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Rogers-Shaw takeover will hit low-income Canadians the hardest, tribunal hears

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An economics professor says the big winners of Rogers Communications Inc.’s $26-billion proposed takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. would be the telecoms’ families and that low-income Canadians would be hit the hardest.

Speaking before the Competition Tribunal Friday, Dalhousie University’s Lars Osberg said low-income Canadians, who are already facing inflationary pressures, will feel the most pain if telecom prices increase as a result of the merger.

Osberg said access to cell phones and connectivity is just as essential as food in today’s digital age.

Rogers pushed back against Osberg’s claims, pointing to the CRTC’s decision to approve the deal, noting that the regulator examined how the merger would impact consumer interests, including low-income households, seniors and people with disabilities, before doing so.

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Rogers also referred to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s 2021 review of wireless services where it lays out the expectation that telecom companies offer a low-cost plan, which it offers through its Fido brand.

Additionally, Rogers pointed to the company’s intention to extend its Connected for Success wireline program to Western Canada if the deal is approved. The program offers high-speed internet and bundled services at a discounted price to low-income Canadians.

Rogers said it plans to introduce a Connected for Success wireless program nationally as well if the deal is approved.

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The hearing before the Competition Tribunal is expected to last until mid-December and aims to resolve the impasse between the Commissioner of Competition, who wants to block the deal, and Rogers and Shaw.

The Competition Bureau is one of three regulatory agencies that must approve the deal, in addition to the CRTC and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

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Rogers wants to close the Shaw deal by the end of the year, with a possible further extension to Jan. 31, 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

 

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