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HRM Disappointed With CRTC Decision

(Monday, January 29/2001)-- Mayor Peter Kelly says a decision last week by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) interferes with the Halifax Regional Municipality's efforts to recover fees from telecommunications companies for burying their cables under local streets and roads.

Mayor Kelly said the ruling, in effect, throws out the principle that a land owner is entitled to be compensated for the use of their property by "for profit" companies. Also, it inhibits muncipalities from insisting that telecommunications companies assume a joint approach for locating their infrastructure under local streets and roads.

Because of the impacts of deregulation in 1997, municipalities have been faced with managing competitive demands for access to their streets and roads. Some, such as Ottawa, have tried imposing joint use of ducts as one approach and it has proven to be successful.

For more than a year, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and its members (including HRM), have been awaiting the outcome of a case brought before the CRTC by the City of Vancouver. Vancouver objected to Ledcor Industries Limited placing telecommunications lines under city streets without compensating the city.

Key to the ruling was the CRTC's assertion-- over municipal objections-- that it has complete jurisdiction over the issue.

The ruling allows municipal governments to recover"actual" costs, such as the cost of issuing permits and repaving streets, and revenue from parking meters that is forgone during construction. But it rejects Vancouver's bid to collect an annual per-meter fee for underground rights-of- way based on the cost of surrounding land. This position was also advanced by Calgary and Edmonton, who currently collect comparable fees from other utilities. Municipalities argued that telecommunications companies should not be exempt.

Mayor Kelly said he believes the FCM should appeal the ruling to the CRTC and through the courts, if necessary.

The Mayor said he does not question the Government of Canada's authority to regulate the telecommunications industry, but he definitely questions the CRTC's right to say what municipalities can, and cannot, do with their own property and rights-of-way.

He said the ruling means that municipalities can no longer have a say as to which telecommunications companies can dig up municipal roadways to install underground cable networks, or when, or how often they do it. To make matters worse, the municipalities cannot charge these largely national and international companies for using their local rights-of-way.

The Mayor said HRM is trying to encourage telecommunications companies to work together on the installation of underground services, in order to reduce the number of cable troughs underground and the frequency with which municipal roadways are torn up to install individual systems.( The same joint planned approach could be used for the siting of telecommunications towers.)

"Every time someone digs up a roadway, it reduces the life-span of that piece of infrastructure. As a result, municipalities are forced to spend money to repair or re-build these streets and roads long before they should have to. That means using money that could being expended for other purposes, such as public transit or recreation facilities, because now, in effect, we have no control over who digs up our roads and we can't charge them for using our underground rights-of-way so they can make money, " the Mayor said.

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Mayor Peter Kelly
(902) 490-4010

Above content last modified Friday, September 08, 2023 at 3:28pm.