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Beanfield asks CRTC to tear down Rogers' 'bulk agreements' with condo developers



Beanfield Metroconnect, an independent telecommunications provider based in Toronto, has urged the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to prohibit agreements between carriers, like Rogers Communications Inc., and condo developers. These agreements, known as "bulk agreements," provide turnkey internet services for all units within a specific condominium building.


In a submission made to the CRTC in September, Beanfield argued that bulk agreements, particularly those employed by Rogers, undermine end-user choice, creating what they describe as "monopolistic islands." The company claims that such deals give an undue advantage to certain carriers and impede fair competition within the telecommunications industry.


Todd Hofley, Beanfield's Vice-President of Policy and Communications, emphasized the negative impact of bulk agreements on competition, stating that they make it challenging for companies like Beanfield to attract customers in new residential developments. Beanfield is seeking a CRTC ruling against these agreements, hoping it could set a precedent preventing all carriers from entering into such deals with developers.


According to Beanfield's estimates, approximately half of all new condo or apartment developments in the Toronto area currently have bulk deals in place. The company surveyed 110 projects since January 2022, revealing that 54 projects, encompassing nearly 40,000 units, had bulk agreements.


Hofley raised concerns about the safety implications of bulk agreements during service outages. He pointed out that if a building is exclusively serviced by a single carrier, and that carrier experiences an outage, it could impact essential services like elevators, concierge systems, and security systems.


Beanfield plans to address this issue during a CRTC hearing on wholesale high-speed access service scheduled for this week. Rogers Communications, in response to Beanfield's submission, argued that their bulk billing arrangements do not eliminate end-user choice and provide residents with discounted broadband prices and innovative in-building communication amenities.


However, other major telecom companies, including Bell Canada, Telus Corp., and Eastlink, have also opposed Beanfield's application, supporting the bulk billing arrangements. Pamela Dinsmore, Rogers' Vice-President of Regulatory, argued that rival carriers can still sell services directly to individual residents in buildings with bulk agreements.


Gregory Taylor, an associate professor at the University of Calgary, noted the difficulty in challenging incumbent carriers when bulk deals are in place, as competitors face financial challenges to offer services to residents already locked into agreements.


As the CRTC reviews Beanfield's application and the opposing interventions, the telecommunications industry's future practices, particularly concerning high-density housing, remain uncertain. The CRTC emphasized its ongoing review and refrained from commenting on the matter at this stage. Taylor highlighted the importance of addressing these issues as high-density housing becomes more prevalent, emphasizing the essential nature of wired internet service and the need for regulatory attention.


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