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Michael Geist's Blog

Spectrum Transfer Policy To Test Government's Resolve on Wireless Competition

The issue of spectrum transfers has generated considerable attention over the past few weeks as Industry Canada prepares to unveil a transfer policy in response to the proposed sale of spectrum by Shaw to Rogers. Industry Minister Christian Paradis has made it clear that he is uncomfortable with the proposed sale, acknowledging that the intent of the 2008 spectrum auction set aside was not to have the spectrum end up in the hands of incumbents. While the incumbents and their supporters are raising the concerns about market uncertainty and potential lawsuits, the reality is that the government's policy on the Canadian wireless market has been clear since 2007.  Despite the efforts of the CWTA and the incumbents to convince politicians and the public that Canada is a competitive market, the government believes more competition is needed.

The Conservatives' policy on wireless competition solidified in 2007, when Prime Minister Harper shuffled then-Industry Minister Maxime Bernier (who most believed was opposed to government intervention in the form of a set-aside or other measures) with Jim Prentice. Within months, Prentice unveiled the government's policy with the headline "Government Opts for More Competition in the Wireless Sector."  In case there was any lingering doubt about where the government stood, the release noted:

Recent studies comparing international pricing of wireless services show Canadian consumers and businesses pay more for many of these services than people in other countries. These services are key to strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian business.


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