Canada's ISPs Granted Access to Cable Networks

The Canadian government ordered yesterday that cable providers must lease portions of their high-speed networks to competing Internet service providers, a move proponents say will speed the introduction of low-cost, broadband Internet services to Canadian consumers.

In its 21-page ruling, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) also said incumbent cable providers must file proposed rates for accessing their networks with the CRTC, supported by costing information.

The Canadian Cable Television Association could not immediately be reached to comment on the ruling.

The decision was applauded in the U.S. by the openNet coalition, a group of more than 70 ISPs fighting for similar access rights in the U.S. The CRTC's decision will lead to lower prices and better service for Canadian consumers, Greg Simon, co-director of the openNet Coalition, said in a statement.

The question of whether cable companies should be forced to open their networks to competing ISPs has emerged as a hot topic in the U.S. The cable networks have emerged as a prime medium for delivering broadband Internet access to consumers, and ISPs say incumbent cable companies should be forced to open their networks in order to foster competition and bring services to customers more quickly.

Cable companies have argued that only they should control access to the networks which they invested millions of dollars to build. Being forced to lease their networks to competitors would reduce their incentive to make further infrastructure investments, they say.

In a small victory for U.S. ISPs, a federal district court in Oregon last month ruled that local regulators could require AT&T Corp. to open its high-speed network to competitors as a condition of AT&T's merger with cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. Local regulators in other cities including San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Spokane, Washington, are also looking at whether AT&T should be forced to open its networks.

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