The Federal Court of Appeal didn't wasting any time clearing space on its calendar for the Wind Mobile case. The court has set May 18 as the day it will hear an appeal by the Harper government into a lower court ruling that the cabinet exceeded its power in allowing the wireless startup to open its doors.
In the fall of 2009 the federal telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled Wind is controlled by its Egyptian partner, Orascom Telecom Holdings. But six weeks later the cabinet said the commission was wrong.
Competing startup Public Mobile then took that decision to the Federal Court, complaining the government unlawfully made an exception for Wind in foreign financing that other wireless carriers couldn't take advantage of. Federal Court judge Rogers Hughes agreed.The government and Wind then appealed that ruling.
One reason the appeal court might have wanted to take the case quickly is that it deals with cabinet power. That doesn't mean however, it will make a quick decision.
Meanwhile, there continues to be uncertainty about the Canadian government's position on foreign telecom investment. If the cabinet is upheld, the Wind decision would be seen as an exception to the investment restrictions in the Telecommunications Act — although the government insists that the act was followed. At the same time, however, the Harper government has said it wants to liberalize the telecom investment rules — but any changes depend on its policy for encouraging foreign investors to take part in or back Canadian carriers in the upcoming 700 Mhz spectrum auction.
Should the cabinet lose in the Federal Court of Appeal it will almost certainly take the case to the Supreme Court.