KENTVILLE, N.S. —
It’s a combination of good news and –potentially bad news – for people looking for a better deal on internet access in rural Atlantic Canada.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced wholesale internet service rates that will encourage greater competition and better prices for consumers.
According to information from the CRTC, the revision was necessary because interim wholesale rates proposed by service providers were not reasonable or fair to consumers.
Monthly capacity rates are 15 to 43 per cent lower than the interim rates, and access rates are three to 77 per cent lower than interim rates.
Although the CRTC’s Aug. 15 announcement sounds good for consumers, the large telecommunication companies facing serious changes are not taking kindly to this rate reduction.
Information released by Bell Canada says the changes to wholesale internet service rates will result in a $100-million cost to the company.
That cost, according to Bell, will require reduction in the Wireless Home Internet rollout in smaller towns and rural communities. Estimates suggest the reduction could be in the ballpark of 20 per cent.
“The CRTC’s decision transfers capital from providers like Bell, who are building Canada’s modern broadband networks, to wholesale resellers that invest little to nothing,” said Mirko Bibic, chief operating officer for Bell Canada. “There’s no assurance that it will be dedicated to network buildouts or otherwise passed on to Canadian consumers.”
Bell Canada has said the cost to the company, which is anticipated to exceed $100 million, could result in 200,000 rural Canadian homes being cut from the Wireless Home Internet (WHI) expansion program, including some in Atlantic Canada.
Chad West, manager of information technology with the Municipality of the County of Kings, said two areas that are the most likely to be impacted – if any – by this decision would be Scots Bay and Glooscap First Nation.
“There’s no relationship between Bell and the municipality,” West wrote in an email to Kings County News, noting that both parties have been separately funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to cover different communities within Kings.
“Unfortunately, we don’t get any information from Bell about their plans for their areas,” West wrote. “One thing I am aware of is that Bell has also received additional funding for Scots Bay from the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust.”
That, West noted, means they’re committed to a certain level of services for the Scots Bay area.
“Hopefully that will limit any ability to scale back plans in that area,” he said.
Before the CRTC changed the rules around broadband internet services, Bell representatives stated that the fibre line to the home network build in Glooscap First Nation was complete, and the fibre backbone project to Scots Bay was expected to be completed next year.
Bell is concise when asked whether or not the CRTC’s rate changes will impact homes in the Scots Bay area.
Katie Hatfield, a corporate spokesperson for Bell Aliant, was not able to provide specifics.
“We’re still determining the specific locations that will be impacted,” Hatfield wrote in an email. “WHI has received no federal or provincial government funding at all.”
In the spring of 2018, Bell Canada announced a $1.2 investment in partnerships with municipal, provincial and federal governments to bring fibre optic internet to rural communities.
Bell opened its wallet to the tune of $388,331 to support three projects providing four communities and four institutions high-speed access.
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