Technology & Science

Broadband campaign spurs 20,000 letters to MPs

A public relations and lobbying campaign launched by small internet providers for government intervention in the broadband market has spurred more than 20,000 letters to MPs, the companies say.

A public relations and lobbying campaign launched by small internet providers for government intervention in the broadband market has spurred more than 20,000 letters to MPs, the companies say.

"It's clearly striking a chord with people," said Megan Hooper, a spokesperson for the coalition.

The Coalition for Competitive Broadband, a group led by Winnipeg-based MTS Allstream and made up of more than 50 small internet providers and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, launched a website two weeks ago to muster support against several recent regulatory decisions.

Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission denied coalition members regulated wholesale access to the faster internet networks of big phone companies Bell and Telus.

MTS appealed that decision to the federal cabinet, which has until December to decide whether it should overrule the CRTC, order the regulator to review the ruling, or let it stand.

MTS and its partners argue that a lack of regulated access will shut them out of the market for  customers who want faster internet speeds, which will result in less competition and higher prices. But Bell and Telus argue that competitors shouldn't get automatic access to the networks they've spent large amounts of shareholder capital building.

Letter on website

On Thursday, the coalition launched the second phase of its website that is geared toward consumers — the original site was aimed more at the small and medium-sized businesses served by MTS, they said. Both sites allow visitors to send a form letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Industry Minister Tony Clement or their local MP, or they can write their own.

More than half of the total letters, or 11,000, were sent since the Thursday morning launch of the consumer website, Hooper said.

Bell and Telus have said the smaller companies are trying to distort and confuse the issue, while seeking access to networks at below-market rates.

The smaller ISPs are also objecting to a CRTC decision that will allow Bell to charge them based on how much bandwidth customers use each month. The companies have asked the CRTC to reconsider and they have brought the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.