Canada focused on wireless auction, not foreign limits

Wed Sep 18, 2013 3:21pm EDT
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By Peter N Henderson

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is focused on an upcoming auction of prized wireless spectrum, and not on the possibility of lifting foreign ownership restrictions on Canada's big telecoms companies, Industry Minister James Moore said on Wednesday.

The Conservative government eliminated foreign ownership limits on telecoms companies with 10 percent or less of the market but has maintained limits on the large players, including BCE Inc, Rogers Communications Inc and Telus Corp.

Asked by Reuters about the possibility of getting rid of those limits, Moore said the government was concentrating on an intensely watched auction of wireless spectrum, where it is encouraging new entrants to challenge the Big Three.

"Our policy is the auction and we'll see what happens through the auction," he responded.

Tuesday was the deadline for companies to register for the auction, which begins January 14. Moore declined to say whether any new foreign companies had signed up, noting his department would put out the list next Monday.

In the run-up to Tuesday's deadline, the three big phone companies had engaged in a high-profile spat with Moore over the auction rules, which they said unfairly favored big foreign companies.

Moore promised to take the side of the consumer in its telecommunications policy, and endorsed the decision by the regulator, the Canadian Radio-television Communications Commission, to study roaming rates.

"I certainly think it's a worthwhile inquiry. This is a concern that Canadians have had for some time and we'll see what the examination uncovers and maybe recommend some things," Moore told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Gunna Dickson)

Canada's Heritage Minister James Moore speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie