CRTC Approves Payphone Competition

In Telecom Decision CRTC 98-8, dated June 30, 1998, the CRTC approved the establishment of alternate payphone providers, subject to a variety of consumer protection safeguards. While payphone operators will not be regulated (although the operators must register with the CRTC), the CRTC will govern payphone providers by imposing rules on the companies that provide the access lines. In the case of access from Stentor companies, payphone operators will need to abide by rules to be set out in new tariffs, which will be filed by August 15, 1998. CLECs providing payphone operators with access lines must include the consumer safeguards in their access line contracts.

The CRTC has order Stentor to provide details of any existing payphone agreements with more than five years remaining on the contract. In addition, Stentor must identify where it currently has payphones and annually identify reasons why payphones were removed. These provisions are meant to prevent non-desirable areas from being abandoned by the phone companies.

The Commission will not regulate local call charges from competitive providers, although it will continue to regulate Stentor payphone prices. The Commission plans to implement per-call compensation for toll-free access from payphones but will wait for a Stentor proposal in late 1998.

The CRTC has defined a prescribed process for new payphone providers to follow prior to launching service. In addition, the CRTC has defined the following safeguards: (a) Provision free access to 9-1-1, or operator handled emergency by dialing 0 without a coin or card; (b) Provision of Message Relay Service; (c) Provision a number for reporting telephone trouble; (d) Provision of access to all alternate long distance carriers; (e) Posting the company name, address and toll free number where complaints are addressed; (f) Posting the Commission’s address and toll-free number (1-877-249-CRTC) on all pay telephone equipment; (g) Operator services, if provided, that are in compliance with CRTC Orders; (h) Prominent display, of rates of local calls, the name of the default long distance provider; and any surcharges not included in the price of the call; (i) No charges for uncompleted calls; (j) Standard arrangement of letters and numbers on the dial; (k) Telephones are to meet CSA and the Terminal Attachment Program Advisory Committee standards; (l) Telephones are to be accessible to the physically disabled, in accordance with earlier Orders; and (m) Adherence to Commission rules concerning protection of customer privacy.

The Commission plans to review this Decision within three years to see if the market is behaving in a manner which provides the benefits of alternate providers without the consumer complaints initially experienced in the US market.

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