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I don't mean to alarm you, but the world is ending. Not in a 2012 way, but digitally. Usage Based Billing is coming to Canada en masse, and it might be here to stay. This presentation will look at the facts and ramifications of of this pay scheme.
As a little background, you should know that we as Canadians currently pay one of the highest rates for our internet service in the world, while receiving among the lowest speeds. According to the OECD, we lag behind most of Western Europe, Australia and the US.
Earlier this year, the CRTC passed a decision which lets incumbent telephone carriers implement usage based billing and allow them to charge 3rd party providers comparable rates, minus a 15 percent discount.
What this means is that smaller ISPs that rent their telecom lines from Bell or Rogers are forced to match their pricing: companies that currently have a high cap for downloads, such as TekSavvy, which offers 200 GB and unlimited, ...
...must now tailor their pricing schemes to match that of the telecom company that they rent their line from, capping their download limits at 25 GB. Unfortunately for them, this probably means that they must sell their services at a loss.
The 15 percent discount might keep a few companies afloat, but most will shutter their doors, rather than compete. The low cap, in addition to overage charges at around $2 per extra GB, can easily double or triple your bill without you realizing.
While the CRTC claims that it made this decision to keep at bay “internet hogs”, people who consumer too much bandwidth, many speculate that it was done in an effort to minimize piracy, while others believe that it is a form of collusion between the CRTC and...
... the Telecom companies to get people to stop streaming footage online and to sign up for traditional premium television and movie packages. As for ramifications, there are many, not the least of which is...
... a threat to net neutrality. Usage based billing essentially lets the Internet Service Providers prejudice which sites you visit, and punish you, via high bills or throttling, for visiting the “wrong” ones.
One of the first tangible things to go out the window with usage based billing is Digital Distribution. In the age of the Mac Store, Steam and Netflix, the ability to pay and instantly receive content anywhere....
... is a must for consumers and businesses alike, and a lower possible customer base may even chase companies away, and prevent homegrown startups. Upon hearing the news, the CEO of Netflix stated that they are “very worried” about their future in Canada.
While we are currently the number one consumers of YouTube clips, Usage based billing will severely curb our appetite for videos of cute cats. In addition to stopping us from watching things, it makes us less likely to upload, for fear of lack of audience.
Social Media will never be the same. No more hours of looking through friend's photos: all media rich site will be avoided or taken in extremely small doses. Even Twitter, which is considered fairly light, with it's endless stream of info, will eventually add up
As the prices go up, as they are wont to do with a lack of competition, the digital divide will continue to grow. Those that can't access now surely won't be able to the future, and will look to schools and libraries for aid...
...and these institutions will have to rethink their digital strategies. As more and more people use them to access the internet, they will have to either restrict their access, or simply stop offering the service, rather than accept the burden.
Usage Based billing will hit people of our generation the hardest. Having grown up with the internet, and most importantly, knowledge at our fingertips, it will be more than distressing having it snatched away from us, and left in the hands of baby boomers..
And most importantly, the incoming invasion of usage based billing will prevent us from staying in the 21 st century. While the CRTC claims this measure will help keep enough of internet available for all citizens...
... it will keep us permanently behind. It will stifle innovation, but it will most importantly keep us from participating in the global discussion at the same rate as other First World countries, and even that of some second and third world ones.
If you feel like something should be done, don't just sit there: sign an online petition, check out OpenMedia.ca, write to Tony Clement or your local MP, do something. Because if you don't, don't think there'll be an internet forum for you to complain on.