CRTC delays Internet billing change; review pending
The chairman of Canada's telecommunications regulator says that an Internet-billing change will be delayed for 60 days beyond the proposed March 1 introduction, while it reviews the decision.
Last week, the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission ruled that major Internet providers (ISPs) can charge smaller, independent companies according to the amount of bandwidth they use.
The decision sparked a public backlash. The federal government then sent a clear message to Konrad von Finckenstein that it expects the CRTC to reverse the ruling.
In fact, if the CRTC doesn't backtrack, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement will take the matter into their own hands, a senior official told CTV on Wednesday.
Von Finckenstein was called before a Commons committee Thursday to explain the ruling, which effectively kills unlimited Internet download packages.
He told MPs that the change was made with the best interests of consumers at heart. He also said he had no contact with Clement, and that the decision to delay the billing change was made by the CRTC independently.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said the backlash to the decision was immediate, with 250,000 people signing a petition on OpenMedia.ca in opposition to the decision.
Critics say the billing change would hurt competitiveness in an industry that already has too few big players.
The Conservatives quickly joined up with those lashing out against the CRTC ruling Tuesday, at a time when election speculation is rife in Ottawa.
The major Internet providers argue that they sunk billions into the pipelines used to carry broadband Internet service, and need to be able to charge smaller companies for using the infrastructure, in order to pay back their investment.
Von Finckenstein said the review will focus on whether the change in billing practices would protects the majority of Internet users and penalize only those who are the heaviest consumers of Internet data.
"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," Von Finckenstein said.
"For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness."
With files from The Canadian Press