The issue of bandwidth caps in Canada has hit critical mass. It is being widely reported by mainstream media, and more and more people are asking questions, and voicing their opposition to these limits. This has caused the House of Commons to respond to Canadians unrest.
So how did the tipping point get reached?
I believe the final straw came when news broke on January 31st, 2011 that a small ISP in Eastern Canada, Teksavvy, was being forced to significantly reduce what it could offer its customers. As I discussed in an earlier article, Bell and Rogers are now allowed to charge smaller ISPs that lease space on their networks on the same usage based model that it can for it's customers. This essentially means that those smaller ISPs are very limited in what it can offer to it's customers. This resulted in Teksavvy having to reduce it's bandwidth limit on customers in Ontario from 200GB a month down to 25GB. This is a reduction of nearly 88%. Even a single average Canadian can use 25GB of data per month, without using any online video service like Netflix.
The reaction to this news has been overwhelming, with people finally understanding what the usage based billing model means to Canadians, and what we can expect from our ISP's.
The link to the CBC article that really started this can be found here.
This specific case has even been carried on some US based technology news websites. Ars Technica and crutchgear both had articles about this, and Tech News Today, a daily tech news show produced by the TWiT network, covered it on their show on Monday, January 31st as well cnet's Buzz Out Loud covered the issue on Tuesday, February 1st.. This issue has interested our neighbours to the south in a big way, and goes to show how big of an issue this is.
[read] – Ars Technica
[read] – crunchgear
[read] – Tech News Today
[read] – Buzz Out Loud
What will the CRTC do?
Honeslty, I have no idea. The CRTC just recently ruled that the rate that Bell can charge small ISP's for overage is to be reduced by 15%. That is not much, but it is a start. With the Government ordering a review, anything is possible. However, the CRTC does not have a history of being friendly to consumers in it's decisions. The vast majority of its rulings in the recent past on ISPs and Usage Based Billing has been in the favour of the media companies, with little regard to the consumer. Perhaps with a government ordered review the CRTC may look more carefully at the wishes of Canadians, but it really is unknown.
What is the landscape looking like in the Government
The New Democratic Party(NDP) has been in opposition of UBB since the beginning, and now with the issue hitting critical mass, more people are finding that out. On February 1 the opposition Liberal party also stated that they are opposed to the UBB model in Canada.
The Conservative government has not come out with a firm stance. Stephen Harper has called UBB "troubling" and Industry minister Tony Clement has confirmed that the government will be reviewing the CRTC decision and that it will be watched closely.
What if the CRTC doesn't change it's ruling?
Well, in that unfortunate scenario, the Government could step in and overrule the CRTC decision. With the Liberals and the NDP already stating their opposition, this would pass the House of Commons quite quickly and easily. This is one of the few issues in recent memory that all major parties agree on, and I hope that they can come together for the good of the consumer on this issue.
So does this mean that the debate is over?
Not even close. There are no guarantees yet. The CRTC could rule to keep UBB as it is. And the Government could chose not to override that decision. There is still much work to do.
The best thing you can do right now is contact your Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper, and Tony Clement, to voice your opposition to UBB. The next thing you can do is sign the online petition at www.openmedia.ca/stopthemeter. The petition has grown by almost 75,000 signatures in the last 24 hours, and as of this writing is around 250,000.
The time to act is now. The voice of the consumer is very powerful, and hundreds of thousands of voices together can be deafening, and hard to ignore. Sign the petition, write to your MP and to the Prime Minister. Without further action this could be nothing more than window dressing.
This is a note relating to Shaw users. Shaw took a good step today, February 1st, and enabled it's bandwidth monitor for all of its customers. This can be accessed from secure.shaw.ca. Be aware that clicking on the modem usage link tries to open a pop up to display the graph. Most browsers block pop up windows automatically now, and it will have to be disabled for Shaw's website. An annoyance, but at least we have the tool now.
I found that in the previous two billing cycles my household used 77.8GB in both months, well over the 60GB cap on the plan. This is troubling because those of us in the house, especially in the December-January billing cycle, were aware of the cap and were trying to lower our usage. We did not use Netflix at all and tried to curb our streaming video usage.
We will have to monitor our usage, and if we cannot get under 60GB, will probably have to upgrade to Shaw extreme. Based on our usage we would have had $36 in overage fees, with nothing but "normal" usage.
I personally hope that the CRTC reverses the decision to allow ISPs to implement Usage Based Billing. This is nothing but a cash grab for the service providers, while Shaw is currently enjoying record profits without the UBB system in place. It is simply not needed, and only serves to crush innovation and technology in Canada, when the future moving forward is based on that technology.
[read] – Conservative and Liberal parties talking about the topic
[read] – CRTC ordered to review the decision
[read] – openmedia.ca
[sign] – Stop the meter petition