Sister telcos Bell Canada and Bell Aliant have been given permission for a plan to use wireless instead of wireline technology for fulfilling broadband rollout obligations in rural areas of Quebec and Ontario, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced in a decision on Friday. As reported by Network World Canada, the operators may use HSPA+ wireless data networks to serve 112 communities in the two provinces, after revising a plan which had previously been rejected by the regulator; a decision issued in August 2010 said they must use DSL as wireless services would not offer the same data speeds/volumes/features as their copper-based counterparts in urban areas – effectively ‘discriminating’ against rural dwellers. New improved HSPA+ customer packages were submitted for the CRTC’s examination in September by the Bell group, which also argued that rollout obligations should be technology-neutral. In its latest decision the watchdog agreed, saying: ‘Consistent with the principle of technological neutrality, the Bell companies should be able to deploy the technology of their choice.’
As reported by CommsUpdate, in its August decision the CRTC issued a ‘final’ ruling forcing Bell Canada, Bell Aliant, Telus and MTS to pay back CAD311 million (USD293 million) to residential phone customers in urban areas that were overcharged between 2002 and 2006, whilst approving a plan for the deployment of ‘fixed’ broadband internet access to 287 rural and remote communities over the next four years at a cost of CAD422 million, using the remaining funds accumulated from the overcharging (the so-called ‘deferral accounts’). In addition to Bell Canada and Bell Aliant’s 112 communities to be covered, Telus promised to cover 159 communities in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, and MTS is responsible for connecting 16 communities in Manitoba.