Usage-based billing will hurt Canadians

The recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision to allow Internet “usage-based billing” (UBB) will enable large Internet service providers to raise rates and set download limits for consumers.

In the current climate of limited competition, this decision is severely myopic and will be economically damaging to Canadian consumers, businesses and the public sector.

It must be reversed immediately. Usage-based billing — the practise of regulating how much customers can download and charging them extra when they exceed monthly maximums — kills unlimited Internet usage plans.

For example, Ontarians will now face a 25-gigabyte (GB) download cap. In the United States, people enjoy caps of 250 GB.

The Internet is indispensable to businesses that use it to serve customers, communicate with distant offices, purchase downloadable software and engage in video and online teleconferencing. UBB will increase costs in a time of great economic uncertainty.

 The Canadian public is overwhelming against this decision and with good reason.

Canadians already pay some of the highest rates for Internet access of all countries that are members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The numbers speak for themselves: our average monthly price for broadband was $26.11 in 2008, more than double the OECD average of $12.81.

For high-speed broadband Internet service, the kind we need to power the cutting edge businesses of tomorrow and to enjoy things such as video-on-demand and remote-teleconferencing, the average monthly bill in Canada was $87.32 in 2008, compared to the average of $59.10 for OECD countries.

Canadian businesses and consumers were already at a global disadvantage before this recent CRTC-facilitated cash grab. Now the situation is going to get worse as costs will escalate. 

Canada needs more Internet competition, not less. Instead of limiting competition, the government should invest in high-speed Internet and open our telecommunications industry to greater competition, openness and choice.

The government must reverse this money grab that hurts consumers, stifles competition and innovation, and makes the Internet less open.

All citizens should take action against usage-based billing by voicing their opinion and signing petitions at

—Dr. Keith Martin (Liberal) is the MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

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