Usage-based billing still a concern, says open Internet advocacy group
The Vancouver-based group OpenMedia.ca says they’ll be pushing to make affordable Internet a federal election issue.
Lindsey Pinto, communications manager with the organization, said they’ll be encouraging candidates to adopt “pro-affordable Internet and pro-competition” stances.
Pinto’s comments come a day after Bell Canada withdrew a controversial proposal to charge independent Internet service providers based on usage. Critics say the pricing model would stifle innovation within the telecom industry and result in increased charges for Canadian Internet users.
But while Pinto sees the move as “a step in the right direction,” she said it still doesn’t resolve the broader regulatory issues around usage-based billing.
“It’s not a regulatory solution, which means that it’s not permanent, and it means that it’s not something that’s going to be necessarily widespread,” she said in a phone interview.
Instead of usage-based billing, Bell is now proposing a model called “aggregated volume pricing” (AVP).
According to a letter from Bell to the CRTC, the new pricing model “is not linked to individual user thresholds and should have no impact on how wholesale Internet Service Providers (ISPs) market their retail.” The letter also notes that AVP “ensures that those who use the least are not subsidizing those who use the most.”
Pinto said while the pricing model will allow more flexibility for independent ISPs, she argued it could still result in extra fees for the companies.
The CRTC is scheduled to hold a public hearing this summer on usage-based billing, as applied to wholesale broadband customers. The hearing is part of a review announced by commission chairman Konrad von Finckenstein in February. The move came after federal politicians spoke out against the policy and Industry Minister Tony Clement indicated the CRTC decision would be reversed.
Pinto said she’d like to see a competitive-based means of Internet traffic management, rather than a capping system.
“This is really only a band-aid solution to a much larger problem, where the CRTC doesn’t regulate price because there’s a competitive check, but that competitive check isn’t really there,” she said.
OpenMedia.ca has gathered over 400,000 signatures on its online “Stop the Meter” petition.
You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.