Sask­tel op­poses CRTC Phase-out of lo­cal ser­vice sub­sidy

Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE -

Sask­tel has an­nounced its op­po­si­tion to the Cana­dian Ra­dio-tele­vision and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion’s (CRTC) pro­posed plan (Tele­com No­tice of Con­sul­ta­tion CRTC 2017-92) to phase-out the lo­cal ser­vice sub­sidy regime. The lo­cal voice ser­vice sub­sidy was de­signed to keep wire­line voice ser­vice af­ford­able in high cost serv­ing ar­eas and the phase-out will im­pact roughly 100,000 Saskatchewan house­holds that still rely on the lo­cal voice sub­sidy for af­ford­able tele­phone ser­vice.

“The CRTC’S pro­posed ac­tions are more ag­gres­sive and more im­me­di­ate than we had ex­pected and we are strongly en­cour­ag­ing im­pacted Saskatchewan ru­ral res­i­dents, groups and as­so­ci­a­tions to ex­press their con­cern through the CRTC’S con­sul­ta­tion process,” said Ron Styles, Sask­tel Pres­i­dent and CEO. “The av­er­age sub­sidy is ap­prox­i­mately $160 per year per High Cost Serv­ing area cus­tomer, with some cus­tomer’s lines re­ceiv­ing a sub­sidy of over $300 per year, and with the re­moval Sask­tel will have lit­tle choice but to in­crease rates.”

The CRTC’S pre­lim­i­nary view is that cus­tomers with ac­cess to wired In­ter­net at speeds as low as 1.5 Me­gabits per sec­ond (Mbps) have ac­cess to ‘re­li­able broad­band In­ter­net ac­cess ser­vice’ which can re­place tra­di­tional voice ser­vice and that these cus­tomers no longer need the voice sub­sidy. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­mu­nity in Saskatchewan with more than 50 res­i­dents has In­ter­net ser­vice of at least this qual­ity and may be im­pacted by an im­me­di­ate phase-out of the sub­sidy and some cus­tomers would po­ten­tially face rate in­creases that nearly dou­bles their cur­rent rate.

Sask­tel cur­rently pro­vides Dig­i­tal Sub­scriber Line (DSL) In­ter­net ser­vice to 431 com­mu­ni­ties. In ad­di­tion, Sask­tel in­tro­duced HS Fu­sion In­ter­net ser­vice in 2014 and now cov­ers over 700 com­mu­ni­ties with 68 Fu­sion equipped tow­ers..

“We are ex­tremely con­cerned that Saskatchewan res­i­dents will be im­me­di­ately im­pacted by the phase-out of the lo­cal ser­vice sub­sidy and yet will likely not ben­e­fit from the re-di­rec­tion of funds to the new broad­band fund for sev­eral years as more pop­u­lous ar­eas in Canada are ei­ther un­served or more un­der­served than ru­ral ar­eas in Saskatchewan,” added Styles.

For a sum­mary of the CRTC’S No­tice of Con­sul­ta­tion and to re­spond to the call for com­ments, visit: ser­vices. crtc.gc.ca

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