Backlash grows over Internet billing decision
Published Friday, January 28, 2011 10:00PM EST
A consumer backlash is growing against the recent decision by Canada's telecom regulator to allow ‘usage-based' billing in place of unlimited Internet services.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that major Internet providers can charge smaller, independent companies according to the amount of data they draw.
The decision could affect thousands of people who subscribe to smaller Internet service providers (ISPs) and who engage in data-intensive online activities like streaming movies.
Technology analyst Carmi Levy said the move is the first step toward Internet usage being charged "like water, electricity and natural gas," rather than a flat-rate for unlimited data.
But the decision has led more than 85,000 Internet users to sign a petition in the hopes it will be reversed.
"People are drawing a line in the sand and decided they aren't going to be pushed any further," said Steve Anderson, the founder of non-profit group OpenMedia.ca.
Some MPS even say they are fielding complaints from angry constituents.
"They're phoning me and saying listen we're not going to continue on if we have to pay for Internet use the way we are paying for our cell phones," New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said.
Major providers like Bell Canada and Rogers already have bandwidth limits in place, and charge customers extra when they exceed them. The biggest impact will be on independent ISPs who do not have data limits.
TekSavvy Solutions is one of them. It piggybacks on Bell's network, but offers unlimited services. Spokesperson Kate Doforno said the CRTC ruling will mean the company's customers will see a bigger price increase on their bills.
"Will it be double? It depends on the household," she said from Chatham, Ont.
But Mirko Bibic, Bell Canada's senior vice president of regulatory affairs, says that his firm's digital network cost billions to set up, and it deserves a return on that investment.
Meanwhile the CEO of Netflix, the U.S.-based movie streaming service that launched in Canada in September, has said the ruling is something he's "definitely worried about."
Critics say the ruling will only embolden big providers and hurt competition in a market that already has too few big players.
But the silver lining, according to the CRTC, is that major Internet service companies will have to provide space in their pipeline for smaller ISPs at a 15 per cent discount.
Teksavvy, however, says that isn't enough and it plans to make a decision on its unlimited plans soon.
With a report from CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife