ARCHIVED - Transcript, Hearing 15 April 2011
This page has been archived on the Web
Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
Providing Content in Canada's Official Languages
Please note that the Official Languages Act requires that government publications be available in both official languages.
In order to meet some of the requirements under this Act, the Commission's transcripts will therefore be bilingual as to their covers, the listing of CRTC members and staff attending the hearings, and the table of contents.
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded verbatim transcript and, as such, is transcribed in either of the official languages, depending on the language spoken by the participant at the hearing.
Volume 1, 15 April 2011
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE
THE CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND
Expedited procedure for resolving a competitive issue - Telecom application
Réal Therrien Room
7th floor, Central Building
Terrasses de la Chaudière
1 Promenade du Portage
In order to meet the requirements of the Official Languages
Act, transcripts of proceedings before the Commission will be
bilingual as to their covers, the listing of the CRTC members
and staff attending the public hearings, and the Table of
However, the aforementioned publication is the recorded
verbatim transcript and, as such, is taped and transcribed in
either of the official languages, depending on the language
spoken by the participant at the public hearing.
Canadian Radio-television and
To consider the broadcasting applications for the group-based licence renewals for English-language television groups listed in Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-952, 2010-952-1, 2010-952-2 and 2010-952-3
Elizabeth Duncan Hearing Chair
Louise Poirier Commissioner
Marc Patrone Commissioner
Christianne Laizner General Counsel/
Crystal Hulley Legal Counsel/
Gerry Lylyk Director, Dispute Resolution/
Kathleen Taylor Manager, Dispute Resolution/
Okacha Merabet Senior Analyst/
Laurence Dunbar Triton Global Business Services Inc. (Applicant)
Monica Song MTS Allstream Inc. (Respondent)
Réal Therrien Room
7th floor, Central Building
Terrasses de la Chaudière
1 Promenade du Portage
April 15, 2011
- iv -
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE / PARA
By the Commission 1 / 2
By Triton 5 / 36
By MTS 15 / 96
By the Commission 24 / 137
By Triton 100 / 740
By MTS 122 / 885
By the Commission 146 / 1122
By Triton 174 / 1318
By MTS 181 / 1348
- vi -
PAGE / PARA
Undertaking 124 / 905
Undertaking 138 / 1041
--- Upon resuming on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 0902
1 THE SECRETARY: Please take your seats.
OPENING REMARKS BY THE COMMISSION
2 THE CHAIRPERSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the CRTC.
3 I am Elizabeth Duncan. I am the Commissioner for the Atlantic Region in Nunavut and I will be chairing today's hearing.
4 And I am joined on the Panel today by my colleagues, National Commissioners, Marc Patrone and Louise Poirier.
5 I would also like to introduce the CRTC staff who will be assisting the Panel today:
6 - At the table we have Crystal Hulley and Christianne Laizner, our legal counsel;
7 - Gerry Lylyk, Director of Dispute Resolution;
8 - Kathleen Taylor, Manager of Dispute Resolution, and;
9 - Okacha Merabet, Senior Analyst in Telecommunications at the CRTC.
10 During the course of the hearing please discuss any administrative procedural matters with Sheila Perron, the Hearing Co-ordinator behind me to my right.
11 As you know, the Commission has decided to hold this expedited hearing with a view to making a determination on whether MTS has valid grounds, pursuant to the Billing and Collections Services Agreement and its Tariff, to terminate the billing and collection service it currently provides to Triton Global Business Services.
12 We would also like to remind the parties that we encourage you to continue negotiations in hopes and efforts to settle a dispute before our decision is rendered.
13 I would now like to ask the Commission's counsel, Crystal Hulley, to outline a few key points.
14 MS HULLEY: Thank you, Madam Chair.
15 Before we begin, I would like to say a few words about the administration of this hearing.
16 Avant de débuter, j'aimerais dire quelques mots sur le déroulement de l'audience.
17 Le 1 Avril 2011, les deux parties ont reçu une copie de l'ordre dujour que nous allons suivre aujourd'hui.
18 Les parties devront tout d'abord présenter les membres de leur équipe. La requérante, suivie de l'intimée, aura chacune 10 minutes pour présenter leurs observations préliminaires.
19 On the 1st of April 2011 both parties received a copy of the Agenda that we will be following today.
20 The parties will be asked to introduce the members of their respective teams and the applicant, followed by the respondent, will each have 10 minutes for opening remarks.
21 Following those remarks the Commission will question the applicant, followed by the respondent, on matters related to the application and both the applicant and the respondent will have 20 minutes to question each other. The Commission will then ask any additional questions it may have.
22 Suite à ces remarques, le Conseil interrogera la requérante suivie de l'intimée sur la demande. Ensuite, le requérant et l'intime auront chacun 20 minutes pour poser des questions de l'un à l'autre. Le Conseil posera d'autres questions si besoin.
23 The Commission will not entertain written final arguments. Rather, parties will have 10 minutes at the end of the hearing, following a short recess, to make their final submissions.
24 Le Conseil n'acceptera pas des observations finales écrites. Plutôt, les parties, après une courte pause, auront 10 minutes à la fin de l'audience, pour presenter leurs observations finales.
25 Les parties sont encouragées à parler dans la langue officielle de leur choix.
26 Des services de traduction française et anglaise seront fournis au cours de la procédure.
27 Les appareils sont disponibles à l'arriere de la salle.
28 Parties are free to speak in the language of their choice. English and French translation services are provided during the course of the proceeding. Headsets are available at the back of the room for this purpose.
29 Please note that a live audio stream of the hearing in both languages is available over the Commission's website.
30 Veuillez noter que l'audience est diffusée en direct, dans les deux langues, sue le site Web du Conseil par moyen de lecture audio.
31 Un sténographe judiciaire préparera un compte rendu textuel de l'audience. Pour que le stenographe puisse produire un compte rendu exact, assurez vous que votre microphone est allumé lorsque vous parlez. Pour savoir comment obtenir une partie ou la totalité de ce compte rendu, veuillez vous informer à la fin de l'audience auprès du sténographe.
32 There is a verbatim transcript of this hearing being taken by the court reporter. In order to ensure that the court reporter is able to produce an accurate transcript, please make sure that your microphone is turned on when speaking, simply by pushing the button under the microphone.
33 Nous vous rappelons que vos téléphones cellulaires et téléavertisseurs devraient être désactivés en tout temps lorsque vous êtes dans la salle d'audience.
34 We would like to remind you that cell phones and pagers should be turned off at all times while you are in the hearing room.
35 We will begin with opening remarks by Triton Global Business Services, which will have 10 minutes to make its presentation.
OPENING REMARKS BY TRITON
36 MR. DUNBAR: Thank you very much.
37 Good morning, Madam Chair, Commissioners Poirier and Patrone and Commission staff.
38 My name is Laurence Dunbar. I am with the law firm of Fasken Martineau and I am acting as counsel for Triton Global Business Services Inc.
39 Triton's witness seated to my left is Mr. Guy Fietz who is President and CEO of the company.
40 Triton is in the business of providing interexchange telecommunications services in Canada. It is headquartered in Calgary and it's registered with the Commission as a Canadian carrier. In order to provide collect calling services on a national basis, Triton has entered into bill and collections or B&C Agreements with Canadian local exchange carriers across Canada.
41 In March of 2003 it entered into a B&C Agreement with MTS which provides for the billing and collection by MTS of accounts receivable for "Eligible Services" which are defined in a schedule to the Agreement to include "collect calls".
42 The charges applicable for MTS rendering this service to Triton are set forth in MTS' Access Tariff.
43 Both the Agreement and the Tariff have been approved by the Commission and constitute regulated telecommunications services.
44 Billing and collection services are not ordinary telecommunications services. They are a mandated interconnection service. This has been the case since 1992 when the Commission determined that these services were required for long distance competition and that was reiterated by the Commission or reaffirmed in 2008 in the Essential Services proceeding.
45 The terms of the B&C Agreement require service providers to query the Line Identification Database, the LIDB database, to determine whether the called number on a collect call has been blocked from collecting collect calls.
46 If the database reveals that there is no restriction, the collect call may be made but the service provider must also request the party receiving the call to signify whether they accept the charges. This is called a "warm-body verification".
47 Now, MTS has asserted that Triton does not perform LIDB database lookups and warm-body verifications in violation of the terms of the B&C Agreement.
48 It alleges that this is the second time Triton has breached the Agreement in this respect and that it therefore has a right to terminate the Agreement and discontinue providing these services to Triton.
49 Triton takes issue with MTS' allegations that Triton does not perform LIDB database lookups or warm-body verifications.
50 Now, Triton's position on these issues is as follows:
51 First, Triton's network equipment is designed to perform automated LIDB database queries on collect calls
52 The call-flow process for these database lookups is depicted on the diagram attached to Triton's response to CRTC Interrogatory 3 and can be explained by Mr. Fietz, if you wish, in questioning.
53 Triton has also filed detailed call records for approximately 1,200 collect calls in Manitoba, which indicate that database queries are, in fact, performed by the company. These records form Attachment 1 to CRTC Interrogatory 2, which Mr. Fietz can also address in greater detail.
54 Triton has also filed as Attachment 2 to CRTC Interrogatory 2 a letter from Triton's third party engineering firm, Danis Communications Inc. stating that it confirms that for the period in question, LIDB database lookups were performed with every collect call presented from DCI's service platform to Triton's network.
55 So it's not a case of Triton ignoring the obligation to perform LIDB database lookups.
56 The database used to perform these queries is the AT&T SNET database and MTS has indicated that this is the same database that MTS currently uses to store records pertaining to call restrictions.
57 Second, Triton's IVR equipment is designed to perform automated warm-body verifications on collect calls.
58 As indicated in Triton's response to CRTC Interrogatory 3, Triton's IVR equipment prompts customers on collect calls to either accept or reject collect calls by pushing digits on their telephone.
59 As explained in that interrogatory response, the vast majority of the calls identified in Attachment 1 to MTS' Reply of March 28 relate to Triton's Telemate product. That is a service contract that Triton has with federal penitentiaries to provide a national collect call service for inmates of those penitentiaries.
60 It is a requirement of that contract that calls be recorded. The recording starts as soon as the called party answers his or her phone.
61 Triton has included a sample of these voice recordings in Attachment 4 to its response to Interrogatory 2.
62 Triton's third-party database supplier has archived voice records for all Telemate calls.
63 On other collect calls, a recording of the DTMF acceptance signal is retained.
64 Third, Triton disputes MTS' allegation that this is the second time that Triton has breached the B&C Agreement in a manner that gives rise to termination rights.
65 Section 12.2 of the B&C Agreement provides for possible termination of the Agreement when a service provider breaches the same provision of the Agreement for the second time, having initially corrected the problem the first time.
66 MTS is relying on an initial breach in December of 2007 -- three years ago -- to trigger its right to terminate the B&C Agreement for an alleged breach in the fall of 2010.
67 Triton has a number of concerns with this position.
68 The record shows the first breach in 2007 related to a failure by Triton to obtain warm-body verification of acceptance of collect calls, not a failure to do LIDB database dips.
69 As recited in Attachment 4 to MTS' Reply, Triton investigated the problem, found corrupted software in its IVR acceptance, voice prompt, and DTMF recognition modem and corrected it. That was four years into the Agreement and almost three years prior to the alleged second breach.
70 This was not the same problem in the fall of 2010. Triton has performed live-body verifications on its collect calls, even on ones that MTS says are to blocked numbers.
71 It was for this reason that Triton urged MTS to meet with it to try to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it when MTS first indicated that there was a problem.
72 Triton has very serious concerns about the way MTS has chosen to handle this issue.
73 Triton has a carrier-to-carrier relationship with MTS. It is not unusual for there to be errors from time to time in the transmission of communications or in related database accesses. While all carriers would like to totally eliminate these errors, it is a fact of life that they occasionally occur.
74 The telecommunications industry usually works in a cooperative manner to investigate and correct them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this element of cooperation has been absent on the part of MTS in this instance.
75 In the fall of 2010, Triton made repeated requests to MTS for an explanation as to why it had not been paid for calls terminated by MTS. Rather than telling Triton that there was a problem in September of 2010 when MTS started investigating complaints, and thereby enable Triton to fix the problem quickly, MTS did not alert Triton to the problem until late December when a notice of termination of the Agreement was sent to Triton.
76 One day later on December 23, 2010 Triton made the first of several requests to meet with MTS to try to resolve the problem.
77 Despite correspondence from MTS that Linda Ormiston, Triton's account manager, would be in touch to set up a meeting in the New Year "to further discuss this issue", Ms Ormiston never contacted Triton. There never was a meeting.
78 On January 12th, Triton wrote to Mr. Lancaster at MTS through its regulatory counsel, responding to the alleged breaches of the B&C Agreement by Triton, pointing out the procedural requirements under the Agreement for a negotiated resolution of this dispute, advising MTS about possible problems with the LIDB database, and requesting a meeting to resolve the issues in dispute.
79 On January 14 MTS' senior counsel, Jolin Spencer, responded by letter indicating that MTS had terminated the B&C Agreement on January 12th.
80 This is not the way that this type of issue should be resolved between carriers.
81 Article 13.1 of the Agreement requires that MTS enter into good-faith negotiations for a period of 30 days when a "disagreement of any kind" arises with respect to the interpretation of the Agreement. This did not happen because MTS never agreed to meet.
82 MTS also failed to comply with Article 13.4(b) which states that:
"In the absence of events giving rise to Force Majeure, during the entire period of the process to resolve a Dispute, the Parties will continue to perform their obligations under this Agreement."
83 When MTS unilaterally terminated the Agreement on January 12th, it ceased providing B&C Agreements to Triton, which was without this service for close to two months until the Commission ordered it reinstated on an interim basis.
84 Had MTS alerted Triton to this issue when it first became aware of a problem in September, instead of building a case for termination over a three to four month period the problem could have been dealt with and resolved when it was still small. It could have been nipped in the bud.
85 The evidence filed by MTS and Triton is conflicting in a number of respects. Triton has demonstrated that it performed LIDB database queries and warm-body verifications as a matter of course.
86 This is not a case of Triton failing to have the systems in place to do this. It has automated systems and it has produced records to show that this is the case. And yet it is apparent that there was a problem with some collect calls apparently going through to blocked numbers.
87 Triton believes that the problems identified by MTS may have been caused by third-party carriers terminating traffic in Canada through Triton.
88 Since being notified of the problem in December, Triton has tried to address this issue by instituting a double-checking of the LIDB database before sending call records to MTS. In other words, it does the database even if the other carrier it's dealing with has done a database dip as well.
89 Triton has also upgraded its database gateway access to SNET with a package that is supposed to be more reliable.
90 The goal of both carriers in this type of situation should be to rectify the problem, not to terminate the Agreement.
91 Thank you. That's my opening statement.
92 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Dunbar.
93 Ms Song, will you be making the presentation or Mr. Trafford?
94 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
95 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
OPENING REMARKS BY MTS
96 MR. TRAFFORD: Good morning Commissioners, Commission staff, ladies and gentlemen.
97 My name is Allen Trafford, and I am Senior Regulatory Analyst at MTS Allstream Inc.
98 With me today is Monica Song of the law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP.
99 MTS Allstream is the incumbent provider of telecommunications services in the province of Manitoba, where it is known as MTS, and is a leading competitive provider of services in the business market outside of Manitoba, where it does business as Allstream.
100 For today's hearing, whether I refer to MTS or MTS Allstream, I will be referring to its ILEC operations unless the question or the context specifically indicates otherwise.
101 MTS offers a billing and collection service under Item 42 of its Carrier Access Tariff, and terms and conditions set out in the Billing and Collection Services Agreement, a standard-form industry agreement which is revised from time to time to incorporate amendments as proposed based on industry discussions and approved by the Commission
102 You can find the current version of the Agreement, Version 1.6, on the record of this proceeding at Attachment 3 of our filing on April 5th.
103 MTS Allstream currently provides Triton with a billing and collection service, including for collect calls that are billed to MTS Allstream's local customers.
104 MTS Allstream seeks to terminate its billing and collection arrangement with Triton for breach by Triton of its obligation to properly validate collect calls originating within Canada and placed to MTS Allstream's customers.
105 One of the fundamental obligations of the service provider under the B&C Agreement is to validate every collect call prior to connecting it. The purpose of validation is to ensure adherence to the paying customer's specific instructions to block collect or bill-to-third calls and to not be billed for such calls.
106 The customer could be the head of a household, a reconnection company, a landlord, a provincial social services agency or a municipal public housing corporation, for example.
107 It is very important to bear in mind that in many cases, the paying customer is not the person residing on the premises and, in particular, not necessarily the person who picks up the line at the receiving end of a collect call.
108 The relevant parts of the Billing and Collection Agreement have remained constant since MTS began providing billing and collection service to Triton, and for convenience are provided. I won't read them all.
109 In addition, the Billing and Collection Agreement incorporates by reference the Billing and Collection Technical Guideline which you can find on the record at Attachment 5 of our filing.
110 The relevant part of the Billing and Collection Guideline is also provided in here for convenience.
111 The definition of validation from the Billing and Collection Agreement, as provided above, clearly delineates a two-step process whereby:
"(a) the service provider must access a database or databases to determine the requirements to proceed with a call and;
(b) adhere to such requirements."
112 Likewise, Article 1.2 of the B&C Technical Guideline reiterates that:
(a) it is the service provider's responsibility to "ensure that proper processes are in place to validate the telephone line number,.."
"(b) collect calls 'must be validated in the appropriate database..."
113 And that:
"(c) Validation is a distinct and separate requirement from warm-body verification."
114 Only validation ensures that the customer responsible for payment of charges for collect calls has consented to a collect call. Triton's audio evidence of its automated operator recordings amply demonstrate that the verification processes used by Triton do not ensure that the paying customer, whoever that might be, is the person permitting the collect call during verification.
115 There is no dispute that in the case of validation of collect calls to MTS' customers, the appropriate database is the one chosen by MTS to store the necessary information, which is the Line Information Database operated by AT&T SNET, the AT&T SNET LIDB.
116 Different carriers use different databases. For example Bell and TELUS operate their own respective databases, generally referred to as Billed Number Screening or BNS databases.
117 Second, Triton does not deny that it is Triton's responsibility under the Agreement and the Guideline to:
"...validate all collect calls to MTS' customers in the AT&T SNET LIDB and that if there is a collect call restriction in the AT&T SNET LIDB the collect call must not be connected by Triton."
118 Third, the evidence on the record is clear that Triton is systematically:
"(a) failing to validate all collect calls in the appropriate database; and
(b) failing to ensure that "Denied -Collect Call" replies from the query of the AT&T SNET LIDB database are adhered to in the case of MTS' customers."
119 The evidence of both parties confirm the foregoing breaches by Triton of the B&C Agreement. MTS has filed in advance of this expedited hearing, summaries of the relevant evidence of both MTS and Triton.
120 If you turn to our letter dated yesterday, Attachment 1 summarizes the evidence filed by MTS Allstream on 28th of March in this regard. It's a one-page summary sheet listing 24 numbers.
121 And Attachment 2 confirms that for Call Detail Records (CDRs) received from Triton between September and December 2010, there were 448 collect calls connected by Triton to 24 distinct collect-call blocked telephone numbers of MTS Allstream's customers.
122 These are minimum quantities of calls and blocked numbers, as MTS Allstream did not include numbers for which collect-call blocking was added or removed during that period. We didn't want to overstate the degree. We would rather understate the degree of calls coming through to blocked numbers.
123 Triton's own evidence confirms the same fact. Attachment 1 of Triton's interrogatory response filed April 8 provides evidence of queries to the AT&T SNET LIDB for collect calls to MTS Allstream customers between September and December 2010.
