Ringing Up New Competition
CRTC ruling keeps MetroNet out of Edmonton market for now
Calgary Herald and Journal Staff, The Edmonton Journal, 4/3/98

MetroNet Communications Corp. has opened for business in four Canadian cities but Edmonton isn't among them.

The upstart, three-year-old Calgary company announced it is signing up business customers for local telephone service in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

But Edmonton businesses will have to wait several more months. When Telus Corp. bought Ed Tel in 1996, the federal telecommunications regulator (CRTC) promised it would face no competition for local phone service until Oct. 1, 1998.

"We've made a big investment into Edmonton and continue to put new facilities there to get ready," said Andrew Kyle, vice-president for MetroNet's western region. "We're ready to go today. But until we hear differently, we're still expecting Oct. 1."

MetroNet does serve some Edmonton businesses already, by purchasing telecommunications facilities from Telus and reselling them.

The new services launched this week use MetroNet's own fibre-optic lines.

MetroNet is the first competitor out of the gate in the recently deregulated local market dominated by former monopolies such as Telus and Bell Canada.

"We've arrived," said Kyle. "The trials have gone well and we're out there competing."

Competition in local services is currently exclusive to businesses. Residential customers will likely have to wait a few years.

"There's lots for us to do in the business market," Kyle said.

The company is offering voice, data, and Internet services in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Kyle said rates are 10 to 15 percent lower than the existing telephone companies, including Telus.

MetroNet has been providing data services over it's own lines to about 150 customers in Calgary.

It has 8,000 business lines across Canada and is adding new ones daily, Kyle said.

Voice and Internet are the new components it will offer to existing customers as well as new ones. An introductory package includes one month of free local, long distance, and Internet service.

"It's a first step," said Ian Angus, a Toronto-bases telecommunications consultant. "They're basically showing they're serious about the local business market, and that there is some local competition."