Ottawa rejects Rogers’s original bid for access to Shaw’s wireless frequencies
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Tuesday the federal government had officially rejected a request to give Rogers full access to Shaw’s wireless spectrum – but he also laid down conditions for a revised proposal.
Federal approval is one of the hurdles Rogers Communications Inc.’s proposed $26 billion merger with Shaw Communications Inc. faces.
The original proposal would have seen Rogers acquire Freedom Mobile from Shaw. But Canada’s Competition Office said in May the acquisition would eliminate “an established, independent and low-cost” competitor and also eliminate existing competition for wireless services in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, where Freedom currently operates.
CLOCK | Champagne denies original Rogers-Shaw deal
Champagne announced on Tuesday that it had officially rejected this proposal.
“My only concern is to offer Canadians better prices,” he said at a news conference.
To address these concerns, the two companies entered into an agreement in August to sell Freedom Mobile to Videotron, a unit of Quebecor Inc.
Champange said that in order to approve the merger under this agreement, he needs a commitment from Videotron to maintain the wireless licenses acquired from Shaw for at least 10 years.
The minister also said he would like the company to offer customers in Ontario, Alberta and BC wireless tariffs comparable to those they currently offer in Quebec, which he says are on average 20 percent lower.
“I think they’d better pay attention to what I’m going to watch and those two things are going to be fundamental,” Champagne said at the press conference.
The revised merger agreement must be submitted to the Canadian Competition Bureau before being resubmitted to the Secretary of Industry.
The Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission of Canada approved Rogers Communications Inc.’s acquisition of the broadcasting services of Shaw Communications Inc. in March.
Last week, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the government to flatly oppose the Rogers-Shaw merger even if the competition bureau approves it.
“If Rogers and Shaw succeed, it’s only because competition laws are weak and because your government has failed to engage and act in the interest of making life more affordable for ordinary Canadians,” Singh wrote.
“The completion of this merger is the only outcome that protects Canadians.”