U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon Telecommunications has hired a lobbyist to meet with federal politicians in Canada, including personnel in the Prime Minister's Office, about changes to telecom policy.
According to an entry on the federal lobbyist registry, Verizon has hired Peter Burn of consultancy Dentons Canada LLP to discuss telecom policy with Industry Canada and the PMO. Burn was hired on Oct. 22, but the entry was made public just Tuesday.
According to the entry, Burn is allowed to communicate in writing with, or meet with, members of government for a "discussion of the telecommunications policy framework, including section 7 of the Telecommunications Act, subsection 5(1) of the Radiocommunications Act and the policies and rules promulgated by Industry Canada thereunder."
The Telecommunications Act is the law that governs telecom policy in Canada. The section cited lists its objective to "render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada" and also "enhance the efficiency and competitiveness, at the national and international levels, of Canadian telecommunications."
Lobbying politicians is routine for many firms, but somewhat less common for ones that have no presence in Canada. It indicates the U.S. telecom giant hasn't completely given up on the idea of the Canadian market.
No known Verizon spectrum licence interest
Earlier this summer, Verizon caused quite a stir when executives at the company mused publicly about launching cellphone service here, either by starting out on their own, or buying a smaller player such as Wind Mobile or Mobilicity, two startups facing funding pressures and believed to be on the block.
After several weeks of speculation, Verizon eventually poured cold water on the idea of coming to Canada. Verizon did not lay down a deposit on the upcoming wireless spectrum, which means the company doesn't plan to buy any Canadian airwaves when a new block of higher-quality 700 MHZ spectrum goes up for sale in the new year.
The section of the Radiocommunications Act cited in the lobbyist entry deals specifically with spectrum licences.
Even though they have no formal presence here, a company with the size and scope of Verizon would have an interest in many aspects of Canadian policy. And that's how a Verizon spokesman explained the company's interest in meeting with politicians here, in an emailed response to a query from CBC News.
"It’s business as usual for us to be interested in Canada’s telecom policy since we serve enterprise customers there and our U.S. wireless customers often roam in Canada," Bob Varettoni said. "This is unrelated to [mergers and acquisitions] strategy, and our policy positions in Canada have not changed."
Canaccord analyst Dvai Ghose, who covers telecom stocks, says the fact that Verizon didn't bid for spectrum remains the key point to remember.
"Without 700 MHz spectrum, we do not see a viable business plan for Verizon in Canada," he said in a note to clients. "Would it not have been easier for Verizon to bid directly if it really wants to come to Canada[?]"
The registry entry did list a Canadian subsidiary called Verizon Canada, along with a corporate address on Adelaide Street in downtown Toronto.
None of Verizon's major U.S. rivals such as AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, are currently registered as active lobbyists on the government database in the past 12 months.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the lobbyist hired by Verizon is Peter Dent. In fact, Verizon has hired Peter Burn, from Dentons Canada LLP.Nov 06, 2013 10:33 AM ET