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Rural internet providers divided on whether CRTC should expand wholesale fibre access

GATINEAU, Que. — New Brunswick-based rural internet company Xplore Inc. says a national framework that allows smaller providers to offer services to customers by using rivals’ fibre networks would give residents of remote regions more affordable options.

Chief executive Rizwan Jamal told a panel of CRTC commissioners Tuesday that although his company plans to build its own fibre network in rural and remote areas, wholesale access would help it reach the necessary scale to compete on pricing with incumbent carriers.

The federal telecommunications regulator is spending the week hearing from more than 20groups, including internet providers, advocates and other stakeholders as part of its review into internet competition in Canada.

The five-day hearing focuses on issues such as the current effectiveness of internet services markets, potential changes needed to boost competition, and how the CRTC can incentivize companies to invest in high-quality services.

Other carriers such as Bell Canada, which is set to appear Wednesday, have spent the days leading up to the hearing arguing against an expansion of the CRTC’s wholesale fibre access rules, saying they already diminish the business case to invest.

Halifax-based carrier Eastlink also poured cold water on the idea during the company’s appearance on Tuesday. Executive vice-chair Lee Bragg says the challenges of delivering service in rural and remote communities could become “insurmountable” if the company faces a requirement to immediately provide wholesale internet access to competitors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE)

The Canadian Press

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