The CRTC watches closer: 3 recent orders crack down on anti-competitive behavior

With total competition in the telecommunications industry looming on the horizon, the CRTC has begun to demonstrate its commitment to its new role as a competition watchdog. In the past week, three orders have been released that may signify the arrival of a new regulatory sheriff in town. The orders cover three areas of the business and span the country, coast-to-coast.

On August 5, 1997, in Telecom Order CRTC 97-1055, the CRTC found that Stentor had been sloppy in its notification process for defining terminal interface standards, and this had provided Nortel with an advantage over Mitel in providing certain calling identification features. As a result, Stentor was ordered to waive related feature service charges for Mitel customers for 3 years, and the CRTC not only reminded the Stentor members to adhere strictly to the rules for network notification, but also registered the order with the Federal Court. This step means that any subsequent violation of the rules can make use of the court’s faster processes to seek relief and redress.

In Telecom Order CRTC 97-1070, (August 7, 1997) NB Tel was denied permission to include DID access in its Centrex service offering. NB Tel had been applying the $3.90 monthly charge per DID extension somewhat selectively, and when challenged by the PBX industry and potential future local competitors, had claimed that it would be administratively simpler to simply make DID a part of the basic service and raise rates across the board $1.35. The CRTC agreed with competitors that this would be inappropriate and ordered NB Tel to choose to either include the DID access in the base service but raise rates across the board $3.90, or charge customers uniformly. NB Tel was given 15 days to decide which option to employ.

One day later, on August 8, 1997, in Telecom Order CRTC 97-1078, the CRTC told BC Tel that it would not approve a capacity swap agreement with BC Tel Mobility because it would be anti-competitive and confer an advantage to BC Tel Mobility over its competitors such as Cantel and Clearnet. While BC TEL noted that the agreement was similar to an arrangement between Telus and Telus Mobility and approved by the Commission in Telecom Order CRTC 94-726 dated 27 June 1994, the CRTC stated, in effect, that times are different now, and such past practices would no longer be permitted.

In all, 3 decisions in 4 days that may signal a new CRTC approach to regulation in the competitive era. While the CRTC has lacked the jurisdiction to add a bite to its bark, on August 5, the Commission demonstrated that it is prepared to let the courts mete justice for violations. As Canada races toward total services competition for long distance, local and broadcast services, it appears that the sheriff is going to use the radar gun to keep the race a little bit more fair.

Scroll to Top