A policy review document for the future of Canada’s telecommunications services has been published and handed to the Canadian government. The Panel was established in April 2005 to review Canadians policy framework government telecommunications, and recommend steps to modernize it. On the question of foreign ownership rules, the Panel recommends that no changes be made to the current limits on foreign ownership of telecommunications firms which are also licensed broadcasters, pending the review of the sector.
The report recommends, however, a phased liberalization of foreign ownership rules for telecommunications carriers that are not involved in broadcasting, with the Minister of Industry empowered to use a “public interest” test to review all new foreign investment.
In a statement issued following public release of the Report, Panel Chair Dr. Gerri Sinclair said reform of the policy framework needs to begin now. “Although our telecommunications policy has served Canada well, we have concluded that it is now time we started to make fundamental changes. Otherwise, our competitiveness and productivity will lag, and Canadians will be deprived of the full benefits of continuing technological innovation and the increasing competitiveness of our telecom industry.
According to Panel Member Hank Intven, the Panel’s 400-page report is the most comprehensive review of Canada’s telecommunications sector in almost 30 years.
The report does express concerns about the vertigal integration of telecoms in the country, concluding that having the three main national wireless carriers owned by landline providers may mean that there is less competition in the Canadian wireless market than in the US market, which consequently has resulted in higher prices, less innovation, lower uptake and lower rates of usage.
The report says that “After reviewing this evidence, the Panel concludes that Canada’s mobile wireless industry lags behind its major trading partners on a number of key measures. This finding reinforces the Panel’s belief that because of the growing importance of this segment, Canada should develop a more efficient and vibrant wireless industry.”
You can download the full report from http://www.telecomreview.ca/epic/internet/intprp-gecrt.nsf/en/h_rx00054e.html