Telecom - Procedural Letter addressed to the Distribution List
Ottawa, 4 February 2022
Our reference: 1011-NOC2020-0178
To: Distribution List
Subject: Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2020-178 – Requests for disclosure of information designated as confidential – Notice of Intention to Disclose Aggregated Information
In a 23 November 2021 request for information, Footnote1Commission staff asked service providers to file the current number of customers that subscribe to an accessibility plan or who benefit from any type of discount related to accessibility.
In their responses, service providers, who do have subscribers to an accessibility plan or who benefit from any type of discount related to accessibility, designated this information as confidential, generally arguing that this information is competitively sensitive, consistently treated as confidential and would result in specific, direct harm if disclosed. Some service providers filed relevant contextual information on the public record regarding trends in subscriptions over time or the proportion of total subscriptions these plans account for.
In their further comments, several accessibility groups requested disclosure of the subscriber numbers designated confidential. Canada Deaf Grassroots Movement, DHH CoalitionFootnote2 and DWCC et al.Footnote3 argued that the information on the public record left them unable to provide meaningful comments. DWCC et al. submitted that the majority of service providers had not sufficiently justified their confidentiality designations. Generally, these groups argued that public interest in disclosure outweighed any specific, direct harm from disclosure.
Requests for disclosure of information designated as confidential are addressed in light of sections 38 and 39 of the Telecommunications Act (the Act) and sections 30 and following of the CRTC Rules of Practice and Procedure (the Rules). In evaluating a request, an assessment is made as to whether the information falls into a category of information that can be designated confidential pursuant to section 39 of the Act. The next step in theassessment is to determine whether there is any specific direct harm likely to result from the disclosure of the information in question and whether any such harm outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In making this evaluation, a number of factors are taken into consideration, including the degree of competition and the importance of the information to the ability of the Commission to obtain a full and complete record. The factors considered are discussed in more detail 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.
Staff accepts that it could be advantageous to one service provider to know how successful another service provider has been in attracting customers to its accessibility-specific plans or discounts. Further, staff recognizes that this information is highly granular and is not aware of any previous disclosures of this type of information by those service providers that designated the information as confidential. However, staff notes that, as indicated publicly by many service providers in their responses, these plans only represent a very small proportion of their user bases, with most indicating that it is below 1%.
On the other hand, when the stated purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether the needs of persons with disabilities are being met, there is significant value in understanding the degree to which these plans are reaching customers in the market. Further, ensuring there is some specific information on the public record would ensure there is a baseline against which future progress can be measured.
In light of the above, staff considers that further information is required on the public record. However, the public interest in disclosure can be furthered without requiring disclosure of this information on a service provider basis.
Accordingly, Commission staff considers that certain additional information should be disclosed on the public record of the proceeding on an aggregated basis. Such disclosure would provide the public record with meaningful information on the general state of accessibility-specific plans and discounts in the wireless market that could be compared to the relevant target population.
As such, staff is of the view that disclosing the total, aggregated number of accessibility-specific wireless service plans, discounts, and add-ons across all service providers as indicated in their responses to requests for information is warranted. This information could be used by the Commission and interested parties to understand the current adoption of these plans as well as establish a benchmark to measure the evolution of this market.
Having regard to the considerations set out above, on 11 February 2022 Commission staff intends to place the aggregated total on the public record of all subscribers to all accessibility-specific plans of all WSPs. The aggregated total will be based on the responses of the service providers to request for information Q6 of 23 November 2021.
Further process to allow parties to comment on the new information may be set out in the coming days.
Director, Social and Consumer Policy
c.c. Adam Balkovec, CRTC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Guillaume Leclerc, CRTC, email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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