The CRTC is about to decide what regulatory approaches it should take for smaller cable operators who offer high speed Internet access services. In Order CRTC 2000-317, released April 18, the commission found that carriers other than Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw and Videotron are not required to cost-justify proposed rates for their higher-speed access service. Before making that decision, the CRTC asked for comments on its preliminary view of the appropriate definition of "larger carrier". The CRTC is considering regulatory forbearance of the rates and terms associated with higher speed access services offered by Class 3 licences. The commission would retain powers under the Telecommunications Act to address issues on a complaint basis. Forbearance would not apply if the Class 3 cableco was owned by a larger cableco. The Canadian Cable Systems Alliance asked the commission to forbear from regulating the rates and terms on which its members provide higher-speed access services. "We have asked the commission to go easy on tariff levels for small cable companies", CCSA president Walter Weckers told Canadian Communications Reports. " This is essentially the commission agreeing with us and going full-speed ahead to see what they can do." Weckers adds that access to small systems by third-party ISPs "is part of the challenge. Not only are (the cablecos) small, they're a long distance from larger centres or the border. It's difficult for them to get access to the Internet. If you have a place 500 miles in the bush, and you have a connection that is far away, it may not be affordable. About 20 per cent of the CCSA's 100 members sell Internet service, and those that do are driven by local market conditions, Weckers points out. "It will be very difficult to mandate how small communities are going to get high speed Internet access." Class 3 cablecos also need regulatory forbearance, he adds, because they don't have the expertise to deliver mandated Internet services. "In some places, it's an issue of skills. The small cable companies sometimes don't have the expertise, so there's a need for sharing and educating. We're not saying one solution can fit all. And, in our view, the CRTC does not need to abdicate its responsibility for regulation." The commission is considering allowing agreements between small cable operators and Internet service providers, and as such, has asked intervenors to comment on the appropriate terms and conditions for such agreements, such as whether exclusivity should be permitted for a defined period of time. The CRTC is requesting comments by May 26, with reply comments due by June 16.