In a move to stop offering what it describes as unpopular services, Bell Canada petitioned the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission this week to agree to a framework spelling out the conditions for phasing out regulated


No formal CRTC process exists for dealing with applications to withdraw services, and withdrawn applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, said Mirko Bibic, chief of regulatory affairs at Bell.

The Montreal-based telecom company favours a faster, streamlined process that will allow it to focus on more innovative IP-based solutions which is says customers are demanding.

Bibic said Bell is in a “”planning process”” to decide which services it wants to stop offering customers. Two years ago, he said, Bell proposed cutting a service called PrimeLine, which put through calls to one number on multiple devices and had 13,000 customers. Bell had an alternate service, Single Number Reach, but 25 of the PrimeLine subscribers still complained several times about the proposal.

Last year CRTC ruled that although Bell’s replacement was reasonably priced and met the needs of most customers, the commission refused to approve the change until Bell could show most subscribers had migrated to the new service, Bibic explained, unsure in this case of the CRTC’s definition of “”most.””

“”So you get into a situation where the carrier’s got to maintain two services now, even though that the commission finds that the new one’s good enough.””

This isn’t the case in other industries, he said. “”Regulators don’t get to decide whether or not Coke ought to bring back New Coke or withdraw New Coke for Classic Coke.””

Although Aliant would welcome a service-withdrawal policy etched in stone, Rick Stephen, director of regulatory matters in Saint John, N.B., said the telco only occasionally goes before the commission to remove services.

Three years ago Aliant applied to remove a service, a “”dying”” wireless system that pre-dated cellular phones and was virtually non-existent outside Newfoundland and Labrador, he said. Thirteen months later, the commission gave the go-ahead to Aliant.

“”Because of the process, it tends to discourage you because it’s a lot of work,”” said Stephen. Since Aliant’s service was the last of its kind in Canada, “”you should be able to withdraw these older technologies and services without a lot of fuss.””

The CRTC’s delay also “”left us with a financial burden to compensate customers for moving off of that service and on to a replacement service.””

Since all carriers have discontinued services over the years, “”It’s reasonable for them to say, ‘We can’t be forced to stay in uneconomic businesses,'”” said telecom analyst Mark Goldberg, president of Mark H. Goldberg & Associates in Thornhill, Ont.

The application urges the industry not to “”make up the rules as we go along,”” but rather to write a rule book to avoid future problems. The CRTC did not immediately respond to Bell’s submission.


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