The Globe and Mail: Bell seeks to use $40M of tangible public benefits to fund Northern expansion

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Big Telecom company Bell wants to use public benefit funds to bankroll its expansion into Northern Canada. “For Bell Canada and its subsidiary to propose this to the CRTC is shameful. The funds related to the Astral acquisition are supposed to be used for the public good – not to feather their own nest,” said Cameron Zubko, vice-president of corporate development at independent provider Ice Wireless.

To be clear, they want buy up and control more of our media and they want to use the public benefit funds from that deal to unfairly compete in the North where new competitors are emerging. It’s time to restructure the telecom market and we have a well-researched crowdsourced plan that you can send to your MP at http://www.openmedia.ca/report.

Article by Rita Trichur and Simon Houpt for The Globe & Mail:

The latest hot spot in the telecom war is breaking out in Canada’s far north.

A plan by BCE Inc. to earmark $40-million of regulator-mandated spending to improve telecommunications services across the north has rivals complaining of an unfair cash grab that will stifle competition.

NorthwesTel Inc., owned by BCE, sparked the controversy after making a request to the federal broadcast regulator concerning its modernization plan for telecom services.

As part of BCE’s $3.38-billion proposed takeover of Astral Media Inc., BCE is required to contribute what is expected to be hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a larger pot of money known as “tangible benefits” to help fund the Canadian broadcast system.

BCE, however, is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow it to spend $40-million of those funds on expanding its NorthwesTel services, arguing that broadband Internet, including wireless, is increasingly key to delivering broadcast content to customers.

But BCE’s smaller competitors in the north aren’t buying that logic.

“For Bell Canada and its subsidiary to propose this to the CRTC is shameful. The funds related to the Astral acquisition are supposed to be used for the public good – not to feather their own nest,” said Cameron Zubko, vice-president of corporate development at Ice Wireless.

Ice, headquartered in Inuvik, NWT, is upgrading its northern cellular network to provide high-speed 3G (third-generation) data services. It is also partnering with Iristel Inc., a voice over Internet protocol service company, to provide a service bundle that also includes home phone in the wake of a CRTC decision in December that opened the north to local phone service competition.

“Now that competition is on the way, they want an additional $40-million to help lock in their dominance of the northern market,” Mr. Zubko added. “This is the last cash grab of a dying monopoly.” Read more »

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Read more at theglobeandmail.com

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