CRTC backtracks on wholesale internet rates, reverts to 2016 levels

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TORONTO — In a victory for Canada's large internet and phone companies, Canada's telecommunications regulator has reversed a 2019 decision to drop wholesale internet rates.

The CRTC said Thursday it made errors when it ordered major phone and cable companies to slash wholesale internet rates in 2019.

It said all of the 2019 rate changes have been set aside and the majority of the temporary wholesale rates set in 2016 remain in effect, with the exception of a markup by phone companies.

The ruling follows years of regulatory filings and political lobbying by rival internet companies, who are divided between buyers and sellers of wholesale network capacity

TekSavvy, Distributel and other independent internet providers say they've been overcharged by wholesalers for years — a position that was supported by the CRTC's 2019 decision.

Bell, Rogers and other regional phone and cable companies have defended the rates they've charged since 2016 and say the CRTC's 2019 rates would have them selling at a loss.

CRTC chairman Ian Scott said in an interview after Thursday's decision that the regulator essentially set aside the rates established in 2019.

While the smaller ISPs had celebrated the 2019 price reductions and the larger ISPs worked vigorously to have them set aside, Scott wouldn't comment on wins and losses.

"We went back, we did the requisite detailed analysis and reached the conclusions that we reached," Scott said.

"It is what it is and I would not characterize it as victories or losses."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.

David Paddon, The Canadian Press