News Online: Usage-based billing coming to Canada

Published online at on February 2, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Usage-based billing coming to Canada

A green light given to Internet service providers on usage-based billing could change the way the average person uses the Internet.

A ruling by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has given the go-ahead to providers who want to hike the fees they charge for bandwidth.

Those providers include Shaw, Bell, and Rogers, who can now charge smaller internet service providers for usage, which in turn can affect individual customers.

Smaller providers will now be capped for usage and they’ll be charged for anything they use that goes over those caps.

That usage-based billing could in turn change the way customers are billed, if smaller providers pass on those extra costs to consumers.

When the average Internet user can access videos, play games and more online, and with those habits constantly changing, the caps might be easily surpassed.

That’s what smaller internet providers and consumers are worried about — saying the ruling will lead to lower download limits but higher fees for those who exceed them.

“They’re certainly not fixing a problem, I think they’re creating an issue,” said Graham Fletcher, president of the Internet Centre, Alberta’s first internet service provider.

Fletcher’s company is one of the smaller internet providers that could be impacted by the CRTC’s decision.

The approval of usage-based billing has caused an uproar across the country. Many Canadians are complaining online and there’s even a petition with over 300,000 signatures, urging the regulator to overturn their decision.

“It’s going to have a devastating impact on technology, how we use it,” said Chris Caldwell, a local web designer worried about the ruling.

“I mean YouTube’s one example everyone knows about, the iTunes Apps store, you’re now going to be charged for downloading stuff like that. So you’re paying the cost of purchasing the application and you’re paying the cost of downloading.”

The ruling even has politicians concerned.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday that his government is “very concerned about the CRTC’s decision on usage-based billing and its impact on consumers.”

He’s asking the CRTC to review the decision.

Opposition parties have also expressed their concern towards usage-based billing.

The chairman of the CRTC is expected to appear before a commerce committee on Thursday to discuss the ruling.

Bell is the company that applied to the CRTC for the change. They say that pricing structures need to be changed to keep up with the amount of Internet usage today.

“Companies like Bell are investing billions of dollars in new broadcast capacity, but at the same time, retail and wholesale pricing structures from the 1990s needed to be brought in line with the realities of the extraordinary growth in Internet usage today,” said Jacqueline Michelis, a spokesperson with Bell.

With files from Vassy Kapelos

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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