Following a dispute between Canadian VOIP provider Iristel and Miami-based VOIP company NetTALK that led to the abrupt disconnection of about 27,000 phone numbers in January 2016, Canada’s telecom watchdog has instituted new rules to protect consumers.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has mandated that service providers like NetTALK — who purchase service wholesale from another ‘upstream’ provider — must notify their customers at least four business days before being disconnected, an instance which may arise if the two providers are engaged in a bill dispute.
Additionally, the service provider must now provide the CRTC with a copy of that same notice so that the Commission is kept abreast of developments that could potentially leave Canadians floundering without service.
Before reaching the decision, the CRTC received comment from Bell Canada, Eastlink, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), Iristel, Videotron and the Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC), among others.
During that period of open comment, several of the operators — among them Bell — argued that the incident between Iristel and NetTALK was a rare example, and no new protections were needed. Stakeholders also cautioned that changes shouldn’t be disruptive to existing contracts.
Ultimately, the CRTC stated that regulation was necessary, since there is guidance on end-user disconnection for operators in the Wireless Code and other telecom regulatory documents, but none that dictates a service provider must give notice to their customers when they themselves are on the brink of disconnection.
The Commission refrained from dictating the minimum time frame for the upstream service provider to warn the reseller of impending disconnection, stating that the terms in current standard commercial contracts suffice.