Ottawa plans to go ahead with plan that could let in U.S. telecom giants

MIRAMICHI, N.B. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Conservative government doesn’t plan to change rules that Canada’s biggest telecoms say will give foreign wireless firms an unfair advantage.

Speaking in Miramichi, N.B., today, Harper said he understands companies like BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) have to stand up for their shareholders and employees against allowing giant foreign firms like Verizon Communications Inc. to move into the Canadian market.

But Harper says Canadians want to see more competition in the industry and lower cellphone rates.

There have been reports that U.S.-based Verizon Communications is exploring a move into the Canadian market by purchasing Mobilicity or Wind Mobile, two of the new wireless carriers that launched their services a few years ago.

The Canadian carriers are disputing rules that would allow Verizon to use their wireless networks and bid on more wireless spectrum — the radio waves used by mobile communications devices — than the incumbent carriers at an auction planned for January.

Harper says the federal government won’t alter course and plans to proceed with the auction.

Telus Corp. (TSX:T) said any changes to rules would need to be made by Sept. 17, which is the last day to file a deposit to participate in the spectrum auction.