CRTC Hearings: MTS Allstream at Bat

by Jordan Richardson on July 15, 2011

The CRTC hearings over Internet billing roar on and Thursday it was MTS Allstream’s turn at the plate. Manitoba’s primary telecommunications provider is in a unique position in that it provides wholesale Internet access to some companies in the province but still rents access from other telecom companies.

First, MTS Allstream criticized the billing idea put forth by BCE Inc.

“Bell is attempting to charge in multiple ways for usage, which sets up the conditions for double-charging competitors for the same network transport component,” Mike Strople, MTS Allstream’s vice-president of technology, said.

Apparently MTS’s plan is similar to that of Bell’s, without the offending hiccups of course. Both include fixed fees for network access, but MTS didn’t propose a cap on volume or a charge for going over a cap. The overage charge is the clear sticking point, as it would allow companies to “charge twice for the same access.” It would also make it hard for smaller ISPs to predict bills monthly.

MTS Allstream also took aim at the plan from the Canadian Network Operators Consortium. Strople said that the scheme would not require smaller ISPs to predict capacity required ahead of time, leaving it to charging for peak capacity after the fact. “Its variability provides challenges for both parties,” Strople said.

To counter that problem, the MTS scheme would have ISPs reserve a certain quantity of capacity ahead of time. They could not exceed said quantity in a month, which leads to clear problems should ISPs exceed the reserved amount of capacity. MTS said that quality of service would be diminished as ISPs neared their capacity cap, leading to network slowdowns and losses of data packs. ISPs would be responsible for “traffic management” techniques themselves.

Strople added that the ISPs would be able to order more capacity for delivery “within several weeks,” presumably by carrier pigeon.

Two CRTC commissioners pointed out that Bell’s model let ISPs get extra usage if needed, something the MTS scheme lacked in a meaningful way. MTS responded, stating that “extra usage was a different measure.” If an ISP exceeded capacity on Bell’s network, it would be in the same position but “double billing” would still apply.

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