ARCHIVED - Telecom Decision CRTC 2003-25

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Telecom Decision CRTC 2003-25

Ottawa, 25 April 2003

TELUS Communications Inc.

Reference: TCBC Tariff Notice 4187

Withdrawal of service from certain marine public radiotelephone stations

In this decision, the Commission approves an application by TELUS Communications Inc. (TCI) to withdraw V.H.F. marine public radiotelephone service from certain stations that are primarily located in the southern coastal regions of British Columbia.

The Commission considers that there are viable, affordable alternative services available in the areas where the service is being withdrawn. Approval of the application does not affect parties' ability to communicate with the Coast Guard in emergencies.

The Commission directs TCI to notify subscribers and to issue a public notification or press release before the withdrawal of service from the stations takes effect.


The Commission received an application by TELUS Communications Inc. (TCI) dated 22 October 2002, to revise TELUS Communications (B.C.) Inc. (TCBC) General Tariff, item 238, V.H.F. Marine Public Radiotelephone Stations (marine radiotelephone service), in order to withdraw the service from certain locations (stations):


Big Bay

Bowen Island

Campbell River

Elk Falls

Hood Point

Jordan River

Madeira Park

Prince Rupert

Qualicum Beach

Saltspring Island

Sarah Point


Smith Hill







TCI stated that these stations were located in areas where cellular service is available and, with the exception of Prince Rupert, they were located primarily in the southern coastal region of British Columbia. TCI noted that it had not proposed to remove marine radiotelephone service from any stations in the northern or more remote parts of the province where service alternatives were not as established.


TCI further proposed to withdraw marine radiotelephone service from the following stations for which it stated there were fewer alternative service options. TCI submitted that these stations had limited or no associated usage.

· Hopkins Point: TCI stated that the only calls recorded since November 2000 were in the month of September 2001 and that mobile satellite service was an option in this area.

· Winter Harbour: TCI stated that no calling had been recorded since November 2000 and that mobile satellite and Autotel options were available in this area.

· Pachena Point: TCI stated that its records showed limited calling with a total of 134 calls during the period from September 2001 to September 2002. TCI indicated that only 44 of those calls were recorded in 2002 and that mobile satellite and Autotel options were available. TCI further stated that there was also overlapping marine radiotelephone service coverage available from the nearby Bamfield station, and nearby cellular coverage at Ucluelet.

· Westham Island: TCI stated that service had never been provided at this location.


TCI submitted that no private radio-to-radio traffic would be impacted by the proposed changes.


TCI stated, by way of background, that marine radiotelephone service, originally installed in the 1950's, provided access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for some commercial marine operators and pleasure craft in British Columbia's coastal waters and still utilized manual technology which was current at the time it was installed. The system featured manual channel selection, operator-assisted call completion, and push-to-talk radio operation. TCI stated that marine radiotelephone service was not a substitute for emergency communications that would continue to be provided by the Canadian Coast Guard.


TCI noted that, in BC TEL Tariff Notice (TN) 3557, dated 29 November 1996, it had applied to restrict marine radiotelephone service to existing users in British Columbia.


TCI further noted that in Telecom Order CRTC 97-889, 26 June 1997, the Commission denied the proposed destandardization of the V.H.F. marine radiotelephone service. The Commission considered that, at that time, alternate services did not address the requirements of many customers.


TCI stated that the reasons it previously provided in TN 3557 in support of the proposed destandardization of marine radiotelephone service are more applicable at this time. TCI argued that the obsolete manufacturer-discontinued technology and associated manual processes required to provide the service were increasingly more difficult and costly to maintain. TCI further stated that the customer base associated with the service continued to decline and, since the submission of TN 3557, the total marine radiotelephone service subscriber base had decreased from approximately 3,700 to 1,100 customers, province-wide. TCI indicated that the recorded usage of the service was low and, in the case of some customers, only occasional.


TCI submitted that the availability of viable service alternatives, particularly cellular service in the southern part of the province, had continued to expand since TN 3557. TCI stated that other viable service alternatives for some marine radiotelephone service customers, particularly those in the southern coastal region, included Autotel, a VHF land-based radio service, and Mike, a digital cellular phone service. TCI also stated that Rogers AT&T Wireless currently provided cellular service in most areas of British Columbia where cellular service was provided by TCI, including the southern coastal region.



By letter dated 22 October 2002, TCI notified the existing marine radiotelephone service customers of its plan to withdraw service from certain stations and informed the customers that they could forward any comments on TN 4187 to the Commission by 25 November 2002.


