The Hamilton Spectator

CEOs tell MPs prices going down

- SAMMY HUDES

The chief executives of Canada’s three largest telecom companies stressed phone and internet prices are coming down during an appearance before MPs on Monday, noting increased data usage and high spectrum costs may be some reasons Canadians feel otherwise.

The three CEOs — Rogers Communicat­ions Inc.’s Tony Staffieri, BCE Inc.’s Mirko Bibic and Telus Corp.’s Darren Entwistle — appeared virtually at the House of Commons’ industry committee meeting.

Committee members voted unanimousl­y last month to summon the trio to testify after a previous invitation to the chief executives resulted in other corporate representa­tives showing up instead.

The committee is studying the accessibil­ity and affordabil­ity of wireless and broadband services — an issue that came to the forefront in January when Rogers confirmed it was raising prices by an average of $5 for some wireless customers not on contract.

Staffieri was pressed on the matter Monday, with Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara suggesting the move was “tone deaf.”

“Would you not admit that the timing was not great?” he asked.

Staffieri replied the price hike only affected customers on legacy plans.

“It was important to us to make sure that these customers had choice,” he said. “With two clicks, they could get onto a plan that was in market and give them the best value for money for their circumstan­ce.”

Conservati­ve MP Ryan Williams questioned Bibic and Entwistle on whether Bell and Telus would raise their prices in response to Rogers’ move.

Bibic would not say whether Bell plans to follow suit, insisting the company’s focus is on lowering costs, while Entwistle said he remained confident Canadians would see price declines but was “not going to talk about price setting in a forum with my two competitor­s sitting right here.” Some members of the committee have said they are concerned about cellphone and internet prices in Canada, arguing Canadians pay too much for those services. But the CEOs cited recent Statistics Canada data showing wireless prices have declined 16 per cent in the past year and 47 per cent over the past five years.

The three chief executives also each told the committee that the cost they pay in Canada for wireless spectrum are among the highest in the world and make it more expensive to operate. Last November, Canadian wireless companies collective­ly spent about $2.1 billion on chunks of 5G bandwidth in the federal government’s most recent spectrum auction.

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