DID: Iristel Stands Behind Notion that Channeling Money from Astral Deal is Anti-Competitive
The debate between Canadian VoIP service provider partners ICE Wireless and Iristel against Bell Canada (News - Alert) Inc. continue to escalate as NorthwesTel refuses to give up on its proposed funding plan. The latest development to the case was released today, detailing how ICE Wireless and Iristel urged the commission to foster competition in Canada’s North and deny Bell’s proposal to send “public benefits” money to its subsidiary.
You may recall a few months back following ICE and Iristel joining forces to create a “new era of competition” in the Northwest Territories to ease the digital divide, the story first broke regarding Bell Canada attempting to funnel money to the two companies in order to keep competition out of the North.
Calling BCE (News - Alert) 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, according to the latest release on the ongoing case.
"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."
Bishay testified this week 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 content producers.
BCE claims it would spend $240 million in public benefits, which includes $40 million to its wholly-owned NorthwesTel for telecom infrastructure. This would not be "new money" as the CRTC has already ordered NorthwesTel to upgrade its aging infrastructure.
"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," Bishay said. "But for Canadians in the North and competitors to NorthwesTel, it is a huge hill of beans."
According to Bishay, 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.
To find out more about Iristel visit the company at ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premiere communications and technology event. Visit Iristel booth # 420. For more information on ITEXPO West 2012 click here.
Edited by Braden Becker