Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’re probably familiar with the controversy over internet metering or usage-based billing (UBB) for bandwidth. Currently, small ISPs are able to “rent” bandwidth on an unlimited basis from the large service providers. However, a recent decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) permits those large companies to switch to a UBB system when providing that bandwidth to the smaller ISPs. OpenMedia.ca has launched a Stop the Meter campaign claiming:
This means we’re looking at a future where ISPs will charge per byte, the way they do with smart phones. If we allow this to happen Canadians will have no choice but to pay MUCH more for less Internet. Big Telecom companies are obviously trying to gouge consumers, control the Internet market, and ensure that consumers continue to subscribe to their television services.
These Big Telecom companies are forcing small competing ISPs to adopt the same pricing scheme, so that we have no choice but to pay these punitive fees.
This will crush innovative services, Canada’s digital competitiveness, and your wallet.
The campaign has certainly drummed up some support and, to date, more than 400,000 people have signed the petition. Government seems to have listened too. According to reports, the CRTC has announced that it will review its decision after Industry Minister Tony Clement stated that government would overrule the decision if the CRTC did not do so voluntarily. That said, the battle may not be won. According to the Vancouver Sun, CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein stated:
I would like to reiterate the commission’s view that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services,” he said. “We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users. For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users.
On one hand, we’ve become used to almost unrestricted access and, let’s face it, who wants to see their internet bill increase? On the other hand, increased bandwidth use means increased infrastructure costs, and that has to be paid for somehow. It really boils down to a matter of how we want the costs to be shared. Should costs be shared out equally with everybody paying the exact same amount, irrespective of how much bandwidth they use? Or is von Finckenstein correct in saying “ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users”?
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