Three customers provided comments: Julian B. Smith, by letter dated 30 October 2002, Holly Pratt Lehmann, by letter dated 4 November 2002 and Terry Jacks, by letter dated 14 November 2002. TCI submitted reply comments dated 4 December 2002.

Interveners' comments


Ms. Lehmann and Mr. Smith disputed TCI's statement that cellular service served as a viable alternative to marine radiotelephone service, particularly with regard to coverage and reliability. Mr. Smith stated that cellular service was "irregular". Ms. Lehmann submitted that cellular phones did not work in remote areas.


Ms. Lehmann indicated that TCI's marine radiotelephone service provided her with "a modicum of safety, security, and equanimity".


Mr. Smith questioned whether the monthly rate would decline if the Commission were to allow the number of marine radiotelephone service stations to be reduced as proposed.


Mr. Jacks stated that he would find the proposed withdrawal of certain stations "extremely inconvenient" since he did not have any other form of communication on his motor vessel.

TCI's reply


TCI stated that it was no longer practical, reasonable or economically viable to continue to maintain marine radiotelephone service.


TCI stated that it had been its experience that customers only used their marine radiotelephone service as a secondary service, or last resort, when cellular service was out of range. TCI suggested that this might explain why only three customers out of the existing 1,100 had provided written comments to the Commission regarding TN 4187.


TCI stated that it acknowledged that cellular coverage did not provide an exact one-to-one replacement of marine radiotelephone service coverage but that in many areas, particularly in the southern coastal region of British Columbia, there was a complete overlap of these services due to the large number of cellular sites that had been deployed over recent years. TCI further stated that the difference in coverage was mainly attributable to the fact that marine radiotelephone service operated with fewer sites using V.H.F. frequencies at higher transmit power levels, while cellular systems operated at 800 MHz with lower transmit power levels with more cell sites. TCI noted that there were some locations where only V.H.F. coverage existed and, conversely, others with only cellular coverage. TCI stated that, while neither service could guarantee 100% coverage of a particular service area, both services were intended for mobile applications where users had the option of moving closer to a serving site if required.


TCI stated that it had provided Ms. Lehmann with the names of six cellular sites in the Sechelt/Narrows Inlet area that would be of interest to her. TCI also stated that it had suggested to Ms. Lehmann that she could increase the coverage possible from conventional cellular service by using a three-watt cellular radio with an external antenna, which would more closely resemble the current marine radiotelephone system configuration.


TCI stated, with respect to Ms. Lehmann's reference that marine radiotelephone service provided her with a "modicum of safety, security and equanimity" that it was not proposing to remove marine radiotelephone stations in areas where there were limited alternatives. TCI further stated that where cellular service was not available as a viable option, TELUS Autotel service or any satellite service is an alternative that provided complete coverage.


TCI noted that, with regard to marine emergencies, the Canadian Coast Guard provided continuous emergency assistance and rescue operations via Coast Guard Marine Communication & Traffic Service Officers. TCI further noted that, on the Coast Guard's current web site, it recommended that, "Vessels should monitor V.H.F. Channel 16 to the greatest practical extent while at sea. Keeping watch on this channel usually provides both you and other mariners with the best opportunity to obtain assistance as quickly as possible."


TCI, in reply to Mr. Smith's question of the monthly rate being reduced, stated that, as argued in TN 4187, the reasons for withdrawing certain marine radiotelephone stations were based on declining demand and usage, obsolete technology, and high costs associated with operating and maintaining the service, resulting in the service being non-compensatory. TCI noted that it had not revised the rates for this service since 1997 and argued that it would be required to raise rates significantly in order to recover the costs associated with ongoing provisioning of this service, which would further reduce demand.

Commission analysis and determination


The Commission notes that the removal of the stations that are the subject of this application affects parties' ability to access the PSTN and will not affect radio-to-radio communication.


The Commission further notes that the application does not affect parties' ability to communicate directly with the Coast Guard in emergencies.


The Commission considers that in the southern coastal region of British Columbia and in the area of Prince Rupert, there are viable, affordable alternative services to marine radiotelephone service.


The Commission further considers that for the stations at Hopkins Point, Winter Harbour, Pachena Point and Westham Island, given the limited usage of marine radiotelephone service from those stations together with the alternative services that are available, withdrawal of marine radiotelephone service is appropriate.


In light of the above, the Commission approves the application by TCI to withdraw the marine public radiotelephone stations listed in paragraphs 1 and 3 above.


The Commission directs TCI to notify subscribers that approval has been received to withdraw service from the stations noted above and to issue a public notification or press release to that effect at least 60 days before service is to cease from these stations.

Secretary General

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Date Modified: 2003-04-25

Date modified: