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Small internet providers say CRTC rules lead to ‘higher prices and less choice’

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Canada’s smaller internet service providers say the CRTC needs to revamp rules that protect the big telcos and erode consumer choice when it comes to high-speed internet service. 

On Wednesday, the Canadian Operators Network Consortium (CNOC) filed an application asking the telecom regulator to revise regulations that CNOC says block small providers from accessing the big telcos’ ultra-fast fibre optic networks.

CNOC represents 35 internet providers including TekSavvy, Distributel and Primus. The organization also wants the CRTC to revisit an impending rule it says will prevent small players from offering high-speed internet service — above 100 megabits per second — on non-fibre networks. 

“That just means higher prices and less choice. That’s the fundamental issue,” said CNOC chair Matt Stein, who is also CEO of Distributel.

The CRTC said it can’t comment on an open case.

Fibre access, please

Canada is home to more than 100 independent internet companies. The CRTC allows them to rent network access from major telcos such as Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw and resell the service to Canadians at competitive prices.

In 2015, the CRTC mandated that Canada’s major players also had to share their highest-speed fibre optic networks with their smaller competitors.

But Stein says the way the rules are written, the smaller providers still can’t gain access, leaving the big players to dominate the fibre market.

“It’s just completely unreasonable,” Stein said. 

Fibre optic cables are able to transmit far more data than conventional internet service provided via copper wiring.

Opening up fibre lines to smaller competitors sparked concerns among the major telcos, who invest big money in the technology.

In an effort to push the smaller competitors to also make infrastructure investments, the CRTC mandated that they had to take the extra step of creating their own connection points to neighbourhoods when accessing big telcos’ fibre networks.

Stein argues the requirement creates a barrier because it’s far too costly and time consuming for smaller players to implement.

“It’s almost designed to be impossible,” he said. “It really fundamentally undoes the benefits of the whole decision in the first place.”

Earlier this year, the CRTC denied a request by CNOC to allow independent providers unconditional access to fibre networks until the regulator could re-evaluate the current rules.

Open Media’s Laura Tribe argues smaller internet providers can make a fair trade by paying the big telcos like Bell, Rogers and Telus for fibre optic access. (CBC)

Telco watchdog Laura Tribe argues that even if independent players can’t afford to invest in the infrastructure, they will still pay the big telcos for fibre access.

“They actually pay to access those services,” said Tribe, executive director of Vancouver-based Open Media. “These independent providers aren’t getting a free ride.”

Bell, Rogers and Shaw — which had not yet seen CNOC’s submission — all declined to comment. Telus said CRTC regulations need to support infrastructure investment.

“Meeting Canadians’ rapidly increasing demand for more Internet bandwidth will require sustained multibillion-dollar capital investments over many years,” spokesperson Richard Gilhooley said in an email.

Condo connections

Ontario-based internet provider Eyesurf says because it can’t simply piggy-back on big telcos’ fibre optic networks, it’s shut out of many new condos that are only wired with fibre-based internet access.

“It’s a difficult situation,” said co-founder Randy Jheeta. “It goes against what was originally intended for deregulation, which was to open the market for independent providers.”

Last month, Heather Kerr moved into a new condo in Kitchener, Ont. She planned to sign up with Eyesurf, believing the company offered the best rates.

But she quickly found out that wasn’t possible because her building was wired only with fibre access.

“I was really upset,” she said. “It was supposed to [be a] beautiful free market in Canada but it’s all monopolies.”

100 Mbps showdown

CNOC is also concerned about a pending rule where small providers using the current model of accessing big telcos’ networks — without investing in multiple connection points — will have their internet speed capped at 100 megabits per second. 

Stein said the rule threatens to crush the competition, as Canadians increasingly expect ultra-fast internet service. According to CRTC data, customers requesting 100 megabits per second or higher nearly doubled from eight per cent in 2015 to almost 15.8 per cent in 2016.

“You end up in a situation where independent internet providers can no longer offer the services that Canadians want,” Stein said.

Stein said the 100 Mbps rule could come into effect within six months unless the CRTC revises its regulations.

CNOC’s submission comes shortly before a Nov. 16 CRTC deadline for internet providers to comment on finalizing wholesale rates charged by the big telcos for access to their fibre networks.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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