International Contribution Rules: Getting a license is the easy part!

On October 1, 1998, the CRTC issued Telecom Decision CRTC 98-17, outlining the process by which companies can obtain licenses to offer international telecom services for Canada. As of January 1, 1999, all companies providing international telecom services to the public must be licensed. The first batch of licenses is expected to be announced in early January 1999. There are two classes of licenses: Class A for service providers which have leased or owned facilities that cross a border; and Class B, for service providers which hand all of their international traffic over to another licensed service provider. Decision 98-17 also describes the reporting and contribution payment regime imposed as a condition of license. The rules for contribution for the first quarter of 1999 were unclear in the Decision. As a result, a number of competitors have collaborated in proposing the following regime, expected to be announced coincident to the first wave of licenses.

Contribution is the term used for the subsidy paid from long distance services to maintain affordable local rates. The Decision sets out a phased approach for moving to a per-minute payment scheme. Effective January 1, 1999, Class A licensees will be responsible for reporting and paying a fee based on the number of circuits which exit Canada. For traffic using Teleglobe, carriers will continue to pay contribution based on the “overseas access circuits” connecting to Teleglobe’s switches. The rates for contribution vary based on the size of the trunk group (as a proxy for traffic carrying capacity of the trunk group), and vary based on the location of licensee’s international gateway switch.

As of April 1, 1999, the per-circuit charge will transition to a per-minute fee based on the amount of traffic on the cross-border circuits. Teleglobe will begin to pay contribution explicitly at that time, and will presumably include the cost in its rates to account for the charge.

Contribution Exemptions
No contribution applies on circuits which are unused and not connected, dedicated to transit service (not connected to the Canadian PSTN), dedicated to a private line application, or dedicated to data services. Exemptions from the obligations of contribution require approval from the CRTC on a case-by-case basis.

Reporting Requirements
Licensed carriers are required to maintain records and report inbound and outbound traffic by country, using a standardized country list. For outbound traffic, this is a routine tracking process. The CRTC will expect inbound traffic to be disaggregated to the extent the carrier knows where the traffic is coming from. It is also expected that the reported traffic will exceed the levels of contribution eligible traffic.

Licensed service providers are advised to move swiftly to establish procedures for tracking circuit quantities and traffic volumes in order to permit compliance verification.

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