CRTC takes measures against non-compliant ILECs

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) put its foot down Thursday, saying it will no longer put up with Canada’s incumbent carriers’ failure to adhere to set Commission regulations, and has taken measures to ensure compliance.

According to the Commission, during the past year, six separate occasions were reported whereby incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) had not complied with its regulations for the Telecommunications Act. On these occasions, the CRTC based its examinations on complaints made by competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), but found that the CLECs often did not have enough information to prove non-compliance to the CRTC.

Under Section 71 of the Telecommunications Act, the CRTC has reserved the right to designate inspectors to enter ILEC premises to verify compliance with the Act. Inspections could begin any time 60 days after April 10. Under Section 73 of the Act, the Commission has also reserved the right to impose necessary measures.

As well, the CRTC has also instructed ILECs to include a clause in all business customer contracts stating that services and bundles are subject to CRTC tariff approval and approval will only be provided when the ILEC has complied with CRTC-approved tariffs.

According to Sheridan Scott, chief regulatory officer with Bell Canada in Ottawa, the Commission is taking the right approach to encourage competition. She said that Bell has always been supportive of the CRTC, although the telco doesn’t always agree with the rules and has challenged interpretation issues on many accounts.

“The Commission has said that they prefer to rely on information that they have gathered as opposed to information that our competitors have gathereed,” Scott said. “I think that this is in fact preferable. Our competitors often do not have all the facts. They put erroneous facts before the Commission or opinions masquerading as facts before the Commission. We obviously always strive to be in complete compliance with all the regulatory rules. We always move quickly to comply with new rules once we have understood them.”

The Commission said the measures are a direct result of its commitment to removing the barriers hindering competition in Canada’s telecom sector. For example, last April, GT Group Telecom Services Corp., a Toronto-based CLEC and subsidiary of 360Networks Corp., filed a complaint with the CRTC alleging that Aliant Telecom Inc. – the Halifax-based ILEC – had violated its tariffs and the Telecommunications Act in its dealings with Memorial University of Newfoundland. GT claimed Aliant charged lower rates to Memorial University for Provincial Centrex Service. GT also alleged that Aliant charged Memorial residential rates instead of business rates for modem pool lines and offered rates below approved rates in response to a Request for Proposal issued by Memorial in 2002.

On Thursday, the CRTC sided with GT saying it considered Aliant Telecom’s actions in this instance non-compliant and anti-competitive, adding that the actions undermined fair and sustainable competition in the ILEC’s territory. The Commission is in the process of taking measures to address the non-compliant behaviour.

While a spokesperson for the Commission said the CRTC would take different measures depending on the nature of the issue, she said typical punishments may include fines and prosecution proceedings in the case of verified non-compliance.

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