Verizon in Canada – No Guarantees for Canadians

The following guest article was submitted by Donna Ramirez of the TELUS Social and Media Relations team in response to Techvibes’ continued coverage of Verizon’s potential expansion into Canada.

There’s been a lot of talk – and I mean a lot – around Verizon coming into the Canadian market lately. Media and the blogosphere have lit up for the last several weeks covering this news and Canadians are following this closely too. Let’s just say that Verizon coming to Canada is the new dinner table fodder – and often the reason behind many heated debates with my family and friends these days!

I’m often asked – what does this really mean for Canadians? Lower prices? Better  networks? More competition? Everyone has a different opinion, but I’m inclined to say that there are no guarantees for Canadians if Verizon comes north of the border, especially if the government entices them in with special taxpayer-funded gifts.

First things first – TELUS welcomes competition, whether from Verizon or any other domestic or foreign wireless company. We agree that healthy competition is good for Canadians. All we are seeking is a level playing field, and asking our government not to give a giant foreign company artificial advantages over home-grown companies like TELUS.  We are asking our government for a level playing field that provides us with equal opportunities and fair regulations for all players.

Wireless spectrum is the lifeblood of our industry – the airwaves our services run over. Giving huge foreign companies unfair advantages such as the ability to buy twice the wireless spectrum we are in the upcoming auction; buy-out companies like Wind and Mobilicity (and their spectrum on the cheap) because the government’s policy doesn’t allow Canadian companies to buy them; and giving them the ability to limit their network build to profitable urban areas and avoid less profitable rural areas and even suburbs, is anything but fair.

If Verizon or a similar foreign company have these unfair advantages, they will be able to suck up as much of Canada’s spectrum in a matter of months and ride on the world class network we have invested billions of dollars to build over the last 30 years. TELUS and other Canadian companies are part of Canada’s fabric. TELUS has invested more than $100 billion in Canada’s economy since 2000 and $30 billion in critical communications infrastructure. Our industry directly and indirectly employs 370,000 Canadians and contributes more than $50 billion a year to Canada’s economy.

Robust investments by Canadian carriers have resulted in our networks being amongst the best in the world. Did you know 99 per cent of Canadians have access to wireless services, nearly 80 per cent have access to cutting-edge LTE networks and our wireless download speeds are the second-fastest in the world? Acquiring 700 MHz spectrum is crucial to enable Canadian carriers like TELUS to continue the expansion of their LTE networks to rural areas and keep up with Canadians ever-growing demand for high-speed wireless data.

Clearly, foreign organizations such as Verizon have deep pockets and can afford to build their own networks, just as we have always done. Verizon is a huge American corporation – they are 13 times the size of TELUS. Their 100 million wireless subscribers is more than three times the entire population of Canada, and their revenue last year was $116 billion — three times the revenue of TELUS, Bell and Rogers combined. They hardly need our government’s help to take on our market.

And, to be clear – we’re not asking for help from our government either, but just a chance to compete head-to-head without rules fabricated to put us at a disadvantage.

So what’s with all this speculation about Verizon bringing better prices to Canadians?

We’ve seen it all over social media – excitement over the possibility of lower prices should Verizon come in. Again, there’s no guarantee that Verizon entering the Canadian market will bring wireless prices down or that they’ll expand their reach into rural areas of our sparsely populated country (something that TELUS has been working on for years).

Let’s look at the facts: Verizon is a premium carrier in the United States known for their high prices and restrictive practices. Verizon charges a minimum $80 a month to get a high end smartphone that comes with only 500 MB of data. If you look at their Share Everything plans, you’ll notice that they are priced higher than TELUS’ new two-year SharePlus plans. On top of that, Verizon still charges activation fees, levy surcharges (similar to system access fees that we did away with in 2009) and they do not offer unlimited data on any plan or allow anytime upgrades until after 24 months.

On the other hand, at TELUS we have been working hard over the last number of years to put customers at the core of everything we do. We launched Clear and Simple in 2009 with a simple set of all-in wireless plans with no system access fee. Since then, we have done much more such as reducing international roaming rates by 60 per cent, eliminating contract cancellation charges in favour of a simple device balance; launching unlimited talk and text plans, and the list goes on.

So what’s the final word at the dinner table? In the end, there are no guarantees for Canadians if Verizon decides to make Canada its new home – just a bunch of question marks. The government’s current telecom policies could unintentionally hurt Canadians, especially those in rural areas. The government’s current direction will create artificially competitive urban markets that divert and delay investments in next-generation technologies and rural network expansion – easily foreseeable consequences that will negatively impact Canadians.

Given the state of the American economy, I’m pretty sure Obama’s administration wouldn’t give TELUS, or any Canadian carrier, a hand breaking into the U.S market if the roles were reversed. So that begs, the question: why should ours?

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