Liberal Party On Usage Based Billing

Liberal Industry Critic Marc Garneau has submitted a five page brief to the CRTC that outlines his party’s position on UBB. Garneau sides with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in calling for an expanded review of Internet services. It “fundamentally disagrees” with the CRTC’s claim that Internet service is analogous to utilities such as electricity or water. It also suggests that UBB is primarily about how to manage congestion on the network, though there is little to support claims that there is much correlation between congestion and current UBB practices.


  1. Also
    Should also note that he is asking people to co-sign his submission. People that sent OpenMedia’s message to all parties would have recieved this request.

    I don’t really care for political affiliation, but I read through the brief and found that it was spot-on. I co-signed.

  2. You can cosign it at

  3. I am re-posting here for improved relevance:

    What the government should do is to ensure that all citizens have access to reasonably priced basic phone and internet services. And I say “basic” like in being able to communicate with the government (via phone and internet), read the news and be able to search for a job.

    This should be regulated to death and ensure that these services are offered, are of good quality, and are of “just and reasonable” price.

    The government should do a study of what level of internet access would be needed for these “basic” requirements. Which speed and what monthly cap would cover news reading / online taxes and other interactions with government / job searching. And mandate that any ISP that wants to operate in Canada should offer a plan that fits, without any “throttling” or other intentional degradations.

    Anything extra – like 500 TV channels and terabytes of pr0n downloads – let the market decide.


  4. Let’s see the minimum requirements
    So you are without a job and looking for one. What do you need?

    – Basic local phone service. No fancy features needed except voicemail. You can have your own answering machine for reasonable price.

    – Basic web access. You should be able to browse the news, check your google/yahoo/hotmail e-mail, government sites, job posting sites and companies sites where they have job listings.

    Do you need P2P, video streaming etc. Not really.

    What speed? I fondly remember the big old Nortel 1MBps DSL modem I had many years ago. The speed was plenty for such usage.

    What monthly cap? Dunno. Have a study performed. Monitor a number of people in this situation and get an average figure plus variance. Find a number that works.


  5. @Nap
    Sounds scary. Your “basic” internet scheme sounds completely opposite of an open internet.

    You would give ISPs permission to block out certain traffic? What’s stopping them from blocking whatever traffic THEY want? ALso the only way to do that is DPI and while allowed right now, I find to be a ridiculous invasion of privacy.

  6. @…: “Sounds scary. Your “basic” internet scheme sounds completely opposite of an open internet. ”

    No, you got me wrong. I’m talking about a very minimal plan that should be available at reasonable cost to any Canadian. Regulate this one. Then anything better let the market decide.

    Once you get in place a good definition of “minimal service”, everything else will fall in place. No more “Essential” plans with “up to GazillionBytesPerSecond” that are throttled to death and have a monthly cap that you would meet just by checking the weather.


  7. “Basic” Internet service at “reasonable” cost is a pretty low bar. Every Internet plan currently offered to new subscribers in Canada would fit that definition many times over, even including the pay-through-the-nose mobile ones in the Arctic circle. What would be the point of regulating that?

  8. upofadown says:

    I would be a lot happier with this submission if it explicitly stated that entities that provide last mile infrastructure should be regulated in some special way. In the absence of this critical point the whole thing becomes a bit vague…

    Filtering out all the nice sounding but meaningless stuff we are left with:

    1. Providers should expand their networks to avoid congestion (no mention of how to fund this).

    2. Providers should release the evidence of congestion to the general public (no mention of how this should be verified or how to prevent it from being used by the large companies against the small).

    3. Providers should only apply anti-congestion measures when and where they are needed (no mention of how this could be verified and enforced).

    Reading some of these things I am actually starting to feel sorry for the CRTC shmucks that have to listen to them. I can imagine a random CRTC person hitting themselves in the face and exclaiming “Expand network capacity to prevent congestion? That’s brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that?”.

  9. @Zygo: Are you sure?

    Check the monthly cap on this one for example:


  10. @Zygo
    And in the urban areas (using the StatsCan version of the term) sure. Get outside of those areas, however, and things get spotty. Sure, satellite is available for the low cost of $70/mo for 1.5 Mbps…

    Remember, land-line isn’t available everywhere.

  11. While I applaud Marc’s initiative to do something about the internet. I also don’t think that it is the government’s job to regulate beyond some well defined minimal access. Beyond this “basic plan” that I mentioned in earlier posts, and which is a necessity for Canadian citizens in 2011, internet is mostly entertainment. Video streaming, music downloads and such. I don’t really think that it’s the government’s job to regulate the quantity and the price of pr0n you should be able to download. Yeah I know I instantly became unpopular. I can live with it 🙂


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  13. Michael, the link in your post is dead for me. Following sboisvert’s link, I can find the submission at:

  14. Ramblin' Rose says:

    CRTC approves BCE Purchase of CTV
    It will be interesting to see if CTV continues to provide over the long haul, online High Definition streaming video feeds of recent programming for those of us who do not subscribe to theirs or any other company’s time shifting digital feeds but choose instead to route our large band width consumption with devices like Apple TV, Boxee Box, Western Digital etc etc…which supplement our “basic” analog cable or satellite service.

    At risk of sounding like a broken record would Professor Geist consider taking up among his causes, the recognition of Digital TV signals becoming the norm (basic service except where cable and satellite can’t reach the rural for the for distance or the trees following August 2011 and the elimination of the touch tone charges that in essence represent in a sense a Paradigm shift.