124 The ReplyCodeV field in Triton's Attachment 1 corresponds to AT&T SNET LIDB query results:
"(a) a "ReplyCodeV=061" means to verify the collect call, i.e. Triton can proceed with live-body verification; and
(b) a "ReplyCodeV=263" means "Denied-Collect Call" i.e. that there is an instruction on the called line to block all collect calls, in which case, the collect call must not proceed."
125 Attachment 3 of our letter yesterday collates the relevant portions of Triton's evidence, and shows that generally Triton performed one query per number per day, instead of querying each call.
126 Further, notwithstanding the fact that every single collect call listed in this Attachment was to a collect-call blocked number, and every single query returned an instruction to deny the call, Triton proceeded to connect the collect call.
127 I am referring to a spreadsheet that looks like this. It lists 337 calls and you can see towards the left -- towards the right side of the page an indication of when queries were done and what the query results were.
128 Therefore, Triton's own evidence demonstrates that it is not dipping every collect call and second, and more importantly, that it has failed to ensure that its systems respect collect call denial instructions in the AT&T SNET LIDB database in the case of MTS' Customers.
129 If these were isolated occurrences we would not be here today. However, as stated in our evidence filed on March 28th, during the last four months of 2010, between 11 per cent and 35 per cent of all collect calls connected by Triton to MTS' local customers were to collect-call blocked numbers.
130 Collect calls should never be connected to collect-call blocked numbers. The fact that only 2.3 per cent of MTS' local Manitoba customers subscribe to collect call blocking service underscores the significance and severity of Triton's breach.
131 In these circumstances, MTS Allstream was more than justified in terminating its B&C Agreement with Triton on 10 days' notice.
132 MTS Allstream therefore respectfully requests that Triton's application be denied and that MTS Allstream's termination of the B&C Agreement be reinstated, effective within seven days of the Commission's determination in this matter.
133 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr. Trafford.
134 Now, what we had decided to do is that the Commission will ask two rounds of questions, as you can see from the schedule or the Agenda.
135 The first round of questions are going to be just sort of more preliminary. We do have a lot of questions. I'm thinking that, as a result of your cross, that a lot of our questions will probably be answered. So we will just start in that.
136 I think with respect to the submission that MTS made yesterday that I'm expecting that the questions that at least I have with respect to that will be probably brought out by Mr. Dunbar.
QUESTIONING BY THE COMMISSION
137 THE CHAIRPERSON: So at any rate, I will start with the questions that I have -- preliminary questions.
138 I am going to refer first of all to your opening statement, Mr. Dunbar, because I have a number of questions as a result of that.
139 You indicated at paragraph 13 that you:
"...filed detailed call records for approximately 1,200 collect calls in Manitoba which indicate that the database queries are in fact performed by the company."
140 Can you help me understand that and where I would look to in your evidence, to see that it shows that?
141 I'm assuming that I'm going to look at your February application, your February 2nd application.
142 No, actually, I think I'm going to look at your responses if you can just give me the exact reference, and we can go through that?
143 MR. DUNBAR: Can you please repeat the question for Mr. Fietz?
144 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sure I can.
145 You say in your first sentence there, in paragraph 13 of your submission this morning that:
"Triton has also filed detailed call records for approximately 1,200 collect calls in Manitoba which indicate that database queries are in fact performed by the company."
146 And so I am looking at your response to Interrogatory No. 2 which I assume is where you want me to look.
147 MR. FIETZ: That's correct.
148 THE CHAIRPERSON: And can you just show me on that schedule how I would come to that conclusion that it shows me that every call was queried?
149 MR. FIETZ: Yes, Commissioner.
150 If you were to look at each line item that we have provided, regardless of the result this is actually showing a reply code on each sampling for each call that was made.
151 So, for example, looking at the first line item just to use it as an example, coming across into the result table on your far right, that gives us a status of okay, a reply code, 061 which would mean there is no collect block on that and giving the RAO on the OCN number of the carrier which would identify which ANI that belongs to.
152 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So what this shows me is that everybody was -- that the query was made. It doesn't tell me whether the call was blocked, or does it?
153 MR. FIETZ: It would --
154 THE CHAIRPERSON: The 263, does it say it's to a blocked number?
155 MR. FIETZ: It would actually give us the reply status, the reply code status of whether it's blocked or not.
156 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the last one on that first page is a blocked call -- 263?
157 MR. FIETZ: The last one? Perhaps we are looking at a different --
158 MR. DUNBAR: Are you looking at --
159 MR. FIETZ: Attachment 1.
160 MR. DUNBAR: Are you looking at Attachment 1?
161 THE CHAIRPERSON: I am.
162 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah.
163 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, sorry, but I'm on page 2.
164 MR. FIETZ: Okay.
165 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, I didn't realize that.
166 MR. DUNBAR: Okay, we can get page 2.
167 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah, sorry.
168 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, the last sample on page 2.
169 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm.
170 MR. FIETZ: -- would give us the reply code of 263, you are correct. That would indicate a collect block.
171 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So does this tell me, though, that you searched the database?
172 This tells me you searched the database. What it doesn't tell me is if the call went through after that.
173 MR. FIETZ: Well, these are calls that were, in fact, billed and proceeded from a LIDB.
174 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the call then -- this does tell me, then, that the call was made to a blocked call?
175 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
176 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And so your explanation for that is...?
177 MR. FIETZ: My explanation for that is in the case of most of these ANIs -- and what I should mention here, I guess, is we are looking at a total for September of about 15 unique ANIs.
178 What we have in this sampling is a series of ANIs where the large majority of them are -- again, they are inmate call records coming from federal facilities.
179 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
180 MR. FIETZ: It's important to know that we in fact do not facilitate the collect call itself. We are actually providing a gateway service for the LIDB service to the network provider in this call.
181 The reason we did that was, as Allen mentioned previously, there are several alternate third-party LIDB service providers that we have found over time to be inadequate.
182 With this we volunteered or offered the usage of our gateway service for these calls and consequently, our customer in fact, it seems they did allow some collect calls through that probably shouldn't have.
183 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So then I just want to be clear on that.
184 Are you saying that we should regard the calls under your contract with the federal penitentiaries differently than all other calls? Is there two categories of calls here?
185 MR. FIETZ: There are two categories. There are calls that we actually processed and we have not found any particular evidence that we have allowed 263 calls or call block status to proceed from our switches themselves.
186 These seem to be third party switchers.
187 THE CHAIRPERSON: You are getting a little in over my head here on the technical side of it. I just want to be very clear that I understand what you are saying, and maybe I could get Allstream's -- MTS' concurrence with it.
188 I am understanding, what you are saying that the calls through the federal penitentiary are fine, in your view.
189 MR. FIETZ: No, I'm actually -- Commissioner, I'm actually saying that it does seem that the system that was not physically in our control where we were providing the gateway access to the Canadian LIDB service, did in fact proceed with collect calls from 263 blocks.
190 However, again, I should mention that in the first instance we are talking about a unique number of ANIs of only 15 households in September.
191 THE CHAIRPERSON: So...?
192 MR. FIETZ: So because this is inmate facility traffic, there is a very high number of repeat calls.
193 If you were to look at the analysis on an overall basis, I believe we are only looking at 17 -- approximately 17 unique ANIs all the way through this report, whether it's 100 calls or 200 calls or 300 calls or 10 calls. What we are actually talking about here is a very, very small number of unique home ANIs.
194 THE CHAIRPERSON: And so then the problem with respect to those particular calls then made from the penitentiaries, is it your responsibility?
195 MR. FIETZ: I don't know how to answer that.
196 Again, we don't provide the whole service. I guess the billing collection agreements are under our company. However, again, the network itself isn't provided by us.
197 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, then has something changed because you have been -- just with respect to these ones what has changed? You have been with MTS for eight years and you have obviously -- I'm assuming this is a case that you have always had these federal penitentiary accounts?
198 MR. FIETZ: No, not always; no.
199 THE CHAIRPERSON: So is it relatively new that you have had them?
200 MR. FIETZ: It is, yes.
201 THE CHAIRPERSON: Since these problems have arisen?
202 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
203 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the problems seem to relate to those, for the most part?
204 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
205 THE CHAIRPERSON: And what percentage of the problems relate to those?
206 MR. FIETZ: Oh, I would say over 90 percent.
207 THE CHAIRPERSON: Over 90 percent?
208 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, on a total of, again, of about 15 or 16 home ANIs in total.
209 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the home ANIs, these are the calls, the numbers the calls are placed to?
210 MR. FIETZ: Yes. So this is a problem that repeated itself from September through to December.
211 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm.
212 MR. FIETZ: And once again, MTS was aware of this problem in early September and didn't identify it to us until late December.
213 THE CHAIRPERSON: Do you ever get complaints directly to you or do they all -- I know that part of the service is that MTS responds to complaints, but do you ever get complaints that would indicate to you that, gosh, there is a problem here?
214 MR. FIETZ: We do have a 24/7 call centre. However, we were not made aware of this issue.
215 And once again, it's a very, very small amount of phone numbers. So you know in the case of 17 home phone ANIs we would probably not expect to receive a call from a residential --
216 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
217 MR. FIETZ: Because, I guess, one of the things I should also say is these calls being that they are recorded and DTMF tone accepted, regardless of the LIDB result, they were still asked and informed each and every charge in each and every call and each time that individual or authorized user of the phone did accept that call from the home residence.
218 THE CHAIRPERSON: And it's my understanding that the process is then if it's rejected if you get the code 263 you don't ask the question. That's the end of it.
219 Is that correct?
220 MR. FIETZ: In the case of 263, in fact, the calls probably should not have proceeded from that point.
221 And once again, we were not in actual physical control of that network piece. That is being processed by another network provider.
222 THE CHAIRPERSON: With an ILEC?
223 MR. FIETZ: No.
224 THE CHAIRPERSON: So maybe can I just ask MTS for your comments on that?
225 I'm coming back to you with more questions but I would just like to just follow through on this.
226 MR. TRAFFORD: Which particular aspect?
227 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, first of all, I guess, do you agree that 90 percent of the calls are related to these federal penitentiary ones?
228 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't have the data to confirm or deny. I don't know which calls originated from federal penitentiaries. I certainly see the same originating numbers occurring on a very large portion of the calls.
229 THE CHAIRPERSON: I see there was one number there. I think it had 187 calls over the four months.
230 MR. TRAFFORD: You have looked at this record fairly closely.
231 THE CHAIRPERSON: I did notice it, yeah. So you didn't give any thought to whether this might be -- to try to zone in where the problem might be?
232 MR. TRAFFORD: We've continued to look at this as the time has passed. Certainly it does appear that there is a high number of calls from the same sources.
233 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
234 MR. TRAFFORD: I wouldn't know that all of them are from the same sources. There are a couple of calls from Montreal and Thunder Bay and so on that are probably not --
235 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
236 MR. TRAFFORD: And we are talking 24 phone numbers which of the billing records sent to us represents anywhere from 11 percent to 17 percent of the phone numbers that are billed on behalf of Triton.
237 So even though the number is fairly small it's a fairly large portion of the billing records sent to us.
238 THE CHAIRPERSON: And so as I understand what Triton is saying, that 90 percent of those 11 to 35 percent are related to penitentiaries.
239 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes, a generalization.
240 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So I will go back to my questions on your presentation this morning and we will come back to this later.
241 MS SONG: If I could just add one, Commissioner?
242 THE CHAIRPERSON: Certainly.
243 MS SONG: This information that's coming from Mr. Fietz this morning, we are now April 15th, 2011. We alerted Triton to our concerns back in December.
244 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm.
245 MS SONG: And this is the first time that we are hearing anything about providing a gateway service to the LIDB to another person, might be a carrier, might be somebody else; might be a related party.
246 So it's really the first time that we are hearing this from Triton.
247 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I appreciate that.
248 MS SONG: It's difficult for us to react.
249 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I appreciate that.
250 MS SONG: And understand, frankly, what is happening.
251 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think what we will do is when you have your chance to cross-examine -- I don't want to get off on the schedule so I will go back to my other questions.
252 So the IVR equipment is designed to perform automated warm-body verifications on collect calls. So that means that -- if I understand it correctly -- if the system is working correctly, if it gets a 263 there is no call.
253 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, in theory there are two -- well, in theory you are correct. However, there are two different aspects.
254 So the 263 is a performance reply from the LIDB code itself.
255 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm.
256 MR. FIETZ: The warm-body acceptance is once the call is allowed to proceed. Then, that warm-body acceptance was required.
257 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So you get the 263 it shouldn't be going to the next step?
258 MR. FIETZ: You are correct.
259 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
260 MR. FIETZ: And if I could add to that, upon our receipt of information of this issue we did an immediate investigation through the SNET service and upgraded access to new services that are offered -- that were offered to us at the -- through the investigation. We have rectified the issue.
261 THE CHAIRPERSON: Is this since December 22nd were you saying?
262 MR. FIETZ: Yes, and if we were made aware of that issue it was handled very quickly. If we were made aware of the issue in September we could have curtailed this thing.
263 THE CHAIRPERSON: And have you made -- have you had any type of dialogue even since December 22nd with MTS to make them aware of this enhancement that you put in place?
264 MR. FIETZ: I believe so in our meeting in January, I believe, we did.
265 THE CHAIRPERSON: You had a meeting in January.
266 MR. FIETZ: It was a conference call.
267 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don't think I have a record of that.
268 MR. FIETZ: Oh, that's correct. I should correct that because that was a meeting that was focused on the Fastrack Corporation.
269 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, okay. So in the course of that meeting are you thinking that you mentioned this upgrade to MTS, or are you not sure?
270 MR. FIETZ: I'm not sure.
271 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
272 I was going to ask you at paragraph 26 you talk about:
"The record shows the first breach was in 2007."
273 And you are saying that the breach is of a different nature than the current breach. Is that what I am understanding you to say? So you disagree with MTS' contention that there are two breaches?
274 MR. FIETZ: That's correct, Commissioner.
275 I would contend that the first issue was around the warm-body verification and that this second incident is particularly around allowing collect calls to proceed from a 263 collect-block reply code.
276 THE CHAIRPERSON: Can you just repeat that for me again?
277 MR. FIETZ: Well, the first -- so if I could maybe explain again the two -- the differences?
278 There is two different components of a collect call. Typically from the start of the call there is a general LIDB dip which would give us a reply code.
279 And then from that point, if the call proceeded from there, the IVR would require a warm-body acceptance which is the actual end user pressing digits to accept the call after the rates and disclosure of the service was identified to them.
280 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah. So that's where the problem was the first time, at that end of it?
281 MR. FIETZ: The first time MTS referenced the failure of warm-body acceptance on this circumstance they are referencing failure to perform properly.
282 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Were you involved in the CISC process that developed the B&C Agreement?
283 MR. FIETZ: We were not the B&C Agreement, Commissioner. However, we were present during the CISC committee consumer aspects of the B&C.
284 THE CHAIRPERSON: A couple of questions just on the Agreement.
285 In looking at the Agreement, when I read it I assumed that Section 13 was sort of an overall provision and not -- I didn't interpret that if you came to 12, and you were disqualified under 12 that the obligation to enter into good faith negotiations did not apply.
286 Obviously, that's not your interpretation of the Agreement or that you would agree with me that 13 would apply even despite 12, is that correct?
287 MR. DUNBAR: I think 13 should apply despite 12. And 13 says, "should a spirited disagreement of any kind arise with respect to the interpretation or application of the Agreement".
288 Now, in this case there is a disagreement as to the circumstances and whether they give rise to a second breach of the contract, I would say. MTS obviously believes, as stated, that it thinks it's the same type of incident. We are saying it's a different kind of incident.
289 At the time of December it was very unclear exactly what the facts were with respect to all of these call records. We didn't get MTS' chart until the end of March about -- they gave us summaries earlier. So I would say there is -- it does say any disagreement of any kind with respect to the interpretation or application of the Agreement.
290 So I think it's very broad and I think if you looked at the various layers here there appears to be good faith negotiations for 30 days between the parties. There is an opportunity for early referral to the CRTC or a competent court. There is a possibility for arbitration.
291 I think this Agreement was very clearly aimed for the parties themselves to try to resolve issues and not one you would unilaterally terminate and have its view prevail. So I think on this termination point it's probably the most important point that could possibly arise in the interpretation of a contract.
292 So I would say, yes, this is -- I think this is what the Commission had in mind when it approved this Agreement.
293 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would the norm be to have the termination clause following 13?
294 MR. DUNBAR: I don't think the order of the sections really matter.
295 THE CHAIRPERSON: It doesn't matter?
296 MR. DUNBAR: No, I don't think so.
297 THE CHAIRPERSON: I don't mean just in respect to this Agreement but generally with respect to legal agreements.
298 MR. DUNBAR: No, I don't think it matters what the order of the sections are.
299 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you.
300 I'm just -- no, that's for MTS.
301 THE CHAIRPERSON: It says here Triton was without -- at your paragraph 41 that:
"Triton was without the service for two months until March the 11th when the Commission ordered it reinstated."
302 I just wonder, your customers, your clients, they were still able to make calls. It's just the billing aspect of it that wasn't happening, is that correct?
303 MR. FIETZ: That is correct, Commissioner, and we purposefully withheld billing into MTS territory until we could also further investigate this issue and ensure that we have invoked a proper solution going forward.
304 THE CHAIRPERSON: So consumers weren't affected and at this point you are now submitting records to MTS?
305 MR. FIETZ: Yes, we have improved and upgraded the LIDB service that SNET is now providing us.
306 I should mention that SNET has also acknowledged a failure to upgrade our service throughout that period and upon -- again, upon acknowledgement or a receipt of this issue we immediately took steps to rectify it and it is now in production on our network.
307 THE CHAIRPERSON: And to your knowledge then, MTS is not having any problems at this point with the numbers?
308 MR. FIETZ: No, not to my knowledge.
309 THE CHAIRPERSON: Not to your knowledge.
310 And I just lost my train of thought there. I had a question. It will come back to me.
311 MTS mentioned in there -- I just don't have the paragraph in front of me -- but it seems to me that they said that they called all the numbers using that same -- they used the same AT&T database. I guess that's correct. I'm understanding that correctly -- or the same numbers that AT&T uses, and that they found that all of the calls they called were blocked.
312 But you're not saying they weren't blocked. You're saying they were blocked. It's just you had it all on your system.
313 MR. FIETZ: Your Honour, there is two parts to that.
314 Number one, we have found discrepancies within their billing results and which we have provided within our evidence.
315 And we are not necessarily accessing the -- we are definitely not accessing the database or perhaps the exact same database. MTS would probably be submitting their data and, again, this is purely speculation but they would be submitting upgrades to their own database and the third-party access is not necessarily identical at all times because you are definitely going to have timing issues.
316 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
317 MR. FIETZ: For example, if MTS had a request for a call block and that call block entered the system and by the time it gets to SNET several days pass. In the meantime, according to MTS, that call has been blocked and I don't know how often or how regular SNET actually updates their database.
318 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so there is a possibility there of a timing difference?
319 MR. FIETZ: There is a possibility with a discrepancy, yeah, and I would also say that -- I would guess to say that other clearing houses would have -- periodically have small issues such as this as well.
320 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I know MTS will have some opportunity to respond so I will just continue on with the questions.
321 One just quick question. I notice in your submissions that you mention that you deal across the country with many ILECs. You provide a national service. I'm just wondering what your experience is, with those other carriers.
322 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, we have actually grown significantly in the last several years. We have upgraded our network significantly in the last couple of years.
323 We do have a complete national network coast to coast with Class 4 or 5 switchers. Our experience with the ILECs is, for the most part, in a positive -- very positive relationship nature.
324 We have been treated by the other ILECs as a carrier and as a competitive carrier. We have had issues with ILECs from our side as well.
325 For example, last year we had an issue where one of the ILECs duplicated our submissions to end consumer bill pages.
326 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yeah.
327 MR. FIETZ: We notified the ILECs of that and it took them over two months to rectify their billing issue which impacted our chargeback in bad debt rate.
328 However, we knew that we were all working in a good faith/good will manner and that issue was rectified and we all moved forward.
329 THE CHAIRPERSON: In that instance that you give there as an example, did you become aware of the problem because the end customer called to complain?
330 MR. FIETZ: Yes, Commissioner, we were made aware through actual receiving calls and physical bill records. We went into our database and found that we had submitted the records properly and the batch duplication was actually on the other end on the ILEC, yes.
331 THE CHAIRPERSON: So in that instance, but not in this current instance, consumer feedback drew your attention --
332 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
333 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- that, yes, there is a problem?
334 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
335 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
336 I'm just wondering -- and just a couple of questions and perhaps I should know this -- Triton is a Canadian company?
337 MR. FIETZ: We are 100 percent Canadian.
338 THE CHAIRPERSON: 100 percent. And is it a publicly-traded company or is it --
339 MR. FIETZ: No, no.
340 THE CHAIRPERSON: No? I'm just trying to get the magnitude here.
341 MR. FIETZ: We were at one point several years ago trading and we acquired the company back and are now private again.
342 THE CHAIRPERSON: So you have been involved with the company through this whole period from 2003?
343 MR. FIETZ: Yes, I'm the original founder of the company.
344 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So what percentage of Triton's revenue, then rely on the Billing and Collection Agreement with MTS?
345 MR. FIETZ: With MTS?
346 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm, just roughly.
347 MR. FIETZ: Probably 3 percent.
348 THE CHAIRPERSON: 3 percent, okay.
349 And then of that 3 percent am I to conclude -- well, maybe not. Let me ask the question.
350 What percent of that revenue is from residential customers then?
351 MR. FIETZ: 100 percent. So one of the statements that Allen made earlier was that, yes, in fact businesses from Allstream and et cetera have the capability or the option of accepting collect calls. However, our services do not access businesses.
352 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, okay. I'm not asking my question correctly.
353 I guess what I'm trying to understand is what percentage of that 3 percent comes as a result of your federal penitentiary contracts and other business contracts as opposed to individual consumers?
354 MR. FIETZ: So Commissioner, just to be clear, are you asking me what percentage of our total billing in MTS territory is inmate? Is that what you are asking?
355 THE CHAIRPERSON: Inmate and/or business-related as opposed to residential.
356 MR. FIETZ: I would say 75 percent.
357 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thanks.
358 So the volume is 90 percent of the problem here, is 90 percent but that doesn't have to translate to the same percentage in the revenue, for sure.
359 MR. FIETZ: Right.
360 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the contract that you have with -- you mentioned the name here today, Danis Communications -- they are, as I understand it, a third party that you use to dip into the AT&T database and they forward the files.
361 Is that the idea?
362 MR. FIETZ: They are our IVR -- outsource IVR provider. So they are our technical support team and they would, in essence, be facilitating the LIDB gateway for ourselves and our other customers.
363 THE CHAIRPERSON: So are they responsible for the software that makes it all work then; is that what you are saying?
364 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
365 THE CHAIRPERSON: And so have you been using them for a long while?
366 MR. FIETZ: Several years.
367 THE CHAIRPERSON: And are they under a contract that requires them to recognize the B&C Agreement and the Technical Guidelines?
368 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, they are under a contract with us and --
369 THE CHAIRPERSON: But does that contract specifically refer to these so that they understand the importance of it?
370 MR. FIETZ: It may not particularly reference that.
371 However, again, the issue for the most part is unrelated to that as well due to the fact that we are simply facilitating a gateway at that access point and the gate -- so the gateway actually sits on the Danis hardware. However, the third party network -- inmate network provider sits outside that.
372 So it's not the same company.
373 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. So this is another party that's part of your whole operation --
374 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
375 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- that would have to respect the Billing and Collection Agreement.
376 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
377 THE CHAIRPERSON: But would they be aware of that?
378 MR. FIETZ: The network operator is aware of the requirement.
379 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
380 I'm going to just -- I know I said I was going to have just a few questions and I'm sure my colleagues are going to have questions too, and this is the brief part of the questioning. But, at any rate, I'm going to switch to MTS. I have a few questions for MTS.
381 The first one involves or revolves around the Notice that was given to Triton. I noticed that the invoices attached to -- I guess they would have come in with your reply, with MTS' reply. For those four months, September to December, you show a total of 2,369 records on the invoices. And of those 2,837 -- 2,857, sorry -- 83 percent were charged back.
382 So I am just wondering -- so this is in September even, I think, off the top of my head there were 1,330 out of 1,550 or something, that were charged back in September which would indicate to me that -- well, actually, it raises a question in my mind were they actually billed.
383 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes, every one of those calls was billed. The way that the billing record process works is there is a centralized system. Carriers such as Triton put all their billing records into the system. It sorts them around.
384 We get all the billing records from Triton and other carriers, all coming in through the same feed right into our billing system.
385 There is a very superficial screening. You know if the date is three years ago it's rejected. If there is characters in an amount field or a phone number field they are rejected.
386 But otherwise they go into our billing system. They appear on the customer's bill, the next customer bill that comes around.
387 THE CHAIRPERSON: So the customer was invoiced.
388 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
389 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I presume then if it was rejected by the customer that you wouldn't know that until the end of October or early November.
390 MR. TRAFFORD: According to our terms of service customers have 150 days to dispute a one-time charge like a long distance call.
391 THE CHAIRPERSON: So when you are giving them an invoice on December 22nd for September and it's showing 1,300 chargebacks --
392 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
393 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- calls charged back, that is based on your findings in October/November/December?
394 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
395 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, all right. That's helpful.
396 And I wondered -- I guess what I'm trying to get at is when you actually realized or would reasonably have been expected to realize it was a problem because there is one paragraph where you comment on June, July and August.
397 MR. TRAFFORD: Okay. MTS has a customer contact centre that deals with a myriad of issues. I have statistics from January. They had over 50,000 customer calls.
398 THE CHAIRPERSON: M'hmm.
399 MR. TRAFFORD: We categorized by the nature of the call. Let me just give you some round figures here -- right there.
400 Out of those 50,000 calls almost 20,000 were requests to explain charges. 4,400 were dispute charges and 14,000 were other which who knows what they are.
401 The reps have standard processes to follow if a customer calls in and says, "I have collect call blocking. Why is this collect call charge on my bill?"
402 The customer goes through some standard scripts, you know, did somebody accept the call, whatever. If it's necessary or appropriate, the rep reverses the call, hits a certain key and that call gets charged back to the service provider.
403 We don't track how many calls are charged back or how many are charged back to particular service providers. So out of those 50,000 we don't know.
404 What happened in late September/early October if customers aren't satisfied with the service they get from the customer rep, they escalate and eventually they can reach the Executive Advocate's office. And we had a complaint that reached the Executive Advocate's office. They get a broader team involved and we say, "What's going on?"
405 So we don't know when the problem began and we started looking. It was September or October records. We don't know whether it began then or it began several months earlier.
406 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. And so was it a single call that precipitated that to the senior level then?
407 MR. TRAFFORD: It was a single call.
408 THE CHAIRPERSON: A single call, okay.
409 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, if I could interrupt, one of the things that I want to make sure that the Commission understands here is there was an inference on these chargebacks that these were customer returns and customer disputed calls.
410 That is not the case. MTS arbitrarily classified these records as ineligible and credited all the customers.
411 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's what I'm trying to get at.
412 MR. TRAFFORD: I'll clarify that.
413 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
414 MR. TRAFFORD: These were not charged back based on individual customer disputes of each call.
415 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, that's what I'm getting at, okay.
416 MR. TRAFFORD: These were charged back under the provision in the contract that these were not validated.
417 THE CHAIRPERSON: You can do that if you --
418 MR. TRAFFORD: These were not validated and, as we saw from --
419 THE CHAIRPERSON: But what I don't understand then is if you get the list you send out the invoices and at some -- so the customer gets billed in September or October.
420 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
421 THE CHAIRPERSON: They got the bill.
422 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
423 THE CHAIRPERSON: So how could you then charge it back? Like I don't understand how all of those ones are showing up in September. That's what is not clear to me.
424 MR. TRAFFORD: So you get billed for a $7.95 collect call from an inmate or from, you know, just a regular collect call. We discovered that the collect call had not followed the appropriate process, had not been dipped. 60 percent of the calls shown were not dipped.
425 We determined that, based on the requirement that all calls be dipped and that the dip instructions be respected, that the dipping wasn't being done properly.
426 Under that provision we are entitled to chargeback.
427 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
428 MR. TRAFFORD: It's in the preamble.
429 THE CHAIRPERSON: So I'm the customer then. I get charged in September for $7.95.
430 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
431 THE CHAIRPERSON: When do I get credited for that $7.95 that you are not paying --
432 MR. TRAFFORD: We completed our investigations towards the end of November/early December. At that point we had reps manually go in and put a $7.95 credit on your account.
433 THE CHAIRPERSON: For the whole number of those ones that were --
434 MR. TRAFFORD: If you had for every call that was -- that came to you.
435 THE CHAIRPERSON: Charged back?
436 MR. TRAFFORD: I should also clarify that we received three groups of calls in the call records. There were foreign-originated collect calls.
437 THE CHAIRPERSON: I noticed that, yes.
438 MR. TRAFFORD: We didn't determine any irregularities with those. Those had been billed properly. They are not part of what we are here to discuss.
439 There were regular collect calls which originated in Canada and terminated to our numbers. That's where we saw significant issues.
440 Subsequent to December, just in the last month or two, we have been able to discern that the regular collect calls and the reverse 900 calls that are presented as collect; the failure to dip seems to be far more prevalent in the regular collect calls.
441 THE CHAIRPERSON: So if I was your customer, then I would have seen probably on my December invoice a credit for that September charge.
442 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct, whether or not you had paid it. If you had previously disputed it and had it removed we wouldn't have double-credited.
443 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, okay, I understand that.
444 Okay. So --
445 MR. TRAFFORD: And the reference to the June/July/August was a question of these 24 numbers: Have these people complained in the past?
446 THE CHAIRPERSON: Before.
447 MR. TRAFFORD: We couldn't really tell in the September and onward period because the waters were muddied by MTS applying credits. So we went, prior to that period and six of those numbers had received and been billed for collect calls in June, July and August and four of those six had called in and complained.
448 THE CHAIRPERSON: Would your normal practice be, because obviously you work with other companies similar to Triton, maybe offering different services, but going back to Mr. Dunbar's opening remarks, I think, is your normal practice to work with people to try to resolve an issue or to let it build up?
449 And I'm not saying you let it up. Don't misunderstand me.
450 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah, yeah. No.
451 THE CHAIRPERSON: Because it took some time for you to analyze and come to that conclusion, I recognize that.
452 MR. TRAFFORD: We don't cite for breaches lightly. We have only cited -- we have been providing billing and collection for about 20 years. We have about 20 to 30 billing and collection customers.
453 We have only cited three breaches, Triton in 2007 and again in 2010 and this company, Fastrack, in 2010.
454 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, okay. Thank you very much.
455 MR. TRAFFORD: We don't tend to let things build up. We do tend to -- we participate actively in industry forums, the CISC working group, developing these practices.
456 And we did -- you know, we did invite information. Our emails of January 7th said, "If you have any information to explain why these calls could go through despite dips being placed, please advise".
457 THE CHAIRPERSON: When you started to look at it in September or October when you suspected there was a problem, did you not -- did it not occur to your people at the operating level to call up the other company and say, "What's going on here? This seems odd"?
458 MR. TRAFFORD: We didn't know what the problem was. We wanted to understand what was going on before we opened up the discussions.
459 You know, even over the past four months since December -- I mean, we are finding out today. Today is the first time there has been an omission that calls have been completed even though dips came up with a blocked call reply, there still hasn't been an admission that dips aren't made on every call.
460 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, all right.
461 I think what we will do, we will just continue on with the questioning and have a health break before we start the cross.
462 Is that right?
463 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, if I could add something in there?
464 Regarding some of these complaints we actually have evidence of consumers during this process that were placed with collect blocks who did not request that. Once again, we are talking about only approximately 17 unique home phone numbers as a total issue.
465 We actually have also proof and evidence of consumers who were communicated to -- from the CSR centre at MTS where they were offered a cheque or a credit to their account regarding these services. They were then informed by us that if, in fact, they charged these back that our process and procedure would be to block them permanently from allowing -- accept a collect call from our service.
466 THE CHAIRPERSON: What we should do is leave that discussion when the two of you are crossing each other and make sure that your point gets made at that point.
467 So right now I will just ask Commissioner Poirier to pick up with some questions.
469 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Thank you, Madam Chair.
470 Only a few questions. First, I will start with MTS, Mr. Trafford, continuing with the discussion you had with Commissioner Duncan.
471 I was wondering, Triton was in breach the first time in 2007 and you decided at that point to negotiate with them. You divulged to them the nature of the problem at that point early, I think, very early.
472 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
473 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Yes. Why haven't you divulged the nature of the second breach early in the process? Because you unitarily decided the nature of the breach is the same but they didn't know that fact.
474 MR. TRAFFORD: In 2007 we cited the breach as a breach of provision 1.2 of the Technical Guideline which is an integral part of the Agreement. That provision in the Technical Guideline requires that all collect calls and bill to third calls be subject to the database validation and warm-body verification.
475 In 2010 it was a second breach of provision 1.2 of the Technical Guideline, same provision. This time --
476 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: But you are the one who decided it was the same kind of breach unitarily -- unilateralment.
477 MR. TRAFFORD: Oui.
478 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Not informing them about -- not allowing them to accept the fact that it was the same nature of breach.
479 MR. TRAFFORD: Except the fact, yes, it was evident to us. It was not a -- it was a matter of fact, not of interpretation that the same provision required validation and verification.
480 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay. But today they contest that. They say it's not the same nature of breach.
481 What is your response to that element?
482 MR. TRAFFORD: The contract doesn't say that the breach has to be identical to the previous breach. It says 12.2 is if the second breach is of the same provision.
483 The provision is Article 1.2 of the Technical Guideline which requires warm-body -- validation first and warm-body verification.
484 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay.
485 MS SONG: If I could just add, the fact also is that Triton was given over 20 days to remedy the breach after we gave them notice.
486 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: In what year?
487 MS SONG: In 2010 it will be --
488 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: They were given 20 days.
489 MS SONG: Yes. So we provided notice on December 22nd and the contract wasn't terminated until January the 12th.
490 So whether -- although this represents, in our view, a second breach of the same provision of the B&C Agreement and Guideline, it's also our position that in that notice period we only have to provide 10 days even if it's the first breach. And if the company that is in breach does not remedy the breach within that 10-day notice period, then the contract may be terminated.
491 I think that MTS did behave reasonably. We did ask them, "If you got any information that would suggest that you are permitted to override a LIDB denial of collect calling, please advise us". And rather than provide us with a direct response to that, they continued to obfuscate, to return to problems that involved parties completely unrelated to the matter at hand, et cetera.
492 So while we don't abandon the point that this does represent a similar breach of the same provisions in the B&C Agreement, the fact is they did have an opportunity remedy and they did not remedy, at least they didn't advise us.
493 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay.
494 You have been in the business for a long time. Is it possible that the data list on which Triton relies is not 100 percent reliable?
495 MR. TRAFFORD: The data list?
496 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Yeah.
497 MR. TRAFFORD: You are referring to the AT&T SNET listing?
498 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Yes, that's the one.
499 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't know if there is a perfect database anywhere in the world, but the information that's in the database is the information that's to be relied on.
500 And the 24 number -- not approximately 17 -- there is 24 numbers that we have identified in our evidence in March and consistently from that point. For those 24 numbers I personally made collect call attempts from a Bell Canada payphone. They were all blocked.
501 We have provided -- we filed yesterday --
502 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: From the same list?
503 MR. TRAFFORD: From the same database.
504 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: No.
505 MR. FIETZ: No, you yourself told us -- Bell uses a BNS internal.
506 MR. TRAFFORD: No, no, Bell stores the calling blocks for their own local customers in their own database. If you want to make a collect call to a Bell Canada local customer it has to be performed in Bell Canada's BNS database.
507 If you want to make a collect call to an MTS customer the dip has to be performed into the AT&T SNET database.
508 Hopefully, that's --
509 MS SONG: So in other words, it doesn't matter from which territory you are calling. It's the appropriate relevant database of the called party's line, so the LEC that is assigned to the called party's lines designated database that must be dipped. COMMISSIONER POIRIER: And my last question, if we decide you are right and we go in the direction to proceed and to terminate the Agreement and we accept that fact, what will happen to Triton's clients in the area that they serve?
510 MR. TRAFFORD: There are alternatives to billing and collection agreements with the ILECs.
511 I can let you know there is at least one long distance competitor operating in Manitoba providing casual calling which is a service most people associate with billing and collection agreements. They do not have a billing and collection agreement with us. They use calling line ID and PIN number verification and have their own billing relationship with the callers.
512 In a case dealing with the inmates there is a prescribed list of recipients. So there is a defined number of billing relationships. In fact, when we have charged back messages to Triton they are entitled and fully exercise their entitlement to collect directly from the parties that accept the calls.
513 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: So there is competition?
514 MR. TRAFFORD: There is competition in the billing and collection.
515 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay.
516 I'll turn to Triton.
517 You heard what MTS said about the -- I call it the nature of the breach -- and they say the nature is the same as the one in 2007 and you keep on saying it's different. Can you prove it? Can you prove it's really different?
518 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, once again, in the reference from 2007 the particular breach was focused around a warm-body acceptance and the alleged breach in 2010 is around failure to provide a warm-body acceptance which we have provided proof of.
519 MR. TRAFFORD: I'm sorry. We haven't challenged the warm-body acceptance in 2010, unless I'm mistaken, or the breach that we cited is failure to perform the database dip or adhere to the requirements indicated in the dip.
520 So I don't think we need to spend time on warm-body acceptance.
521 MR. DUNBAR: Thanks. That helps clarify that. Thank you very much.
522 MR. FIETZ: Okay.
523 So on the fact that the LIDB dip was actually performed, we have shown that we have provided LIDB dips.
524 MR. DUNBAR: If I could just say something there?
525 It's our position, I think; simply put, three years ago was not doing a warm-body verification in 2010. As Mr. Trafford has indicated, it's failure to do a LIDB database dip or possibly having done the dip, allowing calls to proceed through which shouldn't happen.
526 So that's the distinction.
527 It would be my view Mr. Trafford or counsel has said it's the same provision as opposed to a different set of circumstances. We are saying we didn't do the same thing wrong twice. They are saying both wrongs are in the same section of the Technical Guidelines.
528 But that's a little questionable as well because if you look at the actual Billing and Collection Agreement, it defines validation slightly different from the Technical Guidelines. It says validation -- I will just find it here.
"Validation is the process whereby the SP [which is service provider] must access a database or databases to determine the requirements to proceed with a collect call and to adhere to such requirements."
529 So the actual Agreement -- and it refers to this validation that defines term in Section 3.3. It says:
"The following types of accounts receivable may be charged back.
See calls for requiring [verification where] validation where validation has not occurred."
530 So in the actual B&C Agreement they define validation as the date of the dip.
531 The Agreement that MTS is referring to is a different thing than the Billing and Collection Guidelines and it defines -- it states in one of the sections that -- in Section 1.2 it says:
"...collect and bill to third parties, calls must be validated in the appropriate database and warm-body verified."
532 That's where the warm-body verification comes in. It's actually under the Technical Agreement whereas the validation point is in both.
