Wednesday 22 February 2012

Deferral Account Update 22 Feb 12

The legal challenges to the Bell Deferral Account project appear to have come to an end. The procedure under which Rogers appealed the CRTC’s concerning Bell’s use of HSPA+ technology to provided broadband (high speed) Internet service using Deferral Account funds allowed the Governor-in-Council (GiC) a “silence” procedure. This meant that the GIC had a 12 month window from the date of the original CRTC decision under appeal to act. If the GiC did nothing, it effectively denied the Rogers petition. The GiC did nothing. This “pocket veto” in effect killed the appeal.

In a report to the CRTC, Bell indicated they were proceeding with the implementation of the Deferral Account project. Bell has completed 3 localities and plans on deploying the broadband services to the remaining 109 approved communities using the HSPA+ technology over the 2012 to 2014 timeframe.

Bell Canada expects to roll out broadband services to 25 communities in 2012, 41 communities in 2013, and to the remaining 43 in 2014. The company has started the construction work associated with 18 of these areas already.

Not surprisingly, the annual totals vary from the original 2008 submissions. Their last report did not include a list of locality crossed referenced to the year. Bell stated they expect to be able to provide more detail on their rollout plan in this year’s annual report which is due on 31 Mar 12. Bell already completed public consultations for sites in the SSM-Airport Deferral Account area and on the fringe of the Goulais Deferral Account area. There are also a few towers showing up in the North Sault area which I cannot cross reference to a public consultation. I am not aware of any overt activity in the Echo Bay and St. Joseph Island areas.

Bell provided the three localities identified as Deferral Account areas completed to date – Nakina (Greenstone) and Pass Lake in Ontario and Bury in Quebec – with DSL service. The remaining 109 will get the HSPA+ service. CRTC Decision 2010-805 approved a pricing plan that allows for 65 GB of data transfer for less than $50.00. This places the HSPA+ service at a price competitive with the DSL.

The bigger question is the technology. As HSPA+ is rolled out as part of the vendors’ regular broadband (high-speed) Internet package by Bell, Rogers and Tbaytel, network congestion and the resultant speed slow down have become major issues. One can hope that the Bell Deferral Account design which is based on a smaller cell density will overcome these network problems.

Another outstanding question is the procedure for users to gain access to the Deferral Account service at the rates quoted by Bell and approved in principle by the CRTC. It is clear from the Bell submissions, that a user must reside within the designated Deferral Account area to receive the preferred Deferral Account rate. What is less clear, is how the source of the signal received by the user, affects the rates. Radio waves are not restrained by the artificial Distribution Serving Area (DSA) boundaries that define the Deferral Account areas. There are ready users living within the defined Deferral Account DSAs using Bell data hubs but are not receiving the Deferral Account rates. Repeated enquires to Bell on this matter have been met with silence. At the moment I am not aware of any cell sites actually located within a Deferral Account DSA boundary. Based the public consultations held 2011 this situation will change early in 2012.

In a related matter, I cannot find any reference on the CRTC website pertaining to a Bell request for a drawdown of Deferral Account funds to support the broadband (high speed) Internet roll-out. Other vendors such as Telus, MTS and SaskTel have made submissions. When Bell does act, it will have to identify the sites supported by Deferral Account funds; logically user with these DSA areas will eligible for the Deferral Account rates. The proposed cell site locations which generated the SSM–Airport and Carpin Beach Rd public consultations were clearly defined as Deferral Account sites.


  1. I wonder how this would work if you live outside the DSA (e.g. address is outside of the DSA zone) but you use the service within the DSA (i.e. at cottage, etc.)...? I guess what I'm asking is how would they (Bell) define your "residence" when figuring out if you qualify for the deferral account rates? It sounds like (from the description here) that unless you reside in these areas you're hosed. Which could impact a lot of seasonal people...?

  2. As far as can be determined, Bell has not yet published Deferral Account particulars on their website or elsewhere. Their submissions to the CRTC which formed the basis for the CRTC’s approval of Bell’s plan are the main sources of information.

    The Bell Deferral Account areas are based on the Bell Distribution Serving Areas (DSA) which is the method used by Bell to identify various service areas. The Algoma District Deferral Account areas have between 2 and 10 DSA’s. Your service address must be in one of the identified DSA’s. This is referred to as the “home zone”. Since the “customer premise equipment” (CPE) i.e. the data hub, is mobile, if it connects to a site outside the home zone, normal Bell data hub flex plan rates will be charged.

    The premise of the HSPA Deferral Account solution was that it would equal the most popular DSL offered by Bell even though the CRTC’s minimum standards requirement were less. As you know, you cannot freely move DSL modem around from residence to residence.

    The following addresses the seasonal issue and is based on information made public in various submissions to the CRTC and court submissions. Only Bell can provide the definitive information once it publishes the final terms and conditions, The Deferral Account service is contract free and can be cancelled with 30 days’ notice. The last public price chart listed free CPE but a $35.00 one-time service charge. So a seasonal user could pay $35.00 each year to connect to the service plus monthly recurring charges (MRC). This is not out-of-line with other seasonal services that charge a monthly maintenance fee during the off season or a small connect/disconnect charge.

    As an additional point of interest, another concerned reader asked whether or not the Deferral Account service was a Bell only product. He was currently a Rogers’s subscriber but living in a designated Deferral Account area. As far as I know, the Deferral Account is a Bell only product. However, third party providers can have access to the Deferral Account infrastructure which means Rogers could match the Bell rates and conditions. This is strictly a business decision and is up to Rogers to decide on how it wants to proceed. I would not be surprised if Rogers came up with a competitive plan especially if customers started or threatened to switch. Likewise, I am not aware as to how Tbaytel will meet the challenge.