Telecom Commission Letter Addressed to Samer Bishay (Iristel Inc.) and Nicholas Kyriakides (netTALK)

Ottawa, 8 June 2016

BY EMAIL

Mr. Samer Bishay
President and CEO, Iristel Inc.
675 Cochrane Drive, 6th Floor, East Tower
Markham, Ontario,  L3R 0B8
regulatory@iristel.ca

Mr. Nicholas Kyriakides
Chief Operating Officer, netTALK
1080 NW 163 Drive
Miami, Florida,  33169
nick@nettalk.com

RE:  Follow-up on the events resulting in the interruption of services in January 2016 and negative impact on Canadians

Dear Sirs,

On 15 January 2016, approximately 27,000 telephone numbers in Canada, used by customers of netTALK, were disconnected by Iristel as a result of a dispute between the two parties.  With the assistance of Commission staff, the issue was resolved on 20 January 2016 and service was restored.  At the time, Commission staff informed Iristel and netTALK that it would be reviewing the events that led to the disconnection and examine whether further actions were required.

While the information obtained throughout the January 2016 dispute is inconclusive as to whether one, or both parties, clearly contravened regulatory obligations, Commission staff is of the view that disconnection in this case could, and should, have been avoided.

Commission staff notes that Iristel informed netTALK in advance that it would cease providing telecommunications services and traffic to netTALK as a result of an ongoing dispute. Despite that information, it does not appear that netTALK immediately took measures to port its numbers to a new underlying carrier. Commission staff believes that netTALK could have minimized the chances of disconnection, and impacting tens of thousands of Canadians, if it had taken actions more quickly and followed the progress more closely.

However, Commission staff also questions Iristel’s decision and actions with respect to the porting. Being aware of netTALK’s clear intentions of porting numbers, Iristel could have been more cooperative in order to avoid the stoppage of service to netTALK’s clients. Instead, Iristel took actions that it ought to have known would cut telephone services to tens of thousands of Canadians.

Commission staff reminds both parties that any dispute, commercial or otherwise, is never a legitimate reason to not abide by any of the Commission’s regulatory requirements.  Nor should a porting request be denied as a way to gain leverage against another party where the impact is to deprive Canadians of service. It does not seem that the parties seriously took into consideration the negative impact of their actions on Canadians.  Canadians, who rely daily on strong and dependable telephone services, must trust that their service providers will make every effort to avoid them becoming hostage to commercial disputes. The behaviour of both Iristel and netTALK, which resulted in Canadian individuals and businesses being without fully functioning telephone services for several days, was unacceptable.

Parties are reminded that the Commission provides services to help parties resolve disputes related to the Broadcasting Act or the Telecommunications Act. In future, parties are to consider Commission staff-assisted mediation to avoid negative consequences on their end-customers arising from disconnection.  At the very least, the parties should have informed the Commission before the event that disconnection was a real possibility.

While Commission staff considers that no further intervention is necessary for this specific dispute, it notes that the Commission is still exploring whether regulations are required in order to address similar situations from occurring again in the future.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Chris Seidl
Executive Director
Telecommunications sector

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