Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I will be very brief and I will not repeat what we said publicly when the minister announced his decision last fall.
Vidéotron and its parent company, Quebecor, are basically in agreement with the approach advocated by the minister, mainly an approach based on the free-market system, market forces and as much deregulation as possible.
It is true that we appeared before you last fall in order to seek a longer transition period. However, as you may know, yesterday Vidéotron announced in a press release that we now have in excess of 400,000 local and residential telephone service subscribers. As a result, we believe that market forces can now fully come into play.
The consumer is the first to benefit. This is demonstrated by the fact that when Vidéotron launched its residential telephone service in January 2005, the cost of telephone services went down for the first time in the history of Canada. The costs were cut dramatically. This pressure on the market was beneficial to consumers.
Basically, we said, and we repeat, that we would encourage the minister to continue along the same path, to carry through with his reasoning and push, with all of the political might that he has, to deregulate the entire cable industry as well.
With the digital revolution that is unfolding before our eyes, cable companies are acting less and less like cable companies and more and more like telecommunication companies that must be active in all telecommunication sectors. Cable companies must currently deal with complicated regulations that are not in the interests of the consumers, the market or the Canadian economy.
We would encourage the minister and the government to continue moving in the direction of deregulation and a free-market system, and we would encourage the government to accelerate the arrival of new competition in the mobile telephone sector. We believe that this sector constitutes the next frontier and that new competition in the mobile telephone sector will enable Canadians to stop having to pay 60% more than their American neighbours for their telephone services. As far as the penetration rate is concerned, Canada currently is ranked 30th amongst OECD countries.
Canadians do not have access to the latest technology as they should. Right now, the most recent technology is becoming the norm in Europe, Asia and very quickly in the United States. Canadians are lagging behind whereas this new generation of technology encompasses much more than mobile telephone services: it is a portal to culture, music and television programming which will become a universal communication vehicle.
We would therefore encourage the government to do what is needed so that there is more competition in this sector.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.