Calling for terms
CRTC seeks public input on communications competition

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/99) - It will take about a year for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to determine what form competition will take in the North, the CRTC said Friday.

Currently, Bell Canada subsidiary NorthwesTel is the only telecommunications provider in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon and Northern British Columbia. In February 1998, the CRTC announced that competition will be introduced in the North as early as July 2000.

In the public notice, which announces that proceedings to determine terms and conditions of competition have begun, the CRTC notes: "As much as possible, the terms and conditions of toll competition in NorthwesTel's territory should be the same throughout Canada, however, modifications may be required to reflect the uniqueness of NorthwesTel's operating environment."

NorthwesTel chief financial officer, Ray Hamelin, said in a release Monday the company is "pleased that the commission continues to recognize the unique challenges of providing telecommunications services in the North."

The proceedings commence this quarter with written submissions. Public consultations are to be held in the North June 12, 2000.

The consultations will be conducted in Whitehorse with video links to Yellowknife, Iqaluit and Fort Nelson.

As well, the public can comment through formal hearings that begin June 13 in Whitehorse and are to take no longer than two weeks.

The CRTC expects to issue a decision in fourth- quarter 2000 on the terms and conditions.

"It will be very important for Northerners to speak up on these issues," Hamelin said.

"Efficient and affordable telecommunications services are very important to the North."

The CRTC's decisions will affect all Northerners, economically, socially and culturally, he adds.