CRTC mandates wholesale fibre broadband access

23 Jul 2015

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) yesterday announced new measures in the wholesale fixed broadband market, including a ruling forcing the country’s largest internet providers to open up their high speed fibre-based access networks to smaller rivals. The regulator said the measures are to foster competition and provide Canadians with more choice and innovative services at reasonable prices.

Following an extensive review, the CRTC found that: ‘the large incumbent companies [including Bell Canada/Bell Aliant, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications, Videotron and Telus Communications] continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high speed access services’ and it is therefore requiring that they make their new-generation services such as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) available to competitors. The summary continued: ‘The demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years … Large incumbent companies will now have to make their fibre facilities available to their competitors. This measure will ensure that Canadians have more choice for high speed Internet services and are able to fully leverage the benefits of the broadband home or business.’

Another aspect of the CRTC’s decision involves scrapping the currently mandated ‘aggregated’ wholesale high speed access (HSA), which has enabled smaller competitors to lease a package of both the access facilities they need to connect to customer locations, and transport facilities, from larger incumbents, without requiring the smaller players to invest substantially in their networks. Under the new policy decision, the CRTC stated that: ‘The large incumbent companies will continue to be required to provide access to wholesale high speed access services throughout their region and transition this access to a disaggregated architecture. The provision of wholesale high speed access services on a disaggregated basis will be implemented in phases across Canada, starting with Ontario and Quebec.’ The regulator indicated that it will take up to three years to phase out aggregated access.

Furthermore, under the policy decision (Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326), copper unbundled local loops (ULLs), which in Canada the CRTC considers ‘a legacy service used primarily to support retail competition for local phone services and lower-speed Internet access’, will no longer be mandated and will be phased out.

The regulator also confirmed that ‘Ethernet and high speed competitor digital network services’, which are primarily used to support retail competition in the business data services market, will remain forborne from price regulation and not mandated.

Currently mandated wholesale services (ahead of the decision):

• ULLs

• Incumbent local exchange carriers’ (ILECs’) aggregated wholesale HSA service

• Cablecos’ aggregated wholesale HSA service (also known as TPIA) service

• Interconnection services

• ‘Public good’ services

Wholesale services mandated as a result of this decision:

ILEC and cableco disaggregated wholesale HSA services

FTTP access facilities

• Interconnection services

• Public good services

Wholesale services that are no longer mandated or that remain forborne from price regulation:

• ULLs

• Ethernet access and transport services

• High speed CDN access and transport services.

The CRTC noted that its next steps include hammering out the details for implementing the wholesale HSA/transport service disaggregation, and setting the costs for wholesale fibre access.