NorthwesTel and its parent Bell Canada trying to kill competition in North before it can get foothold

Plan to funnel money to NorthwesTel from Bell’s Astral Media broadcasting deal violates rules

YELLOWKNIFE, NT, July 30, 2012 – To ensure competition takes hold in Canada’s North for  consumers to reap long-term benefits, the federal communications regulator must turn down  NorthwesTel’s attempt to funnel $40-million from its parent company in a bid to thwart  competition.

“This is nothing short of a shell game by NorthwesTel and its owner Bell Canada to move  money around in a last gasp attempt to keep competition and innovation out of the Northwest  Territories, Yukon and Nunavut,” said Samer Bishay, president of both Ice Wireless and Iristel,  two Canadian companies partnering to knock down the last telecom monopoly walls in North  America.

In Yellowknife today inspecting ICE Wireless facilities, Mr. Bishay said: “NorthwesTel’s  monopoly is officially at an end. It’s just too bad NorthwesTel refuses to realize that and insists  on acting in a predatory manner towards competitors instead of serving customers better. We  are in the North because we see great opportunity. Telecommunications service here is the  equivalent of telecommunications service in Africa – ten years ago. It is time to end the  subsidies to NorthwesTel and let competition drive innovation and improved customer service  so the North can be treated more like the rest of Canada.

” Bell Canada has purchased Astral Media and is looking for approval from the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission to close the deal. To gain approval on  broadcasting deals, the CRTC requires new owners to spend new money on “public benefits” to  the broadcasting system. This money is to go to third parties, like independent producers, not  corporate subsidiaries like NorthwesTel.

But earlier this month, NorthwesTel announced a five-year wireless network upgrade with a  significant portion tied to the CRTC allowing Bell to funnel $40 million of the “public benefits”  from the Astral Media deal to NorthwesTel. Without this $40 million, NorthwesTel threatens to  pull back network modernization in smaller Northern communities.

“This is an attempt to stifle competition by trying to move public benefits money into Bell’s  subsidiary NorthwesTel,” said Cameron Zubko, ICE’s Vice President Corporate Development.  “Once again NorthwesTel is proposing to use public money to keep out competition, just like  they have always done. Apparently $20 million a year from the CRTC’s National Contribution  Fund is not enough.

“This latest ploy flies in the face the spirit and intent of the public benefits policy which is to  benefit the broadcasting system generally and the communities served. Last I checked, neither  Astral nor Bell had radio or TV systems in Canada’s North,” Mr. Zubko added.

Mr. Bishay said he expects the CRTC to see through the Bell-NorthwesTel public benefits  scheme, but if not he urges the commission to make sure competitors have full and fair access  to NorthwesTel’s upgraded network in a timely manner.

“Bell and her offspring like NorthwesTel have a long history of stalling competitors and making  the conditions of access so onerous that there is no way for third parties to build competitive  businesses. In May when it opened the North’s telecommunications market, the CRTC made it  clear it wanted the benefits of competition in Canada’s North and we are confident the  commission will hold NorthwesTel’s feet to the fire,” Mr. Bishay said.

Both he and Mr. Zubko urge citizens in Canada’s North to write or call the CRTC to tell the  commission it is unfair for the incumbent phone company to use public benefits money to stifle  competition. The CRTC’s toll-free number is 1-877-249-CRTC (2782) and the website is

Privately-held Iristel, which is a major shareholder in ICE, has been licensed by the CRTC as a  carrier since 2000. It is one of the largest VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service providers  in Canada with a coast-to-coast network. Iristel will now be competing with NorthwesTel in a  range of telephone services including VoIP and wholesale long distance.

Meanwhile, Ice Wireless’ network is set to expand dramatically in the coming months across the  North and compete aggressively with Bell Mobility. New data services will be rolled out,  including high-speed 3G data, in the coming months and local cellular coverage will be  expanded in larger communities.

Together, ICE and Iristel will provide a viable bundled communications solution to Canada’s  northern communities for a range of telephony services. Iristel has already received orders for  more than a million monthly wholesale long distance minutes into NorthwesTel’s service area  which will be delivered via ICE’s northern-based network. The two companies are already  offering VoIP phones for purchase and installation from Ice Wireless retail stores and other  authorized dealers in Yellowknife and in select markets by the end of the summer.

About Iristel

Established in 1999, Iristel Inc. (“Iristel”) was granted a carrier license by the Canadian RadioTelevision Commission (CRTC) in 2000 and is one of Canada’s largest VoIP service providers  with a coast-to-coast network. Iristel offers a complete portfolio of IP services in Canada,  including hosted IP PBX, virtual faxing, virtual roaming, and global IP trunking products and  services. For more information please visit

About ICE

Established in 1999, Ice Wireless (“ICE”) is a telephone and internet company that provides  service to rural and remote communities in northern Canada. ICE provides a full range of  affordable and leading edge voice, video and data services, including GSM cellular, to  Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, Aklavik, Behchoko and Whitehorse. In terms of population, the  Ice Wireless network covers 70% of the Northwest Territories and 78% of the Yukon. ICE  cellular customers can use their phones across Canada through a roaming agreement with  Rogers Wireless and Fido. For more information please visit

For more information:

Bob Brehl

Media Relations

T: 416-800-0010

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