Fittingly, it was Monday that chief executive officer Lowell McAdam made it clear that Verizon had no interest in expanding into Canada by way of purchasing one of our small, struggling telecoms. Labour Day was the appropriate time to end a summer romance that began with reports that Verizon had made overtures toward Wind Mobile and expressed some interest in buying Mobilicity.
It made for giddy times, but it’s over and Canada will just be fine, but there are some things that I, the owner of an unlocked iPhone – the tech equivalent of a wandering eye, feel have to be said on behalf of my country in order that we might have the closure a sovereign nation needs on this kind of affair.
First of all, Verizon, I want to apologize for the way Rogers, Bell and Telus reacted to the interest you expressed in the Canadian market, more than 90 per cent of which they control, although I think “serve” is a less inflammatory word. They can be a little possessive, it’s true. Almost as possessive as I am of my unlocked iPhone. But, as they spent the whole summer telling us, it’s just that they want to protect us. We, the impetuous Canadian consumers, are too easily smitten by any corporate entity hinting at the possibility of cellphone rates that are not among the highest in the world.
There is some truth in the rumour that all Canadians dream that one day a provider will sweep us off our feet and take us roaming around a world in which streaming a few videos does not cost us $22,000. I guess we’re wireless romantics.
Maybe Rogers, Bell and Telus are right, and we need a strong telecom oligopoly watching out for us, and they’re really not bad telecoms when you get to know them. They’re just not used to real competition. They get defensive and sometimes that leads them to characterize the wireless spectrum as a precious non-renewable natural resource inhabited by beavers, which are Canada’s national symbol, and otters, which are just really cute.
“If the government let a giant foreign corporation buy up half of Canada’s water, you would be outraged,” they said in a full-page newspaper ad arguing against greater outside access to our market.
I know you say it’s not us, Verizon, and you just got out of a relationship with Vodafone, but I’m not buying it. I can sort of understand why we spooked you. The hostile reaction of our telecoms would unnerve anyone. Perhaps you, too, read the statement Telus issued last year when the government first announced its auction of wireless spectrum and relaxed its policy on foreign ownership.
“This is a thoughtful and balanced decision that meets the government’s objectives of promoting consumer choice, supporting sustainable competition through investment in technology and further expanding broadband services in rural markets,” Telus said before the spectre of actual consumer choice raised its ugly, lake-drinking head.
I understand if these conflicting statements left you a little confused, Verizon, but Canadian companies operate under the principle that saying one thing and then saying the opposite thing is a great way to keep a relationship exciting! Really, we don’t mind. Much.
You need to know that the winters are long in Canada, and one way we pass them is by calling up our service providers on our frequently unlocked cellphones and threatening to leave them before accepting one of their “Sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it, don’t go” deals. Please don’t think our relationship is dysfunctional just because Rogers, Bell and Telus always promise us that they will change and things will get so much better as soon as we make a longer-term commitment.
Don’t sweat any of this, Verizon. You’re not the first company to have too much to drink, express a desire to enter a nation’s telecom market and then get cold feet, and that’s totally fine. You’re a free agent, and I know this must have been weird for you too. The combination of hostility from Rogers, Bell and Telus and the rather pathetic overeagerness with which the average Canadian consumer met your apparent interest must have been a touch alarming to you, not being overly beloved in the United States. I hope we didn’t seem too needy, or desperate. It was a great summer, really. I like you. I hope you stay in touch. Call. Or text. But only on weekends and after 6 because it’s really expensive and, by the way (bats eyelashes on behalf of Canada), did I mention my phone is unlocked?