533 I would say that that Section 12.2, that allows termination on a second offence of the same provision -- I would argue that what's intended there is to catch things where the same actual offence or the same mistake has been made twice, not two different types. I know it refers to provisions but the agreements actually handle these two issues in slightly different ways as well.
534 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: M'hmm.
535 MS SONG: And it would be our submission, Commissioners, that the fundamental issue that causes us to be present here today is -- and the reason why I'm interjecting now is because it is related to your question: Are these of the same nature? Are they of the same provision or not?
536 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: M'hmm.
537 MS SONG: The fundamental concern that we have, MTS, my client has with Triton, is that they have a disregard for the wishes of the paying customer.
538 It was the same issue in 2007. They simply provided for a process where there could no warm-body verification.
539 And in 2010 it is again the exact same problem of simply overriding the express instruction not to allow collect calls to go through to my line.
540 So the fact of the matter is that the provision of the termination clause in the B&C Agreement, 12.2 refers to the same provision.
541 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: M'hmm.
542 MS SONG: We are relying on Technical Guideline 1.2.
543 1.2 deals with the notion that the service provider, in this case Triton:
"...must ensure that it has the consent of the paying customer on the line before any collect calls of the third party calls are put through."
544 So we are alleging and we are saying we stand by our position that they are breaching the fundamental principle of this kind of billing and telecom provision. You have to have the consent of the paying customer. Never override that because it causes a problem. It causes undue convenience. We are all here --
545 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Yeah.
546 MS SONG: -- spending time and money to address this problem.
547 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay, thank you.
548 Just to make sure I conclude on my questions, to Mr. Guy Fietz. Yes.
549 Use of contract, okay, do you check your subcontractors to make sure they apply the Agreement and the Guideline Rules? Do you check that or you let them go because the way they are paid it's not in favour of them to check or to dip the data every time there is a collect call?
550 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, we would have absolutely no benefit to allow a collect call to proceed.
551 And in this case, once again, we are talking about whether it's 17 or 24 actual home phone numbers. Again, we are before the Commission now based on that. They are -- in our policy and procedure there would be actually no benefit for us to allow those calls to proceed.
552 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: But my question is do you check those companies? Do you survey the way they do things or do they have to report to you?
553 MR. FIETZ: For the most part we do check. However, again, technology is not perfect. There is no perfect database.
554 We would not have considered this a catastrophic issue and then, once again, if we were informed of this in September we could have rectified this then and there.
555 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay. And you were informed in December. Have you corrected it since then?
556 MR. FIETZ: Yes. Yes, Commissioner.
557 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Oh, it's affirmative?
558 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
559 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: And my last question, Madam Chair.
560 If we concluded you are in breach with the B&C Agreement and the Technical Guidelines with MTS and we give MTS the right to terminate the Agreement, what are the consequences for you and your clients?
561 MR. FIETZ: The consequences are obviously it would remove us from having a national footprint and it would also allow other competitors to have an advantage over us in billing and collection and/or network services being able to provide those in MTS territory.
562 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Thank you very much.
563 MR. FIETZ: If I could also interrupt, one of the comments that Monica made around the remedy, allowing us a remedy period of 20 days, that's not our understanding whatsoever. They asked us for information. There was no offer of a remedy period.
564 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. And again, you are going to have a chance to bring these points forward.
565 I just want to just ask one clarification on Commissioner Poirier's question. I understood you to say there is no advantage to you to do this because obviously you get charged back if the call is bounced back.
566 But would there be an advantage to your subcontractor that they are going to get paid anyway? Or does that bounce back to them too?
567 MR. FIETZ: No, Your Honour -- Commissioner, in the case of a collect call or any billed call that comes back as a chargeback it has a complete flow-through to the customer.
568 In this case that would be my customer and they would be responsible for the chargeback fees as well.
569 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm referring to your Danis or whatever, your subcontractors. That's who you are referring to as your customer?
570 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, my customer in this case would be the actual network facilitator for the inmate traffic itself.
571 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you. Thanks.
572 Commissioner Patrone...?
573 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you, Madam Chair.
574 And good morning. I have a handful of questions, most of which have arisen by previous questions. I'll try to avoid asking the same ones.
575 But further to the issue around third-party subcontracts, is it Triton's responsibility contractually to ensure that any other carrier terminating on their network correctly validates the calls?
576 In other words, is it your responsibility to make sure that that process takes place under the terms of your contract?
577 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, it would be my understanding that it would be our responsibility from the billing and collections side and not necessarily from the network side.
578 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But I mean you have tried to deflect some of the blame. I mean, doesn't the buck stop with you?
579 MR. FIETZ: I guess from -- again, from a billing and collections side we are not attempting to deflect responsibility. We are merely stating the actual network providers and the physical mechanics that are taking place within a call.
580 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You also, when you told the Chair that there are no benefits in allowing costs to go through, is it not true that there are costs associated with querying the database and if so how does that work?
581 MR. FIETZ: Each dip equates to a fee, yes.
582 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: That you pay, that Triton pays?
583 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
584 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Can you tell me what that fee is?
585 MR. FIETZ: On the collect dip it's typically between 7 to 10 cents, 7 to 8 cents.
586 MR. TRAFFORD: If I can interject, the SNET database dips are 3.8 cents. Other dips, for instance the Bell Canada database is, I think, 7.7 cents. It varies by database.
587 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Well, I will tread as carefully as I can here, but there are costs associated with doing what you are supposed to do, which would stand to suggest that there are benefits to not querying the database at least from an expense vantage point.
588 Is that fair?
589 MR. FIETZ: Well, Commissioner, if in fact there would be a benefit, I guess, from not dipping, I think we have provided evidence that we were dipping. However, if you were to take a look at the chargeback tariff that would overshadow that cost very quickly.
590 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But when you said that there was no benefit in allowing calls to go through, if you weren't dipping then there would be a benefit, would there not? It would be a cost saving.
591 MR. FIETZ: Not if it ends up in a chargeback.
592 A chargeback is approximately, I think, $2.40 some odd cents -- or $3.99 for MTS territory.
593 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: In your dealings with the other ILECs has there ever been an issue involving blocked calls and validations and, if so, how were they dealt with?
594 MR. FIETZ: As a matter of fact there have been. During this period once we were informed of this from MTS we actually took a look at our overall base.
595 One of the ILECs actually informed us recently of this period and had noticed that it was a temporary issue. They did cite a number of ANIs and we made them aware that that had been rectified. We did inform them in detail that what was rectified and that was the fact that we have upgraded our SNET service.
596 They were completely satisfied with that response.
597 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay, just clarify this for me.
598 This awareness came after the issue with MTS in January?
599 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
600 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And what about beforehand, say before MTS had raised this matter? Had you had any issues involving blocked calls, getting through, complaints of that nature, validation issues?
601 Had that ever come up beforehand?
602 MR. FIETZ: Not to my knowledge.
603 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Well, you would know, right? I mean you are the boss.
604 MR. FIETZ: If it was a significant issue, yeah, I would think I would have been informed.
605 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you are saying you don't -- you are not sure; might have, might not have?
606 MR. FIETZ: Well, once again, I mean even with our upgraded service, there is no perfect database in this world. So I'm not going to guarantee 100 percent of anything.
607 But one of the things --
608 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you feel this is an issue. And I have read your submission. I mean the integrity of the database itself is at stake and, therefore, you feel that you shouldn't be accepting responsibility for any --
609 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, well, we can only do what we can do. And what we have put in as a policy and a procedure now is we are recently taking a look at double-dipping in essence, actually re-dipping the records prior to a billing submission just to see if there is in fact reported or any collect blocks that have been placed on that ANI between the time the call took place and the call that we are billing it.
610 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: On your interpretation of 12.2, and I know you have argued from the start that this -- but as long as you are talking about different types of issues manifesting themselves, that it would not constitute a second breach.
611 And I'm wondering if you are putting a particularly fine point of defining it in that way because, as MTS is pointing out, ultimately you are talking about calls that were blocked or supposed to be blocked that went through.
612 I'm trying to understand your argument relative to what she just said. How is that a different issue?
613 MR. DUNBAR: Well, I think that the way 12.2 is worded it's looking at a situation where there has been a first breach that has then been remedied, and:
"...at any time thereafter such party in default is found to have breached or failed to perform in respect of the same provision".
614 It seems to me what this section is getting at is doing the same thing wrong twice.
615 I agree with you that you have got two parts of this obligation. One part is validation; one part is warm-body verification. I totally acknowledge that and I totally acknowledge that both are required under the Agreement.
616 I'm saying that I think 12.2 is aimed at doing the same thing wrong twice. Otherwise, it wouldn't refer to the same provision. It would refer to any provision in the Agreement. There is lots of other provisions that give rise to termination rights.
617 But I do agree with you that you are supposed to do both validation and warm-body verification and that is supposed to protect the consumer from getting calls or being billed for calls that they don't want when they blocked them the line.
618 I totally agree with that. I just don't think that 12.2 is giving a termination right for that.
619 The other thing I would note is that this Agreement, if you look just above 12, Article 11 has a term. This Agreement doesn't really have any finite term. It goes forever.
620 It says that it will continue after the day you sign the Agreement, after which for consecutive month to month periods until it's terminated. So we are talking about a contract that goes ad infinitum if you don't do two breaches of the same provision or the same thing.
621 My argument would be, you know, what if you breach in Year 2 and you breach in Year 25? Does that mean you are out of this contract?
622 Triton didn't breach for four years. They had a breach. It's a different breach, we are saying, from three years later, eight years into the contract.
623 This is an odd contract. It's not a normal commercial contract but I would also argue that --
624 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But you can understand the situation we are in, right?
625 MR. DUNBAR: And should the termination clause -- I mean I won't say you guys approved it but I didn't draft it.
626 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You just did, Mr. Dunbar.
627 MR. DUNBAR: I didn't draft it.
628 Anyway, the thing is it also says on a month to month period. Like I don't know if this is -- does that make this a month to month contract with every period being only a month?
629 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But you are a month -- I stand to be corrected here, but are you not on month to month?
630 MR. DUNBAR: This seems to be month to month.
631 I'm just saying that with no termination clause there has to be some reasonable period in which the double breach is looked at as well. What if it is in Year 1 and Year 20, does that mean you are out?
632 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But the logical extension of accepting your argument around defining provisions is that unless you have precisely the same identical issue crop up, then you could potentially have an error or be responsible for a different breach like the contract.
633 MR. DUNBAR: Well, not give rise to termination, yeah.
634 I would say that, you know, the other thing here is that this is a contract for essential services. It's not a normal contract.
635 I would argue that that has to weigh in on this. It's a service that's required to compete in this market in order to provide national collect call service or other types of operator services.
636 I don't think that that section should be literally interpreted. I think it should be given some scope and have some regard to the other corrective measures in the Agreement.
637 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay. And over then to --
638 MR. DUNBAR: That's a legal argument, I mean.
639 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And I understand that because, in the absence of specifics, you know, we are being asked to consider the reasonableness in the context of interpretation of this.
640 That's what I want MTS to do now for me: Do you want to address the time issue, the gap?
641 I take it it's your position that we should take this literally as it is written and that, you know, a 20-year time gap is still grounds under this Agreement to terminate or to move in that direction?
642 MS SONG: I don't think that we should place undue emphasis on the timeframe between the two breaches. There was an admin breach in 2007. So that's three years ago, and a second breach in 2010.
643 I think that the way that we look at it is from the perspective of the customer, our customers. These people who are paying, who are having to deal with these invoices, are not Triton's. They have no connection to Triton.
644 It is our customer relationship that they are interfering with. And we have a right and an obligation to preserve and maintain that relationship under the terms of the service that we are contracted to provide to them.
645 So we need to enforce these billing and collection service agreements if we see that their wishes are not being respected. That's fundamentally the two breaches, the nature -- the element that unifies the two breaches are that their wishes are being expressly overwritten by Triton which does not have any obligations, no relationship, no contract with our customers.
646 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: On the issue of that --
647 MS SONG: Yes.
648 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And I take your point, the customer relationship, can you talk -- are you able to talk about your interpretation of the seriousness of the complaints that you received regarding this from those customers with whom you have expressed so much concern over the relationship?
649 MS SONG: I'll let Mr. Trafford speak to that.
650 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: We are talking about penitentiary-related matters in certain cases.
651 MS SONG: The customers would not actually be the inmates. The customers --
652 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: No, I understand they are on the outside receiving calls from unwanted --
653 MS SONG: Yes.
654 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: -- individuals who are guests of the state, as it were.
655 MS SONG: So as Mr. Trafford, I think, is going to allude to, these customers are not necessarily always individuals, heads of households. They are municipal and provincial social service agencies that run subsidized housing. They are reconnection companies who provide telecommunication services under certain conditions to persons who have credit issues.
656 These are the customers actually, in many cases, who are asking for collect-call blocking because they realize that they are dealing with a particular clientele who have rights to telecom services as long as they abide by the conditions.
657 And one of those conditions is no collect calls because it's subject to abuse. These people are not necessarily able to pay the invoices and the institution.
658 The company that is actually on the hook for the bill knows that they don't want the headache of having to try to collect these amounts from the people who live on the premises, who happen to be on the other end of the line saying, "Yeah, okay, I'll accept the charge".
659 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you consider these as serious complaints from the customers that you heard about and that really tied your hands and caused you as a corporate entity some distress around what's going on here, is that correct?
660 MS SONG: Yeah. I'll let Mr. Trafford pick up from here.
661 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't have much to add to what -- her introduction, but I'll give you a couple of examples.
662 We received a complaint in February of this year regarding Triton charges. We charged back or we credited the customer and charged back the calls to Triton. Triton then pursued collection from the customer through an agency. The customer contacted us later, got up to our Executive Advocate's office.
663 You know, again, out of 50,000 calls a month I don't know the details of those. But the ones that go to the Executive Advocate's office we become a little more aware of.
664 In this particular case the customer was extremely annoyed with MTS. We have a reputation. We have been providing phone service for 100 years-plus. We are a phone company. Billing on behalf of others is a very small ancillary role that we play.
665 This customer felt that we violated her privacy, her relationship with us by providing her billing information to Triton even though that's a requirement when we provide a chargeback to Triton. We give them the billing information so they can collect.
666 She felt that we needed to credit her for two years of service because of abuse of her trust and relationship with us.
667 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So your reputation is on the line here.
668 MR. TRAFFORD: And I would also point out that, as Monica said, in our filing yesterday Attachment 1 listed the 24 numbers that we have been talking about and there is a disproportionate number of reconnect lines on there.
669 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You see all this leads me to wonder why the delay. You said at one point from -- because these complaints were coming in, in the fall, correct, of 2010?
670 MR. TRAFFORD: As I said, the complaints that are handled by the front-line staff we don't monitor. We don't know the degree of the severity.
671 But when it came to the Executive Advocate's office in late September we said, "What is going on here?"
672 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Hmm.
673 MR. TRAFFORD: We started our investigation late September/early October. It took us until probably the end of November until we had a good sense of what the problem was.
674 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: I'm having trouble with it myself, with how you processed and handled the investigation. Because if I was doing an investigation into these complaints, one of the first things I would do was call Mr. Fietz and say, you know, "Look, what's going on here? We are doing an investigation. Can you help us?"
675 Because, in a sense, you are doing an investigation by leaving a very key party out of the equation. Does that not make an investigation much more difficult when you are leaving them in the dark?
676 And by the way, at that point you had already begun withholding payments, is that correct?
677 MR. TRAFFORD: The investigation was in process. The first payment that was not made on the scheduled date was due on November 15th, if I am not mistaken and, yes, we have the payment dates. It was for calls sent to us in September. The payment date for that was due November 15th and that's -- the correspondence we have came from Mark Fietz on November 30th:
"Neither Triton nor Fastrack have received payment for September settlement."
678 This is now two weeks past due. That was November 30th. So November 15th was the due date for the first payment that was not made on schedule.
679 That's for calls, like CDRs that you sent to us in September.
680 MR. FIETZ: (Off mic)
681 MS TAYLOR: Please use your mic.
682 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, that would refer to September's payment which would have been for traffic prior to that.
683 MR. TRAFFORD: The email specifically says, "This is now two weeks past due".
684 The email was sent November 15th. That suggests the payment was due on November 16th. It was actually the 15th when it was due.
685 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think I would like to just try to stay on track. So I would invite you to bring those points up again when you do the cross.
687 MR. TRAFFORD: To your question, yes, the payment that was due on November 15th because our investigation was still in process and we had concerns about paying them for the receivables for the value of the calls --
688 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Mr. Trafford, you didn't even tell them what the nature of the investigation was. According to the submission that I received from Triton --
689 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah.
690 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: -- they were completely in the dark as to the nature of why MTS had been withholding payments.
691 I mean do you normally do your operations like that, sort of arbitrarily stop payment when you find that there is an issue and not even tell the person what the nature of that investigation is?
692 MR. TRAFFORD: This is not a normal circumstance. As I mentioned earlier, we have only ever cited three breaches. This is the first one that's -- the first time that we have gone this kind of route to investigate.
693 We did advise them of the details or the nature of the breach on December 22nd. We are almost --
694 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: How many months after that?
695 MR. TRAFFORD: We are talking three months after that, right.
696 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: From the point at which you began your investigation --
697 MR. TRAFFORD: It would be close to three months, yes.
698 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And you had already started withholding payments that you were contractually bound to pay from Triton, without telling them why or without telling them the nature of this investigation. Is that fair? I mean it strikes me as awfully harsh.
699 MR. TRAFFORD: The contract does allow payments to be withheld if there is a reasonable ground for dispute. But we did not identify those grounds at the time that we held back the payment.
700 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You spent some time talking about the reputation that you have and the amount of care that you take with your relationship with your customers.
701 MR. TRAFFORD: Right.
702 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So you know, in the fall you began an investigation into a matter that presumably jeopardized that relationship with a customer. You were involved in an investigation. You didn't tell them what is the nature of it.
703 So presumably if there was any information that might have helped you in that investigation you would not have had access to it from Triton.
704 MR. TRAFFORD: Well, I think we have seen over the past -- since December 22nd to today, we have had a number of misinformation allegations about database issues, about issues with the TELUS database that has no reference -- no relevance to the situation.
705 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Didn't you prolong the problem, the potential problem with your own customers with whom you claim to be so concerned about?
706 Because by not trying to get information from Triton, did you not in effect delay the process of potentially dealing with a problem that you claim the customers were having and that your relationship was in jeopardy as a result?
707 What am I missing here?
708 MR. TRAFFORD: We honestly didn't expect meaningful information to be provided by Triton to assist with remedying this and --
709 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: And the other thing I want to raise before we go on, and I'm almost done -- is the 20 days because I remain unconvinced. I'm hoping maybe you will help with me this because you said you gave them 20 days to remedy the situation.
710 But I'll tell you in looking at the submission and looking at how you processed the investigation without telling them, honestly it does appear at first blush that once you identified the breach in the fall you looked at the contract and you said, "You know what? We can boot these guys out. So let's go through the process and get all our ducks in a row and then we will be rid of them".
711 Am I being unfair?
712 MR. TRAFFORD: I would say somewhat yes.
713 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Please enlighten me.
714 MR. TRAFFORD: We needed to understand the nature of the breach. They are entitled to a remedy period for the first breach.
715 12.2 of the contract says if there is a second breach of the same provision it's not necessary to provide a remedy period.
716 We did give them 10 days' notice, in fact extended to more than 20 days.
717 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: That was over the holidays, though, right? I mean that's what I understood it to be the case you are talking about.
718 MR. TRAFFORD: And during that period, the 20-plus days, there was no information forthcoming from Triton saying, "We have investigated. We are dipping". Only today they have finally admitted that the dips have been ignored.
719 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Those are my questions. Thank you very much.
