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Canadian Telecom Regulators Reviewing Control of 'Last Mile'

December 03, 2014

Investments in telecommunications are a good thing for all involved, as long as the investment supports ensuring that consumers have broad access to new technologies. Rules that discourage investments can stifle progress, forcing regulators to take a step back and analyze current conditions to create the right balance between protections and opportunities.

This is the case in Canada as the nation’s telecom regulator is completing its review of major policies. In a hearing, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is seeking to determine whether cable companies and big telecoms should be required to share last-mile wiring with smaller rivals. This last mile brings services directly to the consumer’s door.

Thanks to improvements in fiber-optic connections, the last mile wiring provides consumers with access to quality video streaming experiences and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), as well as other online benefits. The CRTC shared that its focus is on sustainable competition and choice for the consumer base. In the process, the regulator will have to determine whether or not it should give smaller players the same access as a way to foster competition.

For the larger players like Rogers Communication and Bell Canada (News - Alert), the smaller players should find another way to compete. These service providers have made significant investments in high-speed, fiber-to-the-premises lines and believe they should be able to recoup the expense. Maintaining control over the last mile will assure these providers can effectively protect their market positioning.

The question consumers really care about is, which outcome most directly affects them? Will the larger players maintaining control mean better access and assured quality of service? Likewise, will the same control also mean a lack of competitive pricing for a service that has become such an important utility for users everywhere? If the decision lands on the side of the smaller players, will that open up the market for any company seeking to expand in this area?

For the master agent, the outcome could determine viable channel partners. If the ultimate goal is to ensure access to quality solutions for all customers, smaller providers may play a larger role if the last mile has to be shared. The rules that will govern the sharing, however, will also play a part in the solutions most often recommended by the master agent.

Overall, access for consumers should be assured, but the investments made in infrastructure build-out should not be taken lightly. The consumer won’t win if the smaller player is allowed control and unable to deliver on expectations. At the same time, pricing needs to stay in line with what the market can bear. This leaves one question still unanswered: is a balance possible? 

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