CRTC Abandons Canadian Telephone Customers to Phone Companies' Price Hikes



    OTTAWA, April 30 /CNW/ - Canadians will be paying more for their local
phone service beginning June 1, 2007 after the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) took the lid off rates for local phone
service in a decision today.
    Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel with the Public
Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), stated, "The CRTC has given Bell, TELUS and
the other big phone companies the green light to raise your local telephone
rates. We think the CRTC has abandoned Canadian telephone customers."
    Janigan noted that Industry Minister Maxime Bernier has promised that the
new era of telecommunications deregulation would lower prices for Canadians:
"This decision does the opposite."
    The CRTC faced intense phone company pressure to lift limits on local
phone rates, after years of setting prices at levels Canadians can afford.
"The CRTC will now permit phone companies to charge whatever they like for
'optional services' - but don't be misled, this means useful services most
Canadians take for granted, such as call display and voicemail," Janigan
noted.
    While the decision places a cap of 5% or the rate of inflation per year,
whichever is lower, for rural customers, prices likely will rise quickly to
that level, added Janigan, "And don't think they won't go up by the maximum
each year." Urban customers theoretically have prices capped at current levels
under the decision, however, companies now may "rate-deaverage" prices,
meaning some urban customers may actually see significant price rises. In
addition, if the company "bundles" its local phone service with other services
like wireless, there is no limit on price.
    The CRTC, in a surprise move, also allowed a doubling of payphone rates
to 50 cents a call, up from 25 cents. John Lawford, PIAC legal counsel, noted
"This is a 100% increase in rates that will hurt the most vulnerable of
Canadians, who rely heavily on payphones to communicate. The CRTC did not
indicate at the price cap hearings that it was seriously considering such a
huge increase."

    PIAC is a non-profit organization that provides legal and research
services on behalf of consumer interests, and, in particular, vulnerable
consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services.





For further information:

For further information: John Lawford, Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy
Centre, ONE Nicholas Street, Suite 1204, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7B7, (613)
562-4002 x25 (office), (613) 447-8125 (mobile), (613) 562-0007 (fax)

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