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A screenshot from the homepage of competitivebroadband.com, an industry group that has launched a public campaign to gain consumer support for keeping network infrastructure affordable to small ISPs (competitivebroadband.com)
A screenshot from the homepage of competitivebroadband.com, an industry group that has launched a public campaign to gain consumer support for keeping network infrastructure affordable to small ISPs (competitivebroadband.com)

Broadband dispute

Small ISPs seeking public support Add to ...

As part of a bitter and ongoing fight with Canada's large carriers, a group of small Canadian Internet Service Providers has launched a campaign to try to drum up consumer support for keeping key network infrastructure affordable to small ISPs.

A group of businesses and associations including MTS Allstream and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses launched the "Campaign for Competitive Broadband" earlier this month, aimed at CRTC decisions that the small ISPs say will result in Bell and Telus essentially pricing them out of the marketplace. On Thursday, the group launched a version of the campaign aimed directly at consumers, with the hope that if enough Canadians write to their Members of Parliament, Ottawa will step in and ask the CRTC to reconsider its decision.

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The centre of the fight is the network infrastructure built and run by the large carriers. The small ISPs want to ensure that Bell and Telus can't refuse to give them access to the broadband networks or offer them a access at a price that makes it impossible for the small ISPs to compete. The large carriers had previously been required to sell access at a specific wholesale rate. If Bell and Telus can charge whatever they want, the small ISPs say, Canadians will see less competition, higher prices and slower Internet speeds.

Bell and Telus argue that small ISPs essentially want to access the network at subsidized prices rather than the market rate, and that they should invest in new networks. However the smaller companies say that option is simply not financially feasible.

The CRTC and the government are currently considering a slew of cases that could completely reshape the ISP landscape in Canada. The cases deal with a host of issues, including net neutrality, as well as a CRTC order requiring Bell and Telus to provide matching speeds to their wholesale competition, which both companies are appealing. There are also appeals pending on a ruling that allowed Bell to "shape" Internet traffic, or essentially assign higher or lower speeds to certain kinds of data transfers.

The small ISPs are trying to force the federal government to step in and ask the CRTC to reconsider its decision before the commission's feedback deadline of Dec. 11.

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