Bell, Vidéotron battle over cost of 911 services

Vidéotron says it shouldn't have to pay twice for 911 services. Bell says it's only following the rules

Vidéotron is accusing Bell, and other telecom companies, of overcharging for 9-1-1 services.

In an application filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Vidéotron says the company is billing Canadians for next-generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) services, despite the system not being implemented yet.

“Bell has failed to meet its regulatory obligations as an NG-9-1-1 service provider, in particular, to implement an NG-9-1-1 system that is reliable, resilient, secure, while maintaining costs to a minimum, in accordance with the regulatory framework for NG-9-1-1 services,” Vidéotron said in a reply dated February 10th, 2023.

Bell, Sasktel, and Telus are tasked with maintaining the current 9-1-1 system and building NG-9-1-1. Once implemented, it will allow callers to share information with emergency services in various ways, such as text and images. Telecom providers, including Vidéotron, must pay to access such emergency services on their networks.

The saga started when Bell filed an application in November 2022, arguing Vidéotron wasn’t paying fees to access the 9-1-1 frameworks. Vidéotron’s response stated providers should charge 9-1-1 fees based on usage and refund fees collected for NG9-1-1 services until “the migration of emergency calls to the NG9-1-1 system has begun.” The Commission combined the two applications into one matter in December 2022.

“Maintaining two 9-1-1 networks does not need to stretch. The only reason 9-1-1 Service Providers argue otherwise is to continue to be overcompensated by receiving full payment for two 9-1-1 charges concurrently,” Vidéotron said in its February 10th reply. 

The company said its costs for the services would only double under its plans to acquire Freedom Mobile from Shaw.

Bell’s response

In its own reply, Bell argues against Vidéotron’s accusations. The company says it, along with SaskTel and Telus, launched NG-9-1-1 services “within their territories.” However, as the Toronto Star notes, Canadians can only make voice calls, just like the legacy 9-1-1 system.

On double charges, Bell says it’s only following the CRTC’s rules.

Philippe Gauvin, a lawyer with Bell, told the Star the CRTC established payment rules in 2017, outlining providers will have to pay for both services.

“If a carrier only pays one fee, which is basically what Vidéotron is arguing for, they would be under-compensating for the regime,” Gauvin told the publication.

Source: CRTC Via: The Star