Rogers Communications announced this week it has reached a deal to acquire Calgary-based Shaw Communications for $26 billion, a move that marks the end of an era for a Western Canadian telecommunications empire.
Shaw was founded in Edmonton in 1966, at the time named Capital Cable Television Co. Ltd., and was partially responsible for bringing the first cable service to the city in the '70s, alongside QCTV Ltd. As cable infrastructure improved in the following decades, Shaw expanded to the rest of the province, and eventually all over Western Canada.
By 1994, Shaw owned several dozen cable and radio firms in Alberta and Saskatchewan, two radio stations in Vancouver, and small cable provision operations in Manitoba and Ontario.
Shaw moved its headquarters to Calgary in 1995 because owner JR Shaw felt that the Edmonton municipal government at the time was impeding the company's investment into fibre optic technology, reported the Globe and Mail.
The Alberta-based company has continued to grow since, and has been positioned as a Western Canadian competitor to the big Canadian telecommunications trio of Rogers, Telus, and Bell. When Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw was announced, it raised concerns about competition in the industry.
Shaw founder and namesake JR Shaw was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2008 for "helping shape the country's broadcasting and telecommunications industry." (Government of Alberta)
Anthony Lacavera, founder of Wind Mobile, which was acquired by Shaw and rebranded as Freedom Mobile in 2016, said the merger left him "disappointed."
"The oligopolies are so strong in Canada," he told the Financial Post. "It’s just so unfortunate that the country I love is dominated by these oligopolies and does not have a competitive market.”
The concern is that reduced competition would result in higher prices for consumers, and a loss of jobs and income in Alberta since Rogers is headquartered in Toronto. Lacavera said that overlap between the cable and landline services of the two companies means it is likely jobs will be cut.
Rogers announced it would establish a regional headquarters in Calgary as part of the deal, and promised 1,800 new jobs in the province related to an expansion of its 5G network. Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement saying: "If this proposal is approved, we would hold Rogers to those commitments, as they would be good news for Alberta’s economy."