Regulator says cable companies have to offer static IP address services to independent Internet providers, just as phone companies do. One ISP group says the decision could mean more providers turn to cable companies for broadband

Cablecos lose decision before CRTC

For years most independent Internet service providers have chosen to buy wholesale broadband connectivity from large phone companies instead of cablecos, partly because telcos offer more services and make it easier for ISP customers to connect.

But ISPs are hoping a decision issued Tuesday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will make cable a more attractive alternative for themselves and businesses customers.

They also hope it will push cable companies to compete more aggressively for wholesale buyers.

“I’m quite certain as a result of today’s decision more ISPs will start to use cable,” said William Sandiford, chair of the Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), which represents 26 ISPs across the country.

The commission ruled that cable companies have to offer static, or fixed, IP addresses as a wholesale service to ISPs under third party Internet access agreements (called TPIA), despite the objections of cablecos.

Cable companies offer static IP addresses directly to their business customers, but refuse to offer them to ISPs for technical reasons. On the other hand, phone companies have been offering static IP addresses for years as a wholesale ADSL service.

In essence the commission ruled rejected the cable companies’ claims that they just can’t do it.

The ruling was hailed by Sandiford, who is also president of Oshawa, Ont.-based Telnet Communications.

“The decision is important to ensure cable services are viable for third party ISPs to provide,” he said in an interview.

“Without having static IP services, we’re missing one of the unique tools we need to provide good service to our customers, especially business customers. Lots of businesses want to run their own mail servers or other types of infrastructure for virtual private networks or branch-to-branch applications that require static IP addresses to work.”

Without the ability to offer static IP addresses, he said, customers turn to other solutions or carriers.

However, cable companies won’t have to offer the service for at least four months. The CRTC has given interconnection steering committee – which is made up of carriers, ISPs and equipment manufacturers – 120 days to nail down an appropriate technical solution, which has to be approved by the commission.

The issue fell into the CRTC’s hands as part of a decision last year ordering all large carriers to give ISPs access to their fastest broadband networks. As part of that ruling the commission CRTC ordered four of the country’s biggest cable companies — Rogers Communications Inc., Shaw Communications Inc., Cogeco Cable Inc. and Videotron Ltd. — to show cause why they shouldn’t offer static IP addresses in their wholesale offerings to ISPs as the phone companies do. The commission’s policy is to have phone and cable companies offer equitable services.

In written briefs over the winter, cablecos argued that it is unclear whether the managed router solutions they use to provide static IP addresses for business customers will work for their TPIA services. They added that this solution is subject to technical challenges and uncertainties, as it has never been used with third-party Internet service providers. They also fear they won’t likely recover their costs because of limited demand and significant implementation expenses.

However, the commission noted that cablecos use DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) for assigning dynamic IP addresses to their retail Internet and wholesale ISP customers. Vancouver-based telco Telus Corp. also uses DHCP for assigning static and dynamic IP addresses, it pointed out, so that is one option for cablecos.

Ken Engelhart, Rogers’ vice-president of legal affairs, had no comment on the decision. A Shaw official couldn’t be reached for reaction.

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