CRTC orders wholesale high speed access for small ISPs in Ontario and Quebec

The CRTC is mandating that Canada's big telecom companies give smaller internet providers access to their wholesale high-speed services over fibre-optic networks, first in Quebec and Ontario, before rolling out across the rest of the country.

Similar rollout planned for the rest of the country later

The CRTC is mandating that Canada's big telecom companies give smaller internet providers access to their wholesale high-speed services over fibre-optic networks, first in Quebec and Ontario, before rolling out the same access across the rest of the country.

The telecommunications regulator said Tuesday that it wants "Canadians to have more choice for innovative internet services at competitive prices," so it will proceed with a plan first announced in 2015 to let smaller ISPs piggyback on high-speed networks that larger companies have built out.

"The large incumbent companies continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high-speed access services and is requiring that they make these services available to competitors," the CRTC said in 2015.

"Large incumbent companies will now have to make their fibre facilities available to their competitors."

While short on details, the plan means that smaller ISPs will now be able to pay for access to the incumbents' disaggregated high-speed fibre-optic networks, and then resell that service to consumers.

"As of today, providers in Ontario and Quebec will have access to services based on a new architecture that will enable greater competition," the regulator said.

Technology analyst Daniel Bader of Mobile Nations said that Tuesday's announcement is the CRTC's way of saying "they think that Quebec and Ontario are much more in need" of more competition.

"The CRTC is looking to make the biggest impact on two most populous provinces," Bader said in a telephone interview.

The CRTC is still trying to decide on the rates that smaller companies will be allowed to purchase the access for, but decided to go ahead and let small ISPs buy access at the current interim rates to stimulate competition while that process goes on behind the scenes.

"The CRTC needs to be mindful of the impacts of the rates it sets on investment in next generation broadband facilities," BCE Inc.'s communications director Marc Choma said in an email to CBC News. "We're encouraged that the CRTC has recognized our proposed changes to its dated costing methods are deserving of a thorough review before the final rates are set."