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BCE must open its fiber network, according to a federal appeals court ruling

BCE must open its fiber network, according to a federal appeals court ruling

Bell Canada (BCE) will eventually have to open its fiber network to small independent providers, a federal appeals court decided the day after the company announced it would cut 4,800 jobs.

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled last November that the two giant telecommunications companies that developed fibre-optic networks – Bell and Telus Communications – must open them to vendors within six months, in order to stimulate competition. This is a temporary decision that applies only to Quebec and Ontario, pending the CRTC's further study.

BCE has since appealed the interim decision in court. However, Judge Mary J.L. Gleason denied a request for an injunction to prevent consequences in a decision issued Friday.

The ruling represents a setback for BCE which, among other reasons, cited the mandatory opening of its fiber network to distributors to justify part of the 4,800 job cuts unveiled last Thursday.

“We are concerned about the recent decision by the CRTC that forces us to provide access to our high-speed fiber network to resellers, even before we can recoup our multi-billion-dollar investment,” he said. Elsewhere, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, Mirko Bebek, reiterated Thursday.

The company explained that it has invested approximately $4 billion annually over the past decade to develop its network, presented as a competitive advantage. Following the CRTC's decision, BCE also reduced its planned investments for 2024-2025 by $1 billion.

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An assessment that does not appear to be shared by Judge Mary J. L. Gleason, who holds that BCE failed to prove that it would suffer irreparable harm because of the CRTC's decision.

“Bell's choice to redirect or reduce investments does not constitute irreparable harm, but rather is a choice the company appears to have made as a result of the CRTC's decision. In the absence of evidence that implementing temporary access would jeopardize Bell's very existence, I do not I can understand why making the investments necessary to implement a CRTC decision rather than other investments constitutes irreparable harm.