Disastrous Rogers-Shaw Buyout approved by CRTC
Canada’s institutions are cheerleading our telecom oligopoly getting worse
MARCH 24, 2022 — The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced their approval of the contentious $25Bn buyout by Rogers Communications of Shaw Communications, pending since March 2021. The CRTC described the deal as “in the public interest” and said “Canadians as consumers will benefit from this transaction.” While the Competition Bureau must still give final approval for the deal to proceed, today’s decision makes the buyout significantly more likely, and will worsen Canada’s struggles with competition, choice, and affordability in our Internet and cell phone markets.
“This is a tone-deaf decision from a CRTC that has completely lost touch with ordinary people in Canada,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “The CRTC claims their modified version of the deal is in the best interest of Canadians; in what world is that true? Every single guarantee Rogers is making to secure our watchdogs’ cooperation is a short-term payment or unenforceable promise; the long-term outcome is clearly a net loss to everyone outside the Rogers and Shaw families. Ordinary people know very well what this deal will mean; less competition, fewer jobs, and higher prices for telecom customers. And yet not one of the institutions we’ve charged with assessing the deal has had the courage to say it. Amidst record-breaking inflation that has families in Canada feeling the pinch, this buyout puts us squarely on a path to significantly higher Internet and cell phone bills.”
“There’s only one arm of government that has tried to assess the whole deal: our MPs on Parliament’s INDU committee. And they’ve been perfectly clear in their conclusions: this deal is bad for Canadians, and highlights serious issues with our competition law and current CRTC,” continued Hatfield. “When our elected representatives are saying across party lines that the deal shouldn’t go through, and our institutions rubber stamp it anyway, that’s a sign we need a systemic overhaul. That means both changes to the Competition Act to broaden the Bureau’s scope and power to to actually address deals like this, and new CRTC appointees that will actually prioritize lowering Canada’s sky-high Internet and cell phone prices.”
The CRTC’s approval of the deal is subject to a number of conditions, including a one-time $27 million payout to the Canada Media Fund, Independent Journalism Fund and other cultural agencies, and time-bound commitments to Shaw customers. The Competition Bureau’s final decision on the Rogers-Shaw deal is expected soon, though it has rarely fully blocked buyouts or mergers in the past. In a rare recent direct submission from the Bureau, it outlined changes to the Competition Act that would be needed for it to play a more active and effective role in defending and promoting competition in Canada.
Over the past year, OpenMedia and other advocacy groups have delivered over 70,000 signatures and comments to the federal government calling on policymakers to block the Rogers-Shaw deal. Additionally, 6,000+ members of OpenMedia’s community have signed a new petition calling for a public interest champion who will prioritize Internet affordability as the next CRTC chair.