Usage Based Billing Back in the News

I’ve covered this topic before (Canadian Internet Issue: Usage Based Billing and UBB: Where are We?), and continue to try to remain informed regarding the situation in my country regarding Internet access, and its cost. While consumer level usage based billing may seem dead as a policy, consumers are still being charged for bandwidth overages.

With new hearings currently going on, it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be. I doubt there will be many industry wide changes as the large incumbents are huge players not only in Internet access, but media in general. This gives them a great deal of leverage.

At the end of the day, the issue is that major ISP’s are using normal subscription rates to fill their pockets, and overages to fund the network growth. They aren’t investing enough in their network growth and so they see money coming from overages as a “free ride”.

Since UBB’s “death”, they’ve proposed AVP or AVB, aggregate volume pricing/billing. This system is pretty much the same but instead of passing the overages directly to consumers using third party Internet services, they’ll charge the service company and let the smaller ISP decide what to do.

This does help a bit, but at the end of the day, it isn’t a real solution to Canada’s growing Internet problem. Just like highways need to be prepared for rush hour by adding more lanes of road, the Internet needs to be ready for continued growth by laying more fiber optic cable.

Speed has long been the way cost was managed, and I don’t think going forward it should be any different. Let me pay for a connection based on speed, and let me use that connection as much as I can/want. Then, make it mandatory that networks are required to spend a portion of profit on network expansion and technology investment.

The Internet is only going to grow in importance as time goes on, and if Canada wants to remain competitive in any industry, investments in infrastructure for data communications must be made.

And in parting, I want you to think about the following quote from CRTC Commissioner Tom Pentefountas, who asked “what is so undemocratic about allowing a few companies to control the Internet?”…

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