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Canadian Govt Announces Review of Usage-Based Billing

Canadian Govt Announces Review of Usage-Based Billing

Even though the CRTC paved the way for usage-based billing last November Canada’s Minister of Industry, Tony Clement, says PM Harper has always been clear about his  commitment to “encouraging choice and competition in the wireless and Internet markets,” and will now be study the ruling “carefully” to “ensure that competition, innovation and consumers were all fairly considered.”

Following outcries from Canadian citizens concerned with the future of broadband Internet service and the appeal of at least one ISP, Canada’s Minister of Industry, Tony Clement has announced govt plans to review to review the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision that allowed Bell Canada to implement usage-based billing for its Gateway Access Services (GAS) customers.

“On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced the latest in a series of decisions allowing Internet service providers to charge their wholesale customers for exceeding the monthly usage of data transfer permitted with their broadband Internet service,” says Clement. “This will mean, for the first time, that many smaller and regional Internet service providers will be required to move to a system of usage-based billing for their customers.”

As I mentioned earlier today, for TekSavvy customers the move to UBB has resulted in a new 25GB monthly data cap, down from 200GB or unlimited. Customers can purchase 40GB chunks of “Insurance Options” for an extra $4.75 per month. This can be extended all the way up to a maximum of 300GB for a total monthly insurance cost of $55.00 above the “Flat Monthly Price.”

“I am aware that an appeal has been initiated by a market participant,” he added. “As Canada’s Industry Minister, it is my job to encourage an innovative and competitive marketplace and to ensure that Canadian consumers have real choices in the services they purchase. I can assure that, as with any ruling, these decisions will be studied carefully to ensure that competition, innovation and consumers were all fairly considered.”

I suppose it’s better late than never, but the ruling was handed down last November. Why did Clement wait until ISPs began rolling out higher prices, reduced connection speeds, and data caps to act?

‘”The Harper Government is committed to encouraging choice and competition in the wireless and Internet markets,” says Clement. “Increased competition can lead to more choice, lower prices and better quality services for Canadians. We have always been clear on our policies in this regard and will continue on this path.”

That’s the problem. Bell Canada controls such a large share of Canada’s broadband market that minus Govt intervention will always try to maximize profits at the expense of choice and quality of service. By forcing Gateway Access Services (GAS) customers that buy chunks of bandwidth wholesale from Bell Canada to run their networks essentially the same way as its, means that customers are deprived of meaningful competition in the marketplace.

How could the CRTC have expected anything different to happen?

When you combine HTTP, VOIP, streaming video, etc. you’ll exceed 25GB awfully fast.

And you better forget about online gaming.

“Our government is focused on the economy and creating a positive environment for job creators and businesses to flourish,” continues Clement. “Canadians can count on us to do what is in the best interest of consumers.”

Well, it may think that’s the case, but so far it’s been asleep at the wheel. Capping everybody’s Internet connections can’t be in the best interest of consumers, and it certainly won’t create a “positive environment for job creators and businesses to flourish.”

Stay tuned.

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Jared Moya
I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates. Twitter | Google Plus


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