Vidéotron launches lawsuit against Bell seeking $12.7 million in damages

The carrier has also filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau

Vidéotron has launched a lawsuit against Bell and its subsidiary Télébec demanding $12.7 million in damages, and also filed a complaint to the Competition Bureau.

The carrier says that it’s asking the Competition Bureau to investigate “practices in which Bell is engaging in order to slow down and, in a number of cases, even block access to its support structures (telephone poles).

The carrier says it’s also filing a lawsuit for damages in the Superior Court. The claim seeks compensation for the “losses Vidéotron has suffered in recent years as a result of Bell’s obstructionist manoeuvres.”

Vidéotron says it has provided multiple documented examples of Bell’s “stratagems to limit competition” to the Competition Bureau.

“Bell’s anti-competitive manoeuvres must cease,” said Vidéotron CEO Jean-François Pruneau, in a press release. “We are therefore asking the Competition Bureau to take all necessary steps to end them. Quebecers are entitled to healthy competition and quality telecommunications services.

Vidéotron claims that Bell systematically delays or neglects to process requests for access to its existing telephone poles. It says that Bell “throws up artificial barriers” for competing networks and prioritizes its own.

“It is difficult to understand why it can take Bell more than two-and-a-half years to process a request for access to a single pole. Given that Vidéotron submitted more than 1,400 access requests in 2019 alone, these completely unreasonable delays are causing considerable harm to the affected communities,” the carrier says.

Vidéotron outlines that Bell has been required by law to allow other services to access its telephone poles and install their own equipment. It notes that the legal provision is meant to keep the number of telephone poles to a minimum while maximizing shared use.

A spokesperson for Bell provided MobileSyrup with the following comment: “Poles are owned by communications companies, sometimes used jointly, and also by Hydro Québec.”

“There is a strict CRTC regulatory and permitting process that must be followed but Bell, Telus and Hydro-Québec are part of a working group with the Government of Québec that is focused on ensuring faster access to poles for all service providers while adhering to all safety standards.”

“Just to be clear, far from slowing down broadband expansion, Bell is leading the way in its own investments while also improving access to our infrastructure for other service providers.”

Source: Vidéotron

Update 30/09/20 3:45pm ET: The article was updated to include a statement from Bell.