ARCHIVED -  Telecom Public Notice CRTC 94-19

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Telecom Public Notice

Ottawa, 8 April 1994
Telecom Public Notice CRTC 94-19
The Commission has received an application from Unitel Communications Inc. (Unitel), dated 2 March 1994, requesting that the Commission conduct a ballot to allow subscribers to pre-select their preferred long distance service provider. By letter dated 8 March 1994, the Commission advised Unitel that it intended to issue a public notice with respect to the issues raised by its application.
In support of its application, Unitel states that the Commission's expectations and policy objectives, as expressed in Competition in the Provision of Public Long Distance Voice Telephone Services and Related Resale and Sharing Issues, Telecom Decision CRTC 92-12, 12 June 1992 (Decision 92-12), have not been fully met. In Unitel's view, the introduction of long distance competition and the related consumer benefits have been hampered by significant barriers to entry.
One barrier to entry cited by Unitel is the inertia present in many long distance markets. According to Unitel, the source of this inertia is the information barrier that exists for many subscribers, in terms of their knowledge and understanding of competition and competitive alternatives.
A second barrier to entry cited by Unitel is the telephone companies' practice of using their control over the provision of local service to give themselves a preference in the carriage of long distance traffic. Unitel states that the telephone companies currently route all long distance traffic originated by local telephone subscribers over their own long distance networks, except where subscribers have specifically taken action to ensure otherwise. Unitel submits that, in so doing, the telephone companies are granting themselves an undue preference, contrary to section 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act.
According to Unitel, balloting would be an effective tool in helping to overcome the inertia that currently exists in consumer and small business markets and would eliminate the ability of the telephone companies to discriminate unjustly in favour of themselves. Unitel states that, by presenting customers with a clear choice as to service provider, and a single means of selecting one, balloting would assist in the realization of the goals of Decision 92-12.
Unitel is proposing a form of balloting more closely resembling the Australian model than the American model. Ballots would be sent to all residential and business customers in the operating territories of companies under the Commission's jurisdiction where competition in the provision of long distance voice services is permitted. Under Unitel's proposal, customers would be asked to select their preferred service provider, whether telephone company, competing interexchange carrier (IXC) or reseller, and return their ballots within 30 days. Customers who chose a service provider other than the telephone company would have their service switched over within 14 days of the close of the ballot. In those areas where the customer response to the first ballot was less than 65%, a second ballot would be sent to those customers who did not respond to the first. Those customers who did not respond to either the first or second ballot would continue to receive long distance service from the telephone company or, if they have previously selected another service provider, from that service provider.
Under Unitel's proposal, in order for a service provider's name to be eligible to appear on the ballot for a particular serving area, the service provider would have to be capable of offering equal access ("1+" dialing) at the time of the ballot and to have ordered Feature Group D in the relevant class 4 and, where applicable, class 5 areas. A service provider would also have to offer universal termination (i.e., domestic, U.S. and overseas) and serve every customer who selected it.
The cost of the ballot process and the cost of changing customers to another service provider would be shared proportionately among those service providers appearing on the ballot, based on market share results.
Unitel's application also proposes details as to the administration of the balloting process, including spending limits on advertising and restrictions on negative advertising by the telephone companies.
The Commission seeks comment on:
(1) whether there should be a balloting process to permit customers to select a long distance service provider;
(2) if a balloting process is to be conducted:
(a) whether Unitel's proposal would be the most appropriate, or whether some other procedure would be preferable (with details as to any proposed alternatives);
(b) the estimated cost of Unitel's proposal and the cost of any other proposal that may be put forward (with appropriate supporting information); and
(c) whether it would be appropriate to continue contribution discounts for IXCs and resellers.
(3) if a balloting process is not to be conducted, whether there are other approaches to addressing any inertia in the marketplace that would be appropriate. (One such approach might be one-time or periodic billing inserts notifying subscribers of the introduction of competition and the implementation of equal access and describing what steps to take in selecting their preferred carrier.)
1. AGT Limited, BC Tel, Bell Canada, The Island Telephone Company Limited, Manitoba Telephone System, Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company Limited, The New Brunswick Telephone Company Limited, Newfoundland Telephone Company Limited (the telephone companies) and Unitel are made parties to this proceeding. Unitel's application of 2 March 1994 is made part of the record of this proceeding.
2. Unitel's application may be examined at the offices of the CRTC in the following locations:
Central Building
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
1 Promenade du Portage
Room 201
Hull, Quebec
Bank of Commerce Building
1809 Barrington Street
Suite 1007
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Place Montréal Trust
1800 McGill College Avenue
Suite 1920
Montréal, Quebec
Standard Life Centre
121 King Street West
Suite 820
Toronto, Ontario
275 Portage Avenue
Suite 1810
Winnipeg, Manitoba
800 Burrard Street
Suite 1380
Vancouver, British Columbia
A copy of the application may be obtained by any interested person upon request directed to Ms. L. D. Hunt, Executive Director, Regulatory Matters, Unitel Communications Inc., 200 Wellington Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 3C7 (fax: 416-345-2878).
3. Other persons wishing to participate in this proceeding must notify the Commission of their intention to do so by writing to Mr. Allan J. Darling, Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, fax: (819) 953-0795, by 6 May 1994. The Commission will issue a complete list of parties and their mailing addresses.
4. Persons who wish to comment on the issues set out in this Public Notice, but who do not wish to be party to this proceeding, may do so by writing to the Commission by 16 September 1994.
5. Parties other than Unitel may file submissions with the Commission setting out their respective positions on Unitel's application and on the issues raised by this Public Notice. Unitel may file a submission setting out its position on the issues raised by this Public Notice. All such submissions must be filed with the Commission and served on all other parties by 20 May 1994.
6. Parties may address interrogatories to Unitel and to any party filing submissions pursuant to paragraph 5. Any such interrogatories must be filed with the Commission and served on the party or parties in question by 17 June 1994.
7. Unitel and the telephone companies are to file responses to any interrogatories, serving copies on all other parties, by 15 July 1994.
8. Requests by parties for further responses to their interrogatories, specifying in each case why a further response is both relevant and necessary, and requests for public disclosure of information for which confidentiality has been claimed, setting out the reasons for disclosure, must be filed with the Commission and served on the company or companies in question by 22 July 1994.
9. Written responses to requests for further responses and for public disclosure must be filed with the Commission and served on the party making the request by 29 July 1994.
10. The Commission will issue a determination with respect to requests for further responses and for disclosure as soon as possible. The Commission intends to direct that any information to be provided pursuant to that determination be filed with the Commission and served on all parties by 26 August 1994.
11. Parties may file final argument with the Commission, serving copies on all other parties, by 16 September 1994.
12. Parties may file reply argument with the Commission, serving copies on all other parties, by 30 September 1994.
13. Where a document is to be filed or served by a specific date, the document must be actually received, not merely mailed, by that date.
Allan J. Darling
Secretary General

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