Tony Clement’s burden

Published: November 18th, 2009
Today's the deadline for telecom industry members to advise Industry Minister Tony Clement on how to get out of the mess the CRTC so inconveniently dropped in his lap in the Globalive Wireless Management Corp. decision. Undoubtedly, the incumbents aren't be offering any quick fixes that would help a potential well-funded competitor off the mat.
Telus Corp., for example, put out a press release warning that if the government overturns the CRTC decision, “it would render meaningless Canada's laws on foreign ownership not just for wireless firms, but also for broadcasters, media, cable companies and wireline telecommunications firms that are governed by the same regulations.” Changes to the foreign ownership rules, it said, must be enacted by Parliament not “snuck in through the back door.” Telus, Shaw Communications and wireless startup Public Mobile Holdings were also part of a group that bought an ad in an Ottawa political newsletter to make sure the minister got the point. Presumably, Clement's office also got a few briefs written by lobbyists making the same point.
Not so hidden message: We'll raise bloody hell if you overturn the CRTC.
Meanwhile Rogers Communications Inc. and startup DAVE Wireless were quoted as generously being willing to buy some of Globalive's spectrum, to help finish off the carcass.
Globalive, which hopes to go to market under the Wind Mobile brand, is not averse to playing the publicity game either, though. It put out a release saying that because it still can't launch, some 400 of its employees in Calgary and the Toronto area this week are volunteering at nine public agencies ranging from food banks to a homework club.
Not so hidden message: We can only be charitable for so long. Don't put 400 people out of work.
On the other hand, the incumbents are right: Clement can't merely dump the CRTC ruling, unless the facts change. And they won't unless Globalive comes up with more Canadian investment.
Telecom consultant Mark Goldberg has suggested in a blog that Clement can help in one way: Clarify how Globalive can “Canadianize” its debt, which is where the CRTC ruling was vague. That would help the startup without getting into foreign ownership laws.
Then all Globalive has to do is find the money.

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