Bell and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission have collectively come up with a way to screw small Internet service providers. The CRTC has allowed for Bell to charge extra usage fees for bandwidth used by resellers, such as Primus and TekSavvy. On top of the fees of maintaining, renting, and buying bandwidth infrastructure, these companies are now being charged an arbitrary fee, set by Bell, which is being passed on to consumers in their monthly bills. Former unlimited plan account-holders are receiving letters of termination on those contracts, and receiving new documentation to form new packages.
What does this mean for you and me? A larger, controlled monopoly on something as vital as the Internet in today’s society and a more hefty bill from your ISP, among other things.
The Internet is our generation’s printing press. It allows us to communicate freely and openly with one another. This is the age of information, but large monopolies like Bell are suppressing our freedom to it. The mechanics of the so-called “free and open” net are being held back by the draconian rules made up by big companies like Bell, and allowed to be implemented by the CRTC.
With everything moving online (our smartphones, gaming consoles, films, music, file sharing), this decision is a huge jump in the wrong direction, just as more people are gaining access to the Internet and its endless stream of information.
What’s worse is that when one looks at the costs of actually running the telecommunications systems, they have dropped consistently over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, companies have repeatedly increased rates and lowered service.
Monopolies in the technology world work to stifle competition, but they also stifle another key factor of the industry: innovation. Take for example the case of Netflix. While its launch in Canada has been less than stellar, due in no small part to the low content available through the service, the company has also suffered simply because bandwidth isn’t cost-effective. In the United States, the Comcast bandwidth cap caused a storm of protest online and offline, yet their cap was 250 gigabytes on a standard package. Good luck finding the same kind of deal with Bell, Rogers, or any of the other major players in the field.
Thankfully, some are standing up to the CRTC. The City of Vancouver passed a motion disagreeing with the CRTC’s decision to allow usage-based billing. An online petition has been started to ban the practice. But it takes many voices to change our country for the better.