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Hamilton fighting Bell Canada over shoddy roadside work

Wires duct taped to the sidewalk. Boxes put in the wrong spot, and other identical boxes put right next to them, doubling the problem. These are just some of the issues the city of Hamilton is fighting against Bell Canada, the second giant corporation the city has voted to battle this year.
Bell Canada used duct tape to affix wires to a city sidewalk on Bing Crescent. The city used this as an example in its CRTC application. Bell denied having done any work in the area, says Brian Duxbury, a lawyer for the city. Further investigation showed that Bell had done work. (City of Hamilton)

Wires duct taped to the sidewalk. Boxes put in the wrong spot, and other identical boxes put right next to them, doubling the problem.

These are just some of the issues the city of Hamilton is fighting against Bell Canada, the second giant corporation the city has vowed to battle this year.

Bell placed a cabinet box in front of an elementary school on Amberwood Drive in 2011. The city asked Bell to move it. Instead, Bell put an identical one next to it a year later. Four years later, the two are still at odds over it. (City of Hamilton)

The city filed a motion with the CRTC in January to get a new memorandum of access agreement (MAA) with Bell Canada — one that would give it more control over the work done on its right of ways.

Right now, Bell Canada contractors are doing work on municipal roadsides, said city solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski. But in many cases, that work is shoddy, and there's nothing the city can do about it.

If Hamilton's successful, the CRTC would rule that the new MAA include a provision that all the work on the city's rights of way has to be up to city standards.

The previous MAA expired in 2012. The city first submitted its application to the CRTC in January, then resubmitted in April. To date, Bell Canada has only answered the January application. The city has talked about the CRTC ask many times in camera, but Wednesday was the first meeting where it's been discussed in open session.

It looks like this one was done by Red Green.- Coun. Matthew Green

During the discussion, Coun. Terry Whitehead drew the obvious comparison to Canada Post, which the city is fighting in court over a similar issue.

Canada Post is installing 1,000 super mailboxes on the Mountain as part of its plan to phase out urban door-to-door mail delivery. The city passed a bylaw saying Canada Post has to consult staff and pay $200 consultation fee per mailbox on municipal property.

Canada Post says its federal mandate trumps a municipal bylaw. The city disagrees. Both sides will appear in Hamilton superior court next week.

Brian Duxbury, an external lawyer the city has hired for the Bell issue, updated the general issues committee on Wednesday. The next step, he said, is to wait for a CRTC ruling, or if necessary, a hearing. Either is expected this year.

Duxbury's presentation included a photo of the wires duct taped to the sidewalk, which Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 called "embarrassing."

"Is Bell hiring or subcontracting other companies?" he said. "It looks like this one was done by Red Green."

In an email on Wednesday, Bell Canada spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis said Hamilton is an important part of the company's $20-billion plan to install advanced fibre and mobile networks by 2020. So it wants to resolve the issues.

"We look forward to resolving any remaining concerns the city may have and to moving forward with our plans to bring the world's best communications technology to Hamilton and other locations across Canada," she said.

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