Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Asks for Delayed Wireless Spectrum Auction

by Istvan Fekete on August 26, 2013

The forthcoming wireless spectrum auction is making waves in Canada. Both parties are pushing their own message: the Big Three are expressing their concern over the government’s sweetheart deal with foreign telcos, while Ottawa says it won’t change its wireless policy, because it is to the benefit of the Canadian wireless subscriber.

Most recently, a former senior Conservative cabinet minister, Stockwell Day, added his voice to the ongoing media battle between the incumbents and the government. He says a real benefit for consumers would be for Ottawa to push the pause button on a wireless spectrum auction. From his perspective — as a Telus director — the current policy hurts the customer, instead of bringing the much-desired benefits.

“The government obviously wants to see a vibrant marketplace, and I fully support that,” Day told Postmedia News on Friday. “It would just be beneficial for them to take a step back and look at those auction rules.”

The facts: since they are three, it really hurts the incumbents that they can bid on just two blocks of valuable 700 MHz spectrum next January. Since Verizon is rumoured to be entering the Canadian wireless market, it would be treated as a new entrant, and would be able to bid on two blocks of spectrum, and would have an unfair advantage, despite its company size, Day says. He believes Ottawa’s determination to protect Canadian consumers has blinded it to the arguments against giving Verizon an advantage.

“Protecting the consumer is the right position. I endorse that position,” he said. “In making that case, which they should and which I support, you can miss some of the trees because you’re focused on the forest.”

He also believes that the recent cabinet reshuffle has contributed to the government’s failure to realize the ramifications of holding the auction under the existing wireless policy, which, by the way, was saluted by the Big Three when it was published earlier this year. The draft of this policy was created with the contribution of the carriers.

“You’ve got a whole lot of portfolios changing hands,” Day said, “right from ministers to their advisers to the bureaucrats.

“That’s why, for the sake of the public, I think it would be wise for them to pause. They have delayed auction dates before. It’s not a big deal, it’s fairly common. And most of the public would understand if government is saying ‘We just want to take a little more time to get this right.’ ”

There is one big issue here that the incumbents simply cannot accept: one of them will end up losing out in the auction. And this, from their perspective, could lead to consolidation, not a price war.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JohnN August 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

The headline if this article reads “Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Asks for Delayed Wireless Spectrum Auction”.
Should it not have read “Telus director Asks for Delayed Wireless Spectrum Auction”?

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