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.
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.