Xplore, Eastlink Give Wholesale Internet Arguments to CRTC

During a hearing on Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was told that a national framework enabling smaller internet providers access to competitors’ fibre networks could greatly benefit residents in remote regions, by offering more affordable internet.

New Brunswick-based Xplore said a framework for enabling smaller companies to compete effectively with larger carriers, would benefit rural and remote areas.

Rizwan Jamal, CEO of Xplore, told the CRTC, “wholesale access will allow us to gain scale, especially in rural and remote Canada,” reports The Canadian Press.

The CRTC hearing that began on Monday is gathering insights from over 20 groups, including internet providers, advocates, and stakeholders, to evaluate the effectiveness of Canada’s internet services.

In November, the CRTC mandated Bell and Telus to grant access to their fibre-to-the-home networks in Ontario and Quebec to smaller ISPs, in a move to increase competition. The ongoing hearing may determine whether to extend this requirement across Canada.

Xplore’s current customer base stands at 65,000 homes with its fibre network, but aims to reach 400,000 homes. Jamal said it make sense to have network expansion in densely populated areas with federal and provincial subsidies, but not the case for less dense regions. But expanded wholesale rules could bridge service gaps and enhance investment returns by enabling service to larger communities, he said.

Eastlink’s Executive Vice-Chair Lee Bragg warned that prioritizing consumer choice without considering investment incentives could lead to decreased competition and lower-quality networks in rural areas. Bragg also noted Eastlink’s withdrawal from 62 communities where service provision became unjustifiable.

On Tuesday, independent telco Beanfield Metroconnect argued against bulk condo agreements, pointing out deals that Rogers has in place.

Todd Hofley, Beanfield’s vice-president of policy and communications, noted these bulk agreements end up creating “monopolistic islands” that exclude rivals. The deals are in place for the first 5-8 years of a condo’s life and residents pay for services through their rent or strata fees.

Hofley also made these agreements a safety issue, saying if someone with internet, home phone and TV all from Rogers, an outage by the latter could affect the safety of residents trying to call for help.

He also pointed out that about half of all new condos in Toronto, Ontario, have these bulk condo agreements in place.

On Wednesday, Telus and Bell will be speaking in front of the CRTC. It remains to be seen what the Commission will decide after hearing from all groups by the end of the week.

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