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The analysis published Monday by the right-of-centre Fraser Institute is the latest input into the heated debate on the upcoming auction of valuable wireless spectrum.
The big three Canadian providers — Bell, Telus and Rogers — are furious that current rules might allow an American giant like Verizon to bid at the auction.
- Industry minister strikes back on telecoms' wireless rhetoric.
As the system works now, the government limits how much of the spectrum the big "incumbent" companies can buy up, in order to encourage smaller players to come to the table. That theoretically would stimulate competition across Canada and ultimately keep prices down.
But those smaller players — Wind Mobile or Mobilicity for example — could be bought up by a firm like Verizon, which would theoretically have an easy time snapping up the spectrum that is off limits to the incumbents. Because those big Canadian firms aren't allowed to bid on all the spectrum available, that could drive down the size of auction bids and give Verizon a potentially good deal.
The report, written by senior Fraser Institute fellow Steven Globerman, argues there is no evidence that handicapping the incumbent companies does anything to improve efficient competition.
"By setting up rules that handicap the three large Canadian telecoms and favour small or new players in the marketplace, the federal government is effectively subsidizing new entrants and promoting inefficient competition. This could make most consumers worse off, rather than better off," Globerman says.
"Given conclusive evidence that the wireless sector in Canada is workably competitive, there would be clearly no conceptual case for competitive handicapping," writes Globerman.
He says that getting rid of the remaining barriers to foreign entrants in the Canadian marketplace would create fears of hostile takeovers of the big three companies, thus creating an incentive for them to be more efficient.
But since many telecom firms are in the broadcasting business, the report says that would mean also getting rid of the limits in that industry — a foray into the cultural realm that no Canadian government has wanted to make.