Supreme Court rejects Public Mobile appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected an appeal of the status of Wind Mobile’s parent company as a Canadian controlled company by rival wireless carrier Public Mobile Inc.
The decision by a panel of the country’s highest court would appear to end three years of confusion over whether Globalive Wireless Management Corp. complies with foreign ownership regulations in Canada.
Globalive, financed by Egyptian-based Orascom Telecom Holding SAE (and now majority owned by Dutch company VimpelCom Ltd.), won spectrum in the 2008 wireless spectrum auction and was given spectrum licences by Industry Canada. But in October 2009, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which gives out operating licences, ruled Globalive’s ownership structure didn’t meet Canadian ownership criteria.
Shortly afterwards, however, the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper overturned the CRTC decision. Public Mobile appealed that fiat at the Federal Court level and won, with a judge ruling the Cabinet order invalid.
But last June, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Cabinet. Public Mobile then sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. A three-member panel headed by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin issued a decision this morning not to hear the appeal. As usual when it turns down leave to appeal applications, the panel didn’t give reasons for its decision.
Public Mobile general counsel Bob Boron said that while the company is disappointed the court won’t hear its appeal, the company has succeeded in creating a level playing field for wireless carriers in Canada.
“The core issue in this case has always been the uneven playing field created by the Cabinet’s Globalive decision, a decision which gave special treatment to a single foreign investor,” Boron said in an e-mail statement.
“The continued focus on this issue by Public Mobile has helped lead to the government’s decision to remove foreign ownership and control restrictions for all new wireless entrants and other small telecommunications providers. These legislative changes will restore a level playing field for access to capital.”
The court also ordered Public Mobile to pay Globalive’s legal costs in the matter, which Wind Mobile CEO and chairman Anthony Lacavera said sent a clear message that the appeal “shouldn’t have been filed in the first place” and was “a waste of everyone’s time.”
“It sent a strong message that governments and court aren’t going to put up with market players (acting this way),” Lacavera said. His interpretation of the ruling: “Stop complaining and start competing.”
As far as Lacavera’s concerned, the issue is dead.
“We can close this chapter and concentrate on offering all Canadians choice in wireless,” he said.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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