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Telecom summit kicks off in Toronto amid plea for 'stable regulatory environment'

A cell tower is pictured in rural Ontario on July 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick A cell tower is pictured in rural Ontario on July 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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TORONTO -

Industry leaders from Canada's telecommunications sector are set to gather in downtown Toronto today for the 23rd annual Canadian Telecom Summit.

The three-day event will kick off with speeches from Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings and Quebecor Inc. CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose company has been expanding its Videotron subsidiary after the purchase of Freedom Mobile last year.

Attendees are also set to hear from Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Canadian Telecommunications Association president Robert Ghiz, along with representatives from other service providers and technology companies.

Meanwhile, a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by the telecom association, says the sector contributed $80.8 billion to the Canadian economy last year while supporting nearly 782,000 jobs.

The report, released Monday, says Canada's telecommunications sector spent $11.4 billion in capital investments in 2023 to expand wireless and broadband networks, which amounts to 42.6 per cent more per subscriber, on average, than carriers in the U.S., Japan, Australia and Europe spend.

John Simcoe, national media and telecom lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that level of investment comes despite declining prices for phone and internet services, along with rising costs for telecom providers.

But Ghiz, whose association represents carriers and manufacturers in the industry, says it is "essential" for those players to benefit from a stable regulatory environment which encourages investment in order to sustain high spending.

The direction taken by Canada's telecom regulator has been a contentious issue within the industry over the past year.

Last fall, the CRTC released an interim decision which required telephone companies Bell Canada and Telus Corp. to temporarily allow wholesale access to their fibre internet networks in Ontario and Quebec. The move drew the ire of Bell, which cited the decision when subsequently announcing network spending cuts and mass layoffs earlier this year.

Following a hearing in February, the CRTC is expected to release a decision this summer on whether to make that decision permanent and expand it across the country.

Along with the state of the regulatory environment, topics on the agenda for this year's telecom conference include cybersecurity and AI threats, along with how satellite technology can bridge connectivity gaps in rural and remote regions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17,2024.

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