TELUS Takes Ottawa to Federal Court Over Wireless Spectrum Policy

Telus has decided to shift the discussion with Ottawa regarding its wireless policy to another level: it has taken the government to court, asking the Federal court to review the government’s policy on spectrum transfers.

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The funny thing about this action is that none of its claims have been proved, so it is obvious that the filing is part of the incumbent’s strategy to capture the government’s attention.

So what exactly is Telus claiming? Here is what Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said to the Financial Post on Monday evening:

“We are seeking clarity from the court on the legality of the government’s June 28 decision to re-write the rules for transferring wireless spectrum mid-stream, and to clarify if the minister actually has the legal right to require his personal approval of changes of control of a company.”

“The results of the new policy, if implemented, will be that changes in control of [advanced wireless spectrum] licensees who received spectrum through the set-aside will no longer be permitted after the expiry of the moratorium except with the minister’s approval, contrary to the clear, unambiguous and unqualified representations the minister made in the AWS framework and in the AWS licences that the moratorium would expire after five years,” Telus said to the Globe and Mail.

Telus claims that the sudden change has unfairly disrupted investment plans by changing the rules of spectrum transfers between wireless players. It is true that then minister Christian Paradis rejected the Telus–Mobilicity deal, but it was because the five-year ban had not yet been completed – it is set to expire sometime next year. I don’t recall Paradis saying that he would reject future applications from local incumbents when the ban expired. Paradis then said, that he would review individually each of the submitted applications for wireless spectrum transfer. That’s it.

Moving forward, Telus, Bell and Rogers are afraid that Verizon will enter the market and cherry pick struggling wireless startups and obtain spectrum at a discount. If any new entrant is allowed to “snap them up with no competition, they will get the benefit of that taxpayer-funded subsidy,” Telus spokesman said.

The media has been loud recently due to the incumbent’s campaign against the possible entrance of Verizon, which could finally make Ottawa’s dream come true: a fourth viable national player. Ottawa, however, seems unwavering in the face of media attacks and the incumbent outrage, and will likely proceed with the 700 MHz spectrum auction without any changes to its wireless policy. What the newly installed Industry Minister James Moore has done, though, is to schedule half-hour meetings with wireless players.