Consequences of Usage Based Billing of the Internet

The CRTC has decided that it’s OK for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to bill their customers, depending on how much Internet they use. Here is the summary of Telecom Decision CRTC 2011-44:

In this decision, the Commission determines that usage-based billing rates for an incumbent telephone carrier’s wholesale residential Gateway Access Services or equivalent services, and for an incumbent cable carrier’s third-party Internet access services, are to be established at a discount of 15 percent from the carrier’s comparable usage-based billing rates for its retail Internet services.

For you and me, the regular Internet user, it means that there will be a certain limit imposed on how much we can download or upload. If we exceed that, we’ll be charged somewhere between 2$ and 5$/GB. My ISP is Bell Canada and my contract with them stipulates that, I can download 60GB of data. So far, I did not came close to that limit, so why should I worry?

I should worry, because the decision does not defines, what should be the minimum limit, meaning that next year Bell can tell me, the limit now is 10GB, take it or leave it.

It can also affect the price of long distance telephony, because these days most of it happens online trough VoIP. I never really understood Bell charging so much for long distance, when they could provide VoIP easily, but now they seem to keep going in the opposite direction, instead of introducing a service priced realistically, they are busy destroying their competition.

With all these rules, forget Netflix and other products that might appear in the near future. The impact of this decision goes beyond entertainment, it can affect research and even the economy of Canada in general (see Many to suffer from usage-based billing).

The good news is that this time online petitioning seems to be working. As of today 357.700 have signed the Stop the Meter petition and the politicians start to react. If you did not signed it yet, I encourage you to do it.

Not just the Liberals and the NDP, but according to the latest news even the Government is contemplating to overturn the CRTC decision.

I’m tired of hearing that we have to pay way more for cell phones and have slower Internet because of the size of the country. Yes, Canada is the second largest country in the world, but the telecommunication network is far from covering every corner of Canada. It’s a lame excuse, since inhabited areas are not that large and are mostly concentrated in the South, near the border with the US.

This afternoon, il capo of CRTC  will face the Commons committee, let’s hope reason will triumph over greed.

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