Telecom Decision CRTC 2015-245
Ottawa, 9 June 2015
File number: 8638-T151-201501718
TéliPhone Navigata-Westel Communication Inc. - Review of Toll-Free Origination Service agreement with Northwestel Inc.
The Commission denies an application from TéliPhone Navigata-Westel Communication Inc. requesting that its Toll-Free Origination Service agreement with Northwestel be amended retroactively.
- Northwestel Inc.’s (Northwestel) Toll-Free Origination Service (TFOS) is used by toll-free service providers to provide toll-free calling. Toll-free service, also known as 800 service, enables customers to make long distance telephone calls without incurring long distance charges. TéliPhone Navigata-Westel Communication Inc. (TNW) is a service provider that subscribes to Northwestel’s TFOS.
- On 27 July 2011, Northwestel filed an application, which it revised on 1 August 2011, requesting that the Commission approve, pursuant to section 29 of the Telecommunications Act (the Act),Footnote 1 three 800 service origination agreements that had previously been executed in 2007. One of these agreements was between Northwestel and Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel).Footnote 2 This agreement included minimum monthly commitments of minutes of eligible calls (minimum monthly commitments). The other two agreements were with Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. (Primus) and Rogers Cable Communications Inc. (RCCI).
- In Telecom Order 2012-151, the Commission approved, for a period of 120 days, the agreements between Northwestel and each of RCCI and SaskTel, which included confidential rates, and an amendment to an agreement between Northwestel and Bell Canada. The Commission directed Northwestel to file for the Commission's approval, by no later than 75 days from the date of the order, newly executed 800 service origination agreements with each of RCCI and SaskTel, as well as the amendment to the agreement with Bell Canada, all with future effective dates. In Telecom Order 2012-465, the Commission approved on an interim basis the newly executed agreements, including the one with Navigata Communications 2009 Inc., which Northwestel proposed to take effect on 1 September 2012. The Commission approved the agreements on a final basis in Telecom Order 2012-642.
- Following the issuance of Telecom Order 2012-151, TELUS Communications Company filed an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal (the Court or FCA) claiming that approval of agreements under section 29 of the Act did not exempt Northwestel from the requirements of section 25 of the ActFootnote 3 and, therefore, the amounts to be paid by the carriers to Northwestel must be included in a tariff that is filed under section 25 of the Act. In its ruling,Footnote 4 the Court found that the Commission did not err in determining that parties only needed approval of the agreements, not approval of tariffs as well. The Court stated that the Commission should be given deference in determining whether section 25 or section 29 of the Act will apply in any particular situation.
- Subsequent to the Court’s decision, in Telecom Decision 2013-613, the Commission determined, among other things, that the rates set out in Northwestel’s 800 service origination agreement with Globility Communications Corporation (Globility) constituted compensation for the provision of telecommunications services and must be the subject of prior Commission approval pursuant to a tariff under section 25 of the Act.
Show cause proceeding
- Given its determination in Telecom Decision 2013-613 that the rates Northwestel charged Globility for 800 service origination were subject to prior Commission approval pursuant to a tariff, the Commission launched a show cause proceeding in Telecom Notice of Consultation 2013-614. As part of the public proceeding, the Commission directed Northwestel to show cause why the applicable rates for its 800 service origination arrangements provided via agreements with other carriers (including Navigata Communications Inc.) should not also be subject to a Commission-approved tariff.
- In response, Northwestel filed for Commission approval Tariff Notice 903,Footnote 5 in which it provided a proposed TFOS tariff, supported by cost studies. Northwestel proposed to charge all carriers the same tariffed rates, which did not include minimum monthly commitments. As such, its TFOS rates, terms, and conditions would be subject to Commission approval under section 25 of the Act.
- In Telecom Order 2014-45, the Commission approved Tariff Notice 903 on an interim basis, effective 6 February 2014.
- In Telecom Decision 2015-244, also issued today, the Commission approved Tariff Notice 903 on a final basis. The Commission also ratified the rates that Northwestel had charged other carriers otherwise than in accordance with an approved tariff up to the date that Telecom Order 2014-45 was issued.
- The Commission received an application from TNW, dated 16 February 2015, requesting that the Commission review its 800 service origination agreement with Northwestel to retroactively re-price the rates in the agreement so that they match the tariffed rates established in Tariff Notice 903, and to nullify the minimum monthly commitments contained in the agreement.
- The Commission received interventions regarding TNW’s application from Northwestel. The public record of this proceeding, which closed on 23 March 2015, is available on the Commission’s website at www.crtc.gc.ca or by using the file number provided above.
Should the Commission retroactively amend the 800 service origination agreement between TNW and Northwestel?
- TNW stated that the agreement had been executed pending approval of the rates set out therein. It argued that it was disadvantaged due to Northwestel’s delay in obtaining approval of the tariffs. Specifically, it was required to pay the higher rates set out in the agreement and charged by Northwestel from 1 September 2012 (the effective date of the agreement) to 5 February 2014 (the day before Tariff Notice 903, which included the lower TFOS rates, was approved on an interim basis).
- TNW argued that the agreement was interim and that, as a result, the rates set out in it should be retroactively adjusted to the tariffed rates established in Telecom Order 2014-45. TNW also argued that the minimum monthly commitments set out in the agreement were not included in the approved tariff and should therefore be nullified in the agreement.
- Northwestel submitted that the Commission should deny TNW’s application, arguing that the application is an attempt by TNW to evade and delay payment of balances owed to Northwestel under the 800 service origination agreement. Northwestel submitted that the agreement had been approved on a final basis in Telecom Order 2012-642, and was therefore in effect before the rates in Tariff Notice 903 came into effect on 6 February 2014.
- Northwestel further argued that TNW had not been treated unfairly or unjustly; all other carriers that had 800 service origination agreements in 2012 also had minimum monthly commitments, and all had respected these commitments until the new TFOS tariff took effect on 6 February 2014.
Commission’s analysis and determinations
- As noted by Northwestel, the agreement in question was approved on a final basis in Telecom Order 2012-642, effective 1 September 2012. As of that date, the rates, terms, and conditions contained in the agreement, including the minimum monthly commitments, were final. Accordingly, the Commission disagrees with TNW’s submission that the agreement was interim.
- If TNW had an issue with the rates it had negotiated on a commercial basis with Northwestel, it could have intervened in the proceeding in which the Commission considered the agreement. Further, if TNW had disagreed with the Commission’s decision to approve the agreement on a final basis, it could have challenged the decision at that time.
- The Commission disagrees with TNW’s claim that Northwestel had delayed obtaining tariff approval. At the time the agreement was signed, there was no need for Commission-approved tariffs, because regulatory oversight of 800 service origination arrangements was limited to the disposition of agreements filed and approved pursuant to section 29 of the Act. It was only in Telecom Decision 2013-613 that the Commission reconsidered the matter and concluded that rates, terms, and conditions with respect to 800 service origination should be the subject of Commission approval pursuant to a tariff under section 25 of the Act. Northwestel duly filed its proposed tariff application within 30 days of the date of that decision, as directed.
- Lastly, the issue of ratification was canvassed in the proceeding to consider Tariff Notice 903; however, TNW did not intervene in that proceeding. As noted above, the Commission has ratified all rates charged by Northwestel for TFOS otherwise than in accordance with a Commission-approved tariff.
- In light of the above, the Commission denies TNW’s application.
- Northwestel Inc. - Toll-Free Origination Service, Telecom Decision CRTC 2015-244, 9 June 2015
- Telecom Order CRTC 2014-45, 6 February 2014
- Northwestel Inc. - Applicable rates for 800 service origination arrangements, Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-614, 15 November 2013; as amended by Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-614-1, 5 December 2013
- Northwestel Inc. - 800 service origination agreements and arrangements, Telecom Decision CRTC 2013-613, 15 November 2013
- Northwestel Inc. - Interconnection and Service Agreements, Telecom Order CRTC 2012-642, 23 November 2012
- Telecom Order CRTC 2012-465, 29 August 2012
- Northwestel Inc. - Interconnection and Service Agreements, Telecom Order CRTC 2012-151, 14 March 2012
- Footnote 1
Section 29 of the Act states that “[no] Canadian carrier shall, without the prior approval of the Commission, give effect to any agreement or arrangement, whether oral or written, with another telecommunications common carrier respecting (a) the interchange of telecommunications by means of their telecommunications facilities; (b) the management or operation of either or both of their facilities or any other facilities with which either or both are connected; or (c) the apportionment of rates or revenues between the carriers.”
- Footnote 2
At the time the original agreement was signed, SaskTel operated Navigata Communications Ltd. Subsequently, SaskTel disposed of its ownership and the agreement was assigned to Navigata Communications 2009 Inc., later Navigata Communications Inc.
- Footnote 3
Section 25 of the Act states, among other things, that “[no] Canadian carrier shall provide a telecommunications service except in accordance with a tariff filed with and approved by the Commission that specifies the rate or the maximum or minimum rate, or both, to be charged for the service.”
- Footnote 4
TELUS Communications Company v. Northwestel Inc., Bell Canada, Rogers Cable Communications Inc., Saskatchewan Telecommunications and Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc., 2013 FCA 44
- Footnote 5
As amended by Tariff Notice 903A.
- Date modified: