Canucks: Hey, Big Dog Telcos. Share that fiber with the little guys, eh?

Canadian government says top ISPs have to share the broadband love

The government of Canada has ruled that large broadband providers will have to open up their fiber data lines for use by smaller carriers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said Wednesday that large incumbent companies who control high-speed data lines will now be required by law to make wholesale fiber access available to smaller competitors.

Large carriers are already required to sell wholesale cable access to smaller companies, and the Wednesday ruling will extend that program by including fiber data lines. The wholesale access can be purchased by smaller carriers as an end-to-end package across the entire network or as a "disaggregated" package, where local carriers would only need to purchase last-mile access directly into customer homes.

By forcing large providers to open up their high-speed lines to smaller carriers, the CRTC hopes it will increase competition, resulting in lower prices and improved service.

"By continuing to mandate certain wholesale services, and including access to fibre facilities, we are continuing our work to drive competition so Canadians have access to more choice, innovative services and reasonable prices," said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

"At the same time, we fully expect that companies will continue to invest in their networks, including in fibre technology, to meet the growing needs of consumers."

The move is similar to one the UK government put on BT when it asked the former national telco to give rival carriers access to fiber cables.

While laying fiber lines can be prohibitively expensive for small carriers in just about any country, laying cable from town to town in Canada, one of the geographically largest and most sparsely populated countries in the world, is particularly costly. ®

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