CRTC delays usage cap on small Internet providers

Von Finckenstein said his agency is not infallible and should be given the opportunity to reviews its decisions


(From: The Toronto Star)


OTTAWA—CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein said Thursday the commission will review its controversial ruling to impose a usage cap on small Internet providers but Industry Minister Tony Clement was quick to add it’s not happening, period.

“The commission has decided to delay the implementation of usage-based billing for wholesale customers by at least 60 days,” von Finckenstein told the Commons industry committee Thursday after doing his best to explain the decision.

Among other things the CRTC ruling granted the large distributors permission to adopt usage-based billing for their wholesale customers, the small providers. Reaction was swift with hundreds of thousand of Canadians petitioning the government to quash it.After the 90-minute meeting was over, Clement told reporters “regardless of the outcome of the CRTC review, under a Conservative government this ruling will not be implemented.”

While concerns have been raised that the government is meddling in the business of an independent agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Clement said the government will step in whenever it think there is a bad decision.

Von Finckenstein said his agency is not infallible and should be given the opportunity to reviews its decisions


“I can only say we didn’t take this decision lightly … (but) we may not have gotten the right one and we realize in light of the public concern about this …. It is appropriate to review it,” he told the MPs on the committee.

Reaction to the ruling, requested by Bell Canada, was swift even though it only stood to affect relatively a few number of consumers contracted to small Internet providers.

A poll done for the Toronto Star by Angus Reid Public Opinion showed that 76 per cent of 1,024 survey opposed the CRTC ruling allowing Bell Canada and others to impose a usage based billing on small providers who sell to consumers who want and pay for unlimited usage.

“The good news is that there is going to be no change in Internet billing for consumers on March 1 (when he change was to take affect),” Clement told reporters.

Von Finckenstein told the committee he made this decision to review the ruling even before the Conservative government issued an ultimatum telling the CRTC to reverse the ruling or it would.

Von Finckenstein said the review will determine whether the decision protects consumers and that heavy users pay more.

“The ordinary users should not subsidize the heavy users,” the CRTC chair said.

Von Finckenstein argued that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services.

“We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities,” he said.

Von Finckenstein said he wanted to clear up a “few misconceptions” and explained that the majority of Internet residential consumers already have caps.

The proposed change asked for by Bell would have put a cap on the small providers who buy up bandwidth from the major providers like Bell and in turn offer contracts to heavy users.

Von Finckenstein said these small providers service only about 550,000 subscribers or 6 per cent of the 9 million subscribers across the country.

Von Finckenstein said most Internet users fall well within the caps currently set by the large distributors “and would not be charged more unless their monthly usage increased dramatically.”

He noted only a small percentage of consumers are heavy users, citing statistics from Bell Canada showing less than 14 per cent are responsible for more than 83 per cent of Internet traffic.



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