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A judge has dismissed a request from Canada’s large phone and cable companies to delay an upcoming Federal Court of Appeal hearing on wholesale rates for broadband internet.

BCE Inc. and a group of five cable operators – Rogers Communications Inc., Shaw Communications Inc., Quebecor Inc.’s Videotron Ltd., Cogeco Communications Inc. and Eastlink Inc.'s owner Bragg Communications Inc. – are in the midst of appealing an August ruling that lowered the rates they can charge third-party operators for access to their networks.

In letters to Justice David Stratas last week, the phone and cable operators argued that the hearing, which is slated for June 25 and 26, should be delayed if it cannot be held in person because the matter is too complicated to be heard via video conference.

Story continues below advertisement

However, Justice Stratas responded on Monday that the hearing will proceed virtually, as the case is being handled on an expedited basis.

“This Court’s experience with online video conferences shows that, with the co-operation of counsel, they have worked well and provide a viable means of hearing appeals,” Justice Stratas wrote.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission requires larger telecom companies to sell wholesale access to third-party internet-service providers (ISPs) such as TekSavvy and Distributel. Those independent ISPs then sell internet services to their own customers – a system that is intended to foster competition in the market.

The large phone and cable companies have said the new rates set by the CRTC are so low that they would have to rethink some of their planned network investments.

The August ruling also required the companies to make retroactive payments, which they estimate would total $325-million, to the independent ISPs. However, the decision was stayed on appeals to the federal court from BCE and the five cable operators.

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