ARCHIVED -  Telecom Order CRTC 98-853

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Telecom Order

Ottawa, 26 August 1998
Telecom Order CRTC 98-853
By letter dated 9 October 1997, Distributel Communications Limited (Distributel) alleged that Bell Canada (Bell) is discriminating against it by refusing to provide Customer Direct Information Delivery Service (CDID). Distributel described CDID as an ancillary Centrex service designed to collect information relating to the activity of a particular Centrex configuration and to deliver it to the customer on a real time, or near real time basis. Distributel indicated that access to CDID would permit it to configure and operate its network in a more effective manner.
File No.: 8622-D11-01/97
1.Distributel requested an Order from the Commission directing Bell to:
(a) immediately provide CDID on the same terms as it is provided to other Bell Centrex customers and thereby cease discriminating against Distributel, or giving an undue preference to other Bell customers and to Bell itself, contrary to section 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act (the Act);
(b) comply with section 25(1) of the Act by filing a general tariff for CDID for Commission approval; and
(c) comply with the conditions established by the Commission in Review of Regulatory Framework, Telecom Decision CRTC 94-19, 16 September 1994 (Decision 94-19) governing the bundling of services.
2.In support of its submission, Distributel provided copies of two letters received from Bell. The first letter, dated 25 October 1995, stated that the roll out of CDID is limited to large Centrex customers who:
(a) have made a significant commitment to the Centrex Platform; and
(b) have significant Digital Multiplex System (DMS) hubbed voice networks, all or a large part of which are leased from the Stentor owner companies.
3.In that same letter, Bell also stated that Distributel's network did not meet the eligibility criteria for the service and proposed that, in lieu of CDID, Distributel subscribe to daily transfer of Station Message Detail Recording (SMDR). SMDR is a Centrex service option which provides customers with details on all interexchange calls placed from their organizations' locations.
4.The second letter, dated 27 June 1997, stated that the reason Distributel cannot obtain CDID from Bell is because the majority of Distributel's network resides with alternate carriers. Bell stated that it would be pleased to offer the service to Distributel provided its voice network was switched to Bell.
i) The Need for a Tariff
5.Distributel argued that CDID, an important element of Bell's Centrex service, is a service incidental to the business of providing telecommunications services and is therefore captured under section 23 of the Act.
6.Distributel submitted that a tariff for CDID should be filed and approved by the Commission either in a separate tariff or as part of another tariffed service, pursuant to section 25 of the Act. Distributel argued that the tariff must stipulate what CDID is, and when it is available in order to avoid the unjust discrimination which currently exists in the case of Distributel and the prejudice that results to other competitors from Bell's linking of a free local service feature with the customer's choice of long distance carrier.
7.In its comments, dated 20 November 1997, Bell submitted that CDID is neither an integral part of the DMS switch or the Centrex software package provided by the manufacturer nor is it co-located with the DMS switch. Bell argued that CDID is not a Centrex feature; rather that the most accurate way to describe CDID would be that it allows an operations function to be performed with respect to network services.
8.Bell stated that it has received very few requests from customers, including Distributel, to introduce CDID on a chargeable basis for use in purely local or competitively-provided interexchange network situations. Bell stated that it had determined that the deployment of CDID on this basis was not justified.
9.In its reply, dated 26 November 1997, Distributel submitted that CDID, as its name suggests, provides customers direct access to information about their network configuration on a real time or near real time basis. Distributel argued that CDID is a service to the customer, not to Bell.
10.Distributel replied that the reason Bell did not receive numerous requests for CDID is probably because Bell provides it at no charge to a select group of customers who would be unlikely to make public this arrangement when to do so might be counter to their interests. Distributel added that if CDID was tariffed, Bell would likely receive more requests for the service, as it is, in Bell's own words, a valuable tool for any large Centrex customer.
ii) Undue Preference
11.Distributel argued that by providing CDID only to Centrex customers who use Bell's interexchange services, Bell grants both those customers and itself an undue preference contrary to subsection 27(2) of the Act.
12.Bell indicated that it deploys CDID to a very limited number of customers whose intercity networks are sufficiently large to warrant the associated operations expense. Bell stated that only where a customer has a Bell-provided intercity network of this size does Bell realize any significant cost savings justifying the deployment of CDID.
