Usage Based Billing Complaints aka: "I want to have my cake and eat it too"

It’s been two weeks of incessant blathering about “unlimited” broadband as a basic human right. Two weeks of grassroots attemps to scare the people, scare the governement and make the little baby Jesus cry.

I don’t want unlimited broadband. I want Amazing Quality broadband. I want network innovation. I want Universal Broadband. Why aren’t people rallying around those concepts?

Two weeks ago, the CRTC made a relatively reasonable decision as to what and how wholesale service providers sell internet service to their downstream customers. “The CRTC ruled in January that internet service providers such as Bell could charge wholesale customers based on the same usage-based caps that they charge retail customers. (Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2011/02/01/internet-usage-based-billing-clement.html#ixzz1DC5IBgoh)

The CRTC, despite its slow and deterministic processes, decided that what was good for the goose was good for the gander when it comes to internet usage. Blame the CRTC for doing the right thing. The right thing is not always the popular thing.

Usage based billing means paying for what you use. Not a new concept, really. Water, heat, gas, groceries are all usage based services. Why should internet access be treated any differently? If my neighbour waters his lawn 7 days a week, and washes his car on Sunday, and I only water my lawn twice a week and forgo the weekend carwash, why should our bills be the same? The shouldn’t. Full stop. Provided that the pricing per Gb is fair and equitable (and transparent), this should be a no-brainer.

“Consumer and internet advocates have been lobbying hard against the decision, which they said was leading to higher prices and snuffing out competition among ISPs. They also argued it would prevent consumers from taking advantage of new services such as Netflix, which allows users to stream high-definition movies and TV episodes over the internet to their television for a monthly flat rate.”

Are monthly prices going to increase? Only if you’re a heavy user (+75GB/month of data transfer). According to the CRTC, your pricing still isn’t going to increase until every last grandfathered Bell residential customer who still has unlimited service is migrated off that plan and onto a usage based plan. Teksavvy (and other smaller ISPs) jumped the gun and increased their rates prematurely to further whip their customers into a UBB frenzy.

I think that the biggest scare tactic is that the general population and Canadian Politicans have NO IDEA about how much bandwidth they use. That fact has allowed various grass roots movements to take advantage of *popular opinion* and scare the bejesus out of Canadians with phrases like “higher pricers”, “stifling innovation”, and “limiting usage”.

How much can you do with 60 GB of monthly usage?

  • 400 hours of surfing
  • 4000 emails
  • 2000 pictures shared
  • 600 songs downloaded
  • 26 movies downloaded (standard definition)

ALL of this activity will net you 60 GB of bandwidth usage. 60 GB is about $50/month, depending on your service provider. That $50 monthly charge is broken up into Customer Service, network infrastructure capital, carrier payouts and marketing and advertising….

125 GB is going to cost you more ($70), but here’s what you can do:

  • download 40 HD movies
  • Watch over 300 hours of YouTube
  • download over 26000 songs.

 Supporters of *unlimited” or *flat rate* internet services are folks who have been using 150 GB of download capacity, and only getting charged $50/month for the pleasure of that. It looks like the free ride may soon be over. Even Mandarin has limits on their all-you-can-eat buffet :-D

Open Media is the biggest driver of the fear, yet their website is simply rhetoric with NO meat. Not even a tool is provided to support their arguements, so that Canadians can actually gauge how much internet they use. I’ve found a very effective litle bandwidth calculator - and it’s independant of ANY Canadian providers. Go ahead and see what your bandwidth appetite is like. Over 200,000 Canadians have signed their petitiion, and I’l bet that only 20% of them know what their bandwidth usage is, and these are the folks who are 150 GB+ users. 

Why do I want usage based billing? It’s simple, really…..

  1. I want there to be financial resources available for network technology improvements.
  2. I want to eventually get to a place where we can manage our own bandwidth on demand, and be able to control that via a dashboard. Those services can only be provided by service providers who have a network that allows for this kind of functionality.
  3. I want to have a fantastic internet experience that’s not impacted by Joe Schmoe downloading 500 Gigs of anime cartoons off of his torrent stream, (unless he’s paying for it).
  4. I want UNIVERSAL broadband, and no service provider is going to be able to do that effectively and successfully if they have to offer an unlimited service.

Usage based billing doesn’t stifle creativity, it channels creativity into projects that are going to be productive and profitable.

During a hearing with Commons industry committee of February 4th, Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), defended his agency’s new UBB rules.

“I would like to reiterate the Commission’s view that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services,” he said. “We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users,” he said. “For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users.”

In times of CRTC confusion, the Voice of Reason, Mark Goldberg can always be counted on to add clarity to the situation….

 Tony Clement, in an effort to appear less-like-a-loser and more like a cool kid jumped into the UBB conversation via Twitter, simply to stir the pot and garner more public support for the next election. I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve got a feeling that good ole’ Tony wouldn’t know a tweet if it bit him in the toot! He’s got people for that.

The next time you hear someone chirp about UBB, ask them how much internet capacity they use on a monthly basis…. and then ask them if they want to pay for my water usage next summer. I’m thinking of making a bigger garden ;-)