Northern lights

The CRTC is opening the north to competition in May, 2012. On Wednesday, I wrote about part of the CRTC’s regulatory framework Decision for Northwestel. In that post, I talked about the¬†performance¬†improvement plan that the Commission is imposing, requiring Northwestel to prepare and file detailed capital plans to upgrade aging infrastructure.

The other side of the Decision is starting the process to open the final frontier to competitive entry by alternate local phone service providers. Initially, the communities of¬†Fort¬†Nelson, Inuvik, Iqaluit, Whitehorse and Yellowknife will be required to offer number portability within 6 months of a competitor’s request. Number portability is expected to be introduced in remaining communities as the network is upgraded.

While there will be competitive pressures on Northwestel’s top line revenues, the CRTC denied a request to raise local rates for business and consumers, requiring Northwestel to apply cost reductions and efficiency gains instead.

Who will want to compete in these small, remote markets? Watch for SSi to take the lead. It has expressed a willingness to start with line side interconnection in order to get off to an early start. Jeff Philipp, SSi’s founder said in response to the CRTC Decision:

SSi strongly believes competition should be open across Canada, for the benefit of all. ¬†With today’s decision, the CRTC has clearly ruled on the side of of choice and innovation.

Headquartered in Yellowknife, SSi has been offering broadband services in more than 60 northern communities. Expect SSi to take the lead in offering a range of alternative services, perhaps in partnership with familiar players from larger urban centres in the south.

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