In a Part 1 Application filed with the CRTC on Friday, Vidéotron is accusing Bell of excessively increasing the prices of its last-mile services and fibre transport rates in areas where it has a “dominant position or a quasi-monopoly.”
In doing so, Bell contravenes Section 27 (2) of the Telecommunications Act by giving itself undue preference, Vidéotron alleged. In turn, this harms Vidéotron, which will be unable to honour the contractual commitments to its own customers, hence reducing competition in the wireless market. This, it said, affects customers in urban and rural parts of Ontario and Quebec.
The CRTC does not regulate the prices of access services and fibre transport rates, which, according to Vidéotron, is driving the “abusive price increases” by Bell. As a result, the Quebec-based carrier is asking the commission to review those prices and, in the interim, freeze the rates charged by Bell in areas where it is dominant.
“By continuing to forbear from regulating wholesale fiber access and transport services, particularly in single-provider locations, the Commission is clearly unable to meet its policy objectives, which enjoins it to ensure a balance between: fostering competition; promote investment in high quality networks; improving consumer choice; supporting the delivery of innovative services; and encourage the provision of services at reasonable prices for consumers,” Vidéotron told news site cartt.ca.
Vidéotron also said that when it came to renew a transport agreement with Fibrenoire, which Bell purchased in 2016, the telco said Vidéotron would have to pay a minimum annual amount over several years or it would impose prohibitive monthly price increases for access to its network. These conditions do not even apply to some of its own contracts with Bell for the same transport circuits, Vidéotron said.
In 2018, Markham-based telco Iristel also made similar allegations of anti-competitive conduct by Bell and sought interim relief from the CRTC, which the commission denied after it determined that there was no unjust discrimination against Iristel.
Vidéotron and Bell have been crossing swords for a long time. In their latest dispute, Vidéotron accused Bell of delaying the processing of access permit applications and granting of access permits to its support structures (telephone poles). CRTC ruled in favor of Vidéotron and imposed a C$7.5 million penalty on Bell.
Last month, Vidéotron also expressed support for TekSavvy’s application to the CRTC to review the preferential rates given to Bell’s newly acquired EBOX, but dismissed these very allegations in the case of its own wholesale rate agreements with Rogers.
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