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    BCE, Manitoba Telecom Appeal Watchdog Network Rulings (Update1)  

Alexandre Deslongchamps

    March 12, 2009  

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- BCE Inc., Canada’s biggest phone company, and Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Cabinet to overturn two rulings by telecommunications regulators.

Montreal-based BCE said a ruling by the Canadian Radio- television and Telecommunications Commission, which forces it to provide network access to competitors, changes the financial case for a planned network investment, according to a statement today. BCE expects to spend C$700 million ($542 million) over three years to build out its “next-generation” system.

Manitoba Telecom wants ministers to overturn a separate ruling issued on Dec. 11, in which the CRTC ruled that Ethernet links aren’t “essential,” meaning the company would have to install its own to reach clients, according to a statement today. Manitoba said it needs to use some components on the networks of other companies to provide high-speed Internet services to businesses.

Harper’s government has reversed CRTC decisions in the past, including a ruling that forced BCE to get approval from regulators before changing prices for its Internet-based telephone services.

Iain Grant, managing director of Montreal-based research firm Seaboard Group, agreed with Manitoba Telecom’s arguments.

The “ruling is totally anti-competitive and will remonopolize business services in Canada and that’s why we have to fight it,” Grant said. “It wasn’t the CRTC’s finest hour.”

Grant called BCE’s appeal “window dressing” aimed at confusing ministers because the company can already use whatever part of its facilities it needs.

BCE said it wants its request dealt with on an “urgent basis” and said its investments could contribute to an economic recovery.



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