GATINEAU, Que. – The national telecom regulator has officially implemented new rules that industry watchers predict will lead to cheaper Internet rates.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has issued a decision requiring the big telecom companies to offer wholesale access to their fibre networks.
While consumer advocates are applauding the move, at least one group suggests the CRTC could have gone further to ensure a level playing field for independent Internet service providers, or ISPs.
The new requirements were developed last summer, but were delayed after telecom giant Bell Canada launched unsuccessful appeals to both the federal cabinet and the CRTC.
Bell told hearings on Canada’s Internet market in late 2014 that its investment in so-called fibre-to-home technology would slow or stop should it be forced to offer smaller competitors greater access to its networks.
The lengthy and highly technical ruling will require Bell, Cogeco Cable Inc., Rogers Communications Canada Inc., and Videotron to provide their competitors access to what are known as disaggregated wholesale high-speed access services, including fibre-to-home connections.
The requirement is to be phased in, starting with Ontario and Quebec.
The CRTC said it will review implementation of the changes in Western Canada in the next year.
“The commission has made its determinations in this decision with a view to providing Canadians with more choices in services such as broadband Internet access,” the CRTC said in releasing its decision.
“Increased choice is expected to drive competition, resulting in further investment in telecommunications facilities.”
The decision will improve Internet choice and affordability, predicts advocacy group OpenMedia.
But the commission should have gone further and given independent Internet providers autonomy to offer innovative new services the big providers don’t, said Katy Anderson, the group’s digital rights specialist.
“There’s no doubt that this will bring more fibre to more homes faster, and help lower prices as providers race to the doorstep of customers,” said Anderson.
“Nevertheless, it’s disappointing that the CRTC didn’t go further to ensure a truly level playing field for more affordable smaller providers.”
Anderson noted the new rules will limit the ability of smaller ISPs to control quality of service in the networks they access.
The ruling also requires smaller companies to either lease or build their own connections in order to access wholesale services from a bigger provider’s central office.