Telecom - Commission Letter addressed to Rick Wind (Government of the Northwest Territories)

Ottawa, 25 January 2022

Our reference: 8646-N1-202108175


Rick Wind
Government Chief Information Officer, Department of Finance
Government of the Northwest Territories
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2L9

Subject: Part 1 application filed by Northwestel Inc. dated 6 December 2021 – Procedural request by the Government of the Northwest Territories

Dear Rick Wind:

On 17 January 2022, the Commission received a procedural letter from the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) requesting:

  1. Revised timeline: Timeline with respect to Requests for Information (RFIs) issued on 11 January 2022 be revised to provide for intermediate steps by which interested parties may seek disclosure of information submitted in response to such RFIs that is designated as confidential, and;
  2. Guidance on information to be designated as confidential: Commission staff identify which items requested in the RFIs correspond to examples listed in the Appendix to Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin CRTC 2010-961 (Bulletin), to provide guidance to interested parties as to which responses may be appropriately designated as confidential.

On 19 January 2022 the Commission received correspondence from SSi Canada (“SSi”), in which it commented on the requests made by GNWT. SSi indicated that it supports the first procedural request since, in its view, the current process deprives interested parties of an opportunity to provide reasons why any information claimed as confidential should be disclosed in the public interest. SSi also indicated that it is opposed to the second request, arguing that it appears to ask Commission staff to assess the public interest without first having heard from the public.

Revised timeline

With respect to the first procedural request, Commission staff notes that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure (Rules) establish a process that allows interested parties to request disclosure of information designated as confidential (section 33). Interested parties may always avail themselves of this process when information designated as confidential is filed with the Commission.

While the Rules do not specify a deadline by which requests for the disclosure of confidential information must be filed, Commission staff considers it appropriate to establish one in this case. It notes that Northwestel and SpaceX were required to file their responses to the issued RFIs by 21 January 2022. Therefore, interested parties must file their requests with the Commission, and, as provided for by the Rules, serve the party designating the corresponding information as confidential, by 4 February 2021. The party that designated the information as confidential will then have until 14 February 2021 to file a reply to any requests with the Commission, as well as to serve each party that made the corresponding request.

The GNWT also requested that the existing timelines, established for RFIs and for interventions and replies to the Part 1 application, be revised and extended to allow interested parties to make requests to disclose information designated as confidential.

Rather than change and delay timelines that have already been established, Commission staff considers it efficient and in the public interest to establish a separate timeline for disclosure requests. Once these requests have been resolved, Commission staff will establish further process and timelines to allow parties an opportunity to file additional comments strictly limited to any new information made available to the public, if any. Northwestel will also have the opportunity to file a reply to those additional comments.

Guidance on information to be designated as confidential

With respect to the second procedural request, Commission staff notes that each request to disclose information designated as confidential must be decided based on its particular circumstances, and with careful regard to the submissions made by all parties. As a result, Commission staff cannot provide indications in advance as to whether responses to particular questions asked in RFIs, either in part or in their entirety, would properly be designated as confidential.

That said, Commission staff reminds parties that requests for disclosure of information designated as confidential are addressed in light of sections 38 and 39 of the Telecommunications Act (Act) as well as sections 30 to 34 of the Rules.

In evaluating a request, an assessment is first made as to whether the information falls into a category of information that can be designated as confidential pursuant to section 39 of the Act. An assessment is then made as to whether disclosure of particular information is in the public interest; regard is generally given to whether the disclosure would result in specific direct harm and whether that harm outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Harm may be more likely to outweigh the public interest where the information is more disaggregated or where the degree of competition is greater. Conversely, the public interest may be more likely to outweigh any harm where the information is more important to the ability of the Commission to obtain a full and complete record on which to make its decision.

Further information regarding the four-step process for filing confidential information in Commission proceedings and a list of examples of information that can generally be designated as confidential may be found in Procedures for filing confidential information and requesting its disclosure in Commission proceedings, Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin CRTC 2010-961, 23 December 2010, as amended by Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin CRTC 2010-961-1, 26 October 2012.

Commission staff also notes that it has received correspondence from other interested parties requesting to be added to the distribution list for this proceeding. Commission staff reminds these parties that individual distribution lists are not generally maintained by the Commission and it is the responsibility of these parties to check the Commission's website for new documents that have been added to the record.

A copy of this letter will be placed on the public record of this proceeding.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Lisanne Legros
Director, Telecommunications Networks Policy
Telecommunications Sector

cc:       Marianne Blais, CRTC, 819-997-4836,
Simon Wozny, CRTC, 873-455-4630,
Salahuddin Rafiquddin, 873-353-4706, CRTC,
Andrew MacKenzie, CRTC, 819-230-6251,
Northwestel Inc.,
Shea Boyd, SpaceX,  
Dean Proctor, SSi Canada,

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