CRTC chair Blais criticizes carriers for fibre internet investment double-talk

CRTC website

During a question-and-answer session at MIT this week, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chair Jean-Pierre Blais discussed a wide range of topics, including copyright and internet policy, though his most interesting remarks stemmed from his thoughts surrounding Canadian telecoms investing in internet infrastructure, according to Canadian academic Michael Geist.

Geist says that Bell told the CRTC back in June 2016 that instituting requirements to share the infrastructure of its fibre network could reduce its investment in the burgeoning sector. During a subsequent investor’s call, contradicting this claim, a top Bell executive told investors that the company would continue to invest in fibre networks because they are critical to the company’s future and that they result in cost saving, as well as an increase in revenue.

When discussing this double-talk during his recent talk at MIT, Blais discussed the unbundling of fibre-based internet offerings in the context of the Bell’s stance on the issue:

“Companies came to our hearing and advocated that we should not have unbundling of fibre. They were saying it would slow down investment, they would not go forth as much, it was different from the mandatory access we had given in the past.  It was a new brave world, they weren’t incumbents. A whole series of arguments. In the end, we decided we were going to mandate unbundling even on fibre. They went to the federal cabinet to appeal it. The federal cabinet did not intervene,” said Blais.

Blais continued by stating that carriers are saying one thing to investors and something completely different to the CRTC. Also on the same 2016 call with investors, Bell stated that it aims to build out its fibre network to nine million Canadian home within the next right to 10 years. Back in June 2016 the CRTC upheld a landmark 2015 ruling that allows third-party internet providers to purchase wholesale fibre internet access from last mile infrastructure owners like Bell and Rogers.

Jean-Pierre Blais is approaching the end of his five year term as chairman of the CRTC and it still remains unclear if he will continue to lead the regulatory body in the future.

Blais’ entire MIT presentation webcast is available here.

Source: Michael Geist