CRTC to hire inspectors in order to go after allegedly errant telecom carriers

The CRTC is getting fed up with incumbent telephone companies charging customers too little money for services and breaking other rules. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission tends to learn about violations through complaints.

This applies to both the broadcasting and

telecommunications sectors. For example, if the regulator goes after a radio station because someone used profanity on the air, chances are, it’s because a listener complained.

Similarly, if the regulator goes after a telecommunications carrier for breaking the rules, it’s usually a result of a complaint from a customer or competitor.

But the Commission has concluded a complaint-driven process isn’t always enough.

In Public Notice 2003-4, (Measures with respect to Incumbent Telephone Company Regulatory Compliance), the CRTC noted most investigations into alleged violations by incumbent telecom carriers result from complaints filed by competitors. But in most cases, the competitors are not able to prove incumbents are breaking the rules.

The CRTC has therefore decided to hire its own inspectors, who would have the power to enter premises, inspect documents and copy records. Inspections could begin by June 9 (60 days after the April 10 CRTC announcement).

The order was announced after the CRTC found incumbent carriers had violated either CRTC regulations or the Telecommunications Act on six separate occasions. In a separate decision April 10, the CRTC issued decision 2003-23, which found that Aliant Telecom Inc. acted in an anti-competitive manner when it under-charged the Memorial University of Newfoundland for various telecommunications services.

That decision resulted from a complaint filed a year earlier by GT Group Telecom Services Corp. (a competitive carrier now owned by 360networks Corp.). GT alleged, for example, that Aliant had charged Memorial $25.30 per month for Provincial Centrex Service instead of $27 per month, as mandated by the 10-year Minimum Contract Period (MCP). Aliant was also alleged to have charged the university residential rates (instead of business rates) for model pool lines.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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