720 MS SONG: If I could just follow up with your forbearance on one point that arose between Commissioner Patrone and Triton?
721 So there was a reference to Article 11 and the nature of the Billing and Collection Services Agreement. Article 11 actually wasn't read out in its entirety.
722 This is a mandated service but it is not an essential service and this Article 11 contains a very interesting last sentence. The last sentence actually says that:
"This Agreement can be terminated by either party upon one month's prior written notice to the other party or pursuant to the provisions of this Agreement concerning termination [which is 12]."
723 So it seems to me that there was some thought when this contract, this Agreement, was being negotiated in the CISC, approved by the Commission, that perhaps there some alternatives to billing and collecting through the paying customer's local exchange carrier.
724 With respect to Commissioner Patrone's concerns, I think that we are perhaps going to have an opportunity to get into that in cross-examinations. But MTS Allstream needed to be certain. They are not going to walk around making allegations until they are sure.
725 And as, I think, the history of this proceeding demonstrates, finding out exactly what was going on internally at Triton was not an easy thing to determine. We wanted to make sure that we had done everything that was possible from our end to determine what was going on. I'm not sure that --
726 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: It's certainly hard to determine it if you don't even tell them about it, though, I mean --
727 MS SONG: But, Commissioner Patrone, we did tell them. We did tell them when we were certain that we had a handle on what the problem was.
728 It took us three months to figure out what possibly could be the problem. So on December 22nd we told them, "We think you are not dipping or you are doing something strange with your dips".
729 And what do we get back? "Oh, it's a problem with a database. It's a problem -- it's AT&T's fault. It's TELUS -- you know we have had -- it has nothing to do with our situation".
730 Then on January the 7th we write them again with more specific information, "Look, here are these numbers that are collect-call blocked and you are processing. Why are you overriding?" And again the same response back from Triton.
731 So while, you know, it took us three months to figure out that much, that there was a problem with the dips. There was a period when they were on notice of termination.
732 When we send a termination letter and you are referring to the termination provisions of the B&C, you are on notice. And you know exactly what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to remedy within the notice period, which is 10 days.
733 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay.
734 THE CHAIRPERSON: Sorry.
735 I think what we will do now is take a 20-minute break and then we will --
736 MS TAYLOR: 10 minutes.
737 THE CHAIRPERSON: 10 minutes? Okay. I don't smoke but all right, then 10 minutes.
738 Then we will resume with the cross.
739 Thank you very much.
--- Upon recessing at 1101
--- Upon resuming at 1122
QUESTIONING BY TRITON
740 THE CHAIRPERSON: I guess we're ready to resume and we'll start with Triton. You have 20minutes.
741 MR. DUNBAR: Thank you very much.
742 Mr. Trafford, I wonder if you could start by confirming for me that the first notice to Triton as there was a problem with the call records for September to November was the notice of termination on December 22, 2010.
743 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
744 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. On the next day, on December 23, Triton requested a period to conduct good faith negotiations with MTS to try to resolve the problem in accordance with Article 13. And on the same day, Mr. Guy Fietz indicated that although his office was closed on the 23rd, he would go to MTS to address the issue. Mr. Lancaster responded on December 24th that the Commission had requested MTS to extend the termination date to January 12th to accommodate the holiday season. Is that all right; correct?
745 MR. TRAFFORD: Agreed.
746 MR. DUNBAR: And in the same correspondence from Mr. Lancaster, which we've included as an exhibit to Triton's application, Mr. Lancaster said that: We will resume discussions of these issues on the week of January 4th. That's correct?
747 MR. TRAFFORD: I believe you. I have the records here if I need to confirm.
748 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. On December 29th, just before New Year's, Mr. Lancaster sent an e-mail to Mr. Fietz indicating that Triton's account manager, Linda Ormiston, would be contacting him in the new year to discuss this issue.
749 I wonder-- she did not contact Mr.Fietz. I'm wondering if you know why not.
750 MR. TRAFFORD: Contact was made on January 7th and it was made by Mr. Lancaster instead of Ms Ormiston. It was the e-mail, which provided a list of eight phone numbers that we believed to be blocked and received calls-- and invited a comment-- sorry, let me get the quote here.
751 It said-- I'm sorry, I can't find the specific comment but it said that if you have reasons why calls to these numbers should override the blocking instructions, please advise. And we've yet to hear any response to that.
752 MR. DUNBAR: Was the paragraph in question:
"Should Triton Global Business Services and Fastrack Global have information that would suggest that the above consumer choice for toll denial or call blocking can be overridden in some manner, please provide the information."
753 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
754 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah, so that was on January 7th. Do you agree that's the first time that you revealed the specific phone numbers to Triton?
755 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
756 MR. DUNBAR: And that was just a sample of phone numbers? It wasn't all the numbers?
757 MR. TRAFFORD: It was a sample, yes.
758 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. Now, on January12th-- I should point out that in that period between January 7th and January 12th, which is five days, there is a weekend as well-- so there was three business days before January 12th. But Triton did respond on January 12th with rebutting a number of points raised in Mr. Lancaster's January 7th letter and asking to have meetings to invoke the dispute resolution process in the Agreement, and was then informed by MTS' counsel that the Agreement had, in fact, been terminated on that same day. Is that your understanding?
759 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
760 MR. DUNBAR: Now, I'm just wondering first, why did Mr. Lancaster wait until January 7th to give Triton information concerning the alleged breaches so that Triton might have a few days to actually figure out what was going on?
761 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't know what day of the week January 7th was but as you have pointed out that was the holiday period. There was a lot of people away from the office. It wasn't deliberate heel-dragging, if that's what you're implying.
762 MR. DUNBAR: Well, I'm just wondering because you'd spent four months investigating Triton and had all the information in hand by then, I assume, because you were terminating the Agreement. I'm just wondering why you didn't send Triton on that date the kind of information you produced later at the hearing. Why wasn't that given to Triton on December 22nd?
763 MR. TRAFFORD: Was there a requirement?
764 MR. DUNBAR: There's no requirement but Mr. Lancaster's letter is asking Triton to explain the problems and to explain if there's some explanation for the problems. And I'm just saying why wasn't Triton given information at an earlier date, like December 22nd, so that it would actually have a chance to get into the details and make a more comprehensive reply to MTS?
765 MR. TRAFFORD: I can't answer that.
766 MR. DUNBAR: And I'm also wondering why, if it took MTS four months to do its investigation, why Mr. Lancaster thought that Triton could figure it all out in three days with just a little summary of what had gone wrong. What I'm saying is I suggest to you that Triton really wasn't given a reasonable opportunity to respond in the manner you suggest he was given on December 22nd.
767 MR. TRAFFORD: I'm just turning to the December 22nd letter from Allstream to Triton. It was clear in that letter that the focus was on collect calls forwarded from Triton to MTS were calls that should've been blocked.
768 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah, but, as you know, we've gone back and forth in the evidence trying to figure out, trying to match up which calls were blocked, which were not. It's taken-- and you kindly summarized them earlier this week, which we had a hard time summarizing so we're appreciative of that-- but I'm just wondering with the complexity of the information, it seems to me there wasn't a reasonable chance for Triton to respond in a manner that would be substantive in three days.
769 MR. TRAFFORD: We have no insight into Triton's operations or how or why these calls were coming through to us. It was clear that there were calls coming through to numbers that blocks were in place in the appropriately LIDB. We couldn't explain what Triton was doing or not doing to let those calls come through. We identified the nature of the breach on December 22nd.
770 MR. DUNBAR: Okay, I'd like to discuss the first breach with you for a minute. As I understand it, at the time of the first breach when MTS became aware of the problem, Mr. Lancaster of MTS, in fact, called Mr. Legg of Triton on December 14th concerning the problem. Is that your recollection?
771 MR. TRAFFORD: I wasn't involved but that's what the record shows, yes.
772 MR. DUNBAR: Yes. And can you confirm that Mr. Legg, according to the record, respondent to Mr. Lancaster that by calling him first, Triton was able to cease sending the subject call records to MTS at 3:00 p.m. on the same day that they were advised by MTS?
773 MR. TRAFFORD: I have a copy of that e-mail, yes.
774 MR. DUNBAR: Triton then six days later managed to confirm the source-- I think it's six days-- yeah, six days later identified the source of the problem in a communication to MTS on December 20th as corrupted software in an IVR acceptance voice prompt and DMTF recognition module and that the problem was corrected.
775 MR. TRAFFORD: I agree that those words appear there. I'm not sure that I agree with the phrase "corrupted software". That has a different connotation to me. It's software that wasn't programmed to provide the appropriate message to the customer. To me, that's not corrupt, that's poorly designed or fails to meet the requirements of such--
776 MR. DUNBAR: Some other error related to the software?
777 MR. TRAFFORD: Corrupt is more of a, you know, technical glitch. This isn't a technical glitch.
778 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. Okay, so my point is that that particular problem got cleared up very fast because you brought Triton in on it very quickly.
779 Now in that case, the actual problem according to the correspondence-- this is Attachment 3 to MTS' reply-- the actual problem was discovered in November of 2007 by MTS. It said, you know, it received a number of rated CDR files and basically, I guess, the bottom line is that-- and they said that on November 28th, they received a complaint. So in that case, based on a complaint on November 8-- actually it's November 28th-- based on a complaint on November28th, you managed to contact Triton approximately less than three weeks later and get the problem resolved. So that was a case where you got a complaint, you investigated it, and you got to Triton.
780 So I'm wondering what happened in September of 2010. You must've got a complaint or something to start your investigation in September. I realize you did a much broader investigation but when you invested the complaint you got, if you got one in September, I mean, what did you find? Did you find there was something wrong?
781 MR. TRAFFORD: In 2007, we got a complaint. It took us two-and-a-half weeks or so to understand what the nature of the complaint was; what the nature of the problem was. We presented the problem to Triton. It turned out to be resolved very quickly.
782 In 2010, the complaint that we received was in late September. I don't recall a precise date. This investigation took a lot more time because we didn't understand it as quickly. It took until towards the end of December before we had a firm understanding of the nature and extent of the complaint.
783 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. Well, if I look at paragraph 10 of MTS' March 28th reply, in that paragraph it says that:
"MTS Allstream began to analyze the propriety of CDRs received from Triton on or after September 1, 2010 billing and collection. MTS Allstream..."
785 MR. TRAFFORD: That date, September1, refers to the date the CDRs were received not the date the investigation began.
786 MR. DUNBAR: What analysis were you doing?
787 MR. TRAFFORD: The initial stage of analysis was going through these CDRs call by call looking at the receiving call numbers, checking internal databases to see how many of them had subscribed to collect-call blocking.
788 MR. DUNBAR: Is that something you do every month?
789 MR. TRAFFORD: No.
790 MR. DUNBAR: So what I wonder is what tipped you off to start doing this or why did you suddenly start doing it?
791 MR. TRAFFORD: As I mentioned earlier this morning, we received a complaint to the Executive Advocate's Office. When a complaint comes to our Executive level, they engage a broader team, and an investigation is more common.
792 MR. DUNBAR: When was the complaint?
793 MR. TRAFFORD: I just said late September. I don't recall a precise date.
794 MR. DUNBAR: But this says on or about after September 1 you started your analysis.
795 MR. TRAFFORD: No, no.
796 MR. DUNBAR: No?
797 MR. TRAFFORD: I just clarified that a minute ago. September1 refers to the CDRs received not the date of the investigation. I'm sorry I didn't word that clearly in the submission.
798 MS SONG: And with respect, Mr.Trafford, I don't think you're being completely clear in your rephrasing either. So these are CDRs for calls that occurred on or after September but--
799 MR. TRAFFORD: No. No, these are CDRs received on or after September 1st between September 1st and December 31st. Some of those calls occurred in July or August; okay?
800 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. Thank you.
801 MR. TRAFFORD: But the customer complaint was late September-- 25th or something like that.
802 MR. DUNBAR: Well, I would've thought that if-- and it related to a specific telephone number ANI?
803 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
804 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah. So wouldn't it have been relatively simple to-- I realize you might have wanted to do a broader investigation-- but wouldn't it have been relatively simple to investigate that one number and go to Triton and try and figure this out or see what's going on?
805 MR. TRAFFORD: As we've learned, the problem wasn't isolated to one number. It was a systematic problem.
806 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah, but you said that going out, you know, when a complaint goes up to the Executive, it gets a lot of attention.
807 So I'm just wondering why you wouldn't have at least zeroed in on that one number to figure out what was wrong and contact Triton. Because, obviously, there's something wrong there. You then looked to see if it was a broader problem, I realize that.
808 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah. We need to determine is this isolated to a single number or is it affecting a large number of numbers. As I said, if customers call in to our front line to complain, we don't track those. We don't flag them in any way so we don't know.
809 MR. DUNBAR: Do you have any date when MTS realized that there was at least one or two or three calls going through without having the green light from the LIDB database?
810 MR. TRAFFORD: No, I don't know the timelines of the investigation. It started late September; it concluded towards the end of December before we sent our letter of December 22nd.
811 MR. FIETZ: Allen, I just wanted to ask whether-- in September, are you aware that according to your analysis, there were 15 unique ANIs in your investigation that you discovered--
812 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah, that was summarized in our submission of the 28th.
813 MR. FIETZ: -- and that there was a total of 24 unique ANIs through this whole investigation?
814 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
815 MR. FIETZ: Yet it took you three months to investigate 24 ANIs?
816 MR. TRAFFORD: It took us three months to investigate a couple of hundred ANIs that we received from you and to look at each one. There's certain things that, you know, we didn't have dip records until a week ago.
817 MR. FIETZ: But the problem actually was a repeat of September going forward because in September there was 15 unique ANIs. So we're only talking about an additional handful of ANIs. This problem is not bigger than that.
818 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't know that the problem that we're debating here today is whether it took us three days or three months to complete our analysis. If we'd completed our analysis in three days and sent you the letter at the end of September, we would've been holding this proceeding three months earlier, perhaps, but it doesn't change the facts.
819 MR. DUNBAR: A little earlier this morning, you indicated that-- and maybe it was Ms Song who indicated that MTS had to be certain before terminating the contract. In other words, you had to do a good job at your investigation.
820 I'm just sort of wondering, though. I can see that you'd have to do a really good job to come up with evidence to terminate the contract but when did that become the goal? Like, when you get the first few complaints, isn't the idea to contact Triton and try and figure it out. If you think there's a problem, why wouldn't you just call them and say: We think there's a problem. Can you, you know, put our heads together or something-- I don't know-- a telephone call like there was in 2007?
821 It just seems to me that by turning what was a complaint to the Executive Office into a massive investigation and holding back your results until you finished that investigation, in fact, this thing was allowed to keep going forward.
822 MR. TRAFFORD: As you pointed out in the 2007 breach, we conducted our investigation before contacting you. That took two-and-a-half weeks. We didn't call you the first day we had any suspicions. We waited until we understood what the problem was.
823 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. I'd like to turn to the chart that you have, Table 1 that you filed in your reply. Table 1, it's in your reply of March 28, 2010 on page 5 of 11. There's a table in which you summarize-- you summarize here the telephone numbers and the calls that were involved in your investigation or at least the results of your investigation.
824 So I just want to make sure that I totally understand this chart. So I think you're telling-- my interpretation and perhaps you can tell me if I'm correct, is that in September you're saying there are 124 calls made to 15 telephone numbers that were blocked; is that right?
825 MR. TRAFFORD: Just to be clear, September refers to the date we received the CDRs--
826 MR. DUNBAR: Okay.
827 MR. TRAFFORD: -- not the date of the calls.
828 MR. DUNBAR: Okay.
829 MR. TRAFFORD: But of the CDRs, we received, there were 837 CDRs to 93 different numbers.
830 MR. DUNBAR: M'hmm.
831 MR. TRAFFORD: Upon subsequent investigation, we determined 124 of those calls to 15 different numbers shouldn't have happened.
832 MR. DUNBAR: Yeah, and in the next month if we just look at the ones you say shouldn't have happened, 85 calls to eight numbers?
833 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
834 MR. DUNBAR: And the next month-- or when you received the records, 139 calls to 8 numbers?
835 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
836 MR. DUNBAR: And then the following month, 100 calls to five numbers?
837 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
838 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. So I'd like to-- if I could just change gears and switch to the chart that you filed this week with the Commission and the parties, your April 14 chart.
839 I take it that-- I'm going to flip through pass the call records to the table-- I guess it's called Attachment 3 Confidential.
840 MR. TRAFFORD: Okay. Yes.
841 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. So, would I be correct in saying that all the numbers listed here are what you just identified in your other Table 1 as being the, sort of, bad calls--
842 MR. TRAFFORD: The same 24-- no, the only difference between these calls, individual calls and the table we just looked at is that I've set out, I've excluded the calls that occurred in August or July because the dip records that Triton filed were for September 1st onward. So--
843 MR. DUNBAR: Okay, would that explain why there's fewer distinct numbers?
844 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah, so there were-- I think there's still 24 distinct numbers here.
845 MR. DUNBAR: I don't get 24 but I get about 16 or 17. It's pretty easy to tell if you just-- and a heck of a lot of these are obviously the same number; right?
846 MR. TRAFFORD: Agreed.
847 MR. DUNBAR: So on page 1, you got one at the top, one number, and then you start on number two, which goes for several pages.
848 MR. TRAFFORD: Well, if there are fewer then it would be because of calls occurring prior to September 1st, yes.
849 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. So in Table 1 then, what we've really got going on is we've got calls to-- according to this chart that you filed this week-- we've got calls to about 17 numbers. Fifteen of those numbers were called in September.
850 So, after September, we're basically talking an awful lot of repeat calls to some subset of those 15 numbers or plus, here and there, some other numbers. But most of the numbers are getting repeats and the numbers seem-- a number of these bad calls seem to be going-- numbers goes down.
851 MR. TRAFFORD: Right. There are a couple of things to consider.
852 Number one is I only included in this list of 24 numbers, numbers that had block in place prior to September. I think July was the latest block that was added and had calls in place throughout the entire four-month period. There may have been new numbers that had call blocking put in place in September or October or November.
853 For example, in the letter or e-mail of January 7th, one of the numbers was identified as having a call block placed on November 10th and the calls occurred November 26th and 27th. I didn't include those here. I have confirmed by screenshot that those calls should not have happened. I've confirmed in your dip database that it returned a 263.
854 But at the time that we were preparing our evidence on March 28th, I said, just to be perfectly safe, I'm not even going to look at this guy. So, yes, the numbers diminish over time but that's not necessarily, because the problem has gone away or been largely resolved. It's because-- look at how many lines have been disconnected.
855 A lot of these are reconnect companies. If the collect call comes through and we send a bill to a reconnect company for a charge, that reconnect company's probably going to kick these guys out of the contract. They lose their local service over this.
856 So again, this is a minimum set. There are probably additional numbers that could have been included but--
857 MR. DUNBAR: But within the subset you've got in your chart, which is the same as the table that you filed in your reply, within this group of numbers, it's obvious that there's an awful lot of-- a lot of the subsequent calls were to the same numbers. In other words--
858 MR. TRAFFORD: No question, yes.
859 MR. DUNBAR: -- because there were 15 in September and in total we're either talking my number of 16 or 17, or your number of 24; so 15 or the 24. My point is that, gee, if you'd given some indication in September that there was a problem going on, a lot of this could've stopped because they were going to the same numbers.
860 It could have been fixed. It seems to me it could have been fixed really early on if MTS had just said even that you think there's a problem and you want to investigate it and fix it.
861 MR. TRAFFORD: It could have been fixed if Triton had have adhered to the instructions from the LIDB dips and said don't complete these calls. I don't see how that's MTS' responsibility to tell you guys how to do the job.
