Kitchener’s CloudWifi prepares for legal, CRTC fight with Bell Canada over fibre optic cable
CloudWifi, a small but growing Internet service provider in southwestern Ontario, is on par with Bell Canada over who has the right to fiber optic cable in condominiums, apartment buildings, and businesses.
“This is about consumer choice and competition,” said Gary Kenning, vice president and co-founder of CloudWifi, to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.
“For the past 20+ years, the CRTC has always decided that telecommunications companies are allowed to use the lines inside a building. This was done decades ago to open up competition and ensure there was more competition in the market and more choice for them Consumer there. ” . “
Buildings in Kitchener, North York
The dispute has to do with the way CloudWifi has used and installed equipment in two buildings in Ontario: one at 10 Northtown Way in North York, the second at 270 Spadina Road E. in Kitchener.
In the North York building, CloudWifi uses Bell-installed cabling inside the building, which the CRTC allows small ISPs to use to eliminate redundant infrastructure.
In the Kitchener building, CloudWifi ran its own fiber optic cables, but it is the customer termination point called the P3000 box. It is used by Bell, Rogers, CloudWifi, and the electricity company. Bell Canada says the P3000 is their property and is off-limits to CloudWifi.
“Bell says, ‘We don’t have a problem with Rogers in that box, but we have a problem with CloudWifi in the box.’ So that’s part of the whole monopoly stance that CRTC doesn’t like and stand for, “Kenning said.
“No legal entitlement” to the building cabling, says Bell
The matter is running through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as a civil case initiated by Bell Canada, as well as before the CRTC as a motion to clarify a section of its existing rules.
Bell Canada declined to comment beyond the position set out in the notice of motion. CBC received an amended version of the application filed on August 20.
CloudWifi has “no legal right to use the building wiring, P3000 boxes and network facilities owned by Bell without Bell’s knowledge and consent.”
Bell’s second problem is that CloudWifi is not a local operator – or LEC, the technical term for a licensed home phone provider.
“In 2003, when the [CRTC] Laws were written that said you had to be an LEC and it made a lot of sense, “said Matt Stein, president and chairman of the Canadian Network Operators Consortium and CEO of Distributel, the country’s largest independent ISP.
We didn’t want to go back in time and buy all this really old infrastructure to build a home phone company– Gary Kenning, co-founder of CloudWifi
“I don’t think they’d say that these days. So I know exactly why CloudWifi shrugged and said, ‘Well, that’s silly.'”
Stupid or not, registering as a LEC is currently an “important step” to becoming a telecommunications company in Canada, Stein said – comparing that to starting as a business and getting an HST number.
“You can’t just go into business and say: ‘I’ll get there at some point’, you have to register your trade,” said Stein. “And if CloudWifi wanted to use a regulation that specifically said ‘for LECs’, it would have been a good move to register as such.”
Kenning said his company has no interest in becoming a home phone operator but will if that is the only way they can beat Bell Canada. In its application to the CRTC, which the CBC received, it is stated that the company has applied for and received the status “Proposed CLEC” (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier).
“When we set out to build the best internet company, we didn’t want to go back in time and buy all this really old infrastructure to build a home phone company,” he said.
“It seems ridiculous that in 2018 you could say that a private phone company can use something but an internet company can’t.”
The beginning of something big
On a competitive level, Kenning said he didn’t want to reveal exactly how many people subscribe to CloudWifi, other than that his company is located in buildings in cities across southwestern Ontario, including London, Kitchener, Waterloo, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Oshawa.
And while the battle is now only in the interests of its customers, the impact could potentially be much bigger, Stein said.
“The number of people affected by the events of the past few months may be small, but it is actually the beginning of something much bigger,” Stein said Tuesday, Craig Norris, moderator of CBC KW’s Morning Edition.
“The fiber optic is the linchpin. While the number of users affected has been small so far, the number of users or customers affected will be very large from now on. Everyone in a condo should be concerned about it, no matter what type of apartment building it should be concerned with. “
CloudWifi has petitioned the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to dismiss Bell’s civil motion and address it to the CRTC.
That’s where the argument belongs, said Stein, but it could last up to a year.
Interventions on the CRTC filing are due October 4, while Bell’s civil case will be heard in Ontario Superior Court in February 2019.
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