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May 31, 2021

Bell adds $500M to spending plans after CRTC tosses controversial ruling

Wholesale internet rates set to change while big telcos continue to undercut us in the market: TekSavvy VP

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Bell is adding up to a half billion dollars to its already-expanded capital spending plan, amid what its chief executive officer is heralding as "greater regulatory stability."

The big telco announced on Monday that its accelerated capital investment plan will now climb to as much as $1.7 billion over 2021 and 2022, up from the $1.2 billion target that was unveiled in February.

The decision comes less than a week after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) scrapped a 2019 ruling that would have dramatically slashed the rates the large incumbent telecom companies can charge upstarts to piggyback on their broadband networks. When that ruling was announced, it triggered an uproar from Bell and other large incumbents, who warned about the chilling effect it could have on network investments.

When the CRTC announced last Thursday that it was walking back that ruling, it said it had come to "doubt the correctness of certain aspects" in its earlier decision.

“…With greater regulatory stability fostering an improved investment climate, Bell is proud to take our plan even further by growing our investment to advance how Canadians in communities large and small connect with each other and the world," said Bell Canada and BCE Inc. President and CEO Mirko Bibic in a release.

He added Bell expects “communications providers of all kinds to also step up with investments and innovations of their own to drive competition and deliver outstanding value to Canadians nationwide.”

Bell's favourable response to the latest regulatory outcome stood in stark contrast with protests from the smaller, alternative service providers that depend on wholesale access to the incumbents' networks.

Indeed, Chatham, Ont.-based TekSavvy Solutions Inc. announced last week that it was pulling out of this summer's wireless spectrum auction as a result of the CRTC's decision, and formally petitioned the federal cabinet to have the 2019 ruling on wholesale broadband rates reinstated.

BNN Bloomberg is owned by Bell Media, which is a division of BCE.