Canada’s telecoms regulator the CRTC has granted telcos Telus and Bell Aliant the freedom to set their own rates for local telephony in four areas, as the first stage in a process of national deregulation of basic fixed line telephone services. The watchdog gave the nod to Bell Canada unit Aliant in three markets in parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, covering cities including Halifax, Fredericton and Charlottetown, whilst Telus secured deregulation in Fort McMurray. In these markets the two operators will now be able to reduce the cost of basic phone services, reduce or increase the cost of value added services, such as call-waiting or voice mail, without prior approval from the CRTC. The companies will not, however, be allowed to increase the fee for basic service. The decision follows up on a ruling made by the federal government in April to speed up deregulation and allow former regional monopolies such as Bell and Telus to set their own prices in markets deemed to have sufficient competition, to give traditional wireline operators more flexibility to compete with cablecos such as Rogers, Shaw and Videotron. The CRTC said more deregulation decisions will follow in the ‘near future’, adding that applications are pending in markets representing about 60% of residential phone lines in Canada. Telus has applied for deregulation in Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary and Rimouski, Quebec. Bell Canada is seeking deregulated status in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa-Gatineau, Hamilton and London, Ontario. MTS Allstream has asked for deregulation in Winnipeg.