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Regulators pull back from usage-based billing after half-a-million Canadians speak out

Press release from Open Media | November 16, 2011

he CRTC has released its decision on Internet metering (usage-based billing), and pro-Internet organization OpenMedia.ca is celebrating it as a step forward for the open and affordable Internet. The decision comes as the result of public pressure, channeled primarily through the group’s Stop The Meter campaign, which included a petition that attracted over half-a-million Canadians.
“It is truly rare for people to outmaneuver Big Telecom’s army of lobbyists, but together Canadians did it. Now that we’ve prevented big phone and cable companies from taking full control, it’s time to fix our broken telecom market for good. A first step is for Canadians to move to independent providers, then we need to shift policy so everyone has affordable choices for Internet access. Our future depends on it.
- executive director Steve Anderson, Open Media


While there is easily room for criticism, the CRTC’s decision today should allow independent ISPs to survive and help them facilitate an unlimited and unmetered Internet for Canadians. Unfortunately, many Canadians will continue to lack independent, affordable, unmetered Internet access.

Big telecom companies control 96% of the Internet service market, while complaints to the Commissioner for Complaints to Telecommunications Services have more than doubled in the last year. These companies are making record profits while Canadians pay more for Internet access than residents of almost any other industrialized nation.

To demonstrate to policymakers that Canadians want rules that enable independent choices for Internet service—which have been shown to lead to lower prices and faster access internationally—OpenMedia.ca is encouraging Canadians to pledge their support for independent Internet services at http://openmedia.ca/switch.

The decision today, and the OpenMedia.ca campaign around it, results from a CRTC ruling that was made one year ago: the CRTC decided to allow big telecom giants to force their small competitors to adopt metered billing. This would have hogtied indie ISPs and it would have meant a more expensive and controlled Internet for all Canadians.

Under pressure from hundreds of thousands of Canadians, the government told the CRTC to reconsider that ruling. The CRTC held a hearing on Internet metering (specifically wholesale usage-based billing) in July where Canadians, public interest groups (including OpenMedia.ca), and independent providers made the case that forcing a single billing model on all Canadians was detrimental to a strong digital future.

OpenMedia.ca executive director Steve Anderson says: “It is truly rare for people to outmaneuver Big Telecom’s army of lobbyists, but together Canadians did it. Now that we’ve prevented big phone and cable companies from taking full control, it’s time to fix our broken telecom market for good. A first step is for Canadians to move to independent providers, then we need to shift policy so everyone has affordable choices for Internet access. Our future depends on it.”

OpenMedia.ca is also asking that the CRTC monitor the extent to which this decision encourages competition and lowers prices.

The petition will remain active at http://StopTheMeter.ca until Internet metering and price-gouging are stopped altogether. Thousands of Canadians still add their names every week.

To see the CRTC's Release, click here.


editors note OpenMedia.ca is a non-profit organization that safeguards the open and affordable Internet. The group works towards informed & participatory digital policy.

OpenMedia.ca empowers people to participate in Internet governance through fresh & engaging citizens’ campaigns. They are known for coordinating Stop The Meter, the largest online campaign in Canadian history, involving nearly half-a-million people.

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Contact

Lindsey Pinto
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
778-238-7710
lindsey@openmedia.ca

Background: Stop The Meter

In late January 2011, the CRTC confirmed its decision to let big telecom companies put a pay-meter on Internet use in Canada. If the CRTC lets them, Bell Canada and other phone and cable companies could freely impose usage-based billing (UBB) on independent Internet service providers (indie ISPs) and, thus, on all Canadians. These large corporations are obviously trying to gouge consumers, control the Internet market, and ensure that consumers continue to subscribe to their television services.

Indy ISPs, such as Acanac and TekSavvy pay incumbent telecoms like Bell for access to their networks. By applying usage-based billing (UBB) to these indie ISPs, the CRTC would allow big telecom companies to determine and limit how many gigabytes of usage their independent competitors can provide to their customers.

This means we may be looking at a future where ISPs will charge per byte, the way they do with smart phones. If this happens, Canadians will have no choice but to pay more for less Internet. This would crush innovative services, Canada's digital competitiveness, and Canadians’ wallets.

Due to the success of the petition at http://StopTheMeter.ca, however, the CRTC is currently reviewing this decision.

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by Open Media.

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