormous low cost by means of federal authorities subsidies versus what the Massive Three paid for equal spectrum. Since 2008, Quebecor has obtained about $4-billion in subsidies, together with $2.4-billion for final summer time’s spectrum public sale — cash used to subsidize wi-fi providers for low-income Canadians.

Whereas the federal government is joyful to subsidize Quebecor, the corporate has efficiently gamed the system by promoting a few of its sponsored spectrum for enormous earnings. In 2017, Videotron resold the spectrum to Rogers and Shaw at a $331 million revenue, primarily taken from the Canadian taxpayer and given to Quebecor. So is Quebecor’s $2.85-billion bid for independence A few of the subsidies look like mirrored within the present Rogers-Shaw deal: Though Rogers and Shaw accepted Quebecor’s bid, it’s $900-million lower than the $3.75-billion bid from rival Globalive, which doesn’t have the ministry’s backing. Innovation, Science and Financial Growth Canada (ISED).

Quebecor has benefited drastically from necessary roaming guidelines, which regulate the costs the Massive Three can cost smaller gamers. Though these guidelines had been designed to offer new entrants time to determine nationwide networks and put money into rural areas, the coverage has failed. Roaming Guidelines Quebecor has decrease wi-fi capital expenditures relative to inhabitants than the Massive Three. Quebecor has spectrum to serve greater than 30 million Canadians, however its networks are largely in city Quebec, and it has used solely 18 p.c of its rural spectrum.

Quebecor will not be some higher class that wants assist. It’s a dominant regional telecommunications supplier (as Rogers and Telus had been once they undertook nationwide wi-fi growth, however with out the huge subsidies). It earns $4.5-billion in annual income, $600-million in internet earnings and has a $6.3-billion market capitalization.

In October, ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne referred to as a rapidly organized press convention and mentioned he would solely approve the sale of Freedom to Quebecor if the corporate stored Freedom’s wi-fi licenses for at the very least 10 years. Consistent with the value of Quebecor in Quebec. They’re accountable laws. However Mr. Not surprisingly, Quebecor is raring to purchase Freedom regardless of the Champagne situations. Quebecor ought to be joyful to carry impartial licenses for greater than 10 years. After promoting to Quebecor, Mr. ISED has no mechanism for figuring out the value of champagne.

However the largest problem for Canadians is that, 14 years after the primary spectrum public sale in 2008, a fourth wi-fi provider seems viable solely with perennial authorities subsidies. Worse, regardless that wi-fi costs have come down, we’re nonetheless among the many highest within the OECD. Most OECD international locations have realized {that a} wi-fi market with 4 gamers sustaining their very own networks will not be sustainable, which is why the US, Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, South Korea and Eire have adopted. A wi-fi panorama with simply three community operators. Nevertheless, all of them have decrease wi-fi costs than Canada. In the end it proved that the federal government’s technique had failed.

It’s time for Canadians to understand that everlasting subsidies for brand new entrants will not be the reply. If a fourth participant is actually viable in Canada, it will not want subsidies after 13 years launch. Whereas driving funding and innovation, the federal government ought to take a look at alternate options to get cheaper wi-fi costs.

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