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Our file: 8695-C12-19/02
Ottawa, 17 May 2002
Re: Telecom Public Notice CRTC 2002-1 - Northwestel Inc. - Initial annual review of supplemental funding - Requests for disclosure
A request dated 24 April 2002 for disclosure of information filed under claim of confidence by Northwestel Inc. (Northwestel) in the above-noted proceeding was received from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre on behalf of the Consumers' Association of Canada, Action Réseau Consommateur, la Fédération d'associations coopératives familiale, and the National Anti-Poverty Organization (CAC et al.). By Commission staff letter dated 30 April 2002, other parties to the proceeding were given the opportunity to request the release of information filed in confidence by Northwestel, the deadline for such requests being 3 May 2002. No other party asked for the release of information filed in confidence by Northwestel.
In its 24 April 2002 letter, CAC et al. requested that information be put on the public record relating to customer correspondence with the company on toll-free access to the Internet and enhanced calling features, as well as further information relating to the company's service improvement plan proposal, operating expenses, revenues, toll minutes, market share estimates, and the Phase III forecast of Internet Services.
A reply to CAC et al.'s request was received from Northwestel on 8 May 2002. In that reply, Northwestel did release certain information pertaining to operating expenses, as provided in revised responses to interrogatories NWTel(CRTC)01Mar02-13, 14 and 16. However, the company maintained that the remainder of the requested information should remain in confidence, focusing its argument on the specific direct harm to the company that would result from releasing this information.
Requests for public disclosure are addressed below.
This letter reflects the Commission's objective of ensuring that all parties have the benefit of the maximum amount of information placed on the public record at the earliest appropriate stage, in order to facilitate a more efficient and effective proceeding.
Requests for Public Disclosure
Requests for disclosure of information for which confidentiality has been claimed are assessed in light of sections 38 and 39 of the Telecommunications Act and section 19 of the CRTC Telecommunications Rules of Procedure (the Rules). In the case of each request, the public interest in disclosure is weighed against the specific direct harm, if any, likely to result from disclosure. In doing so, a number of factors are taken into account, including the following.
The degree of competition that exists in a particular market is an important consideration in assessing requests for disclosure. All things being equal, the greater the degree of competition in a particular market, the greater the specific harm that could be expected to result from disclosure.
Another factor in assessing the extent of harm is the expected usefulness of the information at issue to parties in furthering their competitive position. In this regard, an important consideration is the degree to which the information at issue is disaggregated. Generally speaking, the more aggregated the information, the less the likelihood that harm will flow from its disclosure.
The expectation that specific direct harm might result from disclosure is not, by itself, sufficient to justify maintaining a claim of confidentiality. In certain circumstances, substantial harm from disclosure may still be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure.
Finally, the treatment of confidentiality requests should not be taken as an indication of the manner in which such matters would be dealt with in the future, in different circumstances.
Having regard to the considerations set out above, Northwestel is not required to place any of the additional information requested by CAC et al. on the public record of this proceeding.
As noted above, Northwestel placed additional information on the public record of this proceeding in its letter of 8 May 2002. The additional information relates to the company's level of expenses and was provided by way of revised responses to interrogatories NWTel(CRTC)01May02-13, 14 and 16.
Additional interrogatories, limited to this information released by the company, can be addressed to Northwestel by 27 May 2002. Northwestel's responses to any such interrogatories are to be filed by 25 June 2002. This date coincides with the revised filing date for the responses to all other interrogatories issued to the company, as set out in Commission staff's letter dated 16 May 2002.
c.c.: Jim MacKay, CRTC, (819) 953-8454