Ruling in May allowed usage-based billing by Bell Canada
VANCOUVER - If Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer has her way, large telecom providers like Bell Canada will have to stop billing independent Internet service providers based on their usage, which she argues is impeding competition in Canada's hot online business.
On Tuesday Reimer will introduce a motion asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to reverse a decision it made in May allowing usage-based billing by Bell Canada and a subsidiary.
That decision has been attacked by independent service providers and online access providers across the country as bad for diversity of business because it will force wholesale buyers of broadband from big telecom companies to pass the charges downstream to users rather than allow for competition based on demand.
"This is a step backwards," she said. "It just absolutely stifles innovation, creativity, access, all of the things the Internet promises."
Reimer has lent her support to OpenMedia.ca, a non-profit organization working to advance open communications systems in Canada and which is among those appealing the CRTC decision.
In her motion, she says allowing big telecom companies to charge wholesale prices based on usage would limit competition and make it more difficuilt for people to access services.
She said as an example, people who use video or music services, which take up large amounts of bandwidth, could find themselves limited. It will also affect Vancouver city itself, which live-streams its council meetings and is increasingly moving into web-based forms of communication.
But at least one telecom provider in B.C. says opposition to the CRTC decision doesn't make sense.
Shawn Hall, a spokesman for Telus, said the CRTC decision only "clarifies" that telecom companies can charge ISPs when they exceed generous caps on the services they buy. He said that's no different than Telus charging a private subscriber who exceeds the maximum 60 gigabyte monthly cap on their accounts. "The only ones affected by the caps are online abusers," he said.
Hall said in 2009 and 2010 Telus spent $3.8 billion in upgrading services, including bandwidth. It is not unreasonable, he said, for the company to expect to recoup those costs through fees, especially from ISPs that are using their infrastructure.
"What investment would this (CRTC decision) stifle? We're the ones putting the money into the system. The ISPs aren't."
But Reimer's motion, which faces little or no opposition from her Vision Vancouver colleagues, is being hailed by Openmedia.ca.
"The fact that representatives of the city of Vancouver feel compelled to speak out on this issue is yet another testament to how overwhelmingly unpopular the CRTC's decision is," Steve Anderson, OpenMedia.ca's national coordinator said in a statement.
"While the CRTC is sitting back allowing Big Telecom to impede online choice and innovation, it is good to know that there are people in government working to do what is best for the public, and support a robust and open Internet."