Friday, April 13, 2007

Bell Canada Files for Deregulation of Local Phone Services

Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Bell Canada is applying for deregulation of its local telephone services in six of Canada's largest cities, a move that could lead to price wars.

Canada's largest telephone company, a division of BCE Inc., said Thursday it has filed for “forbearance from regulation” of local phone service in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, London, Ont., Hamilton and Quebec City.

The application follows the April 4 announcement by Industry Minister Maxime Bernier that telecom companies can seek relaxation of price regulations and other restrictions in areas where significant competition exists from cable television companies and other emerging providers.

The new rules, effective April 18, enable traditional phone companies to apply to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for deregulation wherever business customers have a choice between at least two phone providers with their own networks, and wherever residential users have a selection of at least three providers, including cellphone network operators.

Existing price-regulation and marketing safeguards will continue in regions with little competition.

Telus Corp. filed Wednesday for local phone deregulation in Vancouver and Edmonton, and said it intends to file additional applications for other major markets in the near future.

Bell Aliant Regional Communications Income Fund has also applied for deregulation in the Halifax area.

The Conservative government's move last week came against resistance from the CRTC, whose rules were intended to handicap the big phone companies until they lost 25 per cent or more of phone users to competitors.