13.Bell submitted that, since the vast majority of Distributel's network is provided by competitive carriers, the deployment of CDID on Distributel's network is not economically viable for Bell.
14.Bell submitted that should it be obliged to make CDID available to customers who predominantly subscribe to competitive carriers' network services, this would confer an undue advantage on those customers at the expense of Bell and its other network customers, since Bell and/or these other customers would be subsidizing the cost associated with deploying CDID under these circumstances.
15.Distributel replied that the solution to Bell's concern about the economic viability of providing CDID is to charge all customers who receive CDID a compensatory rate approved by the Commission.
16.Distributel submitted that Bell's provision of CDID only to large Centrex customers who have a significant portion of their network and toll traffic on the Bell network grants Bell an undue preference vis-à-vis its interexchange competitors who also provide service to large Centrex customers. Distributel argued that a large Centrex customer with a significant interexchange network has a significant incentive to rely on Bell for interexchange services because it is the only way to obtain CDID.
17.Distributel also submitted that by denying competitors like Distributel access to CDID, Bell impairs their ability to configure and operate their networks as efficiently as possible. As a result, robust competition is inhibited and Bell is granted an undue preference in the provision of interexchange services, contrary to subsection 27(2) of the Act.
iii) Bundling Considerations
18.Distributel argued that Bell's practice of combining CDID, which is a Utility Segment service, with Competitive Segment services is contrary to the Commission's bundling rules set out in Decision 94-19.
19.The Commission notes that SMDR, which Bell offers as an alternative to CDID, is a Centrex service option which provides customers with details of all interexchange calls placed from their organizations' locations. This data is only available on the following day for most week days and a longer delay is experienced over the week-ends. SMDR is an optional feature contained in Bell's Centrex III Service tariff and is used primarily by customers for intra-customer billing purposes.
20.The Commission notes that CDID provides information on both local and interexchange communications, is available on a real-time basis and is available solely to select Centrex customers free of charge. As noted above, Bell's SMDR service, which offers similar, but less extensive information on a less immediate basis, is tariffed as an option in the Centrex tariff. The Commission considers that CDID is simply a more valuable Centrex feature. In these circumstances, the Commission is of the view that CDID is a telecommunications service within the meaning of the Act, and accordingly, must be tariffed pursuant to section 25. In the Commission's view, CDID, characterized by Bell as a value-added premium service used to assist customers in the design and management of their network, should properly be considered as an optional feature of Centrex service.
21.The Commission also considers that Centrex customers who benefit from CDID receive a superior quality of service relative to other Centrex customers who have to rely on SMDR. In its provision of CDID, Bell offers a valuable network management tool to those large Centrex customers who also rely on Bell to carry their interexchange traffic. In doing so, the Commission considers that Bell uses CDID to attempt to retain its Centrex customers on its toll network. The Commission is of the view that in providing CDID to only those customers using Bell's interexchange services, Bell confers an undue preference on itself.
22.From the customer's perspective, the Commission considers that those Bell Centrex customers who have access to CDID benefit from a superior quality of service from Bell. The customer that has access to CDID can monitor the volume and routing of local and interexchange traffic passing through the Centrex switch, obtain hourly status reports, alarm monitoring for timely response to network problems, alarm history reports, regular traffic reports, etc. Without CDID, a Centrex customer must rely on SMDR to obtain a fraction of the benefits gained from the information compiled through CDID. The Commission is of the view that this situation also results in unjust discrimination against those customers which do not obtain the majority of their interexchange services from Bell.
23.In light of the above, the Commission considers that, in order to eliminate the potential for undue preference or unjust discrimination, CDID must be offered on a tariffed basis. The CDID tariff should include a description of the service, the criteria used to determine which customers are able to subscribe to the service and the charge for the service (or a statement specifying that there is no charge for the service, if that is the case).
24.The Commission notes Distributel's concern regarding the bundling of CDID, which it calls a Utility Segment service, with Competitive Segment services. In view of the Commission's conclusions in this decision, this issue need not be dealt with in this case.
25.The Commission directs that, should Bell wish to continue to provide CDID, it must file proposed tariff revisions within 45 days outlining, among other things, the nature of the service and the eligibility criteria for the service, providing support for any such criteria that is in accord with this decision.
Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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