CRTC Issues Usage Based Billing Decision

I posted last week about the growing frustration over usage based billing practices in Canada. To no one’s surprise, yesterday the CRTC released its decision that confirms the practice that is likely to spell the end of unlimited Internet access from most ISPs in Canada.  Coverage from the Globe, Ars Technica, and Peter Nowak.


  1. Yawn
    Who’s surprised?

    I really wish the story around all of this would quit being about the death of “unlimited internet” (since that just makes it sound like it’s just a bunch of abusers are whining) and focus on the real issue which is the ability for these content providing ISPs to now stifle content-providing competition.

  2. And again, the CRTC seems to prove that it is a completely useless organization. Great job there stifling competition for the big providers and making it so that anyone wanting to actually invest in highly intensive broadband technologies will completely avoid this country.

    Seriously, the most useless organization ever.

  3. It’s definitely not just abusers whining, this is going to effect many people – my less technical, lower income, bother and his wife, who recently cancelled cable and switched to online streaming and netflix to save money (the do not pirate AT ALL), called me last night about a letter from Primus informing him of the new 25GB cap and asking me for recommendations on an affordable alternative with a higher cap – I basically had to explain all this UBB stuff to him and he was just blindsided, they have no idea about this stuff even though they have heard me going on and on about this stuff for years at family functions. All they wanted to do was save a couple bucks, Bell, Rogers, etc., are just not going to allow that to happen, if you cancel satellite or cable with the idea that you’ll get your video entertainment online, your still going to pay one way or another and that is what this is all about.

  4. @Jeff
    My cap with Rogers is currently 95GB, and using Netflix relatively intensively does not use my bandwidth that much (again, unless Rogers is not counting Netflix for some reason). That is though with the HD option for Netflix permanently off, so no HD streaming. HD streaming is what will kill your bandwidth cap.

  5. @Jeff
    Yes, *I* know it’s not just about abusive whiners. That’s what I said in my original post. The problem is that the media keeps making it about “no more unlimited bandwidth” and not about it being the tool to stifle media delivery competition.

    The media needs to put the spotlight onto how this is going to affect your brother and his wife and everyone else and stop making it sound like it’s just about abusers.

  6. @Chris: I would point out that it should be acceptable for HD streaming.

    It should not be *bad* to want to *experience* content in HD only on cable or disc?

    I was on a rogers express account, then was forced to upgrade in tiers (higher speed and cap) since it was cheaper. I was fine with the speed of my connection. I would have cancelled rogers on the spot if I hadn’t been roped into a *bundle*.

    I told the rep I would be looking to cancel my service at the end of my contract and to move another ISP that offers more reasonable bandwidth and not needing a higher speed.

    Looks like that won’t be possible anymore. Congrats to the big guys for driving up the cost of living for me.

  7. @Concerned
    But it also shouldn’t be bad to want to stream that HD content. The reason I have the cap I do though has less to do with Netflix and more to do with the rest of my Internet habits (plus the increased speed which I don’t think I ever get near, but no real complaints there). And since I watch Netflix through my Wii with a non-HD connector to my TV, there’s not much point. Without Netflix I tend to use anywhere from 40-60 GB depending on what other things my wife and I are downloading. Netflix non-HD does not add appreciable to that. I’m just pointing out for the people who do want to use Netflix that they can still with the lower caps, but at the cost of loosing HD streaming.

    I canceled my cable because, for the price I was paying for what I wanted to watch, it was not worth it. And I get more of what I want through Netflix and a fraction of what it cost me to get less through cable. The low caps really are more of a way to stop things like Netflix from taking off than they are about making sure their networks work correctly.

  8. Steve Stinson says:

    CRTC faces same conflict of interest as telecom and cable
    Much discussion surrounds the evident conflict of interest that the telecom and cable companies have in the provision of both internet and television subscription services. From their perspective, it only makes sense that they create obstacles to competition from internet-based services such as Netflix.

    Yet does the CRTC not face the same conflict? If people shift the entertainment usage from subscription television to internet-based delivery of the same and other content, the rationale for much of what the CRTC does ceases to exist. Try as they might to put their finger in the dike to hold it back, they are going to lose in the end and gravely damage Canada’s position in the digital economy in the process.

    To address this conflict, the CRTC should no longer be responsible for both broadcasting/cable and communications. The UBB decision demonstrates that they have put their interest in self preservation ahead of the interests of Canadians.

  9. Perry Kuhnen says:

    at least one Canadian has the guts to try
    Petition to the Governor in Council by J.F. Mezei can be found here. Well written and calls out the CRTC and Bell on the UBB fiasco in clear terms.

  10. UBB Okay With Me
    User Based Billing seems the obvious way to go for me. I cancelled my cable and since I live in a large market (Toronto) I can get upwards of 20 digital television channels for free with an antenna that cost me less than my monthly Rogers bill, and watch them in any room I want. Someone somewhere said “it’s not just abusers” or words to that effect, then qualified that to mean people doing illegal things. Well, when we all share the same bandwidth and get charged the same price I consider my neighbours who switched from Rogers or Bell ExpressVu to Netflix to be getting away with *something*. I don’t download or stream movies. I watch some Youtube and that’s about it, beyond email and some web browsing. So why should I pay the same as the guy next door who basically saturates the line half the day?

    I fully appreciate that the bandwidth providers and content providers can be the same and that this impacts on the holy (to me) principle of network neutrality, but the solution isn’t to create or perpetuate an unfair system of billing where I effectively subsidize you. Let the sellers compete with each other, not the customers. What’s wrong with paying more for using more? The real solution is to have UBB and separate bandwidth from content. The media companies cannot be trusted to play fair or fight clean so don’t hand them monopoly power at the same time as a big conflict of interest hole.

  11. Side Note about video and HD
    The comment from Concerned caused me to think of this.

    Just having cable or satellite TV does not mean you have HD, not even if you have digital. The HD you get from digital broadcast TV can be more hi def than your DVD player.

    Case in point, my mother has Bell ExpressVu in her building, and got a new big LCD TV (well, it was a gift from her son). She called Bell up and asked what she had to do to get HD, explaining that she had this new TV. They told her to go to The Source and get a new receiver for $200 and it would work. Wrong. $200 for nothing. They say they will upgrade the building’s equipment someday but not when.

    If you’re in a big well-served market I say cut out the expense and get an antenna. Make the bandwidth/content providers lose their marbles wondering why their biggest markets aren’t as profitable any more. Take the wind out of their monopolistoc sails instead of complaining that CRTC isn’t making them do what you want them to.

  12. Re: UBB Okay With Me
    Daryl K
    “So why should I pay the same as the guy next door who basically saturates the line half the day?”

    Why? Because it costs the ISP the same amount of money to provide both you and the guy next door with internet access, even though he “saturates the line”. Bandwidth costs ISPs about 1 cent per GB, and yet they charge 50-200 times that amount for “overage”. The real cost in providing Internet connections has all been spent before you ever hook up the cable modem and turn it on for the first time.

    I would suggest that if we are going to use UBB, there should be no monthly flat rate. ISPs shouldn’t get to do a monthly flat rate + UBB; it’s double dipping. The reason this will never happen is because ripping people off doesn’t scale well.

  13. Food for thought
    Rogers offers 50Mbps service with a monthly cap of 175GB. By my rough math, you could hit the cap in 8 hours.

    Think about it.

  14. @Daryl: “So why should I pay the same as the guy next door who basically saturates the line half the day?”

    Note that in the DSL case (Bell) he “saturates” his own line not yours. If I do “P2P” with my neighbor next door that also has DSL, all that traffic:

    1. Does not affect/”saturate” anyone else’s line
    2. Gets routed in Bell’s internal network at the DSLAM (is not sent in the “backbone”) so it doesn’t cost Bell anything


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