Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor: Minister Now Must Approve Spectrum Transfers

After the Federal Court of Appeal today rejected the Commissioner of Competition’s appeal of the Rogers-Shaw merger, these telecoms now say it’s time for the federal Innovation, Science and Industry minister to approve spectrum license transfers.

“We welcome this clear, unequivocal, and unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal. We continue to work with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to secure the final approval needed to close the pro-competitive transactions and create a stronger fourth wireless carrier in Canada and a more formidable wireline competitor,” said Rogers, Shaw and Quebecor in a statement on Tuesday.

The Commissioner sought to reject the acquisition of Freedom Mobile by Quebecor’s subsidiary, Videotron, plus the merger of Rogers and Shaw.

These telcos now say François-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, “must approve spectrum license transfers from Shaw to Videotron – in connection with the proposed acquisition of Freedom Mobile by Videotron – before the combination of Rogers and Shaw can proceed.”

Champagne said today in a statement, “Regarding my decision on the request to transfer spectrum from Shaw to Vidéotron, I will render a decision in due course, Promoting competition and affordability in the telecom sector has been – and remains – my top priority.”

Consumer groups were quick to criticize the Court of Appeal’s decision.

“The deal the Tribunal accepted is still terrible for ordinary Canadians,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield, after the decision was announced. “Now Minister Champagne has a choice – will he break with the past and take a firm stand for Canadians? Or will his decision be more of the same?”

“The public can only be suspicious that the powers that be want this deal to close – even if it means a decade of high wireless and Internet prices for Canadians,” reacted John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel.

“We also believe that the Court’s ruling means the Canadian Competition Act is utterly broken and needs to be radically rewritten to actually provide tools to block anticompetitive mergers,” added Lawford.