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Industry minister strikes back on telecoms' wireless 'rhetoric'

08/16/2013 03:16 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT
Industry Minister James Moore is on a cross-Canada tour of stakeholder meetings in an effort to calm some of the "overheated rhetoric" that is boiling up around the potential entry of U.S. giant Verizon Communications into Canada's wireless market.

Moore held his first meeting Friday in Vancouver, and next week's schedule is still being finalized. The government also launched a new website www.consumersfirst.ca to explain how it is supporting increased competition and to dispel what it calls myths about the wireless market.

Moore said he's doing the tour because there is currently a lot of debate about his government's telecom policy and that so far it has been too one-sided.

"It's being dominated by people who have a vested interest in the benefits that this may or may not have for their firms," he told Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. The full interview airs at 5 p.m. ET.

"We want to make sure that Canadians know that our policy is about serving consumers and serving individual Canadians. That is what our policy is about."

Moore is pushing back against a very public campaign by Canada's three major mobile-phone network providers who are crying foul over the government's telecom policy. Bell, Rogers and Telus say new federal rules put them at a competitive disadvantage and are calling for them to be reversed.

Verizon, with 100 million customers, is eyeing the Canadian market. It's talked about taking over smaller Canadian players Wind and Mobilicity and is considering a bid on two blocks of Canadian spectrum that are set aside for new entrants to the market in an auction in January. The big three aren't allowed to bid on those blocks and they're also prohibited from acquiring the smaller companies.

'Overheated rhetoric'

Bell, Rogers and Telus argue Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has created an unlevel playing field and are sharing their concerns with Canadians in a widespread media campaign that includes a website of their own, www.fairforcanada.ca

But Moore doesn't buy their position that Verizon, or any other American firm, would get an advantage if it tries to come to Canada.

"If that's the case then why is it that it's only Verizon that's looking to enter the Canadian marketplace, potentially?" Moore said. "If this is such a horrific policy that is so clearly unfair and gives such a great advantage to foreign firms, then they'd be lining up and be very aggressively going after those two blocks of spectrum, and they're not."

Moore said he wants to assure Canadians, including employees of Canadian wireless companies, that the government's policy will benefit Canadians and create more choice.

"Canadian firms are going to continue to do well, and I just think there's a great deal of overheated rhetoric about speculation about what may or may not happen in the auction," he said.

Watch the full interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics at 5 p.m. ET.

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