Category Archives: ubb

Deciphering the CRTC’s internet ruling

scalesThe CRTC decision on usage/capacity-based internet billing is out and, true to form, it’s a complex one with lots of digesting to be done. There have been quick reactions from various parties about how the sky is falling or conversely about how the ruling is great for consumers, but the reality, as usual, falls somewhere in the middle.

The decision can be boiled down to two headline issues: the moderation of cable and DSL wholesale rates, and the elimination of any distinction between business and residential services for wholesale purposes. The first part is contentious, while the second one is definitely good for consumers, businesses and independent internet providers.

It’s probably wise to first set straight how this whole system works. Big network owners such as Bell, Rogers and Videotron are required to allow indie ISPs to access their infrastructure in order to sell their own internet services. This has been a long-held regulation meant to foster competition.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision in 2011 implemented a new pricing structure on how these smaller ISPs would pay the network owners. The capacity-based-billing scheme charges them in two ways: once, a set rate for every one of their customers that connects, and twice for the total monthly capacity used by the indie provider. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 21, 2013 in crtc, internet, ubb


Affordable unlimited internet may be nigh

Unlimited: The only difference between Bell and Rogers' internet offers are the colours they come in.

Unlimited: The only difference between Bell and Rogers’ internet offers are the colours they come in.

Is this the week in which the never-ending saga that is usage-based internet billing finally sees its dramatic conclusion? With the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission set to rule on the whole scheme’s pricing, let’s hope so.

A quick refresher: the UBB drama began back in 2011, when Bell sought to impose its own low usage caps on wholesale internet providers. Indie ISPs said offering generous and/or unlimited monthly plans were the only way to differentiate their services from the big guys, so they fought back. With more than half a million Canadians signing a petition to stop UBB from going through, the press and eventually politicians took notice.

At the 11th hour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then industry minister Tony Clement told the CRTC to go back to the drawing board. After months of hearings and submissions, the regulator indeed returned with a “capacity-based billing” compromise that would let small ISPs continue to offer unlimited usage plans, with Bell and other big network owners getting some more cash out of them. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 18, 2013 in bell, rogers, ubb


Internet prices climbing with no end in sight

How badly are Canadian internet users getting spanked? It’s amazing they can sit, according to numbers from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Internet access revenues at service providers jumped by 17.5% in 2011, largely thanks to tiered usage plans, the professional services firm says in a new report.

“Canada’s broadband fees were lower than those in the United States in 2007-09, but as a result of large increases during the past two years, the average Canadian broadband subscriber paid 3.9% more in 2011 than the average U.S. subscriber did,” the report says.

But wait, there’s more. The average Canadian internet user can expect their bill to rise to $45 in 2016, from $38.43 in 2011. That’s another 17% increase. Overall broadband access spending, meanwhile, will grow by 9.9%, or nearly double the 5.5% in the United States. Ouch.

Why is this happening? There are two culprits. One is the fact that Canada ironically has a more competitive wireless situation than the United States. A few years ago, when the wireless new entrants - Wind Mobile, Mobilicity et al - were in the process of starting up, it was clear that was going to have repercussions on the wired side of things. With big incumbent cellphone providers set to start losing big bucks in wireless, logic dictated that wired customers would need to be milked.

As they say, you win some, you lose some.

It’s no coincidence that usage-based billing for home access started to become news at about the same time. Enter the second culprit for the steadily rising prices: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. In the first part, the regulator accepted and condoned incumbent requests to use “economic measures” as an effective way to combat network congestion. In the second part, the CRTC also allowed those same incumbents to foist a watered-down version of this usage-based billing scheme onto smaller indie ISPs.

The actual existence of congestion was not proven in either situation. With monthly usage caps much larger in the United States despite the fact that incumbent ISPs there have considerably more users on their networks, it’s pretty clear that claims of congestion in Canada were largely exaggerated if not completely fabricated. Yet the CRTC swallowed them whole. Usage-based billing has always been a cash grab, plain and simple.

The gouging will continue, and really, why shouldn’t it? As I wrote last week, the regulator is too busy with make-work projects - like finding out whether subscribers are really getting 20 or 15 megabits per second - to focus on the real problems. This continued and increasing bilking of customers would figure high on that list.


Posted by on June 20, 2012 in crtc, internet, ubb


Talking internet data caps with Open Media

When it comes to broadband internet, it seems like you can always count on regulators to turn a positive into a negative. Such was the case earlier this week when Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski defended so-called tiered pricing by internet providers - known in these northern climes as usage-based billing - as worthwhile efforts in fighting network congestion.

Critics in the U.S. quickly jumped on Genachowski for swallowing the industry’s excuses for shrinking caps, which was ironic given that his comments came only days after Comcast - the country’s largest cable provider - announced it was raising or doing away with its limits.

Up here in Canada, the reaction was similarly negative. York University professor David Ellis pointedly points out that Genachowski, who was once admired for his supposed progressiveness on internet issues, has now apparently been suckered by the same fallacious reasoning our own regulators were once (and might possibly still be) enamoured with.

It’s a cliche that Canada might as well exist in a bubble, particularly technologically, as far as the United States is concerned because Genachowski should have looked north, where this topic has been debated ad nauseum, before making such a foolish proclamation. As Ellis points out, caps-as-congestion-fighters is an argument that has been largely discredited here. Too bad nobody told the Americans.

That said, I’m still wondering why many Canadians have such ridiculously low caps compared to Americans (typical plans on Bell and Rogers offer 60 to 70 gigabytes, compared to 300 or more on Comcast and the like). I put the question to Steve Anderson, head of activist group Open Media, and we ended up having a bit of a back-and-forth over email.

He said the reasons why Canadians are still paying too much for internet services boils down to the following: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 25, 2012 in crtc, internet, ubb


Hey Americans, cry us a river (of data)

The broadband news of the day on Thursday was Comcast’s announcement that it was axing its data cap of 250 gigabytes a month, while testing a new 300 GB limit in certain markets.

In a blog post, the largest U.S. internet service provider said it was doing so because it realized that in recent weeks the conversations about its new products were “focused on our data usage threshold, rather than the exciting opportunities we are offering our customers.”

Critics were quick to jump in. Rabble rousers Free Press issued a statement criticizing Comcast’s plan to charge people who went over their caps an extra $10 per 50 GB.

“Comcast has never had any legitimate reason to cap its internet customers and today’s announcement of new overage charges is just another example of the cable giant’s efforts to discriminate against and thwart online video competition,” said Free Press policy advisor Joel Kelsey. “Data caps are not a reasonable or effective way to manage capacity problems, which are virtually non-existent for Comcast.”

Like Free Press, Netflix also lambasted the cable company for continuing to give a free ride to Xbox video content. Comcast previously announced a deal with Microsoft wherein the content wouldn’t count against customers’ data caps.

On that front, there’s a very clear net neutrality violation going on and Americans have every right to be up in arms. But complaints over caps being scrapped or raised to 300 GB? As we like to say up here in Canada: Give us a frickin’ break. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 18, 2012 in bell, crtc, rogers, ubb


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