862 MR. DUNBAR: Now in your earlier conversation with the Commissioners, I think there was some discussion of treatment of other carriers. I take it from what you said that there hasn't been a termination notice sent to another carrier before.
863 MR. TRAFFORD: Correct.
864 MR. DUNBAR: And I'm wondering, typically, okay, you're terminating calls in Manitoba for all of the ILECs and LECs and foreign carriers et cetera who want to terminate calls in Manitoba; is that correct?
865 MR. TRAFFORD: As I mentioned earlier, we have--
866 MR. DUNBAR: Or most of them.
867 MR. TRAFFORD: -- 20 to 30 companies that we have billing and collection agreements with.
868 MR. DUNBAR: M'hmm.
869 MR. TRAFFORD: Some of them are clearing houses; some of them purchase receivables from other parties. I think the foreign-originated collect calls that you send us are probably purchased from other parties. That's, you know, it's a swap meet.
870 MR. DUNBAR: Okay. And I'm wondering do you ever get call records from Bell or TELUS or SaskTel that there's a problem with? I don't mean a massive problem, I mean a problem where you see a problem and you alert them to it.
871 MR. TRAFFORD: Not to my knowledge. There may be individual, as I mentioned earlier, there's call screening. So if the call comes in and it's got letters in the numbers field and stuff like that, those are pre-billing rejects. If it's billed to a customer and a customer calls in and disputes, and says, "I subscribe to call blocking," it's a chargeback.
872 But I don't recall that we've ever dealt with any of the other carriers on a systematic problem--
873 MR. DUNBAR: No, I'm not talking about systematic; I'm just talking when there's a problem. So you handle it with them?
874 MR. TRAFFORD: I am not aware that we've ever had any discussions to that extent.
875 THE CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me, Mr.Dunbar. I've allowed you to go over your time limit. Can you wrap it up?
876 MR. DUNBAR: Oh, sure. I'm sorry.
877 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Thanks.
878 MR. DUNBAR: Actually, I think that concludes it.
879 Thank you very much.
880 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
881 MR. DUNBAR: I apologize if I went over.
882 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, I apologize. I wasn't exactly on the ball. I was thinking what you were talking about.
883 Go ahead, then, MTS, Mr. Trafford. Ms Song.
884 Thank you.
QUESTIONING BY MTS
885 MS SONG: Thank you.
886 Good morning, Mr. Fietz. We only have 20 minutes so I'm going to try to keep this moving as quickly as possible.
887 With respect to the collect calls that are collect-call blocked that we have identified, that MTS has identified, have you identified any problems with the AT&T SNET in terms of the blocking information in the SNET?
888 MR. FIETZ: We have.
889 MS SONG: Okay. Have you provided that information to us yet?
890 MR. FIETZ: I believe it's within this where some of the ANIs that you have provided through our recent dip we are still showing a no collect-- sorry-- a no block validation response.
891 MS SONG: Is that a problem in the LIDB itself? If the number is not showing as blocked in the LIDB, then your obligation ceases. You don't need-- you can proceed with the collect call.
892 MR. FIETZ: That would be an indication that there would be a percentage of failure within the database.
893 MS SONG: That's not a percentage failure with the database. That is a failure with respect to updating the database. But what my specific question was, are there any numbers that MTS has identified as being collect-call blocked that are not, in fact, blocked in the LIDB?
894 MR. FIETZ: I believe we have identified a couple of those somewhere.
895 MS SONG: Okay, so I would like an answer to that question, Mr. Fietz, not another question which I didn't ask.
896 So, are there any numbers that we have identified as being collect-call blocked in the LIDB that are, in fact, not collect-call blocked?
897 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
898 MS SONG: Okay, name them.
899 MR. FIETZ: That would take some time to go through.
900 MS SONG: Okay, so can I get an undertaking from you, then, to identify that?
901 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm just reminded here that we can't be putting numbers out on the record, so we'll have to be careful of that. They're confidential. The numbers are confidential.
902 MS SONG: Right. Right.
903 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
904 MS SONG: May I have an undertaking that you'll identify any of the numbers, for example, in our Attachment 1 to our March 28th evidence or in our Attachment 1 to our filing of April 14th that we have identified as collect-call blocked in the LIDB that are not, in fact, blocked in the LIDB?
905 MR. FIETZ: Yes, I'll undertake that.
906 MS SONG: Thank you.
907 So, I believe I-- we have come to an agreement that Triton is, in fact, querying the AT&T SNET database; correct?
908 MR. FIETZ: Correct.
909 MS SONG: And that AT&T SNET has a record of Triton's dips?
910 MR. FIETZ: I'm not sure what you mean by that.
911 MS SONG: That AT&T SNET-- if we contacted AT&T SNET, they could tell you exactly what dips you've performed over this period?
912 MR. FIETZ: I don't know. I don't know if they would log third-party dip results.
913 MS SONG: Okay. But we at least have your record of dips of the AT&T SNET; correct?
914 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
915 MS SONG: And that's Attachment 1 to your April 8th filing?
916 MR. FIETZ: Attachment 1, I believe so, yes.
917 MS SONG: Yeah. If you find out otherwise you can let me know.
918 And it's also correct that Triton does not query the AT&T SNET for every single collect call?
919 MR. FIETZ: I believe these are all-- all the samples we provided are LIDB results.
920 MS SONG: That's not my question.
921 My question is do you dip the AT&T SNET for every single collect call that you connect in MTS territory for the period in question?
922 MR. FIETZ: It would be my understanding that we would do that, yes.
923 MS SONG: M'hmm. Okay. So, if I can just turn to your Attachment 1 of your April 8th filing. This is a record of your LIDB dips; correct?
924 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
925 MS SONG: Okay. And if you could turn to the second page, the fifth record down, do you see an entry there for September 7th, 2010?
926 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
927 MS SONG: 2011.
928 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
929 MS SONG: Do you see that?
930 MR. FIETZ: Yeah.
931 MS SONG: Okay, and I'm not going to state the number out loud on the record; all right?
932 And you see over in the status column, which is the column that indicates what the response from the AT&T SNET LIDB is--
933 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm
934 MS SONG: -- this particular call has a restriction on it, ReplyCodeV=263, which means what, Mr. Fietz?
935 MR. FIETZ: That's a collect block response code.
936 MS SONG: Right.
937 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
938 MS SONG: Okay. So then, if we could turn to Attachment 3 of MTS Allstream's filing of yesterday's date. Okay, so if you turn to page-- on mine it's page 3 of 8.
939 THE CHAIRPERSON: On mine it's 4 of 12.
940 MS SONG: Page 4 of 12?
941 MR. TRAFFORD: Yes.
942 MS SONG: Okay. I have an entry-- I'm looking at an entry for September 7th for the same number and that call was put through; correct? Despite the blocking.
943 MR. FIETZ: Correct.
944 MS SONG: Okay. Can you tell me was it Triton who authorizes that call to go through?
945 MR. FIETZ: Without particularly identifying this ANI, I would suggest that this would be an inmate call and therefore, no, we would not authorize. Again, we're merely providing access to the gateway for LIDB service.
946 MS SONG: Right. So who are you telling to authorize the call then, to connect the call? So you're telling me today that you're not responsible because you don't actually connect the call from this institution to this number? Is that what you're telling me?
947 MR. FIETZ: I guess, I'm not saying we're not responsible. I'm saying, you know, we've made corrective action on this.
948 MS SONG: Right. So, even though the query result is 263, denied collect call--
949 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm.
950 MS SONG: -- Triton is authorizing or permitting the connection, however that is being done, you're responsible for ensuring that that collect-call block is respected but despite the 263 code, you're allowing that call to go through? That's your evidence; right?
951 MR. FIETZ: No, we're billing it. We're not allowing or disallowing that--
952 MS SONG: You're not billing anything. You're getting MTS to bill it. So, what are you doing? You're dipping the database; you're receiving a response 263; and then what were you doing?
953 MR. FIETZ: Then were billing it through MTS.
954 MS SONG: You are billing it? You don't-- that information dies there. Who are you passing that information on to, the 263 code?
955 MR. FIETZ: It's information that a network that our customer receives--
956 MS SONG: Yes.
957 MR. FIETZ: -- and then they are processing the call.
958 MS SONG: Right. Okay. And you're responsible for ensuring, though, because you're the one billing, so to speak or to use your words--
959 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm.
960 MS SONG: -- for ensuring that that instruction is respected; correct?
961 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, we would do our best to ensure that, yes.
962 MS SONG: Okay. All right. Now, I want to-- I notice that you had filed as Attachment 4 to your response to CRTC Interrog. No. 2 voice prints on CD-ROM.
963 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
964 MS SONG: Okay. Correct? I listened to them and I noticed that the same script is read out by a machine, an automated recording, voice recording, for every call. Is that-- my general understanding correct on that?
965 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
966 MS SONG: Okay. I'm just going to show to you a transcript of that automated recording. The automated operator introduction on Triton's-- on the calls that Triton has forwarded to MTS for billing says:
"This an Itellimate Automated Operator with a collect call from (name), an inmate at institution (name). This call is subject to recording and monitoring except for privileged communication between an attorney and client. Three-way calls are prohibited and are also subject to monitoring. Press 1 or * to accept the call. To deny this call, press 2."
967 Okay, so there is, in fact, no information regarding the cost of the call in this recording that I'm-- that I heard; correct?
968 MR. FIETZ: Correct.
969 MS SONG: Okay. And I'm not--
970 MR. FIETZ: All inmates would be informed of all the rates.
971 MS SONG: Right. But it's not in the automatic voice recording because the inmate is not the one paying the call; right? Who's paying for this call?
972 MR. FIETZ: The consumer.
973 MS SONG: Right. MTS' customer; correct?
974 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm. Yes.
975 MS SONG: Yeah, okay, whoever that might be; correct?
976 MR. FIETZ: Correct.
977 MS SONG: Yeah, and you don't know who that customer is; do you? Does Triton have any knowledge of who the customer is?
978 MR. FIETZ: I'm not sure what you mean by that.
979 MS SONG: Do you know who MTS' customer is on any given call that is responsible for paying the charges?
980 MR. FIETZ: Pre-call or post-call? Post-call, we could--
981 MS SONG: At the time of the call.
982 MR. FIETZ: At the time of the call? No, much like MTS wouldn't know who their customers are at the time of their call.
983 MS SONG: I don't think that's correct. I think that if we know what the called line is, we know who the customer is-- but I think we digress.
984 The point is in this recording, is there any verification of the identity of the paying customer on the call? Is there any mechanism to identify who the paying customer is on this recording?
985 MR. FIETZ: I believe the call's recorded. So--
986 MS SONG: Mr. Fietz, that's not my question. Is there any means whereby you were determining who the paying customer is through this automated voice recording? That's my question.
987 MR. FIETZ: No.
988 MS SONG: Thank you.
989 Okay, I'd like to now turn to ExhibitF of your application. You've looked at this before already this morning. This is the e-mail from Mr. Lancaster of MTS Allstream dated January 7th, 2011. Do you have that Mr. Fietz?
990 MR. FIETZ: Not yet, no. What am I looking for?
991 MS SONG: You're looking for the e-mail of January 7th, 2011, Exhibit F to your application to the Commission.
992 MR. FIETZ: Okay, thank you.
994 MS SONG: Okay? And I'd just like to-- this is the e-mail where MTS Allstream provides you with further information further to your request for further information regarding the concern that they have about calls being connected to collect-call blocked numbers.
995 Now, if you go to the last paragraph, your counsel, Mr. Dunbar, read out this paragraph earlier to Mr. Trafford so you will recall that there was a request by MTS Allstream that you provide information:
"...that would suggest that the above consumer's choice for toll denial or collect blocking can be overridden in some manner, contrary to the B&C Agreement and Industry B&B Technical Guidelines, please provide this information to us for our review. After receipt of this information, we will convene a conference call if required to review said information."
996 Okay, to your knowledge did you ever provide a direct response to this request for information after this time?
997 MR. FIETZ: I believe we suggested on several occasions to have communication regarding this matter and actually MTS had refused to meet.
998 MS SONG: Again, sir, I don't think you're answering my question.
999 So my question is did you actually respond to this specific request for information from MTS?
1000 MR. FIETZ: I don't think we were given the opportunity to.
1001 MS SONG: You couldn't write an e-mail or a letter?
1002 MR. FIETZ: Well, our e-mails weren't being responded to.
1003 MS SONG: Sir, after this request was made, did you provide a direct response to this request for information?
1004 MR. FIETZ: No.
1005 MS SONG: All right. In your application and in your correspondence to MTS, you referred at several times to problems with your connection to the TELUS LIDB. Do you recall that?
1006 MR. FIETZ: We do recall that, yes.
1007 MS SONG: Okay. And you do recall mentioning that several times to both MTS and in your application?
1008 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1009 MS SONG: Okay, and that's just an example of some concerns that you have with the whole LIDB system?
1010 MR. FIETZ: Correct. We were informed of a few potential database errors from SNET during this investigation and we were unaware of all the aspects, as Mr. Dunbar had mentioned, we had only been given a couple of business days to conduct an investigation.
1011 MS SONG: Are you talking about TELUS because that's what I'm talking about right now.
1012 MR. FIETZ: I'm talking about the database as a whole.
1013 MS SONG: Which database are you talking about?
1014 MR. FIETZ: SNET.
1015 MS SONG: So you're saying that TELUS stores its line information records in the SNET database?
1016 MR. FIETZ: No, I'm not saying that at all.
1017 MS SONG: Okay, that's just what I wanted to clarify; right? Because your problem with TELUS had to do with TELUS' own LIDB and your ability to connect to the TELUS LIDB, not with your ability to connect with the SNET or the line information records in the SNET; right?
1018 MR. FIETZ: No, we were given information and we did not know whether it pertained to this aspect or not. And we were given information from SNET that they had an update issue from TELUS which, in fact, turned out to be not relevant. However, once again, we were only given a few days to try to identify issues.
1019 MS SONG: Okay, I understand now, sorry. So, it isn't relevant but at the time you threw that out there because you didn't have enough time.
1020 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1021 MS SONG: Thanks.
1022 Okay, at your paragraph 51 of your application, you refer to a situation where Triton approached a customer and that customer paid you directly. You see that? Paragraph 51 of your application.
1023 MR. FIETZ: Okay, I'm in front of it.
1024 MS SONG: So you see that?
1025 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm.
1026 MS SONG: So, as I read that, what happened there is that you, Triton, approached an end-customer directly and received payment from that customer for collect calls?
1027 MR. FIETZ: In this case, we did not approach the customer. The customer approached us.
1028 MS SONG: The customer approached you. How did they find your name?
1029 MR. FIETZ: I would imagine through MTS.
1030 MS SONG: Okay. Did MTS provide you with the name, telephone number, and billing address of this customer?
1031 MR. FIETZ: I don't know.
1032 MS SONG: Do you know whether MTS provided you with the name, telephone number, and billing address of all the customers for which there were chargebacks pursuant to Article 4.6 of the B&C Agreement?
1033 MR. FIETZ: I'm not-- I can't deny or acknowledge that.
1034 MS SONG: Okay. So could you perhaps take an undertaking to confirm that for us and the Commission?
1035 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm.
1036 MR. DUNBAR: Sorry, could you just say exactly what the undertaking is?
1037 MS SONG: So the undertaking is to find out whether MTS provided you with the name, address, and billing address for customers whose collect-call charges were subject to chargebacks.
1038 So where I'm going with this is that Triton is--
1039 MR. FIETZ: Yes
1040 MS SONG: You're going to provide that undertaking or you're confirming, yes, you did?
1041 MR. FIETZ: Yeah, yeah, we'll provide the undertaking.
1042 MS SONG: Okay.
1043 So where I'm going with that is that Triton does have alternative means to collect from the end-users.
1044 Just turning to the correspondence between Triton and MTS, after December 22nd, the date of MTS' notice letter, you wrote-- sorry, your brother-- Mr. Mark Fietz wrote to Mr. Lancaster of MTS. I'd just like you to turn to Exhibit B. Just reading about halfway down in the first paragraph, I read:
"We deny that the records MTS states are ineligible under the references provided by MTS in sections 1.2, 1.3 and 11.0 of the Billing and Collection Technical guideline V1.4. We further deny that our collect records are not queried into our lidb service which is provided by AT&T and can be validated."
1045 So by this point in time, you're pretty clear as to what MTS' concern is because it's synonymous with the concern that we're looking at today; right?
1046 MR. FIETZ: M'hmm. Yes.
1047 MS SONG: You're pretty clear here?
1048 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1049 MS SONG: You understand.
1050 Okay. I notice that in your opening statement which your counsel read out, I heard for the first time that you thought that the problem was third-party carriers. So is it one carrier or many different carriers that were the cause of this problem?
1051 MR. FIETZ: In particular, for the most part, it's our inmate carrier.
1052 MS SONG: Okay, and who would that be?
1053 MR. DUNBAR: Is the actual name important? It's confidential but--
1054 MS SONG: Is it a related party?
1055 MR. FIETZ: No.
1056 MS SONG: Is it a domestic carrier?
1057 MR. FIETZ: It is a U.S.-based company.
1058 MS SONG: So they're not-- they're a foreign carrier?
1059 MR. FIETZ: With a domestic network.
1060 MS SONG: And so can you explain to me how this works? You're a subcontractor to this carrier?
1061 MR. FIETZ: We provide B&C services and Canadian termination over our network.
1062 MS SONG: Okay. So for all the calls that are coming in through this carrier, you, Triton, ignored all the 263 codes in from your LIDB dips which you performed on behalf of this customer?
1063 MR. FIETZ: Well, we wouldn't have visibility on that unless we ran an investigation.
1064 MS SONG: Why wouldn't you have visibility on that?
1065 MR. FIETZ: Because, once again, we're providing access to a gateway and the information would be processed by that party not us.
1066 MS SONG: Which party are you talking about now?
1067 MR. FIETZ: I'm talking about the inmate network provider.
1068 MS SONG: You're talking about the U.S.carrier?
1069 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1070 MS SONG: Okay. What gateway are you talking about?
1071 MR. FIETZ: AT&T SNET.
1072 MS SONG: So you're providing a gateway into the AT&T SNET gateway?
1073 MR. FIETZ: Into the AT&T SNET DB.
1074 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ms Song, I should mention there's about three minutes left.
1075 MS SONG: Thank you.
1076 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
1077 MS SONG: Can you please tell me how checking the LIDB database after a call is made helps solve this problem of ignoring 263 codes in the first place?
1078 MR. FIETZ: We would actually have to-- which we did-- we would actually have to ask for the LIDB logs from the network provider and analyze them internally and to try to find anomalies which are somewhat apparent, and that's what we did.
1079 MS SONG: How does that actually help to solve the problem that you're ignoring the 263 codes in the first place?
1080 MR. FIETZ: I'm sorry, could you repeat that quickly?
1081 MS SONG: How does double-checking after the fact-- weeks, months-- after a call has occurred actually help to solve the problem that you were ignoring that the 263 codes from the initial dip at the time of the call in the first place?
1082 MR. FIETZ: Well, because we actually didn't ignore anything because we don't actually see the LIDB results. We would perform those results in-house or at the dip in-house prior to billing, once again, to cross-check to see if any calls would have an updated call block or if any calls made it through from the network to our billing engine on a 263 call block to ensure that we didn't bill that going forward.
1083 MS SONG: Who sees the LIDB dips?
1084 MR. FIETZ: The LIDB dips--
1085 MS SONG: In this scenario that you're describing.
1086 MR. FIETZ: Well, on the double-dip side, we would see--
1087 MS SONG: Not on the double-dip side.
1088 MR. FIETZ: Okay, on the--
1089 MS SONG: Who sees the initial dip?
1090 MR. FIETZ: I just explained that. The network--
1091 MS SONG: No, actually, I didn't catch that so that's why I'm asking. So who sees the dip, the original dip?
1092 MR. FIETZ: The U.S. network provider.
1093 MS SONG: Okay. So turning to your evidence-- sorry, our evidence at Attachment 3, this is the December 18th, 2007 notice letter from MTS Allstream. Turn to the second page, the second full paragraph. MTS Allstream is referring to Section 1.2 of the Billing and Collection Technical Guideline. Do you see that?
