Chamber offers telephone alternatives

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 13/97) - Either the new competitors chip in or the rest of Canada does.

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce will be offering the CRTC two models to consider when it determines how competition will be introduced to the Northern telephone market.

"One puts the emphasis on competing companies to assist in ensuring service and infrastructure remain up to date and viable," said chamber executive director Cheryl Best.

"The other suggests cross-subsidization by all phone companies," said Best, explaining the model would require companies serving large urban centres to support service in remote areas.

The CRTC has called for input from interested groups on how best phone competition can be introduced to the North.

A committee struck by the chamber will decide between the two models at a noon meeting tomorrow.

In its submission to the CRTC, the GNWT said that it supports competition, as long as affordability and reliability are not sacrificed.

"Without some intervention in the competitive process, it would be certain that either high-cost communities will stop receiving services or their rates would be increased beyond reach," said deputy premier Goo Arlooktoo in his June address to the CRTC. "This outcome is not acceptable to our government."

The Chamber of Commerce shares the GNWT's concerns, said Best.

"We can't afford to jeopardize the current phone system, but we want to bring

prices down."

"Cross-subsidization already exists within companies," noted Best. "For example, people in Yellowknife and Whitehorse pay higher rates than people in Colville Lake and Coppermine (Kugluktuk)."

Telephone companies also use long-distance revenue to support basic phone service.