Bell offered to buy BAI contract with Telus, commit to joint TTC build: Bibic

The offer included $10 million for the TTC to use on discretionary projects

When Rogers announced its deal to acquire BAI Canada, and thus its exclusive rights to provide wireless access to all TTC users, it came as a surprise to Bell.

Mirko Bibic, Bell’s president and CEO, said the company unsuccessfully spoke about building a joint, open-access model with BAI, TTC, and City officials multiple times over the past 10 years.

“This is why we were surprised to learn that the TTC has seemingly approved the transfer of BAI’s exclusive contract to Rogers in what appears to be a closed door, backroom deal,” Bibic wrote. “It is astounding that this important project would be awarded to one party without a transparent open-bid process designed to maximize the benefits for TTC riders.”

Bell also asked the TTC to add a condition of approval to the transfer that would see an open access, joint build model, similar to other local transit systems in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal. The April 19th letter states the transit system was yet to offer a response.

The letter comes after a request from Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne for Bell, Telus, Québecor and Rogers to work together to offer all TTC riders access to wireless services.

Bell has put three options on the table. The first is that Rogers agrees to work with national providers on a joint build. The move involves the companies funding the build but Rogers not charging carriers to access the network.

The second option involves Bell and Telus being allowed to buy the contract through a partnership, committing to an open network. Bibic says the two companies made the offer to the TTC after Rogers announced the acquisition and included a $10 million bonus for the TTC to use on “discretionary projects.”

The third option sees ISED and the CRTC ordering Rogers to commit to an open access, joint build system.

Last week, Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri said the company was open to discussing connectivity with Bell and Telus. “There’s no intent to prevent any customer, regardless of what network they’re on, to have access within the TTC subway system.”

Rogers repeats the message in a statement responding to the Minister’s request. “Rogers is committed to provide access to all TTC riders, and that’s why we took action and stepped up to acquire BAI Canada to modernize this critical network and open up access for all riders. As we have said from the outset, we are committed to working with all carriers.”

Updated 20/04/2023 11:31am: The article has been updated with Rogers’ response to the Minister’s letter.