Canada's telecom regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), announced on Monday that, on a temporary and expedited basis, it is offering competitors a workable way to sell Internet services through the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks of large telephone companies in Ontario and Quebec, where competition has significantly decreased. The regulator stated that it is taking this action to enhance the options and affordability of high-speed Internet services for over five million Canadian households.
CRTC's Push for Enhanced Competition
As a result of this initial decision, large telephone companies are mandated to grant competitors access to their fibre-to-the-home networks within six months. This timeframe allows competitors to prepare their networks and develop information technology and billing systems, the official announcement said.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) pointed out that in recent years, the percentage of customers served by competitors has significantly decreased, with the most substantial decline occurring in Ontario and Quebec, where independent competitors now serve 47 percent fewer customers than they did just two years ago. The CRTC also observed that several competitors have been acquired by larger Internet providers, leaving Canadians with fewer options for high-speed Internet services.
Bell Canada's Response
Following the CRTC's decision, Canadian media and telecom company Bell announced its intentions to cut capital expenditures and scale back the expansion of high-speed fibre Internet due to the decision discouraging network investment.
Bell stated its plan to reduce capital expenditures by over CAD 1 billion in 2024-25, with at least CAD 500 to CAD 600 million earmarked for 2024. This is the funding the company had originally allocated for extending high-speed fibre Internet access to hundreds of thousands of additional homes and businesses in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
In a statement, Bell Canada explained, "Rolling back fibre network expansion is a direct result of the CRTC's decision. This decision forces Bell to open up its fibre network in Ontario and Quebec but does not mandate access to fibre-to-the-premises networks in western Canada where there are over three million fibre locations passed. If the intent of the decision is to benefit consumers then it is arbitrary and capricious to leave Western Canadian consumers behind. When Bell enters a community with high-speed fibre Internet, it increases competition, and customers benefit from better service, better value and lower prices."
"When others scaled back investment at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bell leaned in and accelerated our annual capital expenditures to historic levels to provide Canadians with the reliable connectivity they needed," said Bell Canada.
"The CRTC is also setting the interim rates that competitors will pay when selling services over these fibre-to-the-home networks. These rates were chosen to allow Canada’s large Internet companies to continue investing in their networks to deliver high-quality services to Canadians," explained the CRTC. The regulator is scheduled to conduct public hearings starting in February 2024.