1094 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1095 MS SONG: And then in the last paragraph of-- sorry, the third paragraph on the second page, MTS Allstream refers to the right to terminate.
1096 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ms Song, would you mind giving me that reference again?
1097 MS SONG: Yes. Sorry, it is Attachment 3 to MTS' evidence dated March 28th, 2011.
1098 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1099 MS SONG: So you see the third paragraph as well?
1100 MR. FIETZ: I do.
1101 MS SONG: Okay. Great. So this is December 18th, 2007. When did you respond to this letter?
1102 MR. FIETZ: When did we respond to this letter?
1103 MS SONG: Sorry, I don't mean it to be a memory test but you responded to this letter on, exactly two days afterwards, December 20th. And you responded with a full mea culpa. Yes, we apologize. It's an ineligible collect call incident. It's the first incident. You don't dispute any of the statements contained in the previous notice letter from MTS Allstream exactly 2 days prior. You say, yes, there's a problem. We admit it. We're going to fix it. Do you see that?
1104 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1105 MS SONG: That's how I read December20th, 2007 from Triton.
1106 MR. FIETZ: Okay.
1107 MS SONG: All right.
1108 So that stands in stark contrast to what happened in 2010, I would say. What was your initial reaction to MTS' expression of concern that LIDB dips were not being properly performed for calls that Triton was forwarding to MTS for billing?
1109 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ms Song, you'll have to wrap it up. You've gone past the time.
1110 MS SONG: Thank you.
1111 I'd just like to get an answer to that question, Mr. Fietz.
1112 MR. FIETZ: Well, I wouldn't call it a concern. I would call it issuing a termination letter to us.
1113 MS SONG: Right. And what was your reaction to the concern?
1114 MR. FIETZ: Our reaction was a denial.
1115 MS SONG: Thank you.
1116 MR. FIETZ: And to ask for a dispute resolution.
1117 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you for that.
1118 I think what we're going to do now, of course, is to go back to questions by the Commission and mindful of the fact that we're intending to finish at one o'clock and that you each have 10 minutes for your closing remarks. Do you think you'll need the 10 minutes each of you?
1119 MS SONG: I'll be about six or seven.
1120 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, we're pushing it here.
1121 MR. DUNBAR: I'll go quickly; it'll be under 10 but not a lot under 10.
QUESTIONING BY THE COMMISSION
1122 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so we'll try to keep our questions to the point. We've got a lot of information now.
1123 I guess I'll start. I'm concerned that I understand correctly what you're saying. You have a client-- you have a billing and collection agreement with MTS. And, in turn, you have a billing and collection agreement/arrangement-- a U.S. customer has that arrangement with you, and you go through MTS; is that correct?
1124 MR. FIETZ: That's correct.
1125 THE CHAIRPERSON: So, the onus is on that U.S. client to do this dipping then because they're the originator of the call; is that correct?
1126 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1127 THE CHAIRPERSON: And when I asked you before if these other parties were bound by a contract to respect the Billing and Collection Agreement and the Technical Guidelines, I didn't get a definite yes.
1128 MR. FIETZ: We do require that a LIDB dip is performed.
1129 THE CHAIRPERSON: So they're bound by contract to do that and they're aware of the Billing and Collection Agreement that you have with MTS?
1130 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1131 THE CHAIRPERSON: And they're intended to respect that?
1132 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1133 THE CHAIRPERSON: And the problems that you found, that you mentioned that you've corrected, were they the result entirely of what was being done by that U.S. provider?
1134 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1135 THE CHAIRPERSON: They were?
1136 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1137 THE CHAIRPERSON: So there were no changes that you had to make other than those that affected the U.S. provider?
1138 MR. FIETZ: Well, the changes we did make would affect positively the service as a whole.
1139 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. How do you explain the fact that some of those blocked accounts we can see looking at the information that we been given were blocked for such long periods of time, you know, years in some instances?
1140 MR. FIETZ: I don't know other than it's seemingly-- our customer seemingly had been allowing some ANIs to proceed from a collect-block reply.
1141 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm sorry, could you repeat that again?
1142 MR. FIETZ: It seems that some of the ANIs that were coming through were, in fact, allowed to proceed with the call past collect-block response code.
1143 THE CHAIRPERSON: This would be a technical issue I would imagine?
1144 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1145 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I just want to go back to a question that Commissioner Patrone had. I just wanted to be very clear, is the cost of doing the dipping-- I understood your answer. It costs more to have a chargeback but I want to be absolutely certain that there's no benefit to you to not do the dipping. Is there a benefit to your U.S. customer? Is it saving him money?
1146 MR. FIETZ: No, there would not be a benefit. Again, there is a $3-and-- I think it's $3.99 per chargeback plus they would not be paid at all for that call and they would also receive the chargeback tariff as well on that.
1147 THE CHAIRPERSON: Which you had told me before.
1148 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1149 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I'm just going to ask you one more question now but I may come back after my colleagues have finished. Under Article11, as I understand it-- we were looking at that earlier-- MTS can simply give you 30 days' notice: It's over. They don't have to go through this termination thing; is that correct? So, the 1st of April, they could just say: Here's your 30 days; the deals over. Is that--
1150 MR. DUNBAR: If I could perhaps answer that question?
1151 THE CHAIRPERSON: Certainly.
1152 MR. DUNBAR: That's what the Agreement says but I think it's totally inconsistent with this being a mandated interconnection service. A mandated service has to be provided.
1153 We've got a few things going on here. We have the Commission's policy on interconnect access services; we have a supporting agreement; we have a tariff. But if MTS were simply to say, "We're not providing you with this service on 30 days," I don't believe the Commission would allow that to happen because it's a mandated service.
1154 So I think the Agreement's a little bit out of sync with the regulatory framework. In my view, the regulatory framework would trump the Agreement because, you know, huge battles have been fought about getting these services mandated so what would be the use of a mandated service if it could be terminated by the ILEC anytime it wanted on 30 days notice? It would be kind of a meaningless mandate.
1155 THE CHAIRPERSON: Why do you suppose that paragraph was put in there in this process?
1156 MR. DUNBAR: I don't know. I don't like the way this Agreement is drafted at all. But that's just me, and it's not just because I'm acting for Triton here. I think it needs to be updated because I think it's inconsistent with the framework.
1157 THE CHAIRPERSON: Ms Song, did you make a comment earlier on that?
1158 MS SONG: The comment that I made was a follow-up to the evidence that Mr. Trafford gave, which is that there are alternatives to billing through the local exchange carrier.
1159 Number one, Triton can go directly to the customer and attempt to collect; and there are other methods available either through credit cards or other creative billing arrangements.
1160 So the fact that those alternatives exist-- this is not like an access service or I would say transport service when I'm wearing my competitive hat but there are other ways to bill a customer and I think that that reflects that fact. The provision in Section 11 simply reflects the reality and the facts on the ground that there are many different ways to reach an end-customer.
1161 Now, we haven't invoked that method.
1162 THE CHAIRPERSON: No.
1163 MS SONG: We are going under Article12 but it's simply to respond to the submission which I heard earlier that this is an essential service and that it's mandated, and that, you know, there are no alternatives. I don't think that the evidence before you is consistent with that.
1164 THE CHAIRPERSON: Mr. Fietz, if the Commission doesn't decide in your favour, what would be your next step?
1165 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, we haven't made any final decisions on that. It may, in fact, be to investigate alternatives or perhaps discontinue service in MTS territory.
1166 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
1167 Maybe discontinue the service or...? Did you say? Would you repeat it again, sorry?
1168 MR. FIETZ: Yes. Or disallow access to our services in MTS territory.
1169 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
1170 I'm just going to ask some questions of MTS and then I'm going to maybe want to come back but I'll see if I have any left after my colleagues have finished.
1171 I wanted to know from MTS if the reason that the complaint in 2007 got addressed more quickly would've been, like, I would expect what would happen is that you'd have operating people, Triton would have operating people, they'd speak to each other.
1172 So I want to know if the reason it was resolved so promptly in 2007 was because there were lines of communication open at the operating level and so they knew they were already in the process of looking into it. They were aware.
1173 MR. TRAFFORD: I don't know all the specifics from 2007 but I know that Mr. Lancaster was involved in 2007 and also in 2010 and was the prime point of communication from MTS to Triton. He's not an operations person, he's an account prime in our carrier services group; if you will, a sales manager and Triton is one of his customers.
1174 We don't have an army of people out there doing this kind of investigation. These are, you know, when the issue comes up, let's figure it out. It took us a relatively short period of time to understand the nature of the problem, communicate it to Triton. It took them a very short period of time, two days, to respond and say, you know, we've figured it out; we've solved the problem.
1175 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. Thank you.
1176 Just before we go on to your evidence that you submitted yesterday, you were asking the question of Triton when you submitted their recording and you were pressing to know if-- or it seemed to me that you were asking would the person accepting the call know the price of the call. But I've made collect calls before and I'm not told the price.
1177 MS SONG: Sorry, I perhaps should have been clearer to the witness but I think that I heard earlier and perhaps the transcript-- well, the transcript will verify or contradict me that I thought Mr. Fietz mentioned that when these calls are being placed, the end-customer knows in advance what charges would be associated.
1178 THE CHAIRPERSON: Oh, okay.
1179 MS SONG: So, I thought I heard that and it was simply to get at that point from Mr. Fietz himself.
1180 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I hadn't picked up on that. Thank you. So you wouldn't expect a customer would get--
1181 MS SONG: No. My point is that it's not that there's anything wrong or irregular about the verification recording. It is simply that in the industry, the standard is for precisely those kinds of recording which does not permit the instruction or the wishes of the paying customer to be known.
1182 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, thank you.
1183 Now, I just had a quick couple of questions on the information that you gave us yesterday.
1184 Just looking at Attachment 1 to that letter and just following along on I think it was Mr.Dunbar's point, if you look at the second number on that attachment, there were no calls in September and none in October and there were 57 in November and 52 in December.
1185 So I think that had the issue-- it would appear had the issue been brought to Triton's attention earlier, those-- over 100, 109 calls-- could have been avoided. This one number-- and I know it's hindsight but--
1186 MR. TRAFFORD: It is hindsight and we wouldn't have had any idea in September that collect calls would've been placed to that number, so--
1187 THE CHAIRPERSON: No, but you would've had-- you had an idea that there was a problem in the system or something was wrong, whatever it is.
1188 MR. TRAFFORD: Agreed, but it's taken us almost 4 months from when we identified the problem to come to any facts about the nature of the problem. So I'm not sure that had we flagged this-- as I said, we learned about the problem, we started investigating it at the end of September. If we had understood it in two weeks and advised them in the middle of October, would they have been able to sort it out in time to prevent these calls in November and December? I don't know.
1189 THE CHAIRPERSON: I notice that they don't all tie into the back-up sheets. You know, for example, I talked about the call mentioned earlier today about the one number that had 187 calls over the four periods--
1190 MR. TRAFFORD: Right.
1191 THE CHAIRPERSON: -- the one with the most calls. It adds in total, like, the breakdown is not exactly as set out. So that's okay, it adds to the total but in some other instances, for example, if you take the one two above that, the total there would be 22 but when I go back and look at the sheets, I counted 13 when I go back. So, was your intention that this would exactly tie into this? I don't think it does.
1192 MR. TRAFFORD: Sorry, I'm not sure which papers you're--
1193 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, so--
1194 MR. TRAFFORD: Attachment 1 versus Attachment 3?
1195 THE CHAIRPERSON: Attachment 1 versus Attachment 3, yeah.
1196 MR. TRAFFORD: So, Attachment 1 refers to call records that we've received from September 1st through December 31st.
1197 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.
1198 MR. TRAFFORD: Attachment 2 excludes--
1199 MS SONG: Three.
1200 MR. TRAFFORD: Sorry, Attachment 2 excludes 70-some-odd calls that occurred prior to September 1st because we didn't receive any dip records.
1201 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, and you had said before.
1202 MR. TRAFFORD: So there were 377 calls. So that's the difference.
1203 THE CHAIRPERSON: That's why this is fewer than--
1204 MS SONG: So Attachment 1 is an attempt to summarize MTS' evidence--
1205 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.
1206 MS SONG: -- from March 28th. Attachment 3, just so that we are balanced, is a summary of Triton's own evidence. And Triton chose not to present the same data set as what MTS had submitted on March 28th.
1207 So we were restricted by what they chose as their set in terms of disclosing their LIDB dips.
1208 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay, I just wanted to make sure-- I understand, then. It's not intended to tie into it precisely.
1209 Just one other question on Attachment 3. The line information database dip time and the return code-- this is the note at the bottom, "information from Triton 1 April"-- the first, I guess, in response to Query no. 1, Attachment 1. Is that reference--
1210 MR. TRAFFORD: That was their filing. I believe it was made on April 5th
1211 MS SONG: April 8th.
1212 MR. TRAFFORD: April 8th? Okay. It was an interrogatory issued by the Commission on April 1st, Interrogatory no. 1.
1213 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think it was 2, then, wasn't it? It doesn't matter, I understand that. I just want to clarify.
1214 MR. TRAFFORD: Yeah, it was a fairly long and nasty spreadsheet of technical information.
1215 THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. All right. I'm finished. So I'm going to turn it over to Commissioner Poirier.
1216 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: I will ask my question in French so if you need to put on your translation device, it's Channel 4.
1217 Alors, j'ai trois questions, la première pour monsieur Fietz. Vous me comprenez bien?
1218 Monsieur Fietz, si aujourd'hui j'étais une prisonnière dans un pénitencier et que je faisais un appel à un consommateur de MTS et que la liste donnait le code 263, est-ce que l'appel serait bloqué, oui ou non, aujourd'hui?
1219 MR. FIETZ: In my understanding not only would it be blocked but we would also prevent it from being billed even if it did go through. So the actual call, in fact, if there was an error by the network provider that we would catch it from our side as we were diffing it again prior to billing. So the carrier wouldn't see it.
1220 CONSEILLÈRE POIRIER : Mais le client recevrait quand même l'appel? Le client de MTS recevrait l'appel quand même? C'est juste une question de facturation qui serait corrigée?
1221 MR. FIETZ: No. My understanding would be that the call actually would not proceed. What I'm saying is if in fact for whatever reason it did, then we would prevent the billing.
1222 CONSEILLÈRE POIRIER : Mais en théorie, l'appel ne devrait pas procéder. C'est ce que dit la réglementation.
1223 MR. FIETZ: Correct. Correct. Yes.
1224 CONSEILLÈRE POIRIER : Pouvez-vous me garantir que l'appel ne procèderait pas?
1225 MR. FIETZ: Yes, we can makes those assurances.
1226 CONSEILLÈRE POIRIER : Parfait.
1227 Ma question maintenant va à madame Song.
1228 Madame Song, on a une entente qui existe, Billing and Collection Services Agreement, mais cette entente-là ne semble pas permettre un certain pourcentage d'erreur, ce qui est normal dans la vie. Un contrat, c'est un contrat, mais rien n'est jamais noir ou blanc. Il y a toujours des erreurs qui surviennent.
1229 Est-ce que vous ne pensez pas que dans l'esprit de ce contrat-là, un certain pourcentage d'erreur pourrait être permis?
1230 MS SONG: Commissioner, thank you for the question and I apologize that I'm not responding in French.
1231 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: No, it's okay.
1232 MS SONG: I thank you for the question because we should not be too fixated on the percentages or numbers. What MTS was concerned about during its investigation was to determine whether or not this was something systemic in Triton's internal processes, its procedures, its methods, its algorithms, whatever it's doing or whether these were isolated incidents.
1233 And we agree that, you know, there are certain provisions that deal with chargebacks, the percentage of chargebacks that are required and there have been Commission proceedings to determine when it's permissible to terminate because a service provider is just forwarding too many records that require a chargeback.
1234 But the investigation leads to the conclusion and the evidence on the record of the proceeding before the Commission, we'd submit, does show a systemic failure on the part of Triton to be careful; to be careful about its own responsibilities to MTS. And today we hear for the first time, apparently, some customer or subcontractor whose identity we don't know about whose evidence is coming to us now sort of through hearsay means.
1235 But it's kind of like they're taking the risk. They're taking the risk that somehow they won't get caught and they're passing the inconvenience and the cost of fixing that problem vis-à-vis our own customers and vis-à-vis Triton on us.
1236 So that's why there are termination clauses separate from the mere percentage chargeback termination events. The termination clauses that we're relying on are breach of the fundamental obligation-- one of the fundamental obligations of a service provider under a billing collection agreement--
1237 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: M'hmm.
1238 MS SONG: -- which is you have to validate.
1239 CONSEILLÈRE POIRIER : O.K.
1240 Et ma dernière question à monsieur Trafford.
1241 Monsieur Trafford, dans la première faute qui a été commise en 2007, la lettre n'avait pas pour but de terminer l'entente. La lettre avait pour but de régler un problème, parce que la réglementation dit que la première fois, entre autres, bien, on doit échanger puis tenter de corriger la situation.
1242 J'aimerais ça que vous me convainquiez que MTS, lors de la deuxième faute, n'a pas fait une enquête pendant quatre mois, sans informer Triton, et les a avisés par une lettre le 22 décembre, juste avant Noël -- c'est Noël pour MTS, mais c'est Noël aussi pour Triton -- mais la lettre avait pour but non pas d'ouvrir l'échange, avait pour but de finir, de terminer l'entente.
1243 Alors, j'aimerais ça que vous me convainquiez que votre but pendant toute l'enquête que vous avez faite n'était pas de vous débarrasser de Triton, mais bien tout simplement de protéger vos consommateurs, comme vous l'avez invoqué depuis le début.
1244 MR. TRAFFORD: The timing of the notice was based on the completion of our investigation in 2010. It wrapped up towards the end of December. We debated whether we should issue the notice now or wait until after the holidays to issue the notice. You know, since the information was current and the investigation had already been going on since the beginning of October-- so two-and-a-half, almost three months-- we felt it was more important to provide the notice quickly rather than, I mean, the time period for the investigation was already long.
1245 In 2007, clearly, we had no interest, no right to terminate the contract. We were citing a breach under condition 12.1 of the contract which said this was your first breach; you're entitled to a 10-day remedy period, a "do over", a "mulligan" to fix the problem and let's move on.
1246 In 2010, this was a second breach of the same provision of 1.2 of the Technical Guideline which is an integral part of the Agreement. If Triton had come to us shortly after us responding or sending the letter of December 22nd and said, "Okay, mea culpa ... we've identified the problem ... technical bug ... we've reprogrammed our switch," we could've had conversations.
1247 We didn't get any kind of admission over the next, you know, until today. It's been denial and misdirection. It's problem with TELUS' database and, you know, here's a customer who paid us voluntarily-- like, that's irrelevant to the issues that we're discussing.
1248 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay. Thank you, we could go on for a--
1249 MR. TRAFFORD: Oh, I know.
1250 COMMISSIONER POIRIER: Okay. So I'll let Mr. Patrone go on.
1251 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Thank you.
1252 Just a little further on the vein of questions that were raised by my colleague having to do with what is, in a sense, a zero-tolerance policy, Ms Song, you describe the issue here as a systemic problem that MTS had identified. A systemic problem; is that right? Do you consider two breaches in four years a systemic problem? Because, essentially, we have one breach that is before us, as I see it, a second breach.
