If you’ve been following the news lately, you probably heard about how American telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc. could soon be entering Canada’s mobile market. Verizon has expressed interest in purchasing Wind Mobile and while there were also rumours that Verizon was interested in Mobilicity, it appears that the two companies are not currently in talks.

The issue is generating a healthy amount of chatter on Reddit, Twitter, blogs and a number of news sites, many of which are driving the activity.

There was a spike in Twitter activity on June 26, the day that Verizon officially made its bid to buy Wind. Most of the tweets were links to news articles, with some individuals adding their own perspective.

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When it was first reported Verizon may be buying Wind, commenters on Reddit were skeptical of the news, believing to be just rumours. A number of people seemed to express opposition to Verizon coming to Canada, however, once Verizon’s intentions were confirmed, most people suggested such a deal would be welcome.

Bell took this opportunity to write an open letter to Canadians warning about the public about the potential dangers of having an American company enter the Canadian market. The letter led to a widely-shared response from a Political Economy of Communication grad student Ben Klass.

The biggest shift in sentiment was sparked by Fair for Canada, a¬†campaign by Canada’s “big 3” telecom companies (Rogers, Bell and Telus) as part of an effort to rally Canadians behind them in a bid to prevent the entry of a US company in Canada’s wireless market, and to protect the status quo.

Connected Canadians did not react positively to the campaign. Among the criticisms: the insincere delivery by the telco employees featured in a video, and their odd and uncomfortable hand gestures (including Amanda putting her hands on her heart). Reaction suggests this is another example of telcos talking at Canadians, rather than talking with them.

The campaign seems terribly ill-timed. It was launched at a time when Canadians were otherwise not discussing the issues and when most of the potential base for the telco support is focused on enjoying their summer, largely away from matters of public affairs. Fair for Canada gave creative, connected Canadians a golden invitation to zing the big 3 — something digital culture rewards — using some of the industy’s own language.

130805-markcritch-verizonIn fairness, participation is representative of a representative group. Yes. You read that correctly. It’s a very small sample. Participation is low given that this is the height of vacation season and online participation isn’t always representative of Canadian opinion. Still, the Fair for Canada campaign may have better served the interests of the telcos if the campaign was more creative and resonant, the timing was better, and the industry had done more to curry favour with Canadians over an extended period of time.

Essentially, it’s better to build a groundswell of support before you need it.

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