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There’s no competition among Canadian cellphone service providers because there’s no competition.Now the same thing is about to happen to the DSL business here in Canada.“Bell Canada believes it’s found a new, more effective way to milk Canadians, whom it regards as compliant cash-cows”, p2pnet posted yesterday, going on, “Traffic throttling Mark II is on the way. And this time it’s apparently sanctioned by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission).”It’s been re-named ‘metered internet usage’.We also pointed out The CRTC’s mandate is to “ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public”, not Ma Bell.“One of the interesting things about the DSL business in Canada is that regardless of the number of companies offering DSL Internet access there is only really one provider – Bell Canada”, says The Inquisitr, continuing >>>Anyone else offering DSL services is really nothing more than a reseller of Bell DSL services. The only reason it has worked in the past is because the rates that Bell charged these wholesale customers was low enough that they could offer competing services, never mind the fact that Bell was forced to do this by the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission).Everything was fine as long as everyone, including Bell, played by the same rules and for most Canadians this meant access to reasonably priced Internet access plans, many of which were unlimited plans. The problem was that Bell decided that it want to start putting a metered billing system in place, which it did, but these third party DSL suppliers were still offering unlimited plans that were quite often less than Bell’s new plans.So the company decided that the resellers should also be on the same metered type billing plan which caused a big uproar. It quieted down however when the CRTC originally ruled on the matter and told Bell it couldn’t do that. Well at least until Bell had moved all of its remaining retail clients off any unlimited accounts they might be on.The consumer was happy. Bell was unhappy. Bell appealed the CRTC’s original decision. Bell won and now all those third party DSL companies are going to be moved to a metered billing system.And as Steven Hodson, who wrote the story, adds >>>I totally expect that within 90 days we will start to see a lot of these smaller companies start to shut their doors and for the consumer .. well .. here’s a cigarette .. you’ll want one once Bell get’s done.‘Shocking and anti-competitive ways’“The following is a letter I composed and sent off to my representative yesterday via electronic mail regarding this and other CRTC stupidity/corruption issues”, says p2pnet reader ‘G. Smith’ (not his real name, but he has good reason to remain anonymous for the time being) in a Reader’s Write.“As a constituent of your region I feel it necessary, correct, and vitally important to bring to your notice and immediate attention the shocking, dismaying and sickening developments with regard to recent CRTC decisions”, he states, going on >>>The most recent decision they undertook was to allow Bell to impose on their direct competitors a tax on the amount of data per month the customers of these individual Internet service providers use. Consumers who have no contract with Bell billed by Bell for their use of the Internet.To illustrate this point, a little background is almost certainly necessary to assist you in fully grasping the depth and gravity of the situation we Canadians find ourselves in.Bell hold all the cards when it comes to normal phone service and to the broadband type that derives from it, DSL. They hold all the cards because they own the infrastructure, they own the infrastructure because they built it in the first place. However in order to do so they were given public money, and also allowed access to public land to create said infrastructure. They have had nearly a century to reap the benefits and rewards of this initial build-out. They remain the only viable ‘plain old telephone service’ and DSL infrastructure provider in the market due to the sheer cost of creating such a network and the rights management/property necessary to do so.Some years ago, in order to ensure fair and open competition in the Internet broadband market it was mandated that Bell had to offer competing companies wholesale access to their network at least as far as necessary for said small independent Internet Service Providers to provision service to consumers, and thus foster competition. This was done in order to try to ease some of the consumer pain created from a duopolistic system. The only consumer level broadband available being cable and DSL the only choice therefore was between two companies in each province. Gateway Access Service changed this, and allowed small independent ISP’s to enter the DSL market, offer prices and services that offered an alternative to the existing incumbents.In the last three years Bell however has been allowed by the CRTC in various decisions to chip away at the Gateway Access Service in various shocking and anti-competitive ways, eroding competition, and helping to stymie an already critically ill Canadian consumer Internet market. Bell were first allowed to ‘throttle’ their Gateway Access Service customers data. Throttling is a term used for the slowing down of data transmission to a crawl. If an ISP wishes to impose these sorts of practices on their own customers, and it is currently considered lawful for them to do so, then this is all well and good, if there is of course competition in the market and consumers have a choice. Those who do not wish to suffer such practices will gravitate towards an Internet Service Provider who does not do this.Allowing Bell to impose throttling on their direct competitors is clearly and obviously an assault on competition. Allowing it was a shocking display of regulatory capture by a watchdog body supposed to safeguard consumers against corporate greed from a duopoly holding the keys to the Internet gateways in Canada.This wasn’t enough for Bell however, and when the Independent ISP’s went on to lobby for matching connection speeds from the CRTC, and win, Bell simply ignored the decision. Bell had, since the original inception of the Gateway Access Service made several technological leaps and were now offering much faster