In a recent LinkedIn post, Robert Malcolmson, Chief Legal and Regulatory Office for BCE Inc (Bell Canada) once again used the old tired "it harms investment" argument in response to the CRTCs ongoing consideration of expanding mandated access to high-speed broadband networks while wrongly calling independent ISPs "resellers".
In his post, Robert refers to "resellers", but CRTC process in question isn't about them. A reseller is someone who simply markets a service to customers under their own brand, but don't own any network infrastructure; instead, they provide their services by leveraging the infrastructure built by other companies. They differentiate themselves through customer service, pricing models, or additional features and services. Resellers do exist in the Canadian market, but this process isn't about them.
What Robert should have called them are wholesale access customers. These are companies who lease the last mile from an incumbent (Bell/Rogers/Telus) and then use their own network to deliver service to customers. They purchase and maintain hardware, network capacity, develop software, and provide service and support - all of which are integral parts of providing broadband services. So while they may look like a reseller, they do far more - they do everything for their customers except the last mile and though this can provide truly differentiated services to customers.
Back to Robert's post, Bell has a history of using the investment argument to attempt to limit wholesale access to their network they made when DSL was first introduced, they made it when 25/50Mbps service was introduced, and they made it again when 100Mbs service came to market. Over the decades we've had a regulated wholesale regime it hasn't seemed to impact the investments Bell has made one bit. Once again this post by Bell offers a singular perspective that could be expanded for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. We must remember that an issue as critical as broadband access encompasses a multitude of factors that affect both private companies and consumers alike.
Indeed, private companies like Bell have significantly contributed to the expansion of broadband infrastructure in Canada. They play a crucial role in bringing high-speed connectivity to the homes of millions, and their investments certainly bear the weight of risks associated with building and maintaining such a critical infrastructure. But that doesn't mean we don't need a robust wholesale framework to help keep them in check.
While wholesale rates may appear to fall short of reflecting the 'true costs' of building networks, they nevertheless play an essential role in the telecommunications market. They facilitate a competitive landscape that can yield benefits such as differentiated service offerings and improved consumer choice. It's important to realize that these wholesalers are more than just resellers; they also invest in infrastructure, albeit in different ways.
Furthermore, while statistics show that internet access prices have remained relatively flat, we should not overlook the importance of consumer affordability. Yes, investment in infrastructure is critical, but so too is ensuring that these services remain accessible to the average Canadian, especially during times of economic downturn. Competition facilitated by wholesale access can help to keep prices in check, ensuring a balance between continued network development and consumer affordability.
As the CRTC deliberates on expanding mandated wholesale access, it should not be framed as a choice between supporting network investment and propping up resellers. Rather, the focus should be on fostering a regulatory environment that enables both robust private sector investment and a competitive market that offers Canadians a broad range of service choices at affordable prices. Broadband infrastructure is indeed essential for Canada's future, but so too is ensuring that every Canadian can access and afford the digital services that this infrastructure supports.
A robust wholesale framework is critical bringing affordable broadband access to all Canadians. We should be working together towards a more connected future, with the interests of both investors and consumers balanced harmoniously. This balanced approach will drive both economic growth and consumer satisfaction, leading to a brighter future for all Canadians.