Following Telus, Bell Takes Ottawa to Court Over Wireless Policy

by Istvan Fekete on September 9, 2013

Following Telus’ example, Bell has taken Ottawa to court over its wireless policy, arguing that Industry Minister James Moore has no right to impose greater obligations on the company to help smaller rivals, the Globe and Mail reports.

What’s bothering the incumbent is the government’s March decision to expand and extend obligations for the Big Three to provide roaming and tower-sharing to new wireless players. While the previous set of wireless rules included some roaming measures to help new carriers for five years, the new wireless rule has extended those roaming provisions to indefinite deadlines, and has also included new measures to reduce the timelines for carriers to seek arbitration when it comes to a dispute.

The Big Three have launched a huge media campaign against Ottawa’s wireless policy: their major concern was Verizon’s entrance into the Canadian wireless market, but now it seems to have gone beyond that. Telus was first to file two lawsuits against Ottawa, but now Bell has asked the court to review the government’s new wireless policy, which is part of Ottawa’s effort to create a competitive wireless market and attract new entrants to the market.

Bell’s major concern seems to be the policy’s roaming and tower-sharing rules. As of March 2013, Ottawa has toughened requirements in part by eliminating the five-year period for this obligation. From Bell’s position, Ottawa doesn’t have substantial justification for changing the rules.

“The development of radiocommunication … is a very expensive undertaking for companies in that it involves considerable and risky capital and technological investments. Companies cannot be expected to bid hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to acquire and use spectrum, and many more hundreds of millions of dollars to develop network infrastructure, if the conditions of its use can be subject to arbitrary, unilateral change during the term of the licence,” BCE wrote in its submission.

Ottawa has immediately reacted to the filing. A spokeswoman for Industry Minister James Moore criticized the Big Three’s position and emphasized once again that the government has no plans to change its wireless policy.

“It is ironic that the Big Three claim to be in favour of increased competition in our wireless market, yet are pursuing a campaign to stop the government from creating the very conditions that would create more choice for consumers,” said Jessica Fletcher, director of communications for the Industry Minister.

“We will continue to strongly defend Canadian consumers and the rules for the upcoming spectrum auction, which were designed after consultations with the wireless industry, including Bell Canada Enterprises.”

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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