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.

6:15 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

I would say that if they're having problems, then we will deal with them, but if they're within the plan that they signed up for, they wouldn't be facing overage charges.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much.

The next round of questions goes to MP Lambropoulos.

You have five minutes.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you to all of the witnesses for being here with us today.

My questions are mainly for Rogers and Telus.

Your companies are some of the companies that filed complaints against the CRTC when the CRTC ordered lower wholesale rates for other companies. It's interesting because now you guys are in court, and so it has stopped, but now that the pandemic has happened, the price of wholesale has gone up, making it more difficult for companies to be able to provide these services to Canadians. The price of Internet for Canadians in these areas who are being serviced by these companies has actually gone up, and it's less affordable for them.

Do you have any comments about this? Is now the time to be making it difficult for Canadians to have Internet?

6:15 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Regulatory, Rogers Communications Inc.

David Watt

I'll take the first shot at that.

You said that we had raised the price to the resellers. That's not the case. The price has remained the same. To the extent that resellers have to buy more capacity in order to provide service during these times, they're in the exact same situation as we are. We're incurring additional costs because of traffic and increased demand, and therefore we're in an equal position. We're both having to deal with the increase in traffic. There has been no price increase at all.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

I guess I was misinformed then. Thank you for clarifying that.

6:15 p.m.

Stephen Schmidt Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

I can jump in.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Sure.

6:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

Stephen Schmidt

We haven't increased rates. We're not party to the litigation that you referenced, and finally, we're treating all of our customers in an even-handed manner, in the sense that if wholesale customers, business customers or residential customers need relief, they're getting it from us.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

Obviously, you've done quite a bit to help your own customers during this time, which is great, and I encourage you to continue doing that, but there were rate hikes that were announced for the year 2020 and beyond.

Considering the pandemic and what's going on, and the uncertainty in our economy at the moment, are you reconsidering these and playing it by ear based on what happens with our economy?

6:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

Stephen Schmidt

Could I ask which services we are talking about?

May 14th, 2020 / 6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Internet TV services.

6:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

Stephen Schmidt

We are generally on pause for all price increases for now. It's a very delicate time in the economy and in the country, so we're on pause until further notice for all classes of price increases.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

Is it the same for Rogers?

6:20 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

Yes, it's exactly the same for Rogers. Obviously, we'll play that by ear as we see what's happening in the environment around the pandemic and of course with the economy.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

That's perfect.

With regard to the CRTC, it would like you to sell wholesale prices for lesser cost to other companies. Apparently, according to your companies, that price is actually lower than your costs.

I was wondering what you think would be a more fair and reasonable price in order to provide a lower cost to these companies, but that wouldn't really sink your boat, for example.

Anyone can comment.

6:20 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

The general principle is simply that it should not be below cost. I think everybody would understand that. It should generate some form of reasonable level of return for those who made the investment to put that network and infrastructure in place.

6:20 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

Telus would agree with that position. We think service providers should be encouraged to build facilities. To rely on an another party's network and resell it at a price lower than cost is not sustainable. It doesn't drive value for Canadians. It doesn't drive better network infrastructure or broader network investment. We think that's a fool's path to follow.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

We would like to offer Internet service to as many Canadians as possible, and we know that not all Canadians can afford Internet. Obviously, it might be more difficult to get affordable Internet in rural communities. What are other solutions can you come up with that would allow a greater number of Canadians to have Internet services provided to them?

6:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Telecom Policy and Chief Regulatory Legal Counsel, Telus Communications Inc.

Stephen Schmidt

Better spectrum policy is the path forward. It is more spectrum being made available to folks in rural areas who will actually build networks, like Telus, not setting it aside for entrants who are not going to build, who are not using it and are just sitting on it. That's the path forward in large measure.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you so much.

We'll now move on to the next round of questions. Mr. Champoux, you have two and a half minutes.

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm going to put my questions to Ms. Labrie from Cogeco.

We all understand that there is a recognized urgency to connect as many Canadians as possible to high-speed Internet. Even the government has recognized that. So it's a no-brainer for everyone.

Ms. Labrie, in your opinion, should the CRTC give priority to companies that are able to connect as many households as possible, when it comes to calls for tenders? Should these companies win the calls for tenders to connect different regions, particularly in Quebec?

6:20 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

Thank you for your question.

In fact, our view on subsidy programs is that there needs to be flexibility so that the infrastructure can be adapted to the needs of the region. In some regions, there is a need to develop transport infrastructure, and in other regions, there is a need to build the—

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

I understand, but as a communications company that wants to invest in the regions to install the infrastructure and provide the service, what do you think? Should the CRTC give priority to a company that offers to connect 100% of the homes, while the others offer to partially connect the region in question?

6:20 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

It is important to connect as many people as possible, but the costs must be considered. People often say that 95% coverage can be achieved at a reasonable cost, but when it comes to the other 5%, it takes a mix of technologies, such as fixed wireless access. For the other 2%, it may take a satellite connection. So you have to have flexibility.