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BCE Inc. BCE-T is asking the federal cabinet to overturn a recent decision by Canada’s telecom regulator that requires the Montreal-based telecom to provide independent competitors with access to its fibre network in Ontario and Quebec at regulated rates.

In its petition, dated this past Friday, BCE argued that the interim decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which also applies to Telus Corp., will discourage network investment and harm consumers and businesses.

On Nov. 6 of last year, the CRTC ordered BCE and Telus – both legacy telephone companies with fibre-to-the-home infrastructure – to provide competitors in Ontario and Quebec with cheaper access to their networks on a temporary and expedited basis.

The interim decision was issued during a broader review of the wholesale regime for high-speed internet access. The CRTC is holding a public hearing next week as part of that proceeding.

The regulator said at the time that it was “acting quickly” amid a significant decline in competition in the internet market in Ontario and Quebec. The regulator found that the number of subscribers served by independent wholesale-based competitors in those two provinces dropped by 47 per cent between the end of 2018 and 2022.

In addition, a significant number of wholesale-based competitors – including Distributel,, Altima Telecom, Oxio and Comwave – have been acquired by the larger internet providers in recent years.

The CRTC decision has a much greater impact on BCE than it does on Vancouver-based Telus, whose fibre-to-the-home infrastructure is primarily in Western Canada.

In November, BCE asked the Federal Court for leave to appeal the decision, arguing that the telecom regulator committed an error of law and exceeded its jurisdiction. That case is still pending.

The telecom has also said it would reduce its network investment by more than $1-billion in 2024-25 as a result of the CRTC’s ruling.

“When Bell invests in a community, customers benefit from better service, more value, state-of-the-art reliable connectivity and competitive prices. By contrast, resellers make little to no investment in network infrastructure,” Bell spokesperson Luc Levasseur said in a statement Monday.

“The CRTC must prioritize policies that support continued network investment or risk Canada falling behind in the digital economy.”

In its petition last week, BCE asked the cabinet to rescind the decision and restore the wholesale regime that was in place prior to it.

Since 2015, wholesale-based competitors have been able to access fibre-to-the-home infrastructure through what’s known as the disaggregated model. However, the wholesale-based internet service providers, or ISPs, have said that the rates set by the CRTC under the disaggregated model were too high to enable them to offer service profitably.

The new ruling by the CRTC requires access on an aggregated basis, allowing wholesale-based ISPs to connect to both the larger telecoms’ access facilities – the wires to individual premises – and the longer-distance transport routes between them.

In arriving at the interim rates, the CRTC said it aimed to provide the competitors with “workable” access while balancing the need for further network investment.

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