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National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post)…03/13/2002
Quebecor Inc. says it will keep charging competitors $5 a month per subscriber to use cable lines it pipes into Quebec apartments — more than 10 times the amount the CRTC said cable companies should charge.
Last Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission proposed cable companies charge satellite providers and other cable competitors 44 cents a month per apartment for use of their wire. While many cable competitors use wireless networks, they rely on the final length of wire — laid in some cases decades ago by the cable companies across Canada — to get their signals into individual dwellings.
The regulator's proposal, which is now open to public input, is meant to resolve a deadlock between the cable companies and their competitors over price.
Other cable companies had wanted $2.67 per subscriber per month for use of their wires inside apartment buildings and condominiums, while satellite provider Bell ExpressVu had asked for a fee of 8 cents a subscriber per month.
Until recently, Rogers Communications Inc., Shaw Communications Inc., Videotron, Cogeco Cable Inc. and the other cable firms had allowed competitors to use their coaxial wire at no charge, pending the final resolution of price.
But in early February, Quebecor's Videotron cable unit shifted ownership of those apartment wires — representing about 383,000 units in 7,600 Quebec buildings — to Quebecor Media, a private company it controls in partnership with pension fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec.
Quebecor Media then renamed the business Cablage QMI Inc. and claimed it is not, like Videotron, covered by the CRTC.
"We don't recognize any jurisdiction of the CRTC over it," said Quebecor spokesman Luc Lavoie.
"Quebecor Media is not a regulated entity." As a result, he said Cablage QMI has "absolutely" no intention of dropping the $5 monthly fee per unit regardless of the outcome of the CRTC process.
"We're not in the business of subsidizing Bell Canada. It's $5 a pop because that's what it's worth."
Bell ExpressVu, Look Communications and Cable VDN disagree and have filed a complaint with the CRTC over the $5 fee.