ARCHIVED - Telecom Commission Letter Addressed to Philippe Gauvin (Bell Canada)
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Ottawa, 11 October 2018
Our references: 8740-B2-201606873, 8740-B2-201703447, 8740-C6-201606831, 8740-M59-201606980, 8740-R28-201606808, 8740-S22-201606823, 8740-S9-201606790, 8740-T66-201606815, 8740-V3-201606849, 8740-E17-201610262
Mr. Philippe Gauvin
Assistant General Counsel
160 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2C4
Dear Mr. Gauvin:
RE: Commission determination regarding disclosure of financial impact information
By letter dated 10 August 2018, Bell Canada requested a Commission determination regarding the public disclosure of the alleged financial impact resulting from various cost adjustments to services, in response to requests for information in the tariff proceeding for aggregated wholesale high-speed access (HSA) services initiated by Telecom Order CRTC 2016-396 Footnote1 and Telecom Order CRTC 2016-448 Footnote2 The information in question was provided in confidence in paragraph 61 Footnote3 of the cover letter to Bell Canada’s responses to requests for information dated 18 May 2018.
Requests for disclosure of the above noted information were filed on 8 June 2018 by the Canadian Network Operators Consortium Inc. (CNOC) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). Among other arguments, CNOC submitted that the financial impact information should be disclosed since the calculation relies on the annual wholesale demand forecasts, which must be disclosed pursuant to existing disclosure guidelines Footnote4 , while PIAC submitted that disclosure would allow public assessment of whether consumers would be better off with lower rates.
Bell Canada submitted that disclosure of the information would encourage its wholesale customers to speculate as to the potential credit they may receive and estimate the market share and credits due to their competitors. This may allow its wholesale customers insight into the confidential off-tariff arrangements that other wholesale customers may have secured, thereby prejudicing the company’s financial position and negatively affecting contractual negotiations with its wholesale customers.
Bell Canada also stated that should the Commission view that public disclosure was warranted, it was prepared to instead withdraw the entire sentence containing the confidential figure and thus have it not form part of the evidentiary record.
On 17 August 2018, CNOC responded that individual wholesale customers will not be able to estimate how much of the company’s wholesale business they represent given that not all wholesale customers have access to off-tariff rates. Furthermore, CNOC objected to Bell Canada’s proposal to withdraw the information if it does not obtain a Commission determination that it deems satisfactory, as withdrawal would reduce the quality and extent of information available on the record of the relevant proceedings.
On 20 August 2018, Bell Canada submitted that the quality and extent of information placed on the record of a proceeding will be enhanced if an applicant a) knows that its confidential information may be withdrawn, rather than publicly disclosed against its wishes, b) is able to provide the fullest evidence it can to support its position, without prospect of forceful disclosure of its confidential information, and c) can choose to release the information on the public record if, in the applicant’s view, harm of public disclosure is more than offset by the evidentiary impact of the previously confidential evidence.
Commission’s analysis and determinations
In determining whether disclosure of information properly designated as confidential is in the public interest, the Commission must consider whether its disclosure would likely result in specific direct harm and whether that harm outweighs the public interest in disclosureFootnote5
In assessing whether the disclosure of the financial impact information at issue would result in specific direct harm as described by Bell Canada, the Commission considers that the absence of detailed off-tariff rate and demand information used to calculate the financial impact makes it impossible for any wholesale customer to gain insight into the confidential off-tariff arrangements that other wholesale customers may have secured. In addition, any assessment of market share and potential rebates would, in absence of information as to the off-tariff rates and counts of subscribers and usage by wholesale customers, be highly speculative.
In light of the above, the Commission is not persuaded that any specific direct harm would likely result from disclosure of the information. Accordingly, the Commission denies Bell Canada’s request for confidentiality.
With regards to Bell Canada’s request to withdraw the financial impact information if its request for confidentiality is rejected, the Commission highlights that, in light of its powers under section 37 of the Telecommunications Act, it is the Commission that determines that information is needed or relevant to a given proceeding. As such, the matter to be determined is whether the Commission should exercise its discretion and permit Bell Canada to remove the impugned information from the relevant records. In this regard, the Commission notes that the financial dollar impact was voluntarily provided by Bell Canada rather than in response to a specific Commission question. Moreover, since the record provided by Bell Canada already discloses the order of magnitude of investments in question (i.e., reference to its $100M fibre deployment in Oshawa), this information is sufficient for parties to get an approximate measure of the financial impact. Therefore, the Commission considers that there is no need to retain the impugned information on the record of the relevant proceedings.
In the circumstances and in light of the reasons set out above, Commission considers it appropriate to allow Bell Canada to remove the impugned data and make the resulting changes to the paragraph in its cover letter.
Bell Canada is to file its revised submission forthwith, serving copies to the Commission and all parties of the proceeding.
Original signed by
Lyne Renaud, CRTC, email@example.com
Abderrahman El Fatihi, CRTC, firstname.lastname@example.org;
David Mah, CRTC, email@example.com;
Ramin Adim, CRTC, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Matthew Alexander, CRTC, email@example.com;
Marc Pilon, CRTC, firstname.lastname@example.org
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