Changes must be made to the way competition exists in this country, but structural separation is not the approach to take. That was the consensus at a recent forum in Ottawa. The Canadian chapter of the International Institute of Communications met November 27 and 28 in the capital. One session, entitled Challenges and Opportunities Facing Infrastructure Providers, featured lively discussion among representatives of two ILECs, two cablecos and a CLEC. "There’s no competition in residential service," Bill Linton, president/CEO of Call-Net Enterprises Inc., told the audience. "I don’t believe a radical change like structural separation will help." John Tory, president/CEO of Rogers Cable Inc., expressed the belief that companies must own their content. Many that do, such as Shaw Communications Inc., have already hived off their content divisions into distinct corporate entities. The non-ILEC players complained about the costs of doing business with the established telcos. Louis Audet, the president/CEO of Cogeco Inc., said the present interconnection regime is impractical and the cost to interconnect is excessive. Linton also griped about the costs his firm must pay incumbents. But the president/COO of Bell Canada questioned the logic of slashing wholesale prices for interconnection. Rather than boost profit margins, such a move would likely just cause another price war, John Sheridan maintained. "I think it’s the wrong focus. It’s not a surprising focus if you’re AT&T Canada or you’re Call-Net, obviously you’re going to look to have the playing field tilted in such a way that’s going to advantage you," he explained to Network Letter following the session. "What it all amounts to, though, is the question of should there be increased subsidies beyond the price cap reductions to these players? That type of artificial market intervention – does that create efficiency? I don’t think that creates efficiency." Jim Peters, executive VP corporate affairs and general counsel at Telus Corp., echoed those sentiments. The focus has been on managing competition rather than determining how effective it has been, he said. "We’re being asked to save the CLECs from themselves," he told delegates. "A company comes out of bankruptcy and buys a firm still in bankruptcy. It shows a lack of discipline." Linton said the sheer number of products an ILEC can offer gives it an advantage over a competitor. If a telco sells all the necessary services – wireline, wireless, and television – to a household, it becomes that much harder for a new entrant to gain customers. The CLEC must partner with other companies to offer a full suite of services. Tory was lukewarm in his support for that option. Alliances may work in the short term, he offered, but the best plan is to use a company’s existing network to deliver expanded services.He echoed recent remarks made by his boss, Rogers Communications Inc. president/CEO Ted Rogers, by hinting that the cableco would be expanding into telephony (NL, Nov. 19/02). Cogeco’s Audet also suggested his company would offer some sort of telephone service in the future. Cogeco abandoned its venture into IP telephony last year because the technology was not yet ready for full commercial deployment (NL, Nov. 6/01). "The challenges were beyond what a company of our size could accomplish," Audet told the audience. He added that great strides have been made in recent months and that the industry is getting closer to an acceptable standard. He said Cogeco is "very interested" in getting back into the IP field, predicting it will take at least a year to happen.