SuperNet 2.0 (update)

With the transition to Bell’s operation of the SuperNet a smooth one so far, it’s worth revisiting the topic and my previous blog post. Any anticipated squabbles between Bell, Axia, and GoA have been rendered moot by Axia ceasing to exist as an independent entity in Alberta, now that it is being absorbed into the big body of Bell. This means Bell now owns anything that Axia might have wanted to claim as its property, and it inherits all of the corporate infrastructure responsible for keeping the SuperNet running. I wonder if this was the plan all along ever since GoA started favoring Bell for the contract, or if it’s what led to the last-minute nature of the announcement, as Bell and GoA belatedly realized they would face some serious disruption if they tried to go around Axia.

The remaining question is what happens to the communities that Axia (Connect) has extended fibre networks in during the past few years. The SuperNet 2.0 contract should really have done away with the possibility for such an arrangement, which violated the “level playing field” intent of the SuperNet (with the wholesaler also competing in the retail market). But so far we have indeed witnessed continuity for places like Nanton and Stavely, which makes me wonder, is this continuity just a temporary arrangement? Is there a plan to sell these networks off to another party, or does everyone previously served by Axia Connect just become a Bell customer? If the latter, this legitimates what Axia had done in recent years and would be a big win for Bell, which would not be confined to the role of middle-mile intermediary. It could open up the possibility for Bell to use the SuperNet to great competitive advantage against rural Alberta ISPs, whether they rely on SuperNet or not. It would also be another example of the GoA choosing to maintain the SuperNet status quo, rather than making difficult decisions and much-needed changes to the contract. I hope this is not the case, but it’s certainly a possibility given previous history.

This seems, like the original SuperNet contract, to be a matter of significant public interest. And like the original contract, the public is not (yet?) entitled to know the details. It’s great to know that data packets are still flowing across the SuperNet. It would be better to know what the Government of Alberta is giving to Canada’s largest telecom company.