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.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

I do apologize, Ms. Labrie, but the member's time is up.

The next round of questions starts with you, Mr. Masse. You have two and a half minutes.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I still think what is vacant in this discussion is what happened to the $21 billion of assets we could have had for rolling out spectrum and putting in terms and conditions to lower costs for Canadians, as opposed to just raking that fund in. There is a $3.6-billion surplus coming in with only $170 million promised per year for the next 10 years and we're hoping this somehow fixes itself, with an aging CRTC that can't get a decision out its door in less than six months to a year and that has an appeals process that can take two years. It's absurd that we think we can do this without changing the direction.

I want to ask a quick connection question related to the connect to innovate program.

A recent response to a question on the Order Paper said that 892 applicants went into this program to connect to high-speed Internet from the government. Of them, 610 applicants have been advised they were not selected. The vast majority were not selected for a government program that was solely intended to create rural and remote broadband and other types of service.

Does anyone want to comment on that program and why it has such a small rate of uptake? Why would it be rejecting such a large number of applicants, given the fact that the whole program was created to have applicants succeed?

May 14th, 2020 / 6:55 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Regulatory, Rogers Communications Inc.

David Watt

I'll take a crack at it.

I think the reason is there was incredible interest in that program. It was a $550-million program and my understanding is that all the money has been expended. I guess your question is that maybe more smaller projects should have been selected rather than the 280 that were, but my understanding is the full $550 million was expended with the 280 projects. At Rogers we bid on a couple and we were unsuccessful.

I think that's the answer to the question.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Were they unsuccessful because of a lack of access to funds or because they didn't meet the criteria of the program?

6:55 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Regulatory, Rogers Communications Inc.

David Watt

I think they were unsuccessful because of the size of the funds available.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Here we go again with another program the government has created, an access fund that is looking for partners out there, but it has been capped. The government has given up on its own program.

That's my whole point in all of this with regard to where we go forward. If the government is going to want to roll this forward, then perhaps we should think about public policies. If we're going to either lower prices or connect Canadians, that is in relation to what we're charging incumbents to get in there. I've even been around when we had Maxime Bernier looking for a white knight to clean up our act. That didn't take place either.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Go ahead, Madam Prudham, I'll let you answer that, and that will be the end of the time.

6:55 p.m.

Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Xplornet Communications Inc.

C.J. Prudham

We've been successful and we've been unsuccessful in some CTI. One of the most important criteria is ensuring we're not overbuilding so that we're discouraging investments. Certainly in some of our projects that we know we were unsuccessful on, the issue was that a provider was there that people hadn't known about at the time. I think you can't make a broad general statement that we're just not funding everything. It's important not to discourage the small guys who are investing, and it's super important not to discourage small businesses in Canada.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, that is all the time we have. We've just completed the third round.

As we only have a minute and a half left, I will thank the witnesses for their testimony this evening.

I want to thank you very much for your respective contributions, this evening.

Also, I would like to provide an update for the committee members.

Next week's meetings are going to be on Wednesday and Thursday, and the following week they will be on Monday and Friday.

On Wednesday next week we will be talking about the tie-in of fraudulent calls with COVID-19, and on Thursday we will be talking about contact tracing. The clerk will send out a notice to the vice-chairs, letting them know about the themes coming up, and we'll circulate that to the committee, but I just wanted to give you the heads-up.

With that, the meeting is adjourned.