TSTT provides more details on its Single National Rate Plan for fixed line calls

TSTT has posted a second notice about its Single National Rate Plan which mentions its position regarding TATT and mentions a initial cap on fixed line calls within the exchange area (currently 23 cents unlimited). For the first 3 months from September 7th, 2007, charges for calls within the same exchange area will be limited to 69 cents per call, regardless of length. After the first three months, the next three months, charges for calls will be limited to $1.15 per call, regardless of length.

Here is the text of the second TSTT press release :
http://www.tstt.co.tt/about/news_article.cfm?id=332

TSTT Clarifies Single National Rate Plan Announcement

TSTT’s wishes to provide additional information regarding our announcement of plans to implement a single national rate. The principal issues centre around TSTT’s notification requirements relative to the Regulator, TATT, and its customers; whether the Regulator has the authority to approve/disapprove the proposed rate revision; as well as the actual impact of the Single National Rate on customers.

TSTT’s position on the issues regarding TATT is that we have notified TATT in the manner prescribed in our Concession Agreement. In fact, TSTT has used this same procedure on two other rate changes during the past year. TATT raised no objections to the procedure in either instance. Customer notification of this Single National Rate was also carried out in accordance with the Concession Agreement. Given this compliance, along with the precedent set for previous rate adjustment action, TSTT believes that it has fully observed all relevant regulations in announcing the Single National Rate. Moving forward, TSTT will continue to work with TATT to ensure that any misunderstandings regarding procedural requirements for notifications are resolved.

Further, according to the Telecommunications Act of 2001, service providers are required to seek approval for proposed rate changes only if the Regulator has implemented a Price Regulation Regime. We understand that work on this regime is in process at TATT; however, no price regulations exist at this time. TSTT is of the view, therefore, that there is no requirement to await regulatory approval of the Single National Rate.

Most importantly, however, we must remember that the Single National Rate plan is in response to our customers’ desire for simpler calling plans. Advancements in telecommunications technology have tended to negate distance as a factor in determining calling rates. The single national rate is a reflection of this trend. Introducing the Single National Rate seeks to align customers’ preferences with the calling rate structures experienced in international and mobile calling. The plan has already been hailed as offering huge cost savings for many of our customers.

Nevertheless, TSTT is mindful that some of our customers may need some time to adjust to the new rate plan, particularly as it relates to calls within an exchange area. Such calls today have an effective rate of 23 cents per call. As such, from September 2007 to February 2008, charges for such calls will be ‘capped’ or limited for this period of time. For the first 3 months, charges for calls within the same exchange area will be limited to 69 cents per call, regardless of length. For the following three months they will be limited to $1.15 per call, regardless of length. TSTT will monitor the price-ceiling mechanism throughout this period as the company works to ensure the best possible service solutions are provided to customers.

TATT says TSTT’s Single National Rate has not been approved by them

The recent TSTT announcement of a Single National Rate has generated some controversy (really?). The Telecom Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) according to a Trinidad Express article on Wednesday August 8th, 2007 :

TATT, in response to TSTT’s notice, said that the move to revise the telephone rates was done illegally and without the necessary approval.

“The Authority wishes to notify the public that no approval has been granted to TSTT to revise its existing tariffs for fixed line to fixed line calls, since it has not yet had the opportunity to determine the likely impact of the proposed tariff change to consumer bills, if the proposed changes are to be implemented,” TATT said.

It added that TSTT was required to give the Authority 30 days notice first and then another 30 days notice to the public before rates could be revised as part of its regulatory obligations.

A consumer impact study done by TATT indicated that customers will be experiencing a 300 per cent increase on three-minute calls within the same exchange (area) with the new rates.

And TSTT, in response to TATT :

Lisa Agard, TSTT’s vice president, Legal and Regulatory, told the Express last night that all the proper regulations in keeping with TSTT’s concession agreement were followed.

“TSTT regards (TATT’s) statement as vexatious and completely without merit. In the first place there is absolutely no requirement either under the Telecommunications Act or under TSTT’s concession that approval had to attained from TATT when a concessionaire wants to revise its existing rates,” Agard said.

She added that the need for TSTT to give the Authority a prior 30 days notice was also not in the relevant regulations.

In its revision of tariffs, which was done as close as April this year, TSTT has not given TATT any prior 30 days notice and it has never been called into question, Agard said.

She added that if the Authority intends to take legal action, as it indicated in its statement yesterday, then TSTT is fully prepared to stand by its position as it is completely within the law.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has also spoken out against the Single National Rate :

The new single national rate which TSTT expects to bring into effect early next month is illegal, says secretary general of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Lyle Townsend.

Townsend was speaking at a press conference held at the union’s Port of Spain headquarters yesterday, where he commented on TSTT’s intention to implement a new rate on fixed phone lines.

“This is about a basic increase in the telephone service calls. It’s an increase of a minimum of 300 per cent,” he said, adding that customers in the same exchange would no longer have “unlimited” access.

Townsend said that the average consumer is ignorant of the billing process and that TSTT is taking advantage of that fact.

Related articles :

TSTT announces Single National Rate for local fixed line calls

TSTT has published a advisory notice announcing a single national rate of 23 cents TT to any fixed line in Trinidad and Tobago from September 7th, 2007.

Here is the text of the TSTT press release :
http://www.tstt.co.tt/about/news_article.cfm?id=330

SIMPLE CALLING RATE STRUCTURE FOR FIXED LINE CALLS
INTRODUCTION OF A SINGLE NATIONAL RATE

TSTT wishes to advise customers of the introduction of a new and simple calling rate for billing fixed line calls across Trinidad and Tobago. The existing complex rate structure will be replaced with a Single National Rate.

The Single National Rate will eliminate the elements that currently determine the cost of a local call such as: distance; whether calls are made within or outside of your exchange area and time of day. All fixed line calls will now be billed using one simple per minute rate (The following exceptions apply: calls to mobile, international, 976, 800 or other premium services; independent ISP numbers and calls from Payphones will remain unchanged. Smart Choice customers will not be affected.)
A NEW SIMPLER RATE

The existing rates range from $0.23 to $0.69 per minute. The new simplified rate will be $0.23 per minute for all calls to any location within Trinidad and Tobago with effect from September 7, 2007.

Customers will now be able to call family and friends in any part of Trinidad and Tobago, at one simple calling rate. The Single National Rate is in direct response to customer feedback and conforms to international trends for local call billing.

Customers will receive more details in the near future and may feel free to contact TSTT’s offices for further information on the Single National Rate.