Videotron Lawsuit Alleges Bell Blocks Access to Telephone Poles to Delay Internet Rollouts [Update]

Montreal-based Videotron has announced this morning it has filed a lawsuit against Bell, alleging the latter is purposely blocking access to infrastructure to slow internet rollouts.

“Bell’s anti-competitive manoeuvres must cease,” says Jean-François Pruneau, President and CEO of Videotron, in a statement. “We are therefore asking the Competition Bureau to take all necessary steps to end them. Quebecers are entitled to healthy competition and quality telecommunications services. Everyone is unfairly penalized when Bell blocks access to other service providers in their region, municipality or neighbourhood. It’s simply unacceptable.”

According to the Quebec company, Bell uses “anti-competitive tactics”, as it “systematically delays or simply neglects to process requests for access to its existing support structures,” to benefit its own networks and block out competitors. Videotron gives the example of how one request to access a Bell telephone pole has taken over 2.5 years.

Videotron says Bell is required by law to allow other service providers to access its support structures to install equipment and delaying access is “slowing the development and upgrading of Internet access in all regions of Québec.”

“Given that Videotron submitted more than 1,400 access requests in 2019 alone, these completely unreasonable delays are causing considerable harm to the affected communities,” says Videotron.

Videotron says it is suing Bell for damages over the years, estimated at $12 million.

Update: A Bell spokesperson sent iPhone in Canada the following statement:

“Poles are owned by communications companies, sometimes used jointly, and also by Hydro Québec. There is a strict CRTC regulatory and permitting process that must be followed but Bell, Telus and Hydro-Québec are part of a working group with the Government of Québec that is focused on ensuring faster access to poles for all service providers while adhering to all safety standards.”