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Bell bows to pressure and backs down on usage-based billing for Internet users

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As more and more Canadians are making the Internet -- that is, its extremely high prices and limited access -- an election issue, telecom giant Bell Canada is getting ready to change its tune.

OpenMedia.ca has learned that Bell has buckled under public pressure and will propose an alternative scheme for the imposition of usage fees on independent ISPs. Bell is expected to come out with its plan this afternoon: today is the filing deadline for the first round of submissions to the CRTC's usage-based billing (UBB) hearing.

Clearly, Bell is squirming under pressure from nearly half-a-million Canadians. This development comes on the heels of OpenMedia.ca's attendance at the CRTC forum on the future of Internet governance last week. This was supposed be a closed-door invitation-only meeting, but the Commission invited OpenMedia.ca in response to public pressure.

"We're pleased that Canadians will now have the option to use indie ISPs like Teksavvy and Acanac to access the unlimited Internet," said OpenMedia.ca's Executive Director Steve Anderson. "This is a giant step forward for the Stop The Meter campaign, and a victory for those who support competition and choice in Canada's Internet service market."

"While this is a positive move, it is only a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem. We at OpenMedia.ca hope the CRTC takes Bell's submission as a sign that widespread usage-based billing is not an acceptable model for Internet pricing, and that it creates policy to support the affordable Internet."

The fundamental structural problems in the telecom industry remain: approximately 94 per cent of Canadians use big phone and cable companies, many of which are still imposing usage fees on their customers. These usage fees are out of step with global standards for Internet price and speed, and Canadians will not be happy until they are ensured affordable access to an open Internet.

The usage-based billing issue will continue to heat up as the election progresses. Candidates can show that they are onside with voters by endorsing the Stop The Meter campaign as many have already. Canadians will not be satisfied until the stranglehold that Big Telecom has over our country's communications is removed.

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