The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has issued a decision (2021-181 of 27 May 2021) finalising wholesale rates for smaller ISPs to access large operators’ high speed broadband networks to resolve a long-standing dispute regarding the existing ‘aggregated access’ wholesale model, cancelling its previous decision (2019-288) to significantly reduce rates which was issued in August 2019 but never implemented. The regulator stated: ‘During the review of wholesale rates for aggregated high speed access [HSA] services, the information provided on the record caused the CRTC to doubt the correctness of certain aspects of its August 2019 decision. With its new decision the CRTC is adopting the interim rates [set in Q4 2016], with adjustments, as the final rates.’
While its latest decision represents a victory for big telcos and cablecos including Bell, Telus, Rogers and Shaw, the CRTC highlighted that the aggregated access model is in the process of transitioning to a ‘disaggregated’ HSA service enabling competitors to access the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks of the large companies and offer their customers faster internet speeds and a wider range of services. Under the aggregated model, a competitor connects its network to a smaller number of points in the large company’s network, while under the disaggregated model, competitors connect to numerous points in the large operator’s network thereby ‘reducing their reliance on expensive transport costs while spurring investments in broadband networks,’ the watchdog added.
CRTC chair Ian Scott underlined: ‘Since 2016, the CRTC’s objective has been to complete the transition to a disaggregated wholesale model for access to the large companies’ high speed broadband networks. This model will foster greater competition and further investments, so that the industry can better serve the needs of Canadians. Today’s decision will allow us to focus on that goal, while providing certainty in the marketplace for ISPs.’
The CRTC’s statement clarified: ‘The Commission approves on a final basis the rates for aggregated wholesale HSA service that were in effect on an interim basis prior to the issuance of Telecom Order 2019-288, with certain modifications, including the removal of the supplementary markup of 10% for incumbent local exchange carriers. The Commission further determines that the aggregated wholesale HSA service rates that are made final in this decision are to be applied retroactively to when the rates were made interim [i.e. backdated to 2016].’