Northwestel may soon be facing some increased competition thanks to a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that stripped the company of its monopoly in local phone service.
But it’s a challenge that the company is ready for, said Northwestel president and CEO Paul Flaherty, pointing out the company already faces competition in unregulated services like internet and cell phones.
“We could also see the probability that we were going to enter a more competitive market place,” said Flaherty.
“Over the last month and a half we’ve been talking a lot with our employees about how Northwestel needs to change and how we have to become much more customer focused.
“It’s largely about our customers and how we can earn their trust in every interaction that we have with them.”
In its decision, the CRTC took Northwestel to task for the age of its local phone switches and a lack of infrastructure investment.
That part of the decision was “quite perplexing” and “disappointing,” said Flaherty.
“We’ve invested $435 million over the last 10 years and to our way of thinking that’s very significant,” he said.
While some of the switches are old, all of them are functional and continue to meet the service requirements, said Flaherty.
“There’s no question we have some older equipment but we manage it and maintain it and if it gets to a point where it’s not reliable we replace it,” he said.
In the last 10 years, Northwestel had asked the CRTC for funding for modernization programs four times and four times the commission rejected those requests.
“Even in the decision the CRTC said that we were investing similarly to other telephone companies, but then on the next hand they said but we’re under investing,” said Flaherty. “It’s a question there of what’s an appropriate level of investment that we will have to bear on our own.”
Right now the Northwestel is still weighing its options and has yet to decide if it will file a formal appeal with the commission.
“There’s a wide variety of options you can choose at this point we’re still contemplating which path we may take,” said Flaherty.
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