TORONTO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Canada's telecom regulator began the last of three major policy reviews on Monday as it seeks to strike a balance between ensuring consumers have broad access to new technologies while avoiding rules that would discourage investment.
The hearing by the regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), on the wholesale telecom services market will consider whether big telephone and cable companies should be forced to share so-called "last mile" wiring, which brings services directly to the retail customer's door, with smaller rivals.
Due to improved fiber-optic connections, this wiring allows consumers to enjoy greater volumes of streaming online video and to place video calls over the Internet, among other benefits.
The CRTC said on Monday its focus is on choice and sustainable competition, and it will have decide whether to give small players greater access to these lines to foster that competition.
Big players such as BCE Inc's Bell Canada and Rogers Communications Inc are expected to argue they should be allowed to maintain control over high-speed fiber-to-the-premises lines so that they can recoup their investments in these expensive-to-build networks.
Quebecor Inc, Shaw Communications Inc and Telus Corp are other companies that are dominant in the market for these services despite the presence of many smaller competitors.
In recent months, the CRTC has also held hearings on the future of television and the future of wireless. Following the TV hearings, it has stopped telecoms charging customers cancellation fees for not giving enough notice that they are ending service. On wireless, it is considering mandated tower-sharing and roaming rules. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway)