CRTC decision may hurt rural Internet expansion

WEST CARLETON – The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruling on final wholesale rates will adversely affect Bell Canada’s rural Internet expansion the telecommunications giant said.

Last week the CRTC set the final wholesale rates large providers can charge for access to their high-speed broadband networks. CRTC indicated the rates are lower than interim wholesale rates implemented in 2016.

“The monthly capacity rates are 15 per cent to 43 per cent lower than the interim rates,” the CRTC said in the new decision. “As for the access rates, they are three per cent to 77 per cent lower than the interim rates (set in 2016).”

Bell Canada says it will cut roughly 200,000 households from a rural Internet expansion program after the federal regulator announced the prices major telecom companies can charge smaller Internet providers.

Yesterday (Aug. 19) the Montreal-based company said the final rates set last week by the CRTC will cost it more than $100 million, with the bulk of the sum going to cover the retroactively lower rates.

“Putting this kind of unexpected and retroactive tax on capital investment is not the way to ensure the continued development of Canada’s Internet infrastructure,” said Bell chief operating officer Mirko Bibic in a statement.

The company said, that in response to the decision it will cut back by 20 per cent on a rural Internet program designed to provide wireless Internet access to homes hard to reach by fibre or traditional cable access.

Rogers Communication said it was disappointed by the CRTC’s ruling and it was reviewing all future investment in rural and remote communities in light of the $140-million charge expected by the decision.

The regulator requires that large telecom companies like Bell and Rogers sell access to their infrastructure to smaller Internet providers as a way to improve competition and lower prices.

Bell’s decision to cut back spending is a political move designed to play on fears, said John Lawford, executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.