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.

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

However, given the current urgency, you agree that if a company proposes to connect 100% of the regions, it should be given priority.

6:20 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

Yes, if that company has the expertise and can do it at a good cost.

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

How much importance would you attach to the opinion of the elected representatives of the regions? Is the support of elected officials in a region important when filing an application with the CRTC?

6:25 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

We believe in working with local groups and municipalities, and that's what we do. We also work with federations of municipalities. I think that's part of the criteria. In fact, the CRTC has included it in its program.

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Regarding the current process in this country, what is the most serious obstacle delaying projects like the ones you are quite ready to submit here in my region of Drummond? In a nutshell, what is delaying the implementation of the Internet the most?

6:25 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

It's the permits. We are waiting for permits for about 50 projects. For some of them, it's been two years.

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Thank you, Ms. Labrie.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much, Mr. Champoux.

Mr. Masse, you have two and a half minutes.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I can't let go of the fact that since the time I've been in Parliament, it's been one of the most heavily regulated industries I've ever seen and it's been one that's received government revenues of over $21 billion. For better or for worse, where we are now and with the challenges we have, clear, consistent regulation is crucially important. Again, the $21 billion we've had has been rarely invested back into rolling this out or reducing prices, which I think is important for Canadian consumers.

On prices, I want to ask, and we'll go through the order again.... With regard to some of the services provided during COVID-19, they've been very helpful to Canadians, but mobile services and data overages are significantly challenging for rural remote areas that don't have land options right now.

Will your companies look at this, especially given the fact that some of the school-age children and educators may require more intense usage to even be able to do their schooling?

Maybe we could reverse the order and start with Cogeco, and then Rogers, Telus and Xplornet.

May 14th, 2020 / 6:25 p.m.

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

Marie-Hélène Labrie

We do not have a mobile service.

I think the question was on mobile.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Yes.

6:25 p.m.

President, Rogers for Business, Rogers Communications Inc.

Dean Prevost

We do, and we have cut our costs dramatically for wireless or fixed wireless, obviously on the mobile network, such that those charges are down substantially in bigger buckets of 50 gigabits.

We recognize this issue. For example, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we've offered to the Ontario school boards across a variety of districts, I think we're up to 21,000 iPads now, with software and free wireless service. I mentioned that's also happening in Winnipeg and in other jurisdictions. We're trying to help on that front, absolutely.

Fundamentally, wireless is a very different economic proposition. It's shared. When you're dealing with a rural environment, it has such different data carriage characteristics that the ability to make it unlimited simply doesn't exist. With wired, you can. However, for the cost of deployment—the tower, the backhaul, the microwave—for very rural locations, and to be sure that you continue to get service for first responders, for 911 and for other people off that tower, you cannot do it unlimited.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Okay.

Quickly, next is Telus and then Xplornet.

6:25 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

We couldn't agree more with you.

It seems crazy that you rake in billions—and in your case, $20 billion to $24 billion—in spectrum charges, and then you hand out $170 million a year for 10 years, $1 billion over 10 years. It's the wrong way to drive the solution to the problem.

For our wireless Internet service, where we offer Internet high speed over wireless, we have doubled the buckets. We are looking at every case. If there's a need, we will be accommodating as much as we can. We're making sure that we're not putting anyone under financial duress as we go through this challenging time as a community together.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you so much.

6:25 p.m.

Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Xplornet Communications Inc.

C.J. Prudham

Respectfully, Madam Chair, may I respond, please?

I recognize that you're over time, but we—

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

We are over time, but you have 10 seconds.

6:25 p.m.

Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Xplornet Communications Inc.

C.J. Prudham

You can do unlimited on wireless. Absolutely, you can. Xplornet offers unlimited packages on wireless. It's what we do. We do fixed wireless as opposed to mobile wireless.

I'm not going to comment on Telus versus Rogers, but I don't want anyone here to walk away thinking you can't do unlimited packages on a wireless network.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sherry Romanado

Thank you very much.

We'll now move to round three of the questions.

Our first five-minute round goes to MP Rempel Garner.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'll start by saying that the government has the responsibility to allocate resources, like funding for Internet build-out, spectrum allocation, etc.

To some of the large incumbents, I understand that you're managing the profit and loss—that's fine—but the government is managing access. Increasingly, that is becoming a public good and part of our country's economic competitiveness, as well as equality of opportunity for individuals.

I think there is a bit of policy tension between what we're managing and what some of the incumbents are managing, given the regulatory environment that we've been operating under over the last 20 years.

I want to raise something with the representative from Telus, Mr. Geheran.

You made a comment tonight. You said that if you have a policy that fundamentally undermines an investment strategy, you have to change policy. I think I agree with that. So I'll start by asking, do you think that structurally separating the builders of a network from Internet service providers is a way to solve the policy tension that I just described?

6:30 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

No, I don't. I haven't seen that work anywhere globally to a sustainable effect.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

It's in the U.K., right? It's the primary model in the U.K.

6:30 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

Yes, but if you look at the U.K., they are wholesale moaning about the quality of their infrastructure and lack of fibre coverage across what is a very small geography. I know. I originated from there. Quite frankly, the Canadian networks are far superior in coverage and quality. Performance through COVID has demonstrated that.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

That's certainly not what we're hearing in our offices from end-users. That's not the reality that we're hearing in testimony tonight from you. I'm not trying to vilify anyone. I'm just saying that we have a policy tension that we need to address.

You also said earlier—

6:30 p.m.

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

Tony Geheran

I think we have a [Inaudible—Editor] problem as well.