That is the rapidly growing number of people are who adamantly opposed the CRTC’s decision to implement usage-based billing this March.
The number reflects the signatures of a petition initiated by OpenMedia, who themselves have acknowledged that online petitions seldom accomplish their objective—but sometimes it’s all one can do.
What is usage-based billing?
Usage-based billing, or UBB, is a new way for Internet service providers to charge for internet—based on bytes, meaning there are no “unlimited” usage plans with caps.
OpenMedia, a Vancouver-based organization, has this to say on the matter:
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.
If OpenMedia’s message sounds aggressive, that’s because it is. But they’re certainly not the only ones vehemently opposed to the CRTC’s decision; thousands upon thousands of general public Internet users have created a turbulent backlash.
Turbulent enough to get the government crawling out of the woodwork.
Governments take a stance
OpenMedia’s Stop the Meter petition page acknowledged this with an update: “The Liberals and the NDP have now come out AGAINST Internet metering. We’re winning, Canada – now onto the government in power!”
Charlie Angus, technology critic for the NDP, has previously stated his opposition to usage-based billing, which he believes could hurt many Canadians financially. On Monday, Angus, who is also the MP for Timmins-James Bay, reiterated his concerns.
“I think there’s serious problems with the decision,” he said. “Small business, students, people trying to set up online businesses — they’re getting hammered.” He added that his phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people concerned about the issue.
Like Garneau, Angus believes the decision is anti-competitive, and not just because of the way it affects smaller Internet service providers. He said the bandwidth caps will discourage people from exploring new alternatives to Bell, Rogers and Shaw’s television services. As an example, he pointed to Netflix, which allows people to stream high-definition movies through the Internet to their TVs via devices like the Sony Playstation 3.
“Now they’re saying it’s not going to be financially worth their while to explore these new media offerings, so they’ll end up back in the hands of the ISPs who are also the content providers.” He added that the large ISPs are “wearing way too many hats on this file.”
(However, for all these negative opinions, Charlie would not go so far as to call for a reversal on the decision. Typical politicians.)
What about the current government? Much of the expected political blah-blah-blah: Industry Minister Tony Clement said in a statement, “I can assure that, as with any ruling, this decision will be studied carefully to ensure that competition, innovation and consumers were all fairly considered.” Unfortunately, talk is cheap—but our Internet bills won’t be if Tony and his gang don’t take real action.
What’s the damage, doc?
Currently, Internet users can pay for unlimited Internet usage, or pay static amounts of money for Internet usage up to a certain cap. Under the new ruling, ISPs will charge by the byte.
This is a very scary concept because, currently, Canadian ISPs charge between $1 and $2.50 for extra gigabyte usage beyond a consumer’s plan—and when one takes into consideration the fact that a gigabyte of data can cost as little as one penny, you’re looking an markups of 10,000 to 20,000 percent. Would you pay $500 for a Big Mac or $1,000 for a cotton t-shirt? Such markups are a slap in the face to consumers already: now imagine the ISPs with even more power.
Some of them, such as Bell, claim that profits go toward growing and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to provide quality Internet. This may to true so some extent, but with already high profit margins in every aspect of their business, ISPs shouldn’t need such excessively high markups. Furthermore, recent corporate tax cuts have eased any red ink such companies may have been bleeding.
Fact is, this decision puts those who already had the the best situations into an even better one. Competition and innovation are at risk of being choked out by the CRTC. What good can come of this for Canada?
I’ll leave you with a video that explains UBB using an Xtranormal-made video: