Fair, open-access regulations are key to ensuring broadband for everyone, CRTC Ruling 2015-326

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Earlier this autumn, The Globe and Mail reported that BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) was appealing to the newly-elected Trudeau government to overturn the CRTC’s summer 2015 ruling that set out new rules governing how Internet services are provided to Canadians. Since then, a number of individuals and organizations have stepped forward urging the Canadian government to maintain CRTC 2015-326, which sets out rules that would support open-access high-speed Internet infrastructure.

Dr. Reza Rajabiun and Dr. Catherine Middleton, who have both previously provided objective third-party reviews of the SWIFT model, commented on the BCE Inc. petition to the Governor in Council. In their comments, they stated:

“The Canadian experience over the past decade suggests that broad strategic decisions by large operators such as Bell have impacted their investment in fibre, not regulation. The Commission has had a clear policy of forbearance from mandating access on fibre access facilities since 2008. There is little doubt that this policy has been ineffective in promoting investment in advanced FTTP platforms as operators have targeted capital expenditures primarily to upgrading legacy copper and cable networks. FTTP connections make up less than 5% of broadband services in Canada and have been growing very incrementally over the past few years, a trend the disaggregated and technologically neutral approach to wholesale Internet access regulation in CRTC 2015-326 may help reverse. The impact of the new regulatory framework will depend on its implementation details, which are currently under consideration as part of a follow up proceeding at the CRTC.” (Comments Received on Gazette Notice DGTP-002-2015)

As a community-driven infrastructure initiative, we agree with Dr. Rajabuin and Dr. Middleton, as well as with Open Media’s concerns that overturning CRTC 2015-326 would directly limit the range of Internet service provider choices available to Canadians and would be unfair to the extensive consultation process involved in developing the ruling. As noted by Open Media in their comments on the appeal, over 25,000 Canadians were involved in the process of developing CRTC-2015-326 and their input, as well as extensive industry research spanning several years, clearly demonstrates that Canada is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to the availability, affordability, and quality of Internet connectivity – and that Canadians demand better.

The newly formed government has committed to increasing high-speed broadband coverage as well as supporting greater competition, choice, and availability of services offered to Canadian consumers – in order to do so, the CRTC needs to ensure that regulations encourage diversification of the Canadian telecommunications market

The SWIFT model was developed with values that are consistent with CRTC-2015-236. As proponents of open-access infrastructure, we support the CRTC decision that Canadians would be best served by holistic, shared fibre-optic infrastructure and that the best way to support widespread investment in high-speed Internet services is to use fair, open-access regulations to ensure that affordable, modern Internet access is available to all Canadian communities.

To learn more about CRTC 2015-326, BCE Inc.’s petition to appeal that decision, and further commentary on the issue, consider reading the following links: