Thank you very much.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak here this morning.
Motion M-208 asked this committee to study fiscal and regulatory approaches to encourage investment in rural wireless infrastructure.
Since Canada launched wireless services, Canada's facilities-based providers, the companies that invest capital to build networks and acquire spectrum rights, have embraced the challenge of building Canada's wireless network infrastructure across our country's vast and difficult geography.
To date, Canada's facilities-based wireless carriers have invested more than $50 billion to build our wireless networks. This is more, on a relative basis, than any other country in the G7 or Australia. They have also spent approximately $20 billion at spectrum auctions and in annual spectrum licence fees. Our members are also funding the new CRTC broadband fund.
As a result of these investments, Canadians enjoy the second-fastest networks in the world, twice as fast as those of the United States. According to the CRTC, 99% of Canadians have access to LTE wireless networks where they live.
While this is a great achievement, much work remains. In just the last few months we have seen announcements of significant investments that will bring increased coverage to rural areas.
For example, Bell announced expansion of its fixed wireless services to more than 30 small towns and rural communities in Ontario and Quebec. Rogers announced investments of $100 million to bring mobile wireless coverage for 1,000 kilometres of rural and remote highways across Canada. Similar investments are being made by regional wireless providers, such as Freedom Mobile, Vidéotron, Eastlink, Xplornet and SaskTel.
Unfortunately, investment, especially in rural areas, faces an uncertain future. As motion M-208 recognizes, regulation can encourage investment but can also have the opposite effect.
Unfortunately, investment, especially in rural areas, faces an uncertain future. As motion 208 recognizes, regulation can encourage investment. But it can also have the opposite effect.
Canada's telecommunications policy has long recognized the importance of facilities-based competition as the best way to encourage investment. Under policies supporting facilities-based competition, sustainable competition in the wireless retail market is starting to gain momentum, resulting in continuing growth in the number of wireless subscribers, increased data consumption, declining prices and more choice for consumers.
Equally important, ongoing investment by Canada's facilities-based carriers is continuing to expand the reach of Canada's wireless networks for both fixed and mobile wireless services. Yet at a time when the government is stressing the importance of continuing to invest in and expand wireless infrastructure and when they are introducing targeted fiscal measures towards this goal, government is considering measures that, if they proceed, will discourage investment and disproportionately harm rural Canadians.
Earlier this year, ISED issued a proposed policy direction that would direct the CRTC to give priority to the goals of increased competition and more affordable prices when making regulatory decisions. We support these goals, but we were surprised by the absence of any mention of investment in infrastructure by facilities-based carriers.
During the consultation period, we've asked the minister to revise the policy direction to include a reference to encourage investment in infrastructure as a key priority for the CRTC. At the same time, as part of its review of the regulatory framework for the wireless industry, the CRTC has stated its preliminary view that mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs should be given mandated wholesale access to the wireless networks of the national wireless providers.
MVNOs do not invest in wireless infrastructure or spectrum. Rather, they pay wholesale rates set by the regulator to use the facilities-based carriers' networks and use this mandated access to compete against facilities-based carriers for subscribers—the very carriers that are making the investments and expanding the networks.
In countries where this has been tried before, it has resulted in significant decreases in network investment. Those same countries are actually now trying to reverse course.
The CRTC has twice previously declined to mandate MVNO access, knowing it would undermine investments in wireless networks. It is not clear why it is now being considered, especially when both ISED and the CRTC have made connecting all Canadians such a large priority.
If government truly believes that connecting Canadians is such a major priority, policies should be aligned with this goal. With respect, today's policy confusion will only harm rural connectivity. We want to work with government. We want to work with the CRTC to ensure that the 99% of coverage goes to 100%, and that Canadians can have access to the best wireless networks in the world.
Thank you very much. We look forward to your questions.