Canadian Telecommunications: Industry Regulation and Policy
(8 pages of text)
Case (Pub Mat)
This case study is based on a high-profile issue facing the Canadian federal government that began in 2008 and was still ongoing as of December 2010. Industry Canada, working from a set of policy objectives crafted over a period of three years, had decided that in the auction sale of wireless spectrum licenses in 2008, it would set aside 40 per cent of the licenses for new entrants. This decision had come about because research indicated that Canadian usage of wireless services had lagged behind that of other developed countries, mainly due to the high relative cost of wireless services.
One of the new entrants was Globalive Communications Corporation (Globalive), a start-up which was funded by Orascom Telecom Holding S.A.E., an Egyptian company. Despite the fact that Canada had well-defined foreign ownership restrictions for the telecommunications sector, Globalive was allowed to bid. It won, and paid $442 million for its spectrum, began to hire hundreds of staff, and committed another $300 million to investing in wireless infrastructure. From the time Globalive applied to participate in the spectrum auction to the period prior to its official launch, the firm met several times with Industry Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to ensure that its ownership was structured so as to fit within the foreign ownership restrictions.
Pressure had been put on the CRTC by carriers such as Rogers and Bell to conduct a formal review of Globalive, and this review had determined that Globalive did not fit within foreign ownership restrictions. However, the government had overturned this decision, revealing a conflict between regulation and policy.
This case has the following objectives:
- Familiarize students with the telecommunications industry in Canada.
- Demonstrate tensions between the government’s plan to attract more competition, and the industry regulator’s view of who meets the framework for foreign ownership.
- Show how two organizations, Industry Canada and the CRTC, could examine the same issue and reach different conclusions.
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