Bell's Magic Man: Jim Prentice

It appears that Bell is expecting rough regulatory waters ahead. Following their faltering, and rather unpopular proposal for aggregated volume pricing (AVP) at this month’s UBB hearings, Bell has recruited political top brass, Jim Prentice, to stem the tide of unfavourable regulatory showings.

Prentice, former Conservative industry minister from 2007 to 2008, is said to be an invaluable addition to Bell’s board of directors with significant influence in Ottawa, and a familiarity with the industry’s governing matters. Which, quite frankly, is more than can be said for the CRTC’s most recent appointment, vice-chair, Tom Pentefountas.

As industry minister, Prentice was an opponent of Bell Mobility’s ill-thought decision to charge consumers for incoming text messages, and the impetus behind the novel guidelines of the last wire spectrum auction — reserving 40 percent of the spectrum for new wireless competitors. It’s telling, then, that Bell has put aside past differences, and offered Prentice a spot their board.

The statement of the former cabinet minister illustrates the all-too-prevalent corporate tendency to leverage capital, in the form of hefty board compensation, against regulatory risk. Prentice has, beyond a doubt, the capacity to 'shape the agenda from a distance’, and guide Bell through any regulative uncertainty during its second try at multi-media conglomeration.

In a somewhat tenuous, but noteworthy case of corporate doublespeak, Prentice has mentioned that his current role of ‘Senior Executive Vice-President and Vice Chairman’ of CIBC enables him to act in the best interest of Canada and the Canadian economy. Interestingly, a press release from Bell has described his placement on BCE's board of directors in narrower and less altruistic terms: simply, "to serve BCE shareholders very well". Perhaps it's the cold nature of the industry, but I, for one, am not overly worried about Bell's absent concern for consumer interest — that's why we have OpenMedia.ca.

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