Canadian consumers deserve to pay less for their cellphone plans and only increased competition will give them lower bills, Industry Minister James Moore says.
Beginning a roadshow that will see him speak across the country, Moore on Monday defended the federal government’s policy on telecom, saying it is designed to increase competition in the sector.
"I think that the public instinctively knows that when they have more choices that prices go down and more competition they're well served by that," he told CBC News in Vancouver on Monday. He also spoke to CBC Radio One in Saskatoon.
He said he’s "pushing back a bit" against the big three wireless carriers – Telus, Rogers and Bell – which have launched their own campaign to convince consumers Ottawa has it wrong.
At issue are the conditions the federal government has set to auction off four blocks of public spectrum the telecoms can use to carry data and voice and the rules over sale of small-scale competitors Wind and Mobilicity.
The big three carriers say those rules favour Verizon, an American competitor that has not yet decided whether it will enter the Canadian market.
Verizon, if it decides to enter Canada, will be permitted to bid on two of the four blocks of spectrum on offer, while the big three will scrabble for the other two. The U.S. firm also could decide to buy Wind or Mobilicity, with the big three having been blocked from doing so.
Bell, Rogers and Telus are trying to generate public support against Verizon, arguing its entry into the market will cost Canadians jobs. They’ve accused Ottawa of not providing a "level playing field" and say Verizon is a giant that will roll right over the Canadian industry.
Moore said the mobile carriers are just interested in protecting themselves.
"The noise that we're hearing is about you know companies trying to protect their company's interest," he said. "Our job as a government is larger than that, our job is to serve the public interest and make sure that the public is served in this so that's one of the reasons why I'm pushing back a little bit."
He said current policies will protect jobs, while setting conditions that allow more competition into the marketplace. That should lower Canadians cellphone bills, he said.
Moore is also promoting a new Conservative Party website called www.consumersfirst.ca. The website puts forward the government's policy positions on wireless competition and includes a list of "myths vs. facts" about the wireless market.
The telecom firms have responded by joining debates on the issue across the country.