Videotron asks for inquiry into Bell Canada's telecom pole access practices

Oct. 2, 2020
"Bell's anti-competitive manoeuvres must cease," declared Jean-François Pruneau, president and CEO of Videotron.

Videotron announced on Sept. 30 that it has asked the Competition Bureau of Canada to investigate practices in which Bell is allegedly engaging in order to slow down and, in a number of cases, even block access to its support structures i.e. telephone poles.

Videotron says its application to the federal agency provides multiple documented examples of the Canadian telecommunications giant Bell's alleged strategies to limit competition.

"These tactics, which are depriving entire communities of access to 21st century digital infrastructure, are destructive and must be stopped," contends a Videotron statement.

The Videotron statement further charges: "A number of organizations and industry observers have protested vigorously about this matter in recent months. There is unanimous agreement that the current situation has unacceptable consequences for regional development and access to high-speed Internet for the greatest number."

"Bell's anti-competitive manoeuvres must cease," declared Jean-François Pruneau, president and CEO of Videotron. "We are therefore asking the Competition Bureau to take all necessary steps to end them. Quebecers are entitled to healthy competition and quality telecommunications services. Everyone is unfairly penalized when Bell blocks access to other service providers in their region, municipality or neighbourhood. It's simply unacceptable."

Videotron said it is "determined to take all necessary steps to stop this illegitimate obstruction." Therefore, the company said it is also filing a lawsuit for damages in the government's Superior Court. The claim seeks compensation for the losses Videotron says it "has suffered in recent years as a result of Bell's obstructionist manoeuvres," Videotron's preliminary estimate of which is over $12 million.

Videtron's statement further alleges:

Many other service providers have experienced Bell's anti-competitive tactics but are reluctant to complain publicly for fear of retaliation from the telecom giant. Typically, Bell systematically delays or simply neglects to process requests for access to its existing support structures. Often, it also throws up artificial barriers to the roll-out of competing networks, while giving its own priority. For example, it is difficult to understand why it can take Bell more than two-and-a-half years to process a request for access to a single pole. Given that Videotron submitted more than 1,400 access requests in 2019 alone, these completely unreasonable delays are causing considerable harm to the affected communities.

Videotron finally contends:

Bell's actions are slowing the development and upgrading of Internet access in all regions of Québec. While all of civil society is working together to find solutions to connectivity issues across Québec, Bell is doing the opposite by slowing the expansion of other networks in order to gain a competitive advantage. In view of its historical monopoly, Bell has been required by law, for more than 40 years, to allow other service providers, such as Videotron, to access its support structures (telephone poles) and install their own equipment. This legal provision is based on the public interest in keeping the number of telephone poles on the landscape to a minimum and maximizing their shared use.

Read the text of Videotron's suit for damages here: https://bit.ly/2SaiaAv