Bell Cuts $1 Billion in Network Investments, Blames CRTC

Bell has announced a significant reduction in its capital expenditure plans for the years 2024 and 2025, with a projected cut of over $1 billion. This includes a reduction of $500 to $600 million in 2024 alone, funds that it says were earmarked for the expansion of high-speed fibre Internet to numerous homes and businesses across various regions.

This announcement follows a $100 million decrease in Bell’s 2023 capital expenditure budget, a move it blames on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) stance on wholesale access, which Bell argues undermines essential network investment.

The Bell fibre network currently reaches over 7 million locations. However, due to the CRTC’s recent wholesale internet decision, Bell says it is reassessing its expansion plans, which initially aimed to extend high-speed fibre to nine million locations by 2025. The company has now revised this target to 8.3 million locations.

Bell’s decision to pull back on its fibre network expansion is a direct response to the CRTC’s ruling, which mandates Bell to provide access to its fibre network in Ontario and Quebec but excludes similar requirements for western Canada, where over 3 million fibre locations exist. Bell says the decision is inconsistent and neglects the interests of consumers in western Canada.

“When public policy conditions in telecommunications support major investments and job creation, Canadians in small and large communities benefit directly from the best network technology available,” said Mirko Bibic, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada.

Despite Bell’s substantial network expansion in recent years, over 5 million locations remain without access to fibre technology. The CRTC’s decision casts uncertainty on the expansion of Bell’s fibre network to these areas, says the company.

It’s worth noting Bell’s recent acquisition of independent ISP, Distributel, has switched gears and the latter will end its wholesale internet sales in December, as we previously told you.

Bell previously hinted that CRTC policy would force it to scale back its expansion plans and now the company has done just that. Let’s see if Telus, which is also part of today’s CRTC decision, will scale back network investments as well.

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