TORONTO – Bell Canada officials are concerned that recent regulatory decisions could discourage carriers from spending money on next-generation architecture and could force them to publicize sensitive customer information.

Last week, the

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that pricing information from customer contracts filed in confidence by Bell Canada as a result of a ruling last December should be made public.

Lawson Hunter, executive vice-president of BCE Inc., said in a media briefing Monday some CRTC decisions seem to be “”anti-consumer,”” because customers don’t want the terms of their deals disclosed to the public. He added the purpose of anti-trust laws in most jurisdictions is to protect competition, not to advance the causes of individual competitors.

Bell’s chief regulatory officer, Sheridan Scott, said companies often decide they want certain types of telecommunications services in order to improve their competitive position, and they don’t want their ideas shared with other companies.

For example, she said, some companies may decide to consolidate call centres and purchase all of their services from one contractor as a bundled package.

The issue arose last year, when the CRTC found BCE Inc.’s Bell Nexxia unit was providing service packages to customers, and some of those services fell under federal tariff regulations. Under last December’s decision, CRTC Order 2002-76, the Commission told BCE to file copies of the contracts and proposed tariffs, because the Telecommunications Act forbids carriers from providing telecommunications services that are not in accordance with tariffs approved by the CRTC.

BCE filed the contract information in confidence, but several competitors, including Allstream Corp. (formerly AT&A Canada), asked that prices be released. In Order 2003-62, issued Sept. 22, the Commission ruled that pricing information had to be released.

Scott said publishing information from individual customer contracts enables other potential customers to view the tariffs and ask for the same services for the same price.

Hunter said Bell Canada is concerned that “”improper or adverse regulations”” may have “”a significant impact”” on the ability of carriers to spend money on capital projects.

Bell Canada’s capital expenditures dropped seven per cent between the second quarter of 2002 and the same period this year.

He would not say which projects could be affected by regulations, but noted the ratio of capital expenditures to revenue is dropping among carriers in Canada and the U.S. He added carriers have to spend money on infrastructure in order to support technologies such as voice over Internet Protocol.

Hunter said federal regulators often fail to account for rapid changes in technology when they make rulings. He cited as an example the fact that many consumers choose cell phones for local service rather than landline, adding Bell’s local service market share would decrease if mobile customers were counted.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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