CRTC rules against Bell in pole access dispute with Videotron

April 19, 2021
The regulatory authority has directed Bell to begin make-ready work at its own cost to correct the situation and plans to open a further proceeding to determine whether Bell should pay Videotron for damages and, if so, how much.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled this past Friday that Bell has unfairly failed to provide cable MSO Videotron access to Bell’s poles and other support structures in violation of the country’s Telecommunications Act. The regulatory authority has directed Bell to begin make-ready work at its own cost to correct the situation and plans to open a further proceeding to determine whether Bell should pay Videotron for damages and, if so, how much. Videotron, meanwhile, is awaiting results of a separate petition for damages it filed in October 2020.

Videotron, via parent Quebecor Media Inc., filed complaints with the CRTC in June 2020 and presented five applications with Bell for support structure access as supporting examples. In Telecom Decision CRTC 2021-131 this past Friday, the commission ruled that Bell Canada violated section 24 and subsections 25(1) and 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act and violated its National Services Tariff and the Support Structure Licence Agreement with Videotron in variety of ways. These included, in the words of the ruling:

  • “Bell Canada applied its construction standards in a way that unreasonably prevents licensees from gaining access to its structures”
  • “Bell Canada cannot rely on arguments relating to the complexity of its own network management system to explain the delays to and the denial of Videotron’s access applications if Bell Canada itself is benefiting from more efficient and timely access when deploying FTTH on the same support structures.”
  • “Bell Canada, in its handling of the permit applications, is using its position as the owner of the network to give itself a competitive advantage when deploying its own FTTH network on the very structures with irregularities that caused Videotron’s applications for permits to be denied.”
  • “the Commission finds that Bell Canada violated clause 2.8 of the SSLA by requiring Videotron to meet construction standards that Bell Canada itself did not meet.”
  • "The Commission considers that the record as a whole contains sufficient detailed evidence regarding Videotron's applications related to the slowness and inefficiency of the system for issuing permits to use Bell Canada's support structures."

Videotron proclaimed itself pleased that the CRTC had ruled against what it called Bell’s “unscrupulous tactics” and “anti-competitive behaviour.” Bell had not issued a statement on the ruling as of this morning.

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