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The CRTC's decision to allow internet service providers to charge their customers for downloading excessive amounts of data threatens "free and open access to the internet in Canada," the NDP said Thursday.The NDP says the CRTC's decision to allow service providers to charge for downloading large amounts of data threatens free and open access to the internet.The NDP says the CRTC's decision to allow service providers to charge for downloading large amounts of data threatens free and open access to the internet. (CBC)Charlie Angus, the NDP's digital affairs critic, said the telecommunications regulator's decision to allow usage-based internet billing won't just affect the so-called bandwidth hogs but could hit many Canadians financially."We've seen this all before with cellphones," said Angus. "Allowing the internet service providers to ding you every time you download is a ripoff. Canada is already falling behind other countries in terms of choice, accessibility and pricing for the internet."As the larger internet service providers are also broadcasters and content providers, usage-based billing could be used to limit competition from online video services like Netflix. He said it could also be used to eliminate competition from smaller third-party ISPs."The large ISP-broadcast entities now have a tool for squashing their main competitors — both in internet and video services," said Angus. "We need clear rules that put consumers first."The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has slowly allowed large service providers like Bell and Rogers to charge internet users who download more than the limit of data for their particular service plan.For example, in Ontario, Rogers charges customers of its $59.99 a month Hi-Speed Extreme plan who go over their 80 GB a month limit $1.50 per GB for a maximum of $50.Primus and Shaw have said they will begin passing on higher fees to their customers beginning Feb. 1. Primus, for example, rents bandwidth on Bell's networks and said Bell is inflating the costs for everyone, including companies like it.
YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, iPad … and whatever else is about to take the world by storm, making all of those digital breakthroughs seem old news. Surely it’s obvious by now that Canadians are going to be better off if we foster digital media creativity, rather than leaving it to people in other countries.But tell that to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the body supposedly responsible for regulating electronic media for our well-being. The CRTC has decided to allow Bell and other big telecom companies to change the way Canadians are billed for Internet access. Metering, or usage-based billing (UBB), will mean that service providers can charge per byte in addition to their basic access charges. The move is sure to stifle digital creativity in Canada while the rest of the world looks on and snickers.This is not what a lot of small Internet providers who use Bell Canada’s infrastructure wanted. But they are now subject to Bell Canada’s requirements, and will be forced to usage-bill their own customers. That’s how it’s already rippling out to create an entirely different economy of Internet use in Canada. That’s what the big telecoms wanted and the CRTC is in the process of giving it to them.Throughout, the public has been bamboozled and divided in its opinion by the presentation of easy caricatures. That damn bandwidth hog next door downloading endless porn, shooter games and episodes of NCIS – why not tag him with an extra bill for clogging the pipes? After all, the telecoms can’t be expected to lose money on the guy who comes to the all-you-can-eat buffet and scarfs down all the fried chicken, right?Officials with smaller service providers say what Bell Canada is charging for “overages” is well beyond, even many times more, what it really costs to provide the extra bytes to customers.So what’s this really about? Bear in mind that Bell Canada and other big telecoms also are invested heavily in an old-fashioned media-delivery model called television. If you now have to pay by the byte to live your version of a rich digital life on the Internet, maybe the hits to your bank account will push you back in front of the television set.Except that trying to herd Canadians in 2011 back to commercial-laden programs on TV is like trying to drive back the tide. Anyone with children knows they view the television set as a moribund, one-way screen versus the computer’s portal into a realm of interactivity and content on demand.That’s the future, and everyone knows it. So why aren’t we preserving the level playing field that has made the Internet such a vibrant cultural commons?Forget that caricature of the slobbering porn addict next door. Canadians accessed a treasure trove of National Film Board works by the millions of downloads last year. Universities and libraries across the country are working to move priceless archives onto the Internet, where, the idea was, they’d be available to all. Not if it’s too expensive to download them.Consider the predicament of a small, independent website like mine, The Tyee. Already scraping by on limited resources, but recognizing our audience’s desire for more audio and video, we are working with a network of multimedia producers who really know how to stretch a dollar. But they tell us that UBB threatens to make it too expensive for them to craft their products, considering what they need to download while doing their work, the amounts we can pay and the niche audiences likely to listen and watch.So there you have it. Just as the world is ready to feast on what Canadians might cook up in the way of multimedia 3.0, Canada decides to meter the Internet, tilting the table sharply towards old-school TV networks and big corporations that can absorb the higher cost of doing business.NDP digital affairs critic Charlie Angus gets what’s at stake. “We’ve seen this all before with cellphones,” he said last week. “Allowing the Internet Service Providers to ding you every time you download is a rip-off. Canada is already falling behind other countries in terms of choice, accessibility and pricing for the Internet. We need clear rules that put consumers first.”Forty thousand people have signed an online petition called Stop The Meter. The CRTC’s final decision is likely mere days away. Let’s hope the regulators think creatively and do the right thing.
