Call-Net spearheads CLEC clamouring for quicker ILEC local loop repair jobs

A group of competitive carriers say they will no longer wait 24 hours to have their phone lines repaired, and a letter of complaint to Canadian regulatory officials just might force large carriers to don their coveralls and hard hats in a swifter manner.

Kanata, Ont.-based Call-Net Enterprises Inc. issued a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in late January requesting an order that would require incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to file a tariff that would give competitive carriers leasing unbundled local loops the option of obtaining a four-hour mean time to repair that loop.

Also acting on behalf of Sprint Canada Inc. and GT Group Telecom Service Corp., Call-Net said that since most CLECs depend on local unbundled loops from ILECs to access customers, “little doubt can exist then that the unbundled loop is a vital input to most CLECs’ service offerings.”

Call-Net’s argument claims that the ILECs – namely Bell Canada – provide themselves as well as their customers a better repair time than they provide to CLECs using the same facilities. Currently, CLECs can expect 24-hour mean time to repair (MTTR) on unbundled local loops from Bell Canada, according to Call-Net’s complaint.

Call-Net charged that the only way it currently can offer four-hour MTTR to its own customers is if the company pays retail rate for Bell’s T-1 service. Call-Net noted that Bell-Nexxia – a Bell subsidiary – offers customers a four-hour MTTR on loops it leases from Bell Canada, a situation where Call-Net claims Bell Canada provides undue preference to its affiliate.

According to Don Bowles, vice-president of regulatory affairs for Call-Net, the lines it leases from Bell Canada are typically used for voice services, under which is the standard 24-hour MTTR. This is not the problem. The problem, Bowles said, is that Call-Net uses the very same loop to provide DSL service.

“When the telephone company provides DSL service, they provide it with a four-hour MTTR to their customers,” Bowles explained. “We want to be in the same position as the telephone company. We want to be able to provide DSL service to our customers with a four-hour MTTR so that we can provide a service in competition to the telephone company. We don’t want to resell (the telco’s) T1 service. We want to offer our own T1 service.”

Bowles explained that Call-Net and its affiliates are not expecting something for nothing. He said they are willing to pay for the service, but require the option first.

As far as the CRTC is concerned, although the complaint lodged by the CLECs is not common, it did not come as a surprise.

“It didn’t raise any eyebrows,” said Denis Carmel, a spokesperson for the CRTC in Hull, Que. At press time, Carmel said that the CRTC is awaiting comment from Bell Canada, which was given 30 days to formulate a response to the complaint. Once Bell has responded, Call-Net will be given another 10 days to have its final say. Carmel said that a decision will likely be made within two months.

Although Bell Canada declined to comment, Telus Corp. said it is investigating its own policies in terms of offering comparable repair service to all its customers – CLECs included.

“One of the things we are looking into is whether a four-hour mean time to repair is something we deliver,” said Charlie Fleet, communications manager for government and regulatory affairs with Telus in Edmonton. “I think this stems from a lot of issues between the relationships of ILECs and CLECs. We are just taking a look at our own processes regarding this matter and will submit our comments on the issue as well.”

According to Mark Quigley, research director with Kanata, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada, being a CLEC certainly puts companies like Call-Net at a disadvantage. However, Quigley added that at the end of the day, issues such as insufficient repair times arise after choosing to go down a wholesale path.

“If the investment is not made on your part in terms of infrastructure then in some ways you are dependent and there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. “There was always the assumption that when local competition started in Canada, the ILEC was going to be terrible and they were going to do their damndest to drag their feet so that they wouldn’t lose customers. I know, anecdotally speaking from some of the CLECs that went broke, that the ILEC was very good in terms of tuning up service for them. In some respects, the incumbent will always have the advantage. But you will always have someone who will deem the situation unfair.”

Bowles said that Call-Net is not trying to make waves with this complaint.

“It’s really simple,” he said. “We aren’t asking for this for nothing. The real debate will likely be what the cost is going to be. At the end of the day, the big problem is going to be the rate.”