The Competition Bureau has been investigating the practice of charging unreasonably high telecom access fees for several months as a dispute between two large landlords and a CLEC winds its way through the courts. But insiders are hopeful that a resolution can be negotiated before the judge issues a decision. The existence of a Bureau enquiry first came to light during the suit filed by Vidéotron Télécom ltée against Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. and Oxford Property Group (NL, Feb. 24/03). A spokesman for the Competition Bureau tells Network Letter that the action, which began in the spring, is ongoing. Jean-Claude Drapeau could not speculate on when it would end. "But it’s a matter for us to determine what the facts were or what they are and either shut down or recommend to the AG that charges be laid," he explains. "It’s a two-prong approach. First you have to determine what the facts are and once you know the facts, you either close it or you recommend." CRTC decision beneficial One thing that should help resolve matters is a ruling the CRTC made last year on provision of services to customers in multi-dwelling units. Telecom Decision 2003-45 set out terms and conditions for access to the buildings, although this ruling is subject to a review & vary application from FCI Broadband. Eric Yapp is manager of national telecommunications for O&Y Enterprise. He also serves as chair of the telecom task force for the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and as a representative of the Canadian Institute of Public and Private Real Estate Companies (CIPPREC). He believes 2003-45 will solve a great deal of the problem. "Typically what the Competition Bureau does is look into the past," he tells NL. "Obviously they have a couple of different mandates and one of them is to ensure fair competition going forward but also ensure that nothing untoward was done in the past. In this case, they appreciate that the going forward piece sort of took care of itself with the CRTC decision and the guidelines laid down by that. There’s some pretty good guidelines of what you can and can’t charge."A source close to the situation tells NL Vidéotron is feeling confident about the case. The CRTC decision, combined with the Competition Bureau investigation, has convinced the Quebec-based CLEC it is on the right track. Rumours are trickling through the company that the telco is holding discussions with the landlords that could see the matter settled out of court. Yapp tells NL that the CRTC Industry Steering Committee (CISC) is actively looking at building access. The group will hold its second face-to-face meeting this month and has been discussing the topic over conference calls ever since 2003-45 was issued."We’re trying to come up with either some kind of standard agreement or standard guidelines to really take the mystery away from the decision and put something in practice that works for the real estate industry and the telecom industry," he explains. "So I think it’s happening. But then again, this is all at a theoretical and sort of high-level stage. It needs to be put in practice and applied to a real building and a real telco." One hindrance for Vidéotron in settling its specific case is that the company has been without a leader since Eugène Marquis resigned as president/CEO last summer. At the time it was suggested that Marquis departed over differences with Vidéotron minority shareholder The Carlyle Group. Late last year, Vidéotron parent Quebecor Inc. bought Carlyle’s stake for $125 million. The vacancy at the top is expected to be filled shortly.