Mark Goldberg

Meeting regulatory service standards

In a decision released earlier today, the CRTC finally corrected a small but significant error it made in Telecom Decision CRTC 2017-56, “Wholesale mobile wireless roaming service tariffs – Final terms and conditions”.

There was a single bullet point in the Appendix to that decision that caused concerns for Bell:

15.(a): Delete the second sentence. The third (i.e. final) sentence is sufficient to address this matter.

Here is the paragraph in the originally proposed Bell Tariff to which this instruction refers:

The Operator acknowledges that the Company has an equipment identity register (“EIR”) program. If any Device belonging to a Roaming Customer is identified as being stolen or unauthorized equipment that is registered in the Company’s EIR or in another EIR registry program in which the Company participates, then the Company shall be entitled to prevent usage of such equipment on the Company Available PMN. In the event the Company notifies the Operator of any Devices that have been used for Roaming which the Company believes have been stolen or are unauthorized, then the Operator shall use commercially reasonable efforts to investigate the registration of the Device and, where appropriate, suspend such Devices. [emphasis added]

The intent of the sentence was to permit Bell to block the use of a device that is on the Equipment Identity Registry (EIR) – the blacklist of stolen phones.

On April 10, Bell filed an application to review and vary that portion of the Decision, saying “we believe that the Commission’s directive is in error.” As Bell stated in its application, “any blocking of devices based on the EIR is automated and this sentence simply informs wholesale roaming customers of this fact.”

In reply, Rogers, TELUS, Freedom Mobile and Quebecor (Videotron) all endorsed the Bell application. There was no opposition to the filing. On May 25, Bell filed its reply, observing that all 4 of the interventions were in support, and “no party objected to our Application or our requested relief.”

A little more than 6 months later, the CRTC has finally cleared this file, saying: “the Commission finds that it erred in fact with regard to its determination on item 100.15.(a), and approves Bell Canada’s application to review and vary this portion of Telecom Decision 2017-56. The Commission therefore rescinds its directive for Bell Mobility to delete the proposed second sentence of item 100.15.(a).”

More than 6 months to approve an uncontested application that likely could have been handled as an erratum if there were better channels of communications.

“In order to help monitor its efficiency in disposing of applications, and in response to requests from stakeholders for more reliable response times by the Commission,” the CRTC established service standards “for the processing time to issue determinations on various types of telecommunications applications.” The current version of the standards were set in 2011.

Indeed, in Section 1 of the 2006 Policy Direction to the CRTC says:

  1. the Commission, to enable it to act in a more efficient, informed and timely manner, should adopt the following practices, namely,
    1. to use only tariff approval mechanisms that are as minimally intrusive and as minimally onerous as possible,
    2. with a view to increasing incentives for innovation and investment in and construction of competing telecommunications network facilities, to complete a review of its regulatory framework regarding mandated access to wholesale services, to determine the extent to which mandated access to wholesale services that are not essential services should be phased out and to determine the appropriate pricing of mandated services, which review should take into account the principles of technological and competitive neutrality, the potential for incumbents to exercise market power in the wholesale and retail markets for the service in the absence of mandated access to wholesale services, and the impediments faced by new and existing carriers seeking to develop competing network facilities,
    3. to publish and maintain performance standards for its various processes, and [emphasis added]
    4. to continue to explore and implement new approaches for streamlining its processes.

The CRTC issues a scorecard each year for its performance during the previous year but the report does not show aging for applications that are still open. So, in the most recent report [for year ended March 31, 2017], the CRTC only closed 7 of 30 Part 1 applications within its objective of 4 months from the close of the record – just 23%.

The current version of the scorecard provides no information about the aging of outstanding applications that have not yet been closed. Such information may be helpful as a tool “to help monitor its efficiency in disposing of applications,” and to help provide stakeholders with more reliable response times.

As Bell said in its application, today’s decision was all about correcting a minor factual error or misinterpretation of the sentence that the Commission erroneously ordered deleted.

Perhaps there needs to be an examination of the processes that led to such a lengthy delay dealing with an uncontested Part 1 application.

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