CRTC locking up

The CRTC gave advance notice that next week will be busy for observers of the Canadian communications sector.

At 4:00 pm (following the close of the the Toronto Stock Exchange), on Monday, August 30, the CRTC will be releasing its Regulatory Policy regarding wholesale high-speed access services – the long awaited outcome from Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009-261). This will determine whether the smaller ISPs will gain access to matching the highest available broadband speeds when connecting via the telephone companies’ Gateway Access Service (GAS); the extent of permitted levels of mark-ups on GAS; and, whether the competitors can access telephone company next generation networks when there is co-location at the individual central offices.

The following day, on Tuesday, August 31 (again, when the markets close at 4pm), the CRTC will be issuing its decisions related to the disposal of the funds remaining in Bell Canada, Bell Aliant, Telus and MTS Allstream’s deferral accounts – the follow-up filings arising Telecom Decision CRTC 2008-1.

For more than two and a half years, the deferral account proceedings have been overhanging the rural broadband marketplace. While the intent had been to accelerate the roll-out of broadband service in rural Canada, the effect of the process has served to inhibit investment by smaller ISPs that have not known whether the major telcos would be entering some markets using public funding subsidies.

The biggest question is how the CRTC will deal with Bell Canada’s proposal to use HSPA mobile technology as its subsidized rural broadband solution. As I wrote exactly one month ago, the CRTC has just asked the public to comment on whether “wireless services (e.g. Wi-Fi, 3G networks or satellite) can be substitutes for landline services to connect to the Internet.” If the CRTC approves Bell’s proposal, then it seems to be pre-determining the outcome of its current consultation (which is scheduled to close on Friday).

The summer will be winding down with a flurry of activity from the CRTC – be sure to visit this site next week for our perspectives.

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