Nova Scotia Power settles with telecom companies over fees to attach equipment to its poles

·2 min read
The pole fee changes were part of Nova Scotia Power's general rate application for an overall increase in power rates of 11.6 per cent by the end of 2024. (Erik White/CBC  - image credit)
The pole fee changes were part of Nova Scotia Power's general rate application for an overall increase in power rates of 11.6 per cent by the end of 2024. (Erik White/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia Power has reached a settlement with telecommunications companies in a dispute over the use of its power poles in the province.

The deal will see three telecommunications companies pay an annual attachment fee of $22 for each power pole carrying their equipment including telephone wirelines and fibre optic cable for high speed internet and TV services. That marks a 55 per cent increase from the current $14 fee, but far below the $37 per pole, or 165 per cent increase, Nova Scotia Power was seeking in its general rate application.

The agreement will also see a further two per cent increase in 2023 and 2024.

The settlement with Bragg Communications — operating as Eastlink, Rogers Communications Canada and Xplornet Communications — was posted Friday by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB).

The pole fee changes were part of Nova Scotia Power's application for an overall increase in power rates of 11.6 per cent by the end of 2024.

The telecommunications companies had objected to the proposed 165 per cent attachment fee increase.

Cost to use poles

They argued it threatens to make rural service less economic, would slow expansion in rural areas and unfairly advantaged rival Bell Aliant since Bell does not pay the fee under a long-standing pole-sharing arrangement with Nova Scotia Power.

Nova Scotia Power argued the fee had not changed in 20 years and Bell pays "significantly " more than its rivals to use its poles. The cost per pole, however, was blacked out in Nova Scotia Power's rebuttal evidence.

Nova Scotia Power owns 500,000 power poles. Bell Aliant also owns poles — a legacy of its days as a phone monopoly.

Eastlink senior vice-president of engineering and chief technology officer Steve Irvine submitted evidence saying the change would cost the company $3.5 million a year.

Eastlink declined to comment on the settlement on Monday.

'Significant impact' on business

Rogers, which recently purchased Seaside Cable in Cape Breton, said the $37 fee would cost it $300,000 per year. Seaside Cable manager Dean Abbass said the annual cost to subscribers would nearly triple to $45.

Xplornet is delivering a $6.1-million hybrid fibre-wireless expansion in Cumberland and Colchester Counties involving 19 wireless towers and 500 kilometres of new fibre. It needs Nova Scotia Power poles.

"An increase in the annual attachment fee will have a significant impact on our business," regulatory counsel Carl MacQuarrie said in written evidence.

Hearings into Nova Scotia Power's general rate application resume Tuesday.

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