BUSINESS
12/18/2013 02:32 EST | Updated 02/17/2014 05:59 EST

CRTC wants Bell's Northwestel to improve services in Canada's North with $233M plan

GATINEAU, Que. - The CRTC says BCE subsidiary Northwestel must modernize and expand its communications services in Canada's North over the next four years.

The CRTC says Northwestel is expected to spend $233 million by 2017 on the improvements and the company has until March 31, 2014, to submit a detailed plan on how it plans to fulfill its commitments.

The federal regulator also says it has also taken steps to help consumers in Northwestel's territory, including a four-year price cap on its services and moves that it expects could increase competition.

Northwestel, a subsidary of Bell Canada and BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), serves the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern parts of British Columbia and Alberta.

The CRTC's Northwestel decision was released Wednesday shortly after the federal industry minister said the government will limit roaming charges that Canada's three biggest wireless carriers can charge domestic rivals for use of their networks.

Among other things, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission expects Northwestel to upgrade and expand its broadband Internet services.

The company will also extend land-based wireless communication services to additional communities and upgrade equipment to support services such as call display and call waiting.

The CRTC has also directed Northwestel to offer landline Internet and voice services separately, a move that may make it easier for new competitors to emerge.

At the same time, the CRTC has revised the wholesale rates that Northwestel charges other service provides that need to use its infrastructure.

The CRTC held hearings earlier this year on telecom services offered Northwestel.