access speeds to their own customers. These speeds were not mandated in the original Gateway Access Services decision and so Bell felt they did not have to offer them to their competitors. The CRTC decided that Bell Canada should be forced to allow these faster connection speeds to Gateway Access Service Internet Service Providers.A decision from the watchdog should be binding, it should have power, and according to the wording of said decision Bell should have submitted their pricing to the CRTC for review within a short time period. What Bell did instead was ask to be allowed to impose Usage Based Billing on its direct competitors on a customer by customer basis and lobby national government for the matching speeds decision to be overturned.Usage Based Billing is a practice whereby an Internet Service Provider measures the amount of data being transfered to and from a customers connection and bills them an extra amount over and above their standard monthly rate if they go over a set limit. Imposing this on Gateway Access Service ISP’s, who already pay for the transit of said data through Bell Canada’s network by buying blocks of data per month in total for all of their customers connections, is both preposterous and again horrifyingly anti-competitive.Government passed the buck back to the CRTC who convened a public hearing on the matter. Bell Canada went unpenalized for ignoring the matching speeds decision.The public hearing, which involved all ISP’s both DSL and Cable, showed quite conclusively time and again that the incumbents could not be trusted, they were caught repeatedly during proceedings stretching, bending and breaking the truth.Mr Mirko Bibic of Bell Canada even exploded at the CRTC commission at one point using profanity to cover his refusal to answer their direct questions arising from statements and assertions from other respondents.The ultimate question of the commission was whether to allow independent ISP’s access to the incumbents facilities, and therefore allow them to compete more fairly, on far more even ground, with the duopoly. This idea was discarded, instead the CRTC for reasons which will remain forever a complete mystery, decided to allow Bell to impose Usage Based Billing on the Gateway Access Service ISP’s.Now this decision couldn’t, at that time, be put into effect, as the CRTC wouldn’t allow Bell to impose Usage Based Billing on Gateway Access Service customers while they themselves still had unlimited customers on their network. Bell Canada immediately and shamelessly appealed this decision. The appeal has finally been decided in recent days giving Bell Canada license to charge Gateway Access Service ISP’s twice for their data transport. Once at true wholesale rates, and over again at vastly inflated retail rates, which often are over 1000 times more expensive than the few pennies on the dollar gigabytes of data transit actually cost.How any of this could have been allowed to transpire in the first place with a watchdog whose supposed mandate is to protect the interests of the consumer is unbelievable. The CRTC represent the definition of regulatory capture. They are toothless, they only have the interests of corporations in mind and seem to be willing to trample the rights of the populace in favor of profit for their friends in industry.The smaller Internet Service Providers who champion the consumer, small/medium business and the rights and freedoms those living in a first world community expect are being turned into sad little carbon copies of Bell, Rogers, Telus et al by these egregious rulings from the CRTC.There are alternatives.In several other countries where similar issues have arisen, and a strong watchdog or government is in place several measures have proven successful. In the United Kingdom when British Telecom threatened to similarly operate in such a flagrant manner Ofcom, the UK telecommunications watchdog, stepped in and split BT into Wholesale and Retail arms.These were two separate and distinct entities, with the Wholesale arm forced, by close scrutiny, to allow all players in the market fair and open access to the infrastructure network. This has worked in the UK’s favor, however things can, and in my opinion at least should, be taken a step further.In several other countries, such as Norway and Sweeden, local and even national governments have stepped in, nationalized the telecommunications infrastructure and again allowed any and all service providers mandated access to said network at a fair and reasonable price. There is precedent for this, Hydro was a private utility. The citizens of Canada have paid for this resource many times over through the years of Bell Canada’s operation. This option represents the very best choice for the consumer and has had the best results in other regions that have adopted it of all possible remedies.Without either a strong watchdog or nationalization consumer/small to medium business Internet access in Canada is going to slide further down an ever deeper and darker hole. We already lead the first world in having the highest prices, paying more than any other first world nation for our access to telecommunications assets. We pay more for slower speeds than even the United States who have similar monopolistic and duopolistic issues in much of their Internet marketplace.Please, act now before this situation becomes ever worse. Spread the word with your colleagues in government and industry about these issues, educate yourself further, take an interest, for if the Internet is the future of mankind, and if Canada is going to be a part of said future, we need to have free, open and fair access to this resource.Without serious action this cannot and will not happen. Canada is already an Internet backwater, the disinterest that successive governments have shown to these issues have created a foreboding future for Canadians as a whole and Canadian telecommunications specifically.
TekSavvy's CEO was recently interviewed by Search Engine's Jesse Brown. The topic of conversation was the recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision regarding Usage-Based Billing.To stream the audio podcast and hear what Rocky has to say, please click here.For more information about the CRTC's UBB decision please visit the Canadian Network Operators Consortium website and check out the news release section.