In a recent decision, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has forborne from regulating high capacity interexchange private lines provided by Bell Canada in Ontario between North Bay and Sudbury. The CRTC is no longer regulating this service because an alternative is available

from a supplier other than the incumbent.

Since 1994, the telecom market in Canada has been inching along towards true competition. In a series of decisions, the CRTC has responded to competition in various segments of the telecommunications market by deregulating those segments, one by one.

The Telecommunications Act, Section 34, gives the CRTC the right to forbear from regulating certain services. The commission acts to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of telecommunications services on a national and international basis. It promotes reliance on market forces and uses regulation only when required. Its ultimate objective is to respond to the economic and social requirements of consumers of telecom services.

Responding to a Bell Canada application, the CRTC determined that the objectives of its telecommunications policy would be met by allowing forbearance on the route between Sudbury and North Bay.

The commission imposes on Bell Canada some conditions that they believe would not impede any competition but in the end would continue to protect customers. The CRTC believes that it would be appropriate to retain its powers to order Bell Canada to protect the confidentiality of customer information.

The commission also found that Bell Canada should be able to limit its liability with respect to these services despite forbearance. So any provision limiting liability in an existing contract or arrangement must be maintained. The CRTC also decided to exercise its power to specify any future conditions it deemed necessary to meet its objectives. Ultimately, it retains powers to protect subscribers and ensure a competitive market.

To complete the process, Bell Canada must issue revised tariff pages removing tariffs for the route between North Bay and Sudbury. So another inch has been taken in the progress of true telecom competition in Canada.

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