If Americans want to see what their Internet future could look like you don’t need to look any further than to their neighbors in the north; and as a Canadian it is nothing short of depressing.
What is even more depressing though is how so very little my fellow Canadians seem to care about the massive change that our access and delivery of the Web is undergoing. Where once not all that long ago Canada was the envy of many countries as we had some of the best Internet access and speed at a reasonable price. In fact for many years Canada ranked higher than the U.S. but now we rank lower.
At least though we could comfort ourselves that unlike our cell phone billing our monthly fees for broadband were for the most part pretty reasonable. Not any more though as the Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) with the blessing; or pressure, of the current government in power has radically changed the whole playing field by letting the major broadband players move all their users to what is called usage-based billing (UBB).
Not only that but the CRTC also allowed Bell to change their billing practices for 3rd party DSL resellers to the point that there is no way for them to make money without charging more than Bell does for DSL service.
But like it or not, the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved UBB for the incumbent carrier Bell Canada in September. Competitive ISPs, which connect to Canada’s top telco for last-mile copper connections to customers, will also be metered by Bell. Even though the CRTC gave these ISPs a 15 percent discount this month (TekSavvy asked for 50 percent), it’s still going to mean a real adjustment for consumers.
via Ars Technica
So as far as the DSL consumer is concerned there is no competition; but then when you are Bell Canada and you own the whole DSL backbone for the country you can do whatever you want, especially when the CRTC abdicates its responsibilities to the citizens of Canada (but then it helps when the government changes the CRTC’s mandate).
However whether it is DSL or cable Canadians are now facing a future where they are going to be paying for their Internet access by the gigabyte, and at rates that the companies want to charge. It is interesting that this is all happening at the same time that video streaming and downloading is being heavily pushed by all broadband providers.
Oh and by the way this is happening at the same time that the major broadband companies are buying up the national television networks. Where the US is in angst over the whole Comcast and NBC up here in Canada we have sold out our television networks to the very companies that carry those signals on the same pipe as Netflix is competing against; and we did this without the slightest whimper.
So now we have our broadband providers with a vested interested in delivering video who want to start charging for access by the gigabyte. Now it wouldn’t be so bad if what caps were in place were even close to what Comcast is putting on their pipe. Where we are lucky to get 60 GB (but you can buy extra) Comcast is at least giving its subscribers a 250GB cap – which in this day of video streaming of everything will prove to be inadequate.
It’s not like we haven’t had notice that this was going to happen and yet the response to the CRTC calling for public input on the decision about handing over the Internet to the likes of Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Telus was … well .. non-existent. As important as an issue as this the CRTC only had 500 submissions and that might sound like a lot the reality is that those submissions came from two distinct groups and neither one of those groups was consumer oriented.
As Professor Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, points out in his post about this:
The CRTC received more than five hundred comments on the merger, but the majority fall into two categories that have little, if anything, to do with future media distribution models. The first category are hundreds of letters of support for the merger from charities, retailers, restaurants, sports teams (including the Ottawa Senators), and politicians, all expressing their admiration for Bell and CTV, ignoring the competitive implications, and urging the Commission to swiftly approve the transaction.
The second category come from creator groups such as the Directors Guild of Canada, the Documentary Organization of Canada, and the Canadian Media Production Association, who focus almost exclusively on the size of the benefits package that should be paid as part of the transaction. This payoff – designed to help fund the creation of new Canadian content – might provide some short term benefits but does nothing for the longer term implications of a converged, vertically integrated marketplace with the prospect for excluding new competitors and stifling the distribution of the very content the groups hope to create.
Nowhere in this process did we see any submissions from consumer groups or from individuals and because of this the CRTC has gone ahead with handing over the keys to our Internet to these companies that don’t have our interests at heart.
Granted there are organizations like OpenMedia.ca who are trying to do what they can to influence the three government parties in Canada to rein in the CRTC decision but I really don’t think we will see much change until the next election in the country and the Conservative party (currently in power) loses.
Even that might be wishful thinking but we only have ourselves to blame.