Bell Canada’s application seeking forbearance for high-speed intra-exchange digital services is being touted by the company as a measured response to a changing market. The telco asserts that the new landscape requires the CRTC to relax its regulations. "Forbearance for the company’s high-speed DS will enable customers to realize the full benefits of competition," Mirko Bibic, the chief of regulatory affairs for the ILEC, writes in the Part VII filing. "Currently, customers cannot receive from Bell Canada the speed of response, the flexibility in packaging and pricing, and the timely introduction of new services that are available from other service providers." The telco argues that it now faces competition from a variety of sources. Not only are CLECs rolling out service but the utility telecoms, referred to in the Bell filing as MEUs, have stepped up their deployment. "We’re always looking at whether the facts and development of competition justify forbearance using the commission’s test and we’ve felt for some time that in some parts of the enterprise sector of the market there was a lot and increasingly competitive market, particularly with the advent of the MEUs, with the development of their fibre rings and large users with their wide area network etc.," Lawson Hunter, executive VP of BCE Inc. and Bell, explains to Network Letter. "So we thought this was one that met the test and that it was time to give ourselves the flexibility to respond in a competitive market." The Bell application covers digital network access services at speeds of DS-3 and over, all speeds of high-speed metro service, access special routing, OC-12 facility and future services in the same class. Excluded from the list are digital services under DS-3, digital accesses used to connect to the PSTN, analog network access services and CDNA service. Hunter points out that Bell has already filed a proposal with the CRTC seeking to reduce prices for many of the services for which it wants forbearance. Prices are falling and Bell wishes to remain competitive, he adds. He says Bell has about 1,000 exchanges in its territory in Ontario and Quebec. The forbearance application covers 120 of those. Most of the communities mentioned are along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. Among the competitors offering services in those areas are Allstream Corp., RISQ, Telecom Ottawa, and Vidéotron ltée. But those competitors note that they have a small piece of the broadband pie. None operate in every single exchange being listed by Bell for forbearance. The revenues earned by each company in the individual exchanges are dwarfed by the market share controlled by the ILEC. This is not the first time forbearance has been sought. In December 1998, Bell and the other ILECs, operating under the former Stentor alliance, asked for an exemption for all digital access services. The CRTC denied that application in Order 2000-653. Bibic says this filing is different, because the competitive environment has changed and because only some services are listed. The Part VII also points out that the price cap regime provides additional safeguards. The schedule sets limits on the telco’s ability to alter prices for capped services. Bell maintains it has no incentive to engage in cross-subsidization. Bibic has asked the regulator to come to a decision as soon as possible. The actual forbearance would come into effect 90 days after the application’s approval, to facilitate new administrative procedures Bell would have to put into place. Hunter is optimistic that ruling will come shortly. "I would hope that we would get something later this year," he tells NL. "As you know, the commission is master of their own domain once the record gets closed. So it’s hard to predict exactly but I would have thought sometime this year."