Wireless changes in the plans for Okanagan-Coquihalla

The communications industry is rapidly growing one as more than 98 per cent of Canadians now have access to wireless services.

I greatly value the feedback that I hear from the citizens of Okanagan-Coquihalla.

It is important for me to hear a cross section of different perspectives and what issues are of most frequently raised across our region.

Throughout this process I am always impressed by the great diversity of opinion from citizens even when discussing the same topic.

Although opinions and views often vary one area I frequently hear consensus on is the need for government to support policies that lead to investment and job creation.

Most citizens are aware that investment creates jobs; however, efforts to attract investment must also include recognizing the barriers that exist that ultimately either prevent or delay the creation of new jobs.

How can government promote investment that in turn leads to the creation of jobs?

There are many industries within Canada that are significantly regulated by the federal government, one of these industries is the wireless telecommunications industry.

The communications industry is rapidly growing one as more than 98 per cent of Canadians now have access to wireless services and more than eight million citizens now own a wireless smart phone.

Wireless services are provided by private companies who utilize frequency bands that they acquire a license for through an auction style process.

The licenses and related frequency bands are regulated by government and are commonly referred to as “spectrum” within the wireless industry.

Recently our government has announced intentions to offer 700 and 2,500 MHz frequencies up for auction.

These frequencies offer differing technical attributes but ultimately will allow companies to bring the benefits of the latest 4G LTE networks to Canadian consumers.

One other significant change is that our Government will also amend the Telecommunications Act to exempt companies with less than 10 per cent of total telecommunications Canadian market revenue from foreign investment restrictions in the Act.

What this means is that new companies will now have an opportunity to bid on this spectrum and to compete with the existing large scale providers and offer Canadian consumer more choice and options for wireless services.

There are other provision in the amendment that will promote increased rural wireless availability and a provision to improve current tower sharing policies that will help to prevent the proliferation of new antenna towers.

As is often the case with a change in government policy, these changes were not supported by all interest groups.

In this case, current providers of wireless services opposed special auction measures and changes to foreign investment restrictions that would open up the market to increased competition.

Our government supports policies that will increase investment and promote job creation.

Increased competition will result in more choice and expanded services for Canadian consumers combined with potential cost savings as new companies compete for business.

These recent policy changes are another example of efforts made by our government to continue to promote polices that attract investment and support job creation.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca