Telecom - Commission Letter addressed to the Distribution List
Ottawa, 23 November 2021
Our reference: 1011-NOC2020-0178
Subject: Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2020-178 - Request for further information from interveners
Replies in the above-noted proceeding were due on 12 October 2021. However, in reviewing information filed on the record by interveners, it appears to Commission staff that requests for further information are warranted. See the appendix attached for the list of questions.
Further, some material was placed on the record of this proceeding by various interveners after the intervention deadline. You may respond to these materials as part of your response to this request for information.
- Brooke Tel and Ztar/Petro-Canada’s responses to requests for information issued on 2 August 2021,
- focus group results presented by Deafness Advocacy Association Nova Scotia (DAANS), Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf (NLAD) and Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD), [collectively, DHH Coalition],
- DHH coalition’s request that the Commission convene an accessibility working group similar to the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee (CISC), and
- DWCC et al.’s request that the Commission impose mandatory promotional measures for accessibility plans similar to the measures set out in TRP 2021-130 at paragraphs 561 and 562. Footnote1
Responses to these questions are required no later than 10 December 2021.
Interveners may comment on those responses by no later than 17 December 2021.
As set out in section 39 of the Telecommunications Act and in Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin CRTC 2010-961, Procedures for filing confidential information and requesting its disclosure in Commission proceedings, persons may designate certain information as confidential. A person designating information as confidential must provide a detailed explanation on why the designated information is confidential and why its disclosure would not be in the public interest, including why the specific direct harm that would be likely to result from the disclosure would outweigh the public interest in disclosure. Furthermore, a person designating information as confidential must either file an abridged version of the document omitting only the information designated as confidential or provide reasons why an abridged version cannot be filed.
For further information on how to submit your response, see the CRTC’s web page Submitting applications and other documents to the CRTC using My CRTC Account. If you have any questions, please contact Guillaume Leclerc, Senior Policy Analyst, Social and Consumer Policy, at email@example.com.
Director, Social and Consumer Policy
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Appendix – Request for further information
Questions for all interveners
Q1. Requiring Proof of Eligibility
Based on the record of this proceeding, it appears that some service providers require persons with disabilities to demonstrate their eligibility for accessibility plans or discounts beyond self-identification (e.g., proof of membership in a disability organization, medical certificate).
This would appear to be inconsistent with other Commission policies relating to accessibility. For instance, under the Wireless Code, Internet Code and Television Service Provider Code, persons with disabilities simply need to self-identify to the service provider in order to be eligible for an extended trial period.Footnote2 Similarly, persons with hearing or speech-related disabilities simply need to self-certify in order to become registered users of Video Relay Service.Footnote3 It could also be considered inconsistent with the scheme of the Accessible Canada Act,Footnote4 which places persons with disabilities at the centre of solutions to remove barriers.
Please address, with supporting rationale, whether the Commission should further clarify the way in which Wireless Service Providers may determine eligibility for accessible wireless services.
Q2. Undue or Unreasonable Disadvantage
Some accessibility groups have submitted that persons with disabilities, and in particular those who use sign language, are disadvantaged compared to other subscribers. Accessibility groups have submitted that this is for various reasons.
For instance, they have submitted that sign language users are generally unable to make use of the voice component of their wireless plans and that video communication, using wireless data, may not be possible to the same extent as voice communication without incurring additional charges or facing data speed throttling (i.e., a form of technical internet traffic management practice [ITMP]) past a certain point, which may prevent full usage of video communication.
Accessibility groups have further raised the possibility that a sign language user that has reached their data limit may be unable to make a call to 9-1-1 using video relay service without incurring additional charges.
Please address whether other persons with disabilities are subject to a disadvantage in the provision of mobile wireless services. Include details on the nature of the disadvantage and how it may impact their experience.
Further, in the event that the Commission were to determine that accessibility groups have established that persons with disabilities are subject to a disadvantage in the provision of mobile wireless services as a result of the above, explain, with supporting rationale, why this disadvantage should or should not be considered undue or unreasonable.
You may wish to refer to the Commission’s ITMP FrameworkFootnote5 and address whether:
- an ITMP is designed to address a specific technical need or purpose, and nothing else;
- an ITMP results in discrimination or preference as little as reasonably possible;
- any harm to the end-user (i.e., the person with a disability), or any other person is as little as reasonably possible; and
- network investment or economic approaches alone would not reasonably address the need and effectively achieve the same purpose as the ITMP.
Q3. Throttling Data Speed
In light of the arguments presented in the previous question, should the Commission find an undue or unreasonable disadvantage, an appropriate remedy may be required.
For customers subscribing to accessibility plans with unlimited data, would requiring that service providers not throttle the data service of these customers below a specific speed threshold once their allotment of full speed data has been used be an appropriate remedy? If so, how should that speed threshold be set?
For example, SRV Canada VRS, which provides video relay service in Canada, recommends a minimum data transmission speed of 5 Megabits per second upload and 3 Megabits per second download for use of their video-based service.Footnote6
Provide appropriate rationale for your response.
If you do not consider that this would be an appropriate remedy, please propose an alternate remedy, with supporting rationale.
Q4. Zero-rating and the Commission’s Differential Pricing Practices Framework
Some parties have proposed that the Commission mandate video relay service, or other services, not to count against the data caps of customers with disabilities (i.e., that use of those services be “zero-rated”). Other parties have suggested that mandatory zero-rating of services would be inconsistent with the Commission’s Differential Pricing Practices Framework.Footnote7
Please address these issues, with supporting rationale.
In TRP 2021-130,Footnote8 the Commission was unable to find, as a question of fact, that competition alone is sufficient to protect the interests of users of retail mobile wireless services; however, it went on to find that continued retail forbearance was consistent with the policy objectives of the Act. Ultimately, the Commission determined that it was preferable that the interests of users be met through market forces accompanied by targeted wholesale and retail regulatory measures, rather than through broad-based retail regulation.
In that decision, the Commission also noted that it could make additional findings with respect to retail forbearance in the present proceeding if the record justified it. In these circumstances, is it necessary for the Commission to reassert any currently forborne powers in order to ensure that the interests of persons with disabilities are met? Explain why or why not with reference to how the proposed course of action would be consistent with the policy objectives.
Questions for Wireless Service Providers
Q6. Adoption of Accessibility Plans and/or Discounts
Please file the current number of customers that subscribe to an accessibility plan or who benefit from any type of discount related to accessibility. In the event that this is the sort of information you would seek to designate as confidential, please include in your response an indication of the general level of penetration of those types of plans/discounts that could be placed on the public record.
Q7. Zero-rating of VRS
For service providers who do not currently zero-rate VRS, please address the feasibility of doing so. Further, interveners on the record indicated concerns related to 9-1-1 VRS calls, please address the feasibility of zero-rating these calls specifically.
Question for DWCC et al.
Q8. CAD-ASC’s Technology Accessibility for Canadians with Communication Disabilities Report
Along with your intervention, you filed the report A Stark Reality: Wireless Accessibility Issues and Challenges for Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Canadians. This report further references an external report produced by CAD-ASC entitled Technology Accessibility for Canadians with Communication Disabilities. As noted by the CWTA in their reply comment, no party has submitted this report on the record of the proceeding. Please note that, if you wish for the Commission to be able to assess, and potentially rely upon, the contents of this report, it should be filed on the record of the proceeding, or a publicly and easily accessible link should be provided.
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