Internet in the region | High speed and exorbitant price?

High-speed Internet, which will connect 150,000 homes in Quebec by September 2022 at a cost of $826 million, will in effect be a “monopoly” without competition, denouncing independent service providers. As a result, according to them, residents of Quebecers in the regions will have to pay more for their access to the Internet.

Posted on March 27, 2021

Karim Ben Issa

Karim Ben Issa

“The digital divide is not just about connectivity, it’s about affordable connectivity,” explains Jean-Philippe Pique, CEO of EBOX, Quebec’s largest independent provider with 90,000 customers. “So, it takes competition.”

Earlier this week, a group of 17 small Quebec suppliers serving about 40,000 customers in the regions published a press release denouncing the fact that no independents were invited to the negotiating table for the “Canada-Quebec High Speed ​​Process.” Written by Justin Trudeau and Francois Legault. Ultimately, Videotron, Cogeco, Bell, Xplornet, Sogetel and Telus will be responsible for deploying 70,000 km of optical fiber in regions over the next 18 months, each in a well-defined sector.

Photo by Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

There is no independent provider that provides continuous fiber optic internet service to a customer’s home in Quebec.

inaccessible fibers

However, there is an unknown fact, there is no independent provider today that offers Internet service using continuous optical fibers to the customer’s home, the so-called fiber optic to homes Or FTTH, which offers very high speeds and will be served in these areas. “We are talking about good old wire and cable,” said Matt Stein, CEO of Distribute and president of Canadian Competitive Network Operators (CNO), which represents 28 independent providers.

According to a 2019 Competition Bureau report, independent service providers offer rates as low as 15% to 35%.

Most of us have experienced fiber optic to homesBut we cannot sell it, because its prices are too high.

Matt Stein, CEO of Distribute and Chief Operating Officer of Canadian Competitive Networks

However, in August 2017, the Canadian Radio, Television and Communications Commission (CRTC) had already ordered major operators such as Bell, Rogers, Cogeco and Videotron to grant full access to their fiber optics to the property. Then it was a decision to create temporary wholesale price tariffs, which were to be revised, but are still in effect some four years later.

These temporary tariffs, in the opinion of experts at the time, were so high that they did not allow freelancers to really compete with the big operators. For example, they let Bell charge an independent provider $121.79 per month per subscriber. “To that, we must add all our fixed costs, and labor: I find myself with a $150 per month package, up to 50MB/s, says Mr. Piquet. Bill will give it to you for $50 or $60 a month. Commercially, it makes no sense. for him. ”

high speed and price

Still, Matt Stein is optimistic: There are only 18 months left before deployment of 70,000 km of optical fiber is complete, leaving plenty of time for the CRTC to set reasonable wholesale prices. “Hopefully we’ll get an answer this year,” says Distribute’s CEO. We’ve been waiting for four years, CRTC is working hard on this. But the big companies are doing everything they can to make the process as slow as possible. »

For Mr Pique, governments are going the wrong way by only dealing with the availability of high-speed internet, without setting “affordability” standards. In particular, he cites a study found on the Canadian government website, written in 2019 by Wall Communications: For internet packages over 41MB/s, “prices in Canada are generally higher than those recorded in [huit] The countries studied, with the exception of the United States and Australia”, one can read.

The average package in Canada for “level 5” internet, i.e. from 101 to 250 MB/s, is set at $83. In France and Italy, the price is only $34 and $49.

“For a favorable price, there must be competition,” Mr. Piqué argues. CRTC set a framework to make this competition happen, but there is no love in that framework. »

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