BCE pe­ti­tions Trudeau over whole­sale rates

Warns of se­ri­ous con­se­quences if not al­lowed to charge smaller ri­vals a higher price

The Peterborough Examiner - - BUSINESS - DAVID PADDON

BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada has asked the fed­eral cab­i­net to pre­vent the coun­try’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions reg­u­la­tor from slash­ing the whole­sale rates that large car­ri­ers charge smaller ri­vals for ac­cess to their broad­band net­works.

Among other things, Bell is ask­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­store whole­sale rates for high-speed ac­cess that had been in place prior to a de­ci­sion is­sued in Au­gust by the Cana­dian Ra­dio-tele­vi­sion and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

The company also wants the gov­ern­ment to over­rule the CRTC’s de­ci­sion to make the lower whole­sale rates retroac­tive to 2016, po­ten­tially forc­ing Bell and other car­ri­ers to re­pay hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to Canada’s in­de­pen­dent in­ter­net providers.

Bell — the coun­try’s largest phone company — and most of Canada’s large ca­ble com­pa­nies have al­ready chal­lenged the CRTC at the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal, which is­sued a tem­po­rary stay on the CRTC de­ci­sions in Septem­ber.

The large com­pa­nies have warned there will be se­ri­ous neg­a­tive con­se­quences if net­work own­ers aren’t able to charge a higher whole­sale price to smaller in­ter­net ser­vice providers.

“The com­mis­sion failed to heed this warn­ing,” BCE said in a 37-page pe­ti­tion filed with the gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day. “The in­cen­tive to in­vest in fa­cil­i­ties ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing a nearly 200-fold speed im­prove­ment has been com­pletely negated by the or­der.

“There is no clearer proof than the fact that Vidéotron has with­drawn its flag­ship gi­ga­bit in­ter­net of­fer from the mar­ket, in­clud­ing for its own re­tail cus­tomers, ex­plic­itly as a re­sult of the or­der.”

Vidéotron is a sub­sidiary of Mon­tre­al­based Que­becor Inc. that com­petes in Que­bec against Bell, but shares BCE’s view that the CRTC’s whole­sale broad­band pric­ing regime should be scrapped.

Vidéotron joined Rogers, Shaw and other large ca­ble net­work op­er­a­tors in a suit filed with the fed­eral ap­peal court. Bell Canada filed a sim­i­lar suit with the court on be­half of it­self, Bell MTS and Bell Aliant.

BCE’s lat­est tac­tic — an ap­proach to the prime min­is­ter and his min­is­ters through a pe­ti­tion to the “gov­er­nor in coun­cil” — fol­lows a hard-fought elec­tion that re­duced the Lib­er­als to a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

JUSTIN TANG THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Bell has chal­lenged the CRTC at the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal.

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