The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has directed Northwestel to reassess how much it’s charging for its wholesale internet service.
Rival company SSi Micro says it’s a development that could significantly lower internet costs and increase competition across the Western Arctic.
READ: The CRTC’s full decision
Currently, Northwestel owns the only fibre-optic lines carrying internet from the continental grid to the Northwest Territories.
That means companies like SSi Micro have to buy wholesale internet from Northwestel before selling it to customers.
“SSi Micro Ltd. is … expressing hope that a recent CRTC directive might finally bring effective telecoms competition to the Western Arctic,” read a statement issued by the company following last week’s decision.
“Vital to effective competition is fair and proper pricing for access to Northwestel’s monopoly fibre backbone into the North, and it appears this may soon come about.”
Northwestel has until Jan. 9 to file its updated prices along with new cost studies justifying them.
SSi Micro says the regulator’s ruling on Nov. 8 could result in drastically lower backbone transport rates, which in turn will allow competitors to offer consumers ‘a true choice’.
According to the CRTC decision, Northwestel “submitted that it expects that the overall reductions to rates will exceed 17 per cent when all cost updates are taken into account.”
But is this decision enough for rival companies to become truly competitive? SSi Micro certainly hopes so, but isn’t entirely sold just yet.
“SSi is hopeful that this might finally open the door to effective competition in the Western Arctic, yet concerned that the record of the past five years may still prevail,” the company wrote.
“Until wholesale backbone rates are properly set, we are simply not able to compete and are forced to hold back investments that would otherwise greatly benefit consumers and business in the Northwest Territories.”
Northwestel doesn’t appear to be too worried about the regulator’s decision.
“Northwestel sort of sees this as business as usual,” said Andrew Anderson, the company’s director of communications.
“We provide the CRTC with cost studies on all of our regular services, we update them regularly and this decision is them saying it’s time to update the cost related to our wholesale connect service.”
Northwestel says it regularly assesses prices before introducing or upgrading any of its services to the market. Anderson says it’s still too early to speculate how Northwestel’s internet prices might be impacted.
“There’s quite a lot of work that goes into doing these cost studies. I wouldn’t want to speculate or prejudge what the outcome will be.
“This is why we go through these processes.”