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Internet prices in Canada: CRTC lowers some rates


Canada’s national telecommunications regulator is cutting some wholesale Internet prices by 10 percent as it launches a review aimed at boosting competition and lowering costs for consumers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Wednesday it recognizes that its current approach does not encourage enough competition in the industry.

Its review will look at the rates that smaller competitors pay big telcos to access their networks.

The regulator will also examine whether the latter should give smaller competitors access to fiber networks to improve internet speeds for their customers.

“We look forward to everyone participating in our public hearing so we can find the right balance between low prices and continued investment in high-quality and reliable networks,” CRTC President and CEO Vicki Eatrides said in a press release.

In 2021, the regulator reversed a decision two years ago to reduce wholesale internet prices after major operators argued that the lower rate would force them to sell at a loss.

Companies such as Rogers and Bell have said that expanding their network infrastructure is a significant cost that independent companies don’t bear, and that the reduced rates could limit their ability to invest in wireless or Internet service in rural areas.

Last month, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne ordered the agency to implement new rules to increase consumer rights, affordability, competition and universal access, which included a requirement to improve wholesale internet prices.

Champagne told reporters on Wednesday that the regulator’s announcement was “in the spirit” of the policy adopted by Ottawa. He called the directive “one tool in the toolbox to make sure we get better prices for Canadians.”

“We’re adamant about lowering prices in Canada, and I think that’s what the new directive does for Canadians,” he said.

Canada’s major telecommunications companies remain mum. Rogers declined to comment, while BCE Inc. said it was reviewing the decision.

Telus Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Competition Network Operators of Canada, which represents independent Internet providers such as Distributel and VMedia, said in a statement that it is encouraged that the CRTC is “taking swift action to address the fractured competitive landscape.”

“This is a landmark year for home Internet competition, and we are pleased that the CRTC and its new chairman recognize the importance of this issue,” CNOC CEO Jeff White said in an emailed statement. .

“We are also pleased that Industry Minister Champagne has been very clear about his expectations that the CRTC will improve competition for consumers.”

Andy Kaplan-Mirth, vice president of regulatory and carrier affairs at TekkSavvy, also welcomed the review, saying the “extraordinary measures are urgently needed” following major telcos’ acquisitions of independent Internet service providers “due to policies established by the regulator’s previous leadership.”

“The ICRC appears to understand that past rulings have destroyed a competitive market for Internet services and resulted in higher prices for consumers,” Kaplan-Mirth said in a statement.

“While additional interim rate cuts are required to have a significant impact, we are pleased to see proper focus and momentum towards greater competition and better prices.”

Canadians can participate in the review until June 22 by submitting comments through the CRTC’s website, by writing to the agency’s secretary general or by fax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 8, 2023.

CTV News is a division of Bell Media, part of BCE Inc.

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