Canada still wants to “discipline the use of the Internet”
By Nate Anderson
Unlike the parrot in the famous Monty Python sketch, it appears that metered Internet billing in Canada is not quite dead after all. Speaking at a House of Commons hearing today, the head of Canada’s telecoms regulator made it clear that metered billing rules would indeed be delayed—but they could well reappear.
Konrad von Finckenstein, head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said that he has heard the “evident concern expressed by Canadians” about metered billing rules. Those rules would allow the dominant DSL provider, Bell Canada, to impose usage-based billing on the small indie ISPs that use parts of its network to offer service.
“We don’t have a monopoly on wisdom,” he admitted, adding that CRTC had last night decided to suspend the new rules for 60 days and to review its own decision. When pressed about changes that might be coming, von Finckenstein made clear that nothing may change. “I cannot tell you what the outcome of the review is,” he repeated.
The government has now pledged publicly to block the rules in their current form, but the CRTC has yet to hear officially from any official on the matter. Though delayed, its rules currently remain in place.
Even if it changes the billing requirements, CRTC still wants to “find economic ways to discipline the use of the Internet,” von Finckenstein said in response to a question. Companies like Netflix are “putting a great stress on the Internet and there’s no incentive for companies to invest in maintaining the Internet.” Usage-based billing would encourage people to adopt more bandwidth-efficient technologies (or to forgo things like Internet video altogether, which would be terrific for cable operators).
Besides, metering isn’t new—”we’re doing exactly the same thing with electricity.”
And he defended the CRTC, pointing out (justly) that without its line-sharing rules, the indie ISPs wouldn’t be around to complain about the new billing rules in the first place.
Even if the new billing rules are revoked completely, only indie ISPs would be affected, and they reach only a few percent of Canadian users. As von Finckenstein noted, most of Canada is a functional duopoly. No matter what happens, Bell and the cable companies will still be free to keep jamming low caps down subscribers’ throats.