UPDATE 2-Canada telecoms regulator: Big players must share fiber-optic networks

Wed Jul 22, 2015 6:30pm EDT
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* Ruling likely to hit phone companies more than cable companies

* Smaller rivals cheer boost to competition (Adds comments from small ISP and Alberta technology group)

By Randall Palmer

GATINEAU, Quebec, July 22 (Reuters) - Canada's telecommunications regulator decided on Wednesday that the country's biggest providers must share their 'last mile' fiber-optic connections, a move cheered by smaller rivals currently only granted access to the large companies' older infrastructure.

"This measure will ensure that Canadians have more choice for high-speed Internet services and are able to fully leverage the benefits of the broadband home or business," the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) stated.

Financial analysts had not expected the CRTC to force big operators to share their latest upgrades since that could discourage the hefty investments needed to upgrade the final leg of a network connecting retail customers to the nearest node.

"With this ruling they've said that competition is important, that we can't afford to duplicate everything in Canada, and they are making sure that Canadians get access to competitive rates and are not locked in," said Robin Winsor, CEO of Cybera, which oversees development of cyber-infrastructure in Alberta.

The decision will affect big phone companies such as BCE Inc more than cable companies including Rogers Communications Inc and Shaw Communications Inc .

The phone companies have invested heavily to replace copper connections to individual premises with fiber-optic cables, which handle much more data at much higher speeds.   Continued...