Sorry about that! Canada reverses metered Internet decision
Oops! Terrified by a critical mass of enraged broadband consumers, Canada’s government is telling its telecom regulator to rescind its approval of metered or “usage based” billing, or else. Industry Minister Tony Clement is now insisting that Canada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has to undo the ruling.
Most Canadian newspapers are getting the same message from the top. The CRTC “should be under no illusion—the Prime Minister and Minister of Industry will reverse this decision unless the CRTC does it itself,” a member of Canada’s conservative government told the _Toronto Sta_r on Wednesday.
“Frankly, a decision like this is clearly not in the best interest of consumers,” the unnamed senior official added. “This is a bread-and-butter issue.”
Back to the drawing board #
The CRTC approved usage-based billing late last year, allowing Bell Canada to charge smaller competitive ISPs by the gigabyte, a move which made it hard for those ISPs to offer flat-rate service any longer. In January, the regulator modified the move slightly, giving indie ISPs a 15 percent discount on wholesale access. But this wasn’t enough to prevent ISPs like TekSavvy from publishing draconian new rate plans which dropped its data limit from 200GB to 25GB, while charging about CAN$10 a month more for a premium plan.
Since that move, Canadian pols have received thousands of furious messages from their constituents. A third of a million people (around 1 percent of Canada’s population) have signed openmedia.ca’s petition against the move. All this has obviously had an impact. Consider Clement’s circumspect response to the CRTC decision in January.
“I am aware that an appeal has been initiated by a market participant,” he noted. “As Canada’s Industry Minister, it is my job to encourage an innovative and competitive marketplace and to ensure that Canadian consumers have real choices in the services they purchase. I can assure that, as with any ruling, these decisions will be studied carefully to ensure that competition, innovation and consumers were all fairly considered.”
But there were no vagaries in his statements as of yesterday.
“CRTC must go back to [the] drawing board,” Clement declared. More details are coming on how this will play out as CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein is scheduled to speak before a House of Commons committee today.
Still, there’s questions about how much this matters. Nearly all Canadians get their Internet from Bell Canada (DSL) or one of the big cable operators (who conveniently have carved up Canada geographically), and those companies will still be allowed to set low caps and high prices for their own subscribers.