Bell Canada, Telus face CRTC mandate to open fiber networks to competitors

Canada's large incumbent telcos, including Telus, Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and others, must continue to provide special access to competitive carriers for wholesale services--and now must make their fiber networks available, too, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ruled.

"Following an extensive review, the CRTC found that the large incumbent companies continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high-speed access services and is requiring that they make these services available to competitors," the commission said in a media release on Thursday.

Further, incumbents now must make their fiber facilities available to CLECs, the CRTC said, noting that "the demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years to support their growing Internet needs and usage."

The decision was made in order to make sure Canadian consumers and businesses have more choice for high-speed Internet services, the commission said.

"By continuing to mandate certain wholesale services, and including access to fibre facilities, we are continuing our work to drive competition so Canadians have access to more choice, innovative services and reasonable prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC, in a release. "At the same time, we fully expect that companies will continue to invest in their networks, including in fibre technology, to meet the growing needs of consumers."

Interestingly, the policy decision includes phasing out the mandate for copper unbundled local loops (ULLs), calling them "a legacy service used primarily to support retail competition for local phone services and lower-speed Internet access" according to a TeleGeography article.

The CRTC's decision comes as the FCC is taking a look at special access requirements mandated for U.S. incumbents like AT&T (NYSE: T).

The commission is set to discuss a number of special access concerns at its Aug. 6 meeting, such as requiring ILECs to provide more notice to CLECs when shutting down legacy networks and transitioning to fiber. Competitive local exchange providers like Windstream are also concerned that business and residential customers won't have choices for high-speed broadband services once the transition to IP networks is completed.

"Business consumers--including the small- and medium-sized businesses that drive economic growth and job creation, state and local governments, schools and non-profit health care providers--will be hurt significantly if the IP transition deprives them of their choice of integrated communications solutions because the large incumbent LECs can raise prices for critical last-mile transmission, whether Ethernet or unbundled DS1/DS3 capacity loops," Windstream wrote in a recent filing with the FCC.

AT&T and other incumbents, however, argue that the solutions put forward so far to ensure continued access to competitive choices, such as combining ULL circuit switching and shared transport services, would delay their transition to an all-IP environment.

For more:
- see the CRTC release
- see this TeleGeography story

Related articles:
FCC proposes extending copper retirement, sets IP transition protections for consumers, businesses
Windstream to FCC: Competitive choice should not be reduced in IP transition
Windstream says SMBs will be hurt if AT&T raises special access prices in IP transition
AT&T, CenturyLink claim Granite's request to combine Section 271, wholesale services will delay IP transition