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WHEREAS when the Government of Alberta operated the telephone communication service in Alberta rural residents could obtain telephone services for a nominal fee;AND WHEREAS since Alberta Government Telephones was sold to the private sector, Telus has changed their method of service delivery to rural Alberta and has increased the fees to such an extent that rural Albertans have been placed at a significant financial disadvantage and normal telephone installation has become unaffordable;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to reinstate a program allowing for rural Albertans to obtain telephone service at a reasonable rate.
The Alberta government has always supported the use of advanced technology as a means of providing Albertans with a better quality of life where possible. Over the years, the provincial government has implemented programs designed to allow rural Alberta to participate in the utility advantages enjoyed by urban Albertans. Electricity, natural gas, and telephone are services that have been provided to rural Albertans at reasonable cost at least partly through the support and financial assistance provided by the Alberta Government, so as to allow rural Albertans to enjoy a normal standard of living.In the spring of 1986, the Alberta government announced a program to convert all of Alberta’s 100,000 party line connections to private lines. This program required that some 300 telephone exchanges would be upgraded to digital switching equipment; it did not necessarily involve provision of new lines to rural users. Total cost of the 5-year program was estimated at $500 million. The government’s $500 million commitment covered about 75% of the cost of the system upgrade. The rest of the cost was absorbed by individual rural customers; each line was assessed a one-time fee of $400-$450.In April 2001, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that the current cost for an additional private line, where there is already an existing line in place, in rural Alberta is approximately $605, $560 of which is a surcharge and $45.00 is a normal line charge. Only the nominal line charge is charged in urban centres. Also in April 2001, Telus released a proposed Service Improvement Plan (SIP) for rural and remote communities that do not currently receive the “basic level of service”. According to Telus, there are five Alberta communities with no phone service. Telus proposed a new plan for extending services to these communities. Where the average capital cost of new service is less than $26,000 per dwelling, TELUS proposes to pay up to $25,000, with the homeowner paying up to $1,000 on a sliding scale. Where the average cost per dwelling is more than $26,000, TELUS will pay $25,000, with the homeowner paying all additional costs. It has come to our attention recently that individuals are having to wait an excessive amount of time in order to obtain telephone service and that the costs charged by Telus are $6,000 for the basic private line. Individuals wanting an additional line to their residence are also required to pay this $6,000 fee. We believe that telephone service is a very basic life standard that all Albertans should be able to access; it is not only a service for those who are wealthy. The Alberta government needs to reinstate the program where the province paid the installation fees for the basic telephone service for all Albertans.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to this matter. However, the AAMDC has previously advised the Government of Canada and the CRTC of concerns regarding the cost and availability of communications services in rural Canada, and has encouraged consideration of alternatives to ensure that these services are available to rural citizens at reasonable costs.