    If I got the wrong thread please forgive me as I got the impression Companies like Bell and Rogers were trying to bundle it all up as net congestion, not fear netflix congestive heart failure. 🙂

  15. Monopolies
    There is a big problem with “allowing the market to decide”. In many parts of Canada there is only one owner of the wires that service any given house in the area. There is NO competition. The government needs to own the data distribution system and lease it in a non exclusive way to any ISP that wants to setup shop in the area. It would need to be that way until there was enough competition in place to support “free enterprise”

    Why is it that two of the biggest internet providers, Shaw and Rogers, don’t compete? They don’t want to.

  16. @Darren: “In many parts of Canada there is only one owner of the wires that service any given house in the area.”

    As long as you have the “minimal” plan available (and well regulated both in functionality and price) then in those parts of Canada the ISP will be competing with himself i.e. with that minimal plan. If the next tier in his lineup is too expensive for what it offers then you just stick to the “minimal” plan.

    Again I don’t see any reason why the government should regulate how much pr0n you should have included in the “Unlimited” and “Ultimate” top tier plans. They should look at the “Basic” plan to see if it’s sufficient and affordable.


  17. @naplam

    In what twisted scenario is competing with yourself any form of competition? Monopolies need to be regulated.

    I go over my 60GB cap almost every month and it’s not from downloading porn. I’ve got around 15 devices in my house that are connected to the internet. Computers, game consoles, phones, and a printer. Did you know that they ran out of IP addresses and need to more to a new protocol called IPv6 to meet the demand? There are refrigerators with internet connections. Just because you can’t find a use for the internet for anything other than email doesn’t mean other people can’t

  18. @Darren: “In what twisted scenario is competing with yourself any form of competition? Monopolies need to be regulated.”

    And what did I say earlier? If you define and mandate a “Basic” plan then the monopolies will have to compete with this plan and you don’t even need two players in the same area.

    My past 3 month average is 17GB and you can see a screenshot of the meter here:

    the guy signing “Nap.”

    As you can tell I am frequenting a lot of sites, and I do a little bit of everything except Netflix and P2P.

    Based on my experience I would say that a “Basic” plan @ 25GB/month should be enough for doing your e-mail and browsing Monster Jobs and Workopolis without running into overages. Remember that this would be for the most unfavored Canadians – those finding themselves between jobs.


  19. It’s not about the caps but the overage pricing
    @Napalm, it’s not the caps that are egregious for most users, it’s the pricing of the overages, which is really gouging.

    I can rent servers on Amazon EC2, where you basically pay for all traffic coming and going to your server. The pricing? 10 CENTS US per GB inbound, 15 CENTS US per GB outbound. Sure, they make a bit of money on my server rental (which is dirt cheap already) but Amazon isn’t in the business of losing money on bandwidth either.

    I really doubt that the marginal cost for additional bandwidth to the telcos is in the area of $2/GB when a person goes over their cap. It’s a punitive charge to consumers to encourage them to buy a much larger plan for which they may not use all of the capacity. And the reason they can do this is because there isn’t any oligopolist competitor who won’t do the same, politicians/bureaucrats who won’t bend to lobbyists, or consumers who will go “tea party” on the corporations by boycotting services (Canadians are too polite).

    Most reasonable people have no problem paying for a capped plan with **reasonable** overage costs. Heck, I’d pay $25/month with a cap of ZERO GB (i.e., no access but covers the infrastructure costs) and pay per use .20 per gigabyte of traffic in or outbound. That’s probably a profitable rate for the telcos, but there’s no way they’d go for that, because they want you to pay for potential bandwidth you won’t use.

    The “cap” is just a red herring. Most people don’t want to subsidize the leeches. They just don’t want to get gouged when they go over their cap in a given month.

  20. Have some fun:

    Nap. 🙂

  21. pricing is not the issue
    @Napalm and @anonymous – wrt people being comfortable with caps and paying for usage if its reasonable… I believe this is because most people dont understand the model of the internet and liken it too easily to utilities. The core problem is that the cost of congestion (if it exists) for the providers of internet services is not the volume of data one downloads in a month/week/day but at a very specific time when others are attempting to do so as well. I could only download 1 Gig a month but if I do that at the same time as the other 200 people on the node that services the neighbourhood around me, I am contributing to the problem still. The issue is that we should be charging based on speed and not size of files over an unually large period of time.
    Don’t get me wrong.. I also dont want to see them try and charge peak and off-peak because it still focuses on the wrong part of the problem.
    I believe a better solution is to offer packages based on speed… (say 1Mbps) but not just the top speed you can get if the “pipe” is empty and all yours… but pay to also avoid congestion. Entry packages would limit your top speed AND allow more of an impact if congestion exists (ie dropping you to a much slower speed in times of congestion) where as the next plan up might allow 5 Mbps top speed as well as a min 1 Mbps through put (which btw is more than enough to still stream a couple HD videos from youtube simultaniously without stutter). The calculation of minimums is simple math for the network provider based on the number of users per node and how many users pay for the higher packages. More people with higher level packages means more revenue for that node… more gear.
    Its transparent, fair and puts the price where the problem is… congestion acceptance among the masses. no more “the low users paying for the heavy users bandwidth”

  22. I can rent servers on Amazon EC2, where you basically pay for all traffic coming and going to your server. The pricing? 10 CENTS US per GB inbound, 15 CENTS US per GB outbound. Sure, they make a bit of money on my server rental (which is dirt cheap already) but Amazon isn’t in the business of losing money on bandwidth either. kredit ohne Schufa