Evidence of meeting #15 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was spectrum.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie-Hélène Labrie  Senior Vice-President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer, Cogeco Inc.
Leonard Eichel  Senior Director, Regulatory Affairs, Cogeco Inc.
Dean Prevost  President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.
Tony Geheran  Executive Vice-President and Chief Customer Officer, Telus Communications Inc.
C.J. Prudham  Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Xplornet Communications Inc.
Charles Beaudet  Vice-President, Eastern Canada, Xplornet Communications Inc.
David Watt  Senior Vice-President, Regulatory, Rogers Communications Inc.
Stephen Schmidt  Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

6:45 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

I can't tell you exactly off the top of my head, I'm afraid, what's happening with our cost structure. It is obviously up, but a precise answer wouldn't happen today.

Let me just address your first comment, if I could.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Before we get there, because I only have five minutes, it would be great to hear from your colleague.

6:45 p.m.

Executive Vice-President and Chief Customer Officer, Telus Communications Inc.

Tony Geheran

Similarly, I think that we've added capacity across the transport network and on the spectrum to support the increased usage we're seeing.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I take it that your companies, both of you, despite the additional costs and despite the four times additional traffic in some cases, are still profitable for the time being and, of course, in this pandemic. Is that correct?

6:45 p.m.

Executive Vice-President and Chief Customer Officer, Telus Communications Inc.

Tony Geheran

Well, if you study the recent quarterly results, you will see that there were differing sets of performance figures, and Q1 only had a small amount of COVID impact, but it is having a dramatic impact on future revenue surety, and while we're waiving overages, extending payment flexibility, deferring price increases and not disconnecting people who aren't paying—

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I understand you're not as profitable, but still profitable.

Mr. Prevost, is it the same thing for your company?

6:45 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

Yes. We've also removed our guidance for the year that tells what we think is going to happen.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I think this was a previous answer to a question from Mr. Patzer in which overage fees.... A number of Canadians have unlimited plans, but low-income Canadians in particular have more finite plans and therefore see more overage fees. Largely it's poorer Canadians who would be paying these overage fees. Is that correct?

The same question goes to Mr. Geheran and to Mr. Prevost.

6:45 p.m.

Executive Vice-President and Chief Customer Officer, Telus Communications Inc.

Tony Geheran

I think it varies on the users. It depends on someone's user package and what rate plan they're on as to whether they would have had an overage fee.

As we've said, we've waived overage fees while we're in this COVID situation.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I appreciate that you have waived overage fees in the course of this pandemic. It seems the right thing to do, though, on the other side of this pandemic as well. I've seen studies which suggest that low-income Canadians bear the overage fees to a larger degree. It seems to me that if you're still profitable while waiving them and if it is principally borne by poor people, overage fees are, in many respects, just a tax on poor Canadians.

Mr. Prevost and Mr. Geheran, could you comment on that?

6:50 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

Well, we wouldn't make that leap. I think you're connecting a variety of things that we would not connect together.

For example, you can buy an unlimited wireless plan for $75. In fact, during promotional periods, it's substantially less, and that's available to any Canadian who would think that would be affordable. If you turn to the wire lines—

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Do you think $75 a month is affordable to many Canadians?

6:50 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

For an unlimited wireless package, and if you move toward what we've done on the wire-line side....

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Prevost, you should come to Crescent Town in Toronto with me and meet Canadians who would absolutely disagree that $75 is an affordable plan.

6:50 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

We have plans that are much less expensive than that but still have large buckets where you can do almost anything.

Again, usage in Canada averages three gigabytes on the wireless side, and so packages of 10 offer you threefold. You can buy three gigabyte packages at substantially less—

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Is that an average for low-income Canadians or the average overall? I know the answer to that.

What are your companies going to do to reduce fees for low-income and middle-income Canadians by 25%?

6:50 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

We've already done it.

Over the last several years, our fees have dropped by that much. As well, on the wire-line side, if you're in one of these communities that is in need, you can buy services from Rogers at $10 a month for unlimited connectivity on—

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

So can I go back to my constituents and tell them we've fulfilled our platform promise?

6:50 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

We have reduced it by the amount I just said.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Thanks very much.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much.

We'll go to our next round of questions.

Mr. Savard-Tremblay, it's your turn. You have two and a half minutes.

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good evening. I thank all of the witnesses for their presence here and their presentations.

From what we can understand, there is undeniably a lack of public money in all this, and there is a lack of political will. That has already been said. This is what we can read between the lines or directly, based on the various testimonies.

However, I would like to hear you talk about another subject, namely the CRTC Notice of Consultation response submitted a short while ago, which concluded that part of the delay in the regions was due to the telecommunications companies themselves. By controlling poles, including Hydro-Quebec poles, several companies are slowing down the deployment of fibre optics.

The Notice of Consultation states that the obstacles are mainly due to the different internal processes of these companies. While this notice only concerns one region, several other anecdotes were heard about other regions. The notice also states that these impediments “do not relate to the common standard for the design, installation and testing of aerial structures.”

The executive summary concludes: “In 2020, the Internet is an essential service and telecommunications companies are slowing down the development of the region”.

Is the behaviour of companies partly to blame for depriving several regions of adequate development, depriving several companies of the capacity to provide online training, depriving employees from teleworking, and encouraging the exodus of young people? Obviously, part of the problem lies in the political arena. Is there another part that is the responsibility of the corporate world?

May 14th, 2020 / 6:50 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Regulatory, Rogers Communications Inc.

David Watt

Rogers does not actually own any poles, so we certainly are not a party to that. We are actually a buyer of access on poles.

6:50 p.m.

Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Xplornet Communications Inc.

C.J. Prudham

Xplornet likewise doesn't own any poles, but we would definitely agree with your statement. It is mind-blowing to us that it takes longer to permit a pole than it does to permit a tower in some areas of this country. Understandably, there's public consultation and things like that associated with towers, but it can take longer to get access to a pole. That makes no sense to us.

6:50 p.m.

Senior Vice-President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer, Cogeco Inc.

Marie-Hélène Labrie

On the Cogeco side—