Verizon Lobbyist In Ottawa Wants To Talk Wireless Policy
Verizon may be taking another stab at coming to Canada.
The U.S. wireless giant has hired a consultant to lobby the federal government on telecom policy, according to a new entry in the federal lobbyist registry.
Verizon made waves this summer when reports circulated it was interested in setting up shop as Canada’s fourth major wireless provider. But the news sparked an angry war of words between the Harper government and Canada’s incumbent wireless companies over the country’s telecom rules.
Amid the back-and-forth, Verizon backed out, announcing it was never really interested in Canada.
Now that appears to have changed. According to the registry entry, Verizon has hired Peter Burn, a consultant with law firm Dentons Canada LLP, to lobby Ottawa on section 7 of the Telecommunications Act, which says that one objective of telecom policy is to “promote the ownership and control of Canadian carriers by Canadians.”
The company is also apparently interested in discussing the extent of the Industry Minister’s powers to control the issuing of telecom licences.
“The lobbyist has arranged or expects to arrange one or more meetings on behalf of the client between a public office holder and any other person in the course of this undertaking,” the entry states.
Circumstances in the telecom market are somewhat different now than they were this summer, when Verizon first eyed Canada. The deadline for placing bids for the all-important 700 mHz wireless spectrum auction has come and gone, and Verizon is not one of the bidders.
Canada’s big three telecoms argued in an ad campaign this summer that Verizon would enjoy an unfair advantage in the spectrum auction, as it would be considered a “new entrant” and would be allowed to bid on more spectrum than the incumbents.
Now that the deadline has come and gone (with the actual auction taking place in the new year), Verizon’s likeliest course of action for entering Canada would be to buy one or more of the country’s struggling small wireless companies.
According to unconfirmed news reports, the U.S. wireless giant placed a preliminary $350-million bid on Mobilicity, and a $700-million bid on Wind Mobile over the summer, but it’s unclear if those offers are still on the table.
The Harper government has made the establishment of a fourth major wireless carrier the backbone of its wireless policy, on the argument that a fourth company will spur competition and bring down prices for consumers.
But some market observers dispute this view. Credit Suisse, in an analysis earlier this year, said there is no room for a fourth player in the Canadian market. AT&T, Verizon’s largest rival in the U.S., reportedly took a look at Canada’s wireless market and came to the same conclusion.