ICE Wireless and Iristel urge commission to foster competition in
Canada's North and deny Bell's proposal to send "public benefits" money
to its subsidiary
MONTREAL, Sept. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - Calling BCE Inc.'s plan to funnel $40
million to its subsidiary as part of the Astral Media acquisition
"wrong on a number of regulatory and business levels," Ice Wireless and
Iristel warned the regulator that such a scheme will harm, if not kill,
the newly established competitive market in Canada's North.
"When Northerners have trouble obtaining basic wireline services or even
something as trivial as call display, we know there is a Digital Divide
and that it is real," said Samer Bishay, president of both Ice Wireless
and Iristel. "It is healthy competition that drives innovation and
value for customers, not anti-competitive former monopolies."
Mr. Bishay was testifying today before the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission hearing into the $3.4 billion acquisition
of Astral by BCE Inc. The CRTC has a "public benefits" policy on
broadcasting deals that requires new owners to pledge new money towards
the Canadian broadcasting system, typically to third-parties such as
In this case, BCE has said it would spend $240 million in public
benefits. But that includes $40 million to its wholly-owned NorthwesTel
for telecom infrastructure. And this would not be "new money" as the
CRTC has already ordered NorthwesTel to upgrade its aging
"We realize that $40 million inside this multi-billion-dollar Astral
deal doesn't add up to a hill of beans to a giant like Bell," Mr.
Bishay said. "But for Canadians in the North and competitors to
NorthwesTel, it is a huge hill of beans."
He added that if the CRTC sees fit to approve $40 million in public
benefits to telecom infrastructure in Canada's North, the money should
be divided among all players, not simply given to NorthwesTel, which
has received tens of millions of dollars in subsidies the past decade.
Last December, the CRTC in decision 2011-771 chastised NorthwesTel
because its shareholders have benefited far more from the subsidies
than its customers.
Established in 1999, Iristel Inc. ("Iristel") was granted a carrier
license by the CRTC in 2000 and is one of Canada's largest VoIP service
providers with a coast-to-coast network. Iristel offers a complete
portfolio of IP services in Canada, including hosted IP PBX, virtual
faxing, virtual roaming, and global IP trunking products and services.
For more information www.iristel.ca.
Established in 2005, Ice Wireless ("ICE") is a mobile GSM operator that
provides service to rural and remote communities in northern Canada.
ICE provides a full range of affordable and leading edge voice, video
and data services to Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, Aklavik, Behchoko
and Whitehorse. In terms of population, the Ice Wireless network covers
70% of the Northwest Territories and 78% of the Yukon. ICE cellular
customers can use their phones across Canada through a roaming
agreement with Rogers Wireless and Fido. For more information please
SOURCE: Iristel Inc.
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