1253 MS SONG: I didn't-- okay.
1254 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Did you not use the word "systemic"? I thought--
1255 MS SONG: I absolutely used the word "systemic".
1256 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay.
1257 MS SONG: And I used it to describe the nature of the problem that is before us today. Whatever is going on with the way in which the 263 blocking code is being ignored either by Triton or by somebody under Triton or over Triton-- we don't know who that person is and we don't know the contract, we haven't seen anything actually because we haven't had that opportunity obviously-- but whatever is going on, I did characterize as systemic.
1258 And I don't think that there is any contradiction on the record of the proceeding before you, anything in what Triton has been able to come up with that would contradict that. I'm not sure I would use the word "systemic" to describe Triton's patterns of behaviour and I'm not--
1259 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: You did use it, though; did you not?
1260 MS SONG: No, I used the word "systemic" to describe what they were doing with their 263 LIDB dips. That's what I used the word "systemic" in connection with.
1261 While I wouldn't use the word "systemic" necessarily to describe Triton's overall pattern of behaviour, we do have an incident in 2007 where they seem quite happy not to-- to override the wishes of the party at the other end of the collect call.
1262 We have in 2010 a similar systemic problem of overriding the collect-call blocking instruction. While we haven't had time in the time that we've had before you today to talk about MTS' concerns with the 900, reverse 900 type calls, there are also a panoply of concerns concerning those types of calls; that the consumer safeguards that must be attached to a 900 service call are being avoided or evaded by Triton--
1263 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'm not sure that that's an issue for this proceeding.
1264 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Yeah.
1265 MS SONG: All right. While I wouldn't call it "systemic", my understanding from my client-- and I think my client's probably better placed to supplement this answer-- is that Triton is engaging in borderline practices hoping not to get caught, hoping that--
1266 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Well, that being the case, then, it's been pretty lucky for a while. I mean, considering the thousands of calls that it must've processed not to have been involved in an incident soon after 2007, the odds certainly would've suggested that if there were systemic issues, as you suggest, that it would have happened a little earlier on after the first breach.
1267 MR. TRAFFORD: Well, I can respond to that. We haven't been on a witch hunt. If we'd been watching every move they made since 2007 perhaps we would've uncovered problems earlier.
1268 As I mentioned, our front-line staff get 50,000 calls a month. On our record we've identified that some of these very same customers have actually been receiving collect calls from Triton even though the collect block was in place in June, July, August, you recall.
1269 You know, I didn't have a large sample that I was looking at. I was only looking at these 24 numbers. We don't know how long this problem's been going on. We looked at CDRs received from September onward. It could've been going on for months earlier than that. It could've been going on for years earlier that. We didn't investigate.
1270 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But presumably there would have been complaints, though.
1271 MR. TRAFFORD: If a customer calls up to the front-line staff and the customer verifies collect-call blocking's in place, we issue the chargeback, the chargeback goes back to Triton, it's a cost of doing business for them.
1272 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Because when we, as a regulator, consider the implication of termination-- assuming that one were to come to the conclusion that there is no critical distinction between the first breach and the second alleged breach or breach, as the case may be-- that if one takes the strictest possible interpretation of the agreement and determined that MTS was within its right-- I'm saying if-- you know, will the bar have been set so impossibly high that after an initial breach, for anybody in any circumstance, that termination essentially becomes inevitable because it's two strikes, you're out.
1273 And in a case where you're basically just talking about a zero-tolerance policy after the first breach, you know, is that reasonable in your view?
1274 MR. TRAFFORD: A couple of points.
1275 Number one, this is not an MTS agreement. This is an agreement that's developed by the industry through extensive consultation and approved by the Commission. There is no language in their expunging the record of previous breaches after a certain period of time. Maybe that's an evolution that could be applied.
1276 We've been acting under a billing and collection service for close to 20 years for 20 to 30 customers. I wouldn't say it's a zero-tolerance. The first one, you get a do over; the second time, after the first one? Yeah, maybe there's zero-tolerance--
1277 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Well, not maybe. In your case, you're asking us essentially to interpret this literally that they, you know, a second mistake means you're out.
1278 MR. TRAFFORD: And as I said, we've only cited three breaches in 20 years, two of them to Triton and one to their sister company. I don't know of any other company-- I mean, it's not a pandemic of ILECs terminating billing and collection agreements. This is an exceptional circumstance.
1279 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: If they lose their Manitoba footprint, does MTS stand to gain in terms of business?
1280 MR. TRAFFORD: I can't see how we would. No, I mean--
1281 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Would you pick up their--
1282 MR. TRAFFORD: We're not competing for the contracts to serve penitentiaries in Alberta or Saskatchewan. We have no-- we don't have the infrastructure, it's not a line of business that we seek.
1283 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: There's no monetary gain resulting from potentially-- from a situation in which Triton where it's basically turfed from an area that MTS operates?
1284 MR. TRAFFORD: Today we make a small amount of money from providing billing and collection services to Triton. We would lose that but we'd also lose, you know, the front-line staff issues dealing with the day-to-day customer issue complaints. We would, you know, lose any issues or lose any overhead with dealing with issues like we're dealing with today.
1285 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: But in your view, they're more trouble than they're worth, though, in MTS' view. Is that not, you know, to put it blunt?
1286 MR. TRAFFORD: Those are your words but I won't dispute them.
1287 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay, thanks.
1288 I have one question for Triton. I really, Mr. Fietz, I really need you to clarify something before we wrap this up. I'm saying that, you know, we're getting near the end here and it has to do with the possible gain or savings incurred from not doing a dip.
1289 And I've heard you sort of speak about it in response to a question from the Chair, then it casts doubt on what I'd heard you say or what I thought I heard you say earlier, so I'm going to try to word this in a way that it's absolutely crystal clear. Does Triton stand to have any savings in the way of expenses as a result of not doing a dip? Is there any circumstance under which that could happen?
1290 For instance, if there was no complaint from a customer, if the chargeback didn't happen...?
1291 MR. FIETZ: Commissioner, we are aware that there are a percentage overall in each ILEC territory of collect-call blocks and we would not stand to gain if we're trying to save eight cents on a dip that had a $3.99 tariff plus an uncollectible call of about $8 to $12. That would not benefit us.
1292 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So the answer to my question is you would not gain anything from not doing a dip. There would be no savings to you whatsoever. Do I have that--
1293 MR. FIETZ: Correct. On an overall level, if you were to take--
1294 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: On any level, Mr. Fietz. Any level.
1295 MR. FIETZ: Yes.
1296 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: No gain whatsoever by not doing a dip?
1297 MR. FIETZ: Well, if we chose not to do a dip there would be, I mean, we wouldn't see that cost per dip on a call.
1298 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Meaning you wouldn't have to pay it?
1299 MR. FIETZ: Correct because we wouldn't have incurred the cost of it.
1300 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: So the answer to my question is, yes, there would be savings.
1301 MR. FIETZ: No. The answer is, no, there would not be savings because we would incur chargebacks and--
1302 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: What if there wasn't a chargeback? What if the customer--
1303 MR. FIETZ: We know there are chargebacks. We've been doing this for 14 years.
1304 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: All the time?
1305 MR. FIETZ: Sure.
1306 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: There are no cases where the customer--
1307 MR. FIETZ: No, because there's a history of us billing for over 12 years. We're fully aware that there's chargebacks.
1308 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: In every single case where it's warranted?
1309 MR. FIETZ: Where it's warranted, yes.
1310 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: In every single case where it's warranted, a chargeback takes place?
1311 MR. FIETZ: I would say so.
1312 COMMISSIONER PATRONE: Okay. Thank you.
1313 THE CHAIRPERSON: Well, thank you.
1314 Legal, no questions?
1315 The court reporter has kindly agreed to give us a little more time. We'll take a five-minute break and then 10 minutes each and we'll have to try to stick to that.
1316 Thank you very much.
--- Upon recessing at 1257
--- Upon resuming at 1306
1317 THE CHAIRPERSON: I think you can go ahead Mr. Dunbar. Thank you.
CLOSING REMARKS BY TRITON
1318 MR. DUNBAR: Thank you very much.
1319 As I mentioned at the outset, billing and collection services are not ordinary telecom services. They are mandated interconnection services. A few minutes ago, Ms Song said something to the effect that this service was not an access service or a transport service.
1320 In fact, it is an access service. It's in the Access Services Tariff. And as recently as Telecom Decision 2008-17, the Commission dealt with this exact issue. In paragraph 105 of that decision, the Commission stated that:
"Bell Canada et al. and TCC proposed that billing and collection services be found to be non-essential since there were numerous alternatives available, such as credit card calling, pre-paid calling cards, and pre-registration..."
1321 The Commission discussed that option and said:
"Accordingly, the Commission determines that all administrative services related to long distance TSP selection, AT and DC interconnection services, and BCS and BNS database access service are to be classified as interconnection service."
1322 So this is still the same. It's mandated interconnection.
1323 Now, as has been observed, if Triton loses its billing and collection agreement with MTS, its ability to provide a national collect-call service is seriously undermined and its contracts with third parties are in jeopardy.
1324 Triton has a carrier-to-carrier relationship with MTS. It's been noted. It's not unusual for there to be errors from time to time in the transmission of communications or in related databases. While all carriers, including Triton, would like to totally eliminate these errors, it's a fact of life that they do occasionally occur.
1325 In this case, Triton has taken steps since this problem was identified to upgrade its gateway access service with SNET and it believes that there will not be a re-occurrence of the problems experienced in the fall. It's also instituted a procedure for pre-checking call records before they're sent to MTS in order to double-check whether to send the records for collection.
1326 With the high degree of interdependence that now characterizes national and international networks, there's many issues that carriers need to cooperate on to ensure inter-networking. This requires a common desire between carriers to make this work.
1327 Despite the fact that MTS realized sometime in the fall, perhaps late September, that there's a problem with Triton's calling records, the first noticed that Triton received from MTS came in the form of a termination notice, as we've discussed, on December 22nd.
1328 That letter did not give an opportunity to Triton to remedy and did not give Triton a period of time to correct the problem. It didn't mention anything like that. It said it was a notice of termination and that it would terminate in 10 days. This notice came after repeated requests for an update from Triton who had not been paid for collect calls for the past two months.
1329 Once that notice was served on Triton, MTS repeatedly failed to respond to requests by Triton for a meeting to straighten out the issue.
1330 MTS also refused to abide by the dispute resolution mechanisms in the Agreement as we discussed earlier.
1331 The letter from Mr. Lancaster that was provided on January 7th did not provide Triton with sufficient information or time to respond. It took MTS four months to build its termination case against Triton and it gave Triton three business days to respond. This was not a reasonable opportunity. In fact, if you look at the letter of January 7th, it raised a myriad of issues. It wasn't one issue. We did try to respond to those issues. It's true that we could not respond directly to the one paragraph referred to by Ms Song, but we did respond on a number of issues.
1332 In my submission, we had insufficient information at that time to know exactly what the problem was. Triton was faced with termination of an important agreement and I think it did what any carrier would do, it asked for negotiations, it asked for a dispute resolution process, it needed time to find out what was going on.
1333 Now, as Triton's conduct in 2007 demonstrates, when there was a problem in the past that was notified to Triton, Triton did move quickly to resolve it.
1334 Triton has B&C agreements with other ILECs in Canada and a number of cable companies and has not been treated in the same manner by other companies.
1335 I acknowledge Section 12.2 of the B&C Agreement provides for possible termination of the Agreement when a service provider breaches the same provision for a second time, having initially corrected the problem.
1336 MTS is relying on an initial breach, three years ago in December 2007, to terminate the Agreement for a breach in the fall of 2010. I think it's been clear that the record shows that the first breach in 2007 related to failure to do warm-body verifications. Mr. Trafford has been very clear acknowledging that that's not the complaint in 2010. So my argument would be it's not the same problem. The other problem was fixed. This is a different problem and it happened three years earlier.
1337 The evidence filed by Triton and MTS is conflicting in a number of respects. MTS says that Triton has failed to perform LIDB queries and warm-body verifications on hundreds of calls, perhaps not the verifications anymore.
1338 It says that Triton "flaunts" the rules. Triton's not flaunting the rules. This is a case of some calls getting through the net that was put in place at the time of the infractions. We're told that although there are a large number of calls involved, the calls were placed between 17 and 24 lines over a period of four months in the fall.
1339 Triton believes that the problems identified by MTS may have been caused by third-party carriers terminating traffic through Triton. Since the details of this problem have become known to Triton, it has tried to address the problem first by upgrading its database access with SNET; and secondly, by doing the double-checking of the LIDB database before sending call records to MTS.
1340 In our respectful submission, the goal of this proceeding should be to rectify the problem and test the system not to terminate the contract.
1341 I do not believe that Article 12.2 of the Agreement was ever intended to operate in the manner suggested by MTS. I don't think this provision was meant to create a type of strict liability offence-- two strikes and you're out of business. That's more extreme than the three strikes that are operable in the United States in their justice system. There are too few competing interexchange carriers left in Canada to have this type of regulatory outcome.
1342 It's my respectful submission that this proceeding is not actually the optimal way to resolve what might be a technical issue and it's inconsistent with the spirit of the B&C Agreement which appears to favour dispute resolution through negotiation.
1343 In my respectful submission, the correct outcome for this proceeding would be for the Commission to send the parties away; to require them to meet with a view to figuring out whether there is still a problem; to test the network again; and to report back to the Commission, possibly with the help of Commission counsel.
1344 The aim should be to correct the service problem and put in place between the two carriers a better communications path for resolution of any future problems before they get out of control.
1345 I think that concludes my submissions. On behalf of Triton, I'd like to thank the Commission and Commission staff for convening this hearing and for conducting what I believe to be a very detailed inquiry. Thank you very much.
1346 THE CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr.Dunbar.
1347 Ms Song.
CLOSING REMARKS BY MTS
1348 MS SONG: Thank you, Commissioners, staff.
1349 The question to be answered in this proceeding as formulated by the Commission is whether MTSA had valid grounds in light of all the evidence to terminate the service to Triton.
1350 There is no dispute that prior to connecting collect calls, all collect calls must be validated in the appropriate line information or LIDB database by the service provider connecting the call to ensure that there are no restrictions placed on the acceptance of collect calls by the paying customer on the line.
1351 There is no dispute that Triton does not validate all collect calls but does so only selectively according to its own internal methods or algorithms known only to itself.
1352 More importantly, there is no dispute that where the LIDB returns an instruction placed on the line by the paying customer to deny collect calls, the collect call cannot proceed to the next step being live-body verification of acceptance of the collect call. In other words, the B&C Agreement is clear that the instruction in the LIDB must be adhered to.
1353 In this regard, there is also no dispute that Triton is permitting collect call denial instructions or has permitted collect call denial instructions from the LIDB to be overridden and allowed collect calls to proceed to verification even where this circumstance arises. This is completely abhorrent in the experience of MTS Allstream in the industry and is contrary to the express terms of the B&C Agreement.
1354 Whether this is deliberate or out of wilful blindness or negligence or carelessness on the part of Triton, it is MTS Allstream's customers who are inconvenienced and MTS Allstream that is ultimately left holding the bag.
1355 Triton's excuses hold no water. There is no evidence that it is being wrongly pursued for informational deficiencies in the AT&T SNET LIDB.
1356 In its application, Triton referred to data integrity problems found in a recent so-called audit of the LIDB database by AT&T. But in response to Commission interrogatory and here again today, it has admitted that this issue is irrelevant.
1357 Today, for the first time, we have heard that Triton has diagnosed the problem as being with somebody either above it or below it. It did not come forward with that evidence when it filed its application on February the 2nd. It did not provide that information during the interrogatory phase where interrogatories were addressed to it by Commission staff. We have heard about it and the uncertain details surrounding this so-called excuse or explanation for the first time today.
1358 For measures, it has said that in order to address this diagnosed problem, it immediately took measures upon receiving notice from MTS Allstream in late December to correct that situation. The measures that it has undertaken don't clearly relate to the problem, which is the wilful or negligent overriding of collect-call blocking instructions in the LIDB database. Moreover, if it had taken such measures immediately then why was that evidence not forthcoming in its February 2nd application to the Commission?
1359 The Commission became involved as early as December 23 in this matter, December 23, 2010. The parties, whether it was MTS Allstream or Triton, got Commission staff involved at that early juncture perhaps presaging the fact that a negotiated resolution was unlikely in the circumstances.
1360 MTS' customers include reconnection companies, social service agencies, landlords, and heads of household who subscribe to collect call blocking for the very reason that these paying customers are not the individuals who necessarily reside on the premises or pick up at the other end of line.
1361 Attachment 1 of MTS Allstream's April 14th submission shows disconnected lines and the record shows refunds for collect calls in relation to the 24 collect-call blocked lines identified by MTS Allstream. These lines, these 24 numbers are only a sample and as Mr. Trafford has clearly explained, are a minimum set of the numbers that are potentially affected. This is precisely the situation, i.e., disconnected lines, refunds that the Commission-approved validation processes are meant to guard against.
1362 The 2007 ineligible call incident involved collect calls set up by Triton in a way that provided the paying customer, once again the target, no opportunity to refuse the collect call.
1363 The conduct that is at issue in this proceeding is the deliberate or wilfully blind acts of Triton to cause an override of the paying customers' collect-call blocking instruction. Both involve breaches of the same section of the B&C Technical Guideline, which describe the fundamental obligation of the service provider to follow the instruction of the paying customer. As a result, the 10-day notice provisions of Section 12.2 were applicable which, in fact, were extended for a further 10 days to the 12th of January.
1364 But even if the Commission determines that the provisions of 12.2 are for some reason not applicable in the circumstances, the Agreement clearly provides that upon 10 days notice of a breach that is not remedied, termination is an option available to the service provider.
1365 In this case, I mean, MTS with respect to a breach of the validation obligation on Triton. Triton did nothing to remedy its breach and provided no information to MTS regarding the improper validation concern other than to deny and obfuscate right up to the end of the extended 20-day notice period. In fact, it provided no evidence whatsoever that it had taken any steps to remedy the breach until the hearing that has taken place before you today. It's only at this hearing that it has indicated that it has taken any remedial measures.
1366 Hence, neither the Commission staff nor MTS Allstream have had an opportunity to consider the reasonableness or the causal relationship, frankly, between the measures that it says it has now taken and the fundamental breach that we have identified.
1367 For MTS, termination is motivated by the desire to protect itself and its customers, but it is also driven primarily by MTS' desire to protect local customers and to protect its reputation. MTS is first and foremost a telecommunication services provider, and billing and collection on behalf of other service providers is but a very small ancillary function.
1368 MTS believes that when it comes to the validity of charges on the bill, customers have higher expectations of the phone company than of a company whose principal business is to bill, such as a credit card company. Customers are more likely to be upset with their phone company for charges they disagree with even when those charges are clearly identified as being applied on behalf of another party.
1369 The evidence against Triton is clear. Triton is not validating each collect call at the time the call is being made and when it does, it is not adhering to the results of the validation query in the appropriate LIDB database. Failure to properly validate collect calls breaches Article 5.4 of the Agreement and Article 1.2 of the Technical Guideline. This breach is both materiel in the number of calls and the duration over which those calls occurred.
1370 MTS Allstream therefore respectfully requests that Triton's application be denied and that MTS Allstream's termination of the B&C Agreement between itself and Triton be reinstated effective within seven days of the Commission's determination in this matter.
1371 And I thank you all very much.
1372 THE CHAIRPERSON: I'd like to thank all of the parties for participating and helping us with your very full answers, and the translators, and the court reporter, and all the staff.
1373 This adjourns our hearing today. We will be rendering a decision as quickly as we can.
1374 Thank you very much.
--- Whereupon the hearing concluded at 1324
William Curley Karen Paré
- Date modified: