It was almost 60 years ago that Roy Thomson boldly declared that “Having a license for a radio or TV station is like having a license to print money.” If he were alive today, the Lord of Fleet Street would surely be in the wireless phone business where the profits in Canada border on ‘obscene’.
If we needed a dramatic demonstration of greed with the historic name Bell attached to it, we got it in Manitoba this past week. It’s fairly well established that Canadian wireless users are paying substantially more than we rightly should, thanks to a classic oligopoly. Rogers, Telus and dear old Bell set the rates and divide the spoils, but Manitoba and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan, were the exceptions.
Manitoba Telecom Services is the 4th player in the land of the Jets and Blue Bombers. The result is Manitoba customers pay about 30% less than their relatives in Ontario. But that will soon change. Bell is putting almost $4 Billion on the table to take MTS out of the game. They are waiting with their sticky fingers extended for the so-called ‘friendly’ take-over to be approved by the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.
In the meantime, the guys running MTS have quietly boosted a number of charges in preparation for the arrival of their new bosses. Customers in Winnipeg and Brandon will immediately pay an extra five bucks a month for basic landline phone service, and features like call waiting and call forwarding are being jacked by nickels and dimes. There are similar increases for parts of MTS TV, and suddenly skinny basic is gaining weight.
These higher charges were quietly posted on the MTS website, less than 48 hours after the Bell takeover deal was announced with great fanfare. ‘Disgusting’ would seem to be a word that barely covers the situation.
The NHL Jets play their games at the MTS Centre. Team owner Mark Chipman should maybe come up with a new name for the building before the first puck drops in September. Perhaps he should consult his ‘deep pockets’ partner. His name is David Thomson, and Lord Roy was his grandfather.
I’m Roger Currie