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Telus Flip-Flopping Continues With Latest Lawsuit as Company Changes Its Tune Yet Again

Telus’ decision to file a lawsuit against the federal government over its spectrum transfer rules continues a trend of flip-flopping on policy issues at the company. What does Telus think of the government’s wireless policies?  Apparently it depends when you ask. For example, in March 2012, Telus said the following about the spectrum auction approach:

TELUS believes this is a thoughtful and balanced decision that meets the Government’s objectives of promoting consumer choice, supporting sustainable competition through investment in technology and further expanding broadband services in rural markets.

Sixteen months (and the possibility of a Verizon entry) later, CEO Darren Entwistle now says:

There’s going to be a bloodbath, because people are not going to give up on getting that block. So it’s going to be prohibitively expensive and suck a lot of money out of the industry – money that won’t go to infrastructure and technology, money that won’t go into rural coverage or support lower prices.

There is similar change of tune with the latest lawsuit.

In April 2013, Telus responded to the government’s consultation on the transfer of spectrum licences. Asked about treating deemed spectrum licence transfers as actual transfers, it said:

The Department is proposing to treat deemed spectrum licence transfers as actual transfers, divisions or subordinate licensing arrangements, meaning that it would be subject to the same approval process. In addition, the Department has proposed that a licensee would be in breach of its conditions of licence if it finalizes the agreement for a deemed licence transfer after the Department has indicated it would refuse approval. TELUS agrees with the proposal. A deemed spectrum licence transfer should be treated in the same manner as an actual transfer, division or subordinate licensing arrangement, as the case may be. This means, of course, that a deemed spectrum licence transfer would be subject to a detailed review provided that it satisfied the threshold for such a review.

Four months later, it is suing the government over its approach on deemed transfers:

In the LPT Framework, the Minister purports to introduce the concept of ‘Deemed Transfers’ and by that device to bring changes of control within the scope of his authority over transfers under section 11. This is tantamount to amending the regulation, which the Minister has no power to do. The provisions of the LTP Framework purporting to introduce the concept of ‘Deemed Transfers’ and to require that an application be made to the Minister for approval of ‘Deemed Transfers’ of AWS and other spectrum licences are therefore ultra vires and unlawful.

Sometimes the Telus flip flopping takes place over days, not months. Earlier this month, the company issued a release with quotes from Entwistle promoting an OECD report it said “confirms that Canadian wireless pricing compares extremely well internationally.” When it was pointed out that the report actually ranked Canada among the ten most expensive countries for wireless services in virtually every category, Telus immediately changed its tune on the OECD report:

the OECD report’s methodology is limited. It is not a comprehensive report, but rather it takes a random sampling of one or two plans for each country in each category and does not take into account the different flavour of services in countries. Their reports often end up comparing apples to oranges as a result.

That four day flip flop was impressive, but still nothing beats June 22, 2007, when the company took two different positions on a spectrum set-aside in the same paper on the same day. On that date, the Ottawa Citizen ran a letter to the editor from the company arguing against a set-aside, while also running an article in which Entwistle argued for a set-aside to address competition concerns in the event of a merger between Telus and Bell.

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11 Comments

  1. Corporation will say anything to get its way, charges of hypocrisy be damned
    Film at 11.

  2. Guy Incognito says:

    Michael,

    While Telus’ hypocrisy is undeniable, that you would attack a company for changing its position based upon largely unforeseen circumstances is rather immature.


  3. @Guy Incognito – I am not really sure how writing about facts, ones that demonstrate a company’s lack of consistent strategy and messaging, is immature?

    It would be more useful to this debate if you brought logical arguments or thoughts to the table.

  4. globalive says:

    Bell and Telus will merge if Verizon is allowed to come in. It is certainty, and the government will allow it because of the market share the two will inevitably lose to Verizon. How do you people think about that? I guess, judging from the comments, you don’t care. You people are just lured by the fallacy of “cheap prices” from an American company. How are the prices at Target? Meh, pretty much the same. You idiots just want to see a Canadian entity replaced by an American entity, essentially.

  5. Guy Incognito says:

    @Bolton

    Is it not logical to argue that one reserves the right to change their position based upon circumstance?

  6. @ Guy Incognito

    It is totally logical and quite predictable that Telus has changed their position from 6 years ago under these very different circumstances. Many people seem to forget that Telus was in Wind’s shoes (a small regional, new entrant) 12 years ago. They have successfully taken a lot of market share away from Bell and Rogers without getting any special favours and taxpayer funded incentives. The west loves their Telus and still hasn’t forgiven Ottawa for the National Energy Policy debacle back in the 80′s – there is another angle to this issue that could still blow up on the feds.

  7. Actually the west hates Telus. I’m tied down to another 1.5 year contract with them. They have very poor quality tv, very slow boxes, their service is nice but then we are paying through the nose. Thank God I am with Wind and I only have to pay $100 for our four phones per month. wtf, I can’t imagine how people can afford to pay more than what we pay. Do they eat? What are they sacrificing.

    At any rate, thank you Michael for your steadfast reporting on these controversial issues. I only wish that we the people could challenge the “statutory authority” of the government. I have an idea, why doesn’t the government file a counter-suit in response to their lawsuit and file against price-fixing and antitrust violation. Why doesn’t the government file a counter-suit, it’s right there on the form?! Please, just file a damn counter-suit.

  8. Student
    Left hand, right hand.

  9. @ Joah Moat

    In your first sentence you say you are locked into a contract with Telus and in the next sentence you say you have your 4 phones with Wind. Is that a typo or are you just making this stuff up?

    As you know, nobody is ever locked into a contract. If you want to exit your contract you can do so at any time subject to the terms you agreed to when you voluntarily entered into the contract. Obviously you must have received something of value in exchange for your term commitment so you’ll probably have to reimburse them for what you owe and you should be fine to move on. That’s only fair.

  10. I think TELUS is not wrong in changing its stand from what it was in 2012. They were not allowed to pick up mobilicity and Verizon’s entry does pose significant risk to them. Also there were more refinements to the policy done earlier this year that would change the synergies.

    I think Verizon should be allowed to come in but the the canadian operators should also be allowed to compete evenly. Our government’s policy of forcefully injecting a 4th national operator by “hook or crook” is not fair and sets a wrong example.

  11. I’m with wind now and they charge 40 a month for unlimited data/voice which is great but the service will be way faster with Verizon why I’m with wind now… because it’s not the big 3