One Ottawa councillor’s attempt to rally support for a controversial ruling on high-speed Internet providers may prompt debate on whether the city should build its own municipal broadband.
On Wednesday, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper tabled a notice of motion calling for councillors to support a Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruling that allows smaller companies to piggyback off the fibre-optics infrastructure of telecom giants like Bell.
“We need competitors in the marketplace to discipline pricing and to ensure that the big guys are offering innovative services,” Mr. Leiper said. Councillors will debate his motion at a future meeting.
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Mayor Jim Watson disagrees with Mr. Leiper’s stance. He recently penned a letter to the Clerk of the Privy Council in support of Bell’s application to overturn that CRTC ruling.
“They invest tens of millions of dollars in their network just to have competitors come and use their network at a severely reduced cost,” Mr. Watson told reporters after the council meeting. “I felt it was important to support a business that provides thousands of jobs in the Ottawa area.”
Last week, Toronto’s city council voted in favour of asking the federal government to uphold the CRTC ruling, which contradicted Mayor John Tory’s opinion. The City of Calgary has also submitted a 28-page report defending the CRTC’s decision.
If the federal government overturns the CRTC ruling, Mr. Leiper said council is “obligated” to at least consider municipal broadband access – in which a city installs its own Internet infrastructure. Many jurisdictions in the U.S. have done this, including Santa Monica, CA and Oregon City, OR.
There is currently free Wi-Fi at 25 municipal buildings in Ottawa.
This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on Feb. 10.