Canadian regulators team up to watch telecoms pricing

OTTAWA, Sept 25 Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:33pm EDT

OTTAWA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Two of Canada's top regulators said on Wednesday they would cooperate to ensure affordable prices for telecommunications and broadcasting services, a key platform of the federal government's telecommunications policy.

"We look forward to continuing to work together towards our mutual goal of benefiting Canadian consumers by ensuring access to services at competitive prices," Competition Commissioner John Pecman said in a statement.

The statement, issued jointly by the Competition Bureau and the broadcasting and telecoms regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications Commission (CRTC), said the two agencies would cooperate on issues including training and exchange of information.

Telecoms policy has been a key focus in Ottawa this year as the Conservative government sought to boost competition and force wireless prices lower with an auction of airwaves spectrum that favored new entrants to the market.

But no big new entrants registered to join the auction, according to data released on Monday, making the regulators' role more important. Analysts have said the government can always use regulation to drive wireless prices lower, although this would eat into phone company profits.

The Canadian wireless market is dominated by three companies: Rogers Communications Inc, BCE Inc and Telus Corp. The big three have complained in a series of national advertisements that the rules of the spectrum auction were tilted unfairly by the government to favor the participation of big foreign companies. They also argued that wireless rates in Canada are competitive with those in the United States.

The CRTC has already said it would study wireless roaming rates, a move endorsed by Industry Minister James Moore.

In its effort to boost competition, the government has eliminated foreign ownership restrictions on small players.

In its own ads, the government says that Canadians pay some of the highest wireless rates in the developed world and that more players would help boost competition.