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Bell vows to cut back on rural broadband program after CRTC rate cut


Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press published by Canadian Business


Bell Canada says it will cut about 200,000 rural households from a broadband internet build-out to offset the impact of a regulatory change that lowers the wholesale broadband rate that it can charge smaller providers. Bell Canada head office is seen on Nun’s Island, Wednesday, August 5, 2015, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz.


Bell Canada says it will cut roughly 200,000 households from a rural internet expansion program after a federal regulator lowered wholesale broadband prices it can charge to smaller internet providers.

The Montreal-based company said Monday that the final rates set last week by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will cost it more than $100 million, with the bulk of the sum going to cover the retroactively lower rates.

“Putting this kind of unexpected and retroactive tax on capital investment is not the way to ensure the continued development of Canada’s internet infrastructure,” said Bell chief operating officer Mirko Bibic in a statement.

The company says that in response, it will cut back by 20 per cent on a rural internet program designed to provide wireless internet access to homes that are hard to reach by fibre or traditional cable access.

The regulator requires that large telecom companies sell access to their infrastructure to smaller internet providers as a way to improve competition and lower prices.

After years of review, the CRTC set final rates last week for what the smaller providers would have to pay that were up to 77 per cent lower than the interim rates set in 2016.

Bell’s decision to cut back spending is a political move designed to play on fears, said John Lawford, executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.


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