Archive for February 4th, 2011

The CRTC’s Faulty UBB Foundation: Why There is Reason to Doubt the Review

The controversy over the CRTC’s usage based billing decisions took centre stage yesterday with an Industry Committee hearing and comments from politicians from all parties. After Industry Minister Tony Clement earlier advised that the government would send the CRTC back to the drawing board on UBB if the Commission did not do so itself, Chair Konrad von Finckenstein told the Industry Committee that the CRTC was delaying implementation of the decision by at least 60 days and that it would review it to “verify” that it protects consumers, ensures that heavy Internet users pay for their “excess use” and that small ISPs retain maximum flexibility.  Yet immediately after the hearing, Clement told reporters that “regardless of the outcome of that review the ruling will not be implemented.”

While this suggests that review will be theatre, there is considerable reason to be skeptical of the review on both procedural and substantive grounds (I will leave to the side those who will claim that this is all just political pandering to consumers – Clement has a mixed record in that regard: solid on telecom and spam, weak on copyright given the digital lock rules in Bill C-32).  Many in the media have begun to question whether the public realizes that this specific dispute only directly affects some independent ISPs.  I think the answer is no.  However, after yesterday’s hearing, I am left with the sense that the CRTC does not realize it either.  In von Finckenstein’s effort to defend UBB, he failed to recognize that there is a world of difference between supporting the choice of an ISP to implement UBB and a regulatory model that leaves an ISP with no other alternative.  The CRTC’s UBB decisions are wrong not because UBB is wrong, but because they undermine the potential for competitors to make alternative choices.


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February 4, 2011 79 comments News