Rogers tells CRTC Shaw deal will boost competition, makes no promises on prices

Rogers Communications Inc. told regulators Monday that its proposed $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. will enhance competition, but the cable and wireless company made no guarantees that Shaw customers won’t see rates rise if the deal goes through.

Edward Rogers, chair of the company, told the CRTC hearing in Gatineau, Que., the deal was needed to compete in the increasingly globalized market for content and rising expectations on digital offerings.

“Canada is no longer an island in an ocean alone,” Rogers said. “While our primary competitors are still Bell and Telus in the cable business, in this global world, our competitors are also increasingly global platforms and brands.”

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Edward Rogers, who won a high-profile court battle over control of the company’s leadership earlier this month, said Rogers needs scale to compete and to help support Canadian culture.

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Brad Shaw, chief executive of Shaw, said the proposed deal comes at a critical turning point in the industry that requires significant investments in wireline and wireless services such as 5G, as well as expanding services to more communities.

“Simply put, Shaw cannot do it alone. We need the scale, strength, and resources of the combined Shaw and Rogers assets.”

Company representatives said the deal will mean increased competition on broadcast services in the west, especially in rural communities where Telus Corp. is often the only option.

Rogers, however, stopped short of assuring that Shaw customers wouldn’t see rate increases, but said that any price increases would be in line with what Shaw has been doing for decades and that stiff competition from Telus is the best check against it raising prices.

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“The best assurance you have is the most incredibly aggressive competitor in the west, which is Telus,” said Dean Prevost, head of Rogers Connected Home. “Raising rates isn’t an act alone, it’s an act in a marketplace.”

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is hearing from Rogers and Shaw on Monday, while other interested groups including Telus, BCE Inc. and consumer advocacy groups are scheduled to have their say later this week.

In filings, both Telus and BCE have opposed the deal, saying it would give Rogers control of 47 per cent of English broadcasting in Canada and too much sway over content distribution and securing rights to content.

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Speaking at the return of parliament Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was also opposed to the deal.

“We are absolutely opposed to this merger. It’s going to hurt people, it’s going to make life more difficult, it’s going to make the cost of internet continue to rise.”

The commission is focused on the broadcast implications of the deal, including cable networks in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the satellite-based Shaw Direct TV service, and a satellite relay system.

The CRTC won’t be considering the market implications for mobile wireless, which will be part of the reviews done by the Competition Bureau and from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

© 2021 The Canadian Press