CRTC rules Canadian carriers must share FTTH infrastructure

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the country's primary telecommunications regulatory authority, ruled July 22 that incumbent carriers must share their fiber to the home (FTTH) infrastructure with other carriers on a wholesale services basis. The move paves the way for increased competition in high-speed fiber-optic broadband services, the CRTC believes – and less investment in FTTH, critics assert.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the country's primary telecommunications regulatory authority, ruled July 22 that incumbent carriers must share their fiber to the home (FTTH) infrastructure with other carriers on a wholesale services basis. The move paves the way for increased competition in high-speed fiber-optic broadband services, the CRTC believes – and less investment in FTTH, critics assert.

As is the case in the U.S. and other countries, incumbent carriers in Canada must make their copper-based last-mile infrastructure available to other carriers on a wholesale services basis. However, in Canada these competitive service providers were required to connect to the incumbents' networks at a very limited number of specially designated access points that were often far away from the targeted service area. This "aggregated" approach meant that the competitive carriers had to pay for access not only to the last-mile infrastructure, but to the middle-mile infrastructure that led to it. The CRTC also has ruled that, through a three-year process, competitors will now have to access the incumbents' networks closer to the customers. This "disaggregated" approach will require incumbents to offer a greater number of access points and competitive carriers to assume responsibility for reaching them. This will mean either a greater number of competitive carriers will build their own middle-mile fiber-optic networks or create more business for independent providers of leased capacity.

"As Canadians participate more actively in the digital economy, they will need access to higher Internet speeds to power their broadband homes and businesses," said CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais in a prepared statement. "By continuing to mandate certain wholesale services, and including access to fiber facilities, we are continuing our work to drive competition so Canadians have access to more choice, innovative services, and reasonable prices. At the same time, we fully expect that companies will continue to invest in their networks, including in fiber technology, to meet the growing needs of consumers."

The ruling, Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326, came as a result of a review of telecom competition the CRTC began in 2013.

Executives at TekSavvy, a competitive carrier that stands to benefit from the new ruling, were understandably pleased. "The CRTC heard what we were saying, raised the bar, and has challenged us to take our consumer game to the next level," said TekSavvy CEO Marc Gaudrault. "We're up for it, and will be closely monitoring how this new scheme is implemented."

However, incumbents and others warned that the new policy will dampen the business case for additional FTTH deployments.

"If there are rules in place that make building (networks) in the first place unprofitable, we will not build to a community," Bell Canada Executive Vice President Mirko Bibic testified last November before the CRTC, according to local news reports.

In the U.S., a Federal Communications Commission ruling that FTTH infrastructure would be exempt from unbundling was a major catalyst for the launch of Verizon's FiOS FTTH initiative.

For more information on FTTx equipment and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer's Guide.

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