Stalling Tactics: CRTC Delays Implementation of UBB 60 Days

by Jordan Richardson on February 4, 2011

It’s been a dizzying and amazing few days in the complex field of regulatory politics in Canada, but it looks like something semi-concrete has actually come out of the posturing between the government and the CRTC. As I mentioned yesterday, CRTC head Konrad von Finckenstein was set to appear before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology today. He did just that and revealed that his regulatory agency was set to delay the implementation of usage-based billing for wholesale customers by at least 60 days.

On top of the 60-day delay, von Finckenstein stated that the CRTC would: “Launch, of our own motion, a review of our decision to verify that: a) it protects consumers; b) those who use the Internet heavily pay for their excess use, and; c) Small ISPs retain maximum flexibility and continue to be a key source of innovation in the industry.”

He also revealed that the CRTC had actually elected on a review Wednesday afternoon. von Finckenstein was also eager to push back against Industry Minister Tony Clement’s aggressive stance on the issue, reiterating that the CRTC made the decision “on its own” and repeating the same basic talking points. “I don’t agree with the government,” von Finckenstein said. “The vast majority of internet users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users.”

The point came up again in the statement, as expected: “We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users. For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users.”

The fundamental question as to what a “heavy user” is bears an answer, but the CRTC and, by extension, the big carriers only point to those who exceed their service plans. The rest are covered by the halo of being “responsible” with internet resources, while those shameful heathens who go above and beyond the “cap” are set to be persecuted like those animals who take really, really long showers. Is the issue really that simple?

Some say that the corporations in charge of Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure have slacked in improving networks and in dealing with the impending bandwidth usage issues. This appears to be the case as Canada’s companies promote tablet computers and data plans without doing the necessary network adjustments to match the demands. This is bolstered by Bell, Telus and Rogers’ outright refusal to move better networks into rural areas.

There’s also the well-known fact that Canadian internet services lag behind many other countries. New data pertaining to average download speeds, for instance, ranks Canadians lower than the United States and the United Kingdom. On top of this, almost every study on the subject demonstrates that Canadians are paying more for broadband access relative to the rest of the world. As the CBC reports, “Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society ranked Canada 25th out of 30 countries in a report that looked at pricing for services ranging from low-speed to high-speed connectivity.”

The decision over usage-based billing compounds the problem, adding more fuel to the fire. Many Canadians are fed up with the telecommunications situation and are getting their opinions out in the open. Canada’s broadband and tech industry, one that used to be a world leader in the field, has now become a laughing stock thanks to regulatory nightmares and extensive privatization tactics.

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