CRTC decision on wholesale internet access a positive shift for Canadian consumers

Fibre optics6Two weeks ago, the CRTC announced its decision on the review of the regulatory status and policies covering telecommunications wholesale services. The commission has determined that telco'€™s need to share their high-speed optical fibre infrastructure  including fibre-to-the-premises  with competitors. This is a major victory for Canadian consumers, who will now get more choice in their internet service providers, and will have improved access to high-speed internet at better costs.

Key points of last week'€™s landmark decision are:

  • The CRTC is requiring that competitors have access to disaggregated wholesale high-speed access (HSA) services of the large incumbent companies, including optical fibre facilities.

  • Implementation of the disaggregated wholesale HSA services framework (configuration and tariffs) will be determined in follow-up proceedings, and will be phased in starting with Quebec and Ontario.

  • Copper access facilities (or unbundled local loops), which are used to support retail competition for local phone services and lower-speed internet access, will no longer be mandated, and will be phased out.

  • Ethernet and high-speed competitor digital network access services will remain free from price regulations and will not be mandated.

When crafting their decision, the commissioners noted that: "The demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years… Large incumbent companies will now have to make their fibre facilities available to their competitors. This measure will ensure that Canadians have more choice for high speed Internet services and are able to fully leverage the benefits of the broadband home or business."€

Suffice to say, Cybera is pleased with this decision. In an interview with Reuters following the CRTC announcement, president and CEO Robin Winsor said: "With this ruling they've said that competition is important, that we can't afford to duplicate everything in Canada, and they are making sure that Canadians get access to competitive rates and are not locked in." This is also a win for the smaller, independent ISPs who wish to compete by providing fibre-based services to consumers.

Last year, Cybera submitted a response to the CRTC review arguing that Canada is simply too big, with a population that is too scattered, for facilities-based competition to be effective for all Canadians. Rather, we suggested that the CRTC focus on service-based competition that runs over fibre networks that are openly accessible to any provider.

With this regulatory policy, the CRTC is encouraging service-based competition between ISPs for '€˜last-mile' high-speed fibre technology (which directly connects to consumer homes and businesses). These significant policy changes will help foster competition in the broadband internet market and support growing consumer demands for internet in upcoming years.

The next major milestone for internet regulations in Canada will be the CRTC review of basic telecommunications services. This will determine what services (such as high-speed internet) should be deemed basic telecommunications services needed for Canadians to meaningfully participate in the digital economy. Cybera has submitted its response to the first phase of this review, and hopes to travel to Ottawa once more to make the case for a nation of fully-connected and digitally enabled citizens!