Steve Anderson of openmedia.ca on Usage Based Billing

I spoke with Steve Anderson of OpenMedia.ca this morning about the CRTC’s recent ruling that open’s the door for Usage Based Billing. OpenMedia.ca has really led the grassroots (digitalroots?) charge that has seen a massive number of people sign an online petition that has, at least in part, prompted political action. Or at least as much as the Liberal opposition and a promise for Ministerial review counts as “action.”

I’m a bit torn on all of this: on the one hand, I think that it is more-or-less reasonable that heavy users should have to pay for what they consume, and think that there are pricing plans out there that can readily accommodate the vast majority of home users. As an example, I get 90 gb/month with Rogers, and even with Netflix and torrents, rarely get much above 50 gb/month. On the other hand, Bell, Rogers, and the other main ISPs have built a massive infrastructure advantage in large part because they had protected utility monopolies for decades. Startups and smaller competitors really can’t build an alternate set of wiring to compete.

Anderson’s real beef seems to not be that there is metered billing, but that overage fees are too high and kick in too low. He concedes that former upper limits were reasonable, as people rarely hit them, and argues that there isn’t a connection between the cost of providing bandwith and what they charge.

Again, that might be the case, given the infrastructure advantage carried by the status quo companies. But I’m reluctant to tell any business how much their services are worth without great cause, and I have a hard time getting exercised about a $4.75 charge for $40 GB of¬†bandwidth, as TekSavvy suggests is likely.

6 thoughts on “Steve Anderson of openmedia.ca on Usage Based Billing

  1. Ugh, but what about the fact that Internet prices are tied to Bell’s now? Competitors can’t undercut them by more than 15%! So sure, right now things are okay – but there’s no way to keep Internet prices reasonable for the average user, because effectively there’s no more competition on prices.

    Jerks.

  2. 15% is still a big margin…

    Like I said- I’m concerned about the competitive implications more than usage-based billing.

    Perhaps the problem is that we haven’t separated the transmission infrastructure from the retail side of things, a la hydro?

  3. The UBB infuriates be because it seems so transparently aimed at cutting competition for high-bandwith services (a la Netflix) off at the knees. Way to keep Canada in the dark ages, Bell. (I might be taking this too personally, but I’m having this visceral reaction to the while thing. It just makes me so MAD.)

    While I don’t feel that 15% is a big margin, my bigger issue is that competitors’ prices are tied to Bell’s at all – we’re definitely agreed that the competitive implications are the real problem (the rest really is just details).

  4. Yeah- I think what bothers me is that I think that people, by and large, should be charged based on what they use. The internet is finite, and you should pay for your space of the tubez.

    I worry about the competitive aspect of this, and to a certain extent I think I’m griping that people are using the wrong arguments (Geist isn’t, natch). That being said: unless we are willing to divorce bell’s internet sales division from the part that maintains its network, any ruling still limits the activities of a private business. This is, after all, a ruling that compels a private interest to rent part of its self-funded infrastructure to a competitor so that the competitor can pilfer customers from it. The argument is that the CRTC isn’t infringing enough.

  5. It isn’t so much having UBB exist. It’s allowing Bell to set the caps and prices for all ISPs who use their infrastructure to provide service. These ISPs pay for the bandwidth their clients are using already. But now the CRTC has said that Bell can charge them at almost (and for a while it was) retail rates because that bandwidth happened to be used by a DSL client that had already used more than an arbitrarily selected number of GB in that month.
    This is also a money grab by Bell. All of these charges are not being kept by the smaller ISPs, they will be funneled directly to Bell. Which is extra infuriating if you knew how much we had to fight with Bell on a weekly basis for them to get basic services to work properly for our clients.

    The other rub of this is that it at the very least appears to be in the interest of keeping their other businesses viable for a longer time. Would you really subscribe to Netflix if you had to pay an extra $4-$8 to Bell for each movie that you stream in a month?
    Technologically inclined people have been ditching home phones and cable for streaming video and voip.

    That is only a small portion of the reasons that I am feel this should be not just revised by revoked. The base fees that Bell charges for wholesale ISPs to use their lines should more than cover the costs of maintenance and upgrades.

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