Opinion » Cybernaut


The (not) hearing



Like hundreds of thousands of other Canadians, I submitted my opinions about Usage Based Billing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission during the public input period. Now, hearings are underway and it couldn't be more obvious that the system is rigged - the discussion is more about how to implement UBB and fair pricing than whether it should be implemented at all. The CRTC's role seems, based on what I've read in the last week, to represent the corporations rather than the general public.

Given that Harper's conservatives signified their willingness to wade into the issue on the public's behalf - before the election anyway - the CRTC seems to be making a case for its own irrelevancy and the need to replace the commission with a new regulatory body that can better balance the public and corporate interests when it comes to things like the delivery of the Internet.

To me, there are only a few points worth discussing at this hearing: do Canada's telecoms have a monopoly on cable and Internet? (Most of the time ); does the ownership of satellite, cable and Internet networks by the same company create a conflict of interest for telecoms? ( Hell, yes .); are the telecoms protecting their cable and satellite businesses by raising the price of Internet bandwidth? ( Wouldn't you ? ); are the telecoms currently profitable or in need of assistance? ( Very and no).

Are the needs of the public being addressed in the UBB pricing schemes put forward by Canada's leading telecoms? ( Hell no!) Are UBB prices fair, in that they reflect the true cost of uploading, downloading and routing all those gigabytes of data? ( No, no and no!)

I'm not opposed to usage based billing - heavy users should pay a little more if it keeps the network growing and getting faster. But there's no balance to it; if heavy users have to pay more then it seems obvious to me that light users should pay less.

For example, say your Internet service provider charges you a flat rate of $45, caps your monthly usage at 100 GB and then charges you for every additional GB over that limit. Leaving aside the fact that there's almost no way of knowing how much bandwidth you've used at any given time - and you don't have the option of shutting off the pipe when you've hit your limit - what if you only use 10GB or 50GB? You still pay the same per month, not a tenth or half as much, and the unused GBs don't roll over (which makes no sense if they have a physical cost as the telecoms are claiming). With this system telecoms have always made huge profits off light users. Now, with UBB they're poised to make even bigger profits off heavy users as well.

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