Tuesday 30 October 2012

CRTC Directs Stricter Deferral Account Reporting

On 26 Oct 2012, the CRTC directed Bell Canada and Bell Aliant i.e. Bell to submit quarterly reports on the status of their Deferral Account project. They stated the reports must be filed within 15 days after the end of each quarter, beginning with the quarter ending December 2012.

The CRTC took this action in response to the amended report submitted by Bell on 31 Jul 2012 which in effect scrubbed the previous announced implementation schedules and combined the implementation period for about 100 localities to a single date of 31 Aug 2014. This report was also the incentive for my letter to the CRTC in August 2012.

The CRTC expressed concern that, based on the information available, there is a risk that the rollout will not be completed by the end of the rollout period in August 2014.

The letter identifies specific information that must be included in the quarterly reports:

a. A summary of the progress of the rollout;

b. The status of IS/IT system development to support the retail wireless broadband system, including the expected completion date;

c. The status of wireline transport backbone construction, including

i. communities completed with completion date,
ii. communities started with expected completion date, and
ii. communities not started with expected start and completion dates;

d. The status of wireless access construction by community, including the number of

i. towers required,
ii. towers existing or completed,
iii. additional towers with expected start and completion dates, and
iv. towers where electronic augmentation has been completed;

e. The service ready date, achieved or planned, by community.

The quarterly reports are also to include the following:

a. A description of any significant changes to the previous report and reasons for those changes;

b. Information about any delays in radio frequency testing and electronics implementation;

c. A list of communities where negotiations have begun for placement of cell towers for wireless broadband service and the status of such negotiations;

d. A summary of the results of any testing of customers’ wireless broadband service, including effects on the rollout schedule and lessons learned; and

e. The steps the Bell companies are taking to avoid excessive delays due to any of the above.

How much of this information will be made public or how much Bell will claim is competitive or proprietary information and therefore confidential, remains to be seen.

It is unfortunate that the CRTC choose not to issue a directive to Bell to accelerate the roll-out.

It could be a good test of the new CRTC regime’s stated aim to be friendlier to consumers.

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