The CRTC is rendering decisions faster on appeals, but some in the industry still find the process cumbersome. But changes to the system could be worse than the present case, insiders warn. Filing Part VII applications under the Telecommunications Act is the preferred method of settling disputes, but despite repeated calls for expedited decisions, the process still takes time. "The problem with them is it is a slow process," says Ian Scott, VP government affairs with Call-Net Enterprises Inc. "You file an application. In the normal turnaround, the party who the application is filed against has 30 days to answer and then the applicant has another 10 days to reply. And that starts the base process. Now you’ve got an application, answer and reply and the commission then decides what it is going to do with it." If an issue is particularly contentious, the CRTC may widen the debate. It will issue a public notice and open hearings at which other parties may contribute.  After debating among themselves, the commissioners will reach a verdict. A rough draft of the decision will be circulated. Changes and dissents may then be submitted. Finally the revised document will be sent off for translation. Only then, many months after the initial request has been filed, will a definitive ruling be announced. In its defence, the commission states those situations are the exceptions. A ruling is generally quite fast, the CRTC’s director-general of telecommunications maintains. "It really depends on how complicated it is, but it’s within months typically," Shirley Soehn tells Network Letter. Last year, Soehn spoke of the need for change during a speech to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. She asked for help in setting proper goals for the commission. She said that delays in rendering judgments were a sticking point with many telcos. Asked if the CRTC has improved its timeliness, Soehn responds, "I think we have. We’ve issued a lot of decisions relative to Part VII and we’ve dramatically improved the timing on those." She also promotes the use of the CISC process and the dispute resolution system. But Scott counters that these are voluntary ventures. If a disagreement cannot be settled, it is referred to the commission. CRTC staff proceed with laying the groundwork for the commissioners, who then spend months analyzing the situation. The enthusiasm of the commission also is a factor, says Scott, who served previously at the CRTC. Some topics are of greater interest to the CRTC than others. "They have in certain instances moved very, very quickly on some applications," says the VP from Sprint Canada’s parent. "But other ones, thinking back over the years, some of them have taken 18 months, 24 months." Scott believes interesting the commission in a particular issue is a hit-or-miss proposition. "There’s been a marked improvement in their recognition of files that need to be dealt with expeditiously," he offers. "They’ve committed the resources on those that they believe have to be dealt with quickly. I guess that’s good as long as yours is the one that’s being dealt with expeditiously. If you file an application they don’t like or they don’t attach a priority to it that you may, then it may sit for quite a while before it gets dealt with." In her CWTA address last spring, Soehn said the CRTC was continuing to examine its handling of the telephony sector. She pointed to the vision statement of 1997 and promised further reviews of how the regulator works. That doesn’t satisfy Scott. "Have we fully explored all of the alternatives to expedite particularly competitive disputes?," he asks, quickly answering, "No. The commission has done some navel-gazing internally and proposed a variety of competitive dispute resolution processes but they haven’t been very radical. They haven’t involved the industry as much as I’d like to see in terms of finding some other tools. But I wouldn’t throw away what they have. It’s useful for what it is."