by David Baxter
Industry Minister Tony Clement announced that the CRTC must reverse its ruling on usage based billing (UBB). This took place on Feb. 3, after the CRTC whipped up a nation-wide controversy.
In a Jan. 25 ruling the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) can now allow large internet companies to charge UBB to third party internet companies that lease bandwidth from their servers.
An online movement against UBB is rapidly gaining support. Vancouver-based OpenMedia.ca is running an online petition that boasted 334,495 signatures as of Feb. 2, according to the group's website.
OpenMedia.ca’s website claims these changes can result people paying an additional $1 to $4 for every gigabyte they go over their limit depending on their plan. The site also claims it costs one or two cents for ISPs to produce a gigabyte of information.
The petition has caught the attention of the federal government, with the Liberals and NDP declaring their opposition to the CRTC ruling. The federal government launched a review of the ruling on Feb. 1, and will release a decision regarding UBB on March 1
But what does all of this mean for the people of Saskatchewan?
One concern is how UBB could affect small businesses that heavily use the Internet in their operations.
“The Internet is a big part of it since everyone and their dog is on it,” said Rod Weathers, parts manager at Thomas Motors in Melfort, Sask. The parts department relies on the Internet when it comes to ordering parts.
“If lots of people keep using it and we are seeing good financial returns we’ll continue to use the Internet, but if the website wasn’t attracting many sales and it cost too much, we would scale it back,” said Weathers.
“We don’t use (UBB) right now, and we have no plans to switch to UBB for our wire line internet service,” said Andy Tate, media relations manager for Sasktel.
Sasktel’s main competitor, Access Communications, could not be reached for comment.
Little Loon Wireless is a small ISP from Saskatoon. They specialize in providing wireless internet for parts of rural and northern Saskatchewan and do not currently use UBB. They are worried about the possibility of UBB costs.
“If the incumbent carriers introduce UBB on our wholesale costs, that means Little Loon Wireless will incur additional usage-based costs and may need to employ UBB in order to recover these costs,” said Michele Kemmett, a representative from Little Loon Wireless.
Nationally, major Internet providers, such as Bell and Rogers, already have data caps. If people exceed these caps they will be charged extra. Until recently, third-party ISPs could offer a flat rate for internet service. Due to the CRTC ruling, companies that lease bandwidth to third-party ISPs can choose to implement UBB. The CRTC could not be reached for comment.
Above photo by: David Baxter