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The True North Strong and…Not Quite Free

Posted February 8, 2011 | 10:43 am, by nadine

So, you may have heard about this thing causing a ruckus in the great white north lately called UBB…or basically Usage Based Billing. UBB its backers say, is a simple concept: If you use more, you pay more. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? I mean, if I use more gas…I pay more, if I use more heat…I pay more, if I want more fries with my burger…well you get the idea.

The only problem is…this system of billing really doesn’t translate to the internet too well. Or more to the point…it could translate, but the way in which our ISPS want to implement it does not translate. It is one thing to go with a usage based billing system and charge something comparable to what a company would pay to give you that service, but in the case of UBB in canada, we’re looking at 5000% mark-up. 5000%….that’s nuts.

However numbers and chanting and downloads aside…I have a few other concerns that hopefully this whole UBB fight will blow the top of…

  1. Why are our large ISPS allowed to create their own competitive content? This is something I’ve never really understood. As an ISP, I feel that these companies should be taking care of hardware, and hardwires…not making streaming services and buying up media outlets. I do not see why this is even allowed…Its a direct conflict of interest with their other business of selling digital access, by allowing them to provide preferential treatment to their own content vs their competitors. Frankly the regulatory system should turn around and say: “Alright look, you can’t own the controlling share in a TV station…further more if you want to deliver content, then your content has to follow the same rules and caps you want for other people.”
  2. Why has no one officially defined a “Heavy User”? Its been cited that the average Canadian personally uses 15 – 20 gigs a month of data. Well…times that 20 by a household of 4, and that’s a minimum of 80gigs right there. An average family household with 2 kids, and 2 adults will easily have: 3 computers, at least 1 – 2 gaming systems, and possibly 2 smart phones…that’s a lot of data. So is this considered a “Heavy User”? You decide. Also frankly…if the average Canadian isn’t even going to reach a something like a 300gig cap, then what’s the harm in OFFERING a 300gig plan at a low rate? The average Canadian will just use what they use.
  3. No one seems to have questioned yet what happened to all that infrastructure work Bell supposedly did in the past? Did it go away? Was it dug up by bears? Did aliens hijack it? …has anyone actually done a study to see how much traffic infrastructure Bell Canada actually has? My guess would be “not likely.” or “likely but I can’t find it in the public domain anywhere…”
  4. Up-to-date data sets of the internet and technology driven sectors of commerce in Canada…or basically: How big is our internet industry, really? We currently do not have good data on this. Initiatives like 49pixels are changing that. But currently it seems as if policy makers and government function on data from 3 years ago.

    That’s not so great in dealing with technology.

    For starters its hard to regulate something when you don’t know a lot on how its being used day to day. And the reason I’m bringing this up is because business is a term thrown around a lot. Technically I am a business, a business of one. According to Bell, business is exempt from caps and UBB, so I should get a business plan…right? Well I’m small, so I can’t afford those plans…and a lot of small business (like me, or like others) use standard residential packages for their small business. So again…lack of data, lack of information about the kinds of consumers out there = pain.

  5. I am concerned that the CRTC doesn’t really know how the internet works, or how services are delivered through it…I will not say I am the authority of this knowledge. But I’m pretty sure most of your digital services ride in the same pipe so to speak. Just for the hell of it…I will personally bake a cake for the first person who leaves a series of tubes on the lawn of the CRTC.

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