After thinking about the subject for a few days and having a couple of interesting conversations, I’ve revised my view on the matter somewhat.
Some time back in the 90s, the CRTC mandated Canadian telecom companies that owned network infrastructure to sell network access to 3rd part ISPs at a particular wholesale cost. This situation seems to favour the 3rd party providers. It created a false economy where 3rd party ISPs reaped a lot of benefits and really profited from the networks without having to maintain or upgrade a network of their own. It created false competition in the Canadian market. And, most importantly, gave no incentive for other companies to develop competing infrastructures.
Now this new CRTC ruling swings things to the opposite extreme, giving too much market power to the big telecoms. I still think this is bad for the future of Canadian Internet access, bad for consumers, and particularly harmful for small business owners, educational institutions, and application developers.
Today there were some announcements that Ottawa will review the ruling. Political parties also chimed in on the issue.
In an ideal world, I’d like to see a new CRTC ruling which pressures and facilitates the development of new network infrastructure by 3rd party ISPs. The world is increasingly consuming audio and video content over the internet. Not having Internet access that is independent of conglomerates with stakes in ‘classic’ television service seems contrary to the interests of Canadian consumers.
Usage based billing, as a concept isn’t bad. If prices per gigabyte are fair it should dissuade people from running quasi-commercial web servers on residential internet services. But it shouldn’t hold people back from learning about the most current possibilities and innovations that today’s high-bandwidth Internet allows.
Fair and affordable access to broadband fits with mobility of digitally connected populations who want to consume their favorite podcasts, shows and films as downloads on portable devices. It supports digital distribution of video games via Steam and other software from similar services. As well as IPTV and streaming services like Netflix, remote file and media sharing services, and other new high-bandwidth services.
Canada’s adoption of broadband is some of the widest in the world, but the level of service we enjoy is not in the same class. This is partly because we’re a big country, geographically speaking, but a small country in terms of our widely dispersed population.
What do you think? Is Usage Based Billing a threat to Canada’s ability to remain competitive in a world becoming more digitally connected? Could a well developed plan bring Canada’s Internet service beyond the service levels seen in other geographically large and diverse countries, creating excellent conditions for both ISPs and Canadian consumers?