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What does Usage-Based Billing mean for Net Neutrality?

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Usage-based billing -- More than excess charge

Two weeks ago, the CRTC pushed Canada’s broadband policy a step backward by major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Shaw and Bell to put the Internet on a meter, and charge both individual and wholesale customers (i.e. independent ISPs) based on the ways they use the medium.

There are at least two major problems with this decision: The first is outlined in a post to OpenMedia.ca’s Policy Watch blog, which described the decision as “a blow to consumer choice, to access, and to diversity in telecommunications in Canada”.

Independent ISPs, such as TekSavvy, pay incumbent telecoms like Bell for access points in their networks that can be controlled more or less autonomously. In applying usage-based billing (UBB) to these indie ISPs, the CRTC has allowed Bell to determine and limit how many gigabytes of usage their independent competitors can provide to their customers. Say goodbye to diversity in the telecommunications market.

The SaveOurNet Coalition and OpenMedia.ca hold that diverse ownership models help to ensure more diversity of voices, and therefore of content, in the media landscape. This brings us to the second problem: the implications for Net Neutrality (the open Internet).

It was established early on, in the 2008 controversy surrounding Bell throttling peer-to-peer file-sharing, that discrimination against types of content is no different than discrimination against content itself. Bell is once again discriminating against forms of information, insofar as it will be charging consumers more for content that requires the use of a large amount of gigabytes, such as audio and video.

The CRTC has demonstrated a low level of consideration for these issues, and a lack of respect for the principles set forth in the Telecommunications Act (see 7C). This is unacceptable.

 

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Read the full text of the CRTC decision.

Sign the petition against usage-based billing at http://stopthemeter.ca/

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