CRTC Denies Bell Request to Delay Wholesale Internet Review

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has rejected Bell’s request for an extension to the tariff filing and cost study deadlines related to the wholesale high-speed access service (HSA) framework review.

On March 8, 2023, the CRTC initiated a review of the wholesale HSA framework through Telecom Notice of Consultation 2023-56. The Notice directed incumbent carriers to submit new Phase II cost studies to establish rates for aggregated wholesale HSA services by June 22, 2023. Comments from the public were being accepted until April 24, 2023.

“The CRTC is taking immediate action to promote competition in the Internet services market. This starts today with a 10 percent reduction on some wholesale rates,” said CRTC CEO Vicky Eatrides at the time.

“We look forward to hearing from everyone who will participate in our public proceeding so that we can strike the right balance between lower prices and continued investment in high-quality and reliable networks,” she added.

Bell requested an extension to this deadline on June 9, 2023, proposing to move the date to August 15, 2023. However, the CRTC denied this request due to several factors, including the strong public interest in a timely decision on this proceeding.

The CRTC had previously notified all parties in a letter dated May 4, 2023, that it was not inclined to grant further extension requests in this proceeding. This stance was informed by the strong public interest in fast-tracking the process for internet service competition, aligning with the Government of Canada’s recent Policy Direction.

The May 4 letter stated that deadline extensions might be granted in rare and exceptional circumstances, supported by sufficient evidence. While acknowledging Bell’s efforts for its extension request, the CRTC found that the circumstances surrounding the request were neither rare nor exceptional.

The CRTC pointed out that no other incumbent carrier requested to extend the June 22, 2023 deadline. Québecor, the only incumbent who responded to Bell’s request, stated that it expects to meet the established deadline for its own cost studies and saw no reason why Bell would not be in the same position.

Bell’s statement that it could not meet the June 22, 2023 deadline due to competing demands for its costing resources was not deemed as a good enough reason for granting an extension. The CRTC says it expects each company to ensure that it has the necessary resources to respond to its directions.

The CRTC concluded that the strong public interest in delivering competitive and affordable internet access requires that both the Commission and the industry work diligently to meet the deadlines in this proceeding. The CRTC will continue to work with all parties towards developing a framework that will serve all Canadians, its letter explained.

According to TekSavvy’s Peter Nowak who shared the letter, he reacted by saying, “In case anyone has any doubts as to what’s going on: Bell Canada is on one hand objecting strenuously to the CRTC about giving competitors access to its fibre network while on the other hand also insisting to the CRTC that it should have access to Rogers’ subway cell network.”

“This Bell extension request is unreal at its heart. The CRTC announced in March that it needs all the major telcos to file the actual cost of their services by next week. That’s three months, while Bell wanted six months,” he continued.

“Every business – ANY BUSINESS – should be able to provide this cost at the drop of a hat, otherwise it should not be IN business. The fact that Bell is able to even SUGGEST an extension is what makes the Canadian telecom industry so unreal and unbearable,” added Nowak.

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