The federal government is being formally asked to overturn a CRTC decision that will force smaller internet service providers to charge similar usage-based fees as Bell, Rogers and Shaw.Jean-François Mezei, a Montreal-based computer consultant, filed a petition to the Governor in Council late Wednesday, asking the government to overrule an October decision by Canada's telecommunications regulator.That ruling gave Bell approval to implement usage-based billing on its wholesale customers, mostly smaller internet service providers that rent portions of Bell's network to re-sell to customers through their own retail internet packages.
Metered Internet usage (also called "Usage-Based Billing") is coming to Canada, and it's going to cost Internet users. While an advance guard of Canadians are expressing creative outrage at the prospect of having to pay inflated prices for Internet use charged by the gigabyte, the consequences probably haven't set in for most consumers. Now, however, independent Canadian ISPs are publishing their revised data plans, and they aren't pretty."Like our customers, and Canadian internet users everywhere, we are not happy with this new development," wrote the Ontario-based indie ISP TekSavvy in a recent e-mail message to its subscribers.But like it or not, the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved UBB for the incumbent carrier Bell Canada in September. Competitive ISPs, which connect to Canada's top telco for last-mile copper connections to customers, will also be metered by Bell. Even though the CRTC gave these ISPs a 15 percent discount this month (TekSavvy asked for 50 percent), it's still going to mean a real adjustment for consumers.
OTTAWA, Ont. - The Canadian government may soon be hitting the escape key on the plan to charge people based on their Internet usage.A senior government source confirmed to 680News that if the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) does not reverse its recent decision, the prime minister and the industry minister are prepared to overturn the decision.Last month, the telecommunications regulator ruled that larger Internet providers will be allowed to charge smaller providers on a per-byte basis effective March 1. The move could effectively kill unlimited Internet access.The chairman of the CRTC is scheduled to appear before the industry committee Thursday.The government has launched a review of the decision and the recommendations of the industry minister are expected to be released within days.
OTTAWA-GATINEAU, february 8, 2011 —The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today launched, of its own initiative, a proceeding to review its decisions on billing practices that would have applied to the residential customers of Small Internet service providers (Small ISPs). “The great concern expressed by Canadians over this issue is telling of how much the Internet has become an integral part of their lives,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “Our approach is based on two fundamental principles: 1. as a general rule, ordinary consumers served by Small ISPs should not have to fund the bandwidth used by the heaviest residential Internet consumers, and 2. it is in the best interest of consumers that Small ISPs, which offer competitive alternatives to the Large Distributors, should continue to do so.With these principles in mind, we will be reviewing our decisions with fresh eyes and look forward to hearing the views of Canadians.”Following a series of decisions, the CRTC had given Large Distributors the permission to change their billing practices for the residential Internet services provided to wholesale customers (i.e. the Small ISPs). Starting on March 1, 2011, the residential customers of Small ISPs would have been subject to additional charges for going over specific bandwidth caps. The CRTC has suspended the implementation of these decisions pending the outcome of the proceeding launched today.The CRTC is seeking comments on: 1. How best to implement the following principles with respect to Large Distributors’ wholesale services used by Small ISPs: 1. as a general rule, ordinary consumers served by Small ISPs should not have to fund the bandwidth used by the heaviest residential Internet consumers, and 2. it is in the best interests of consumers that Small ISPs, which offer competitive alternatives to the Large Distributors, should continue to do so. 2. Whether the CRTC should set a minimum threshold level for the sale of bandwidth by Large Distributors to the Small ISPs and, if so, what should it be. 3. Whether it is appropriate to hold an online consultation as part of its review. 4. Whether it is appropriate to hold an oral public hearing as part of its review.Interested parties may submit their comments by April 29, 2011, by filling out the online form, by writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, or by fax, at 819-994-0218.