A Disservice to Canada

Canadian Flag: We stand on guard for thee.
Canadian Flag: We stand on guard for thee.

Maybe I’m naive but I had this crazy idea that the CRTC existed to serve Canada not Bell Canada.

Yet the CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to charge third-party ISP customers “Usage Based Billing”.  This will essentially double my costs as a moderate internet user. But it will be worse for heavy users.

Because these usage charges aren’t just for downloads,

they will be applied both ways.

Don’t they know that this is a recession? The timing for this is almost as sensitive as firing people at Christmas. Apparently the fact that an increasing share of business and employment opportunities are only available online hasn’t make any difference to these decision makers.

Quite frankly I am not looking forward to paying for the privilege of receiving spam, or paying for the privilege of having web advertising inflicted on me, or paying for the privilege of downloading automatic Windows updates (which you can no longer even choose to decline if you have Vista).   Ironically Canadians will no longer be able to download free software like Open Office or Ubuntu for free.  We’ll be paying Bell Canada for it.

I’ve just begun reading the Clay Shirky book “Here Comes Everybody” and this certainly sounds a lot like his examples of the old guard attempting to suppress the use of the internet.

"Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky
"Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky

It would seem that if Bell Canada is allowed to do this, they may kill off the independent Canadian ISPs.

Not, I might add, in the classic free market way by providing better service for a better price, but rather in that time honored feudal way of using the forces of the government to eliminate the competition.

Bell Canada may in fact end up restoring their monopoly since no small company will ever have any hope of competing with them on the unfair playing field provided by the CRTC.

So this move may in fact seem to be good for Bell.  But it certainly is not good for Canada.

A few years ago Canada was at the leading edge of internet affordability. This is why so many Canadians are not only online but comfortable online. We could afford to be.

However over the last few years we’ve been sliding more and more quickly toward the bottom of the list– due in no small part to the actions of players like Bell Canada.

It wasn’t so very long ago that the Canadian Government forced Bell Canada to share the infrastructure with other service providers. Since the Bell Canada infrastructure (read: phone lines) had actually been paid for out of tax dollars when Bell Canada was a government monopoly, once the monopoly was broken it was only fair to share the infrastructure with independent companies for the benefit of Canadians.

Which is why services like Teksavvy can exist. That’s the ISP I use. Teksavvy gets to keep something in the neighborhood of $5.00 out of what I pay per month, while Bell Canada gets more than $20.00– strictly for the use of the phone lines. Yet Teksavvy handily provides good service for less than Bell Canada does.

So you would think that Bell Canada would match the deals being offered by their competitors.
On the contrary, Bell Canada hasn’t even tried. Instead of playing fair they want to kill off the competition and turn back the clock so they can be the only game in town again.

Drastically increasing the cost of internet usage– for no reason except increased profit for Bell Canada and without providing anything in return– could seriously damage Canadian internet access.

The real price we’ll pay is the curbing of Canadian internet use.

Not only will the cost of using the internet increase, it will affect how Canadians use the internet.
We will be much more careful about what we go online to do.

  • We might decide not to make a blog because it will be too expensive.
  • We might cut our kids off Facebook because it will be too expensive.
  • We might decide not to add to wikipedia because it will be too expensive.
  • We might decide against posting our photos on Flickr,
  • but if we do, grandma might not download photos of the grandkids because it will be too expensive.

Maybe you don’t use one of the independent ISPs.  Maybe you’re using Sympatico right now.  Surprise, surprise, Bell Canada is doing the same thing to their own customers too. Are you using a cable ISP? I suspect it won’t do you any good, if the cable ISPs complain to the CRTC about not being able to gouge customers as well as Bell Canada the CRTC will give them what they want.

Even worse are the “Chilling Effects” – who’s going to develop new cool Web 2.0 applications if they’re constantly watching the meter to ensure they don’t exceed the 60 GiByte cap? Who’s going to sign up for online video services if the movies exceed the cap?

–This Blog Is Not For Reading

Ultimately, with caution being forced upon us,  Canadians will have a much harder time trying to compete in a global economy.

What Can We Do?

Help protest this, submit a complaint to the CRTC
For the type of application select Tariff, and as a subject, use File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181.
(Instructions courtesy of Antonio Cangiano)

And as always, you can call or write your federal MP to let them know what you think about this.  I’d love to hear anyone else’s suggestion or ideas.

You can read the Telecom Order CRTC 2009-484

This is really dangerous.

It will not hurt the internet.
It will just compromise Canadian internet access by artificially inflating the transaction costs.
Which will hurt Canadian Citizens and Business alike.
Talk about acting contrary to the public good.

I’ve started a blog specifically for this issue:  Stop Usage Based Billing
I am compiling links to all the other internet sites dealing with the topic in the sidebar there.
My personal favorite would be