And now… a word on Usage Based Billing.

Let’s get something out of the way first, shall we?

Internet service is NOT like a utility service such as electricity or natural gas – and therefore can not be billed in the same fashion, nor should it be.

When your local utility service provider runs a meter on your electricity consumption or how much natural gas you use to heat your home, they do that for a very specific reason: it’s costs money to generate that electricity via power dams, windmill farms, solar power arrays, etcetera… and it costs money to develop that natural gas from the sources deep in the earth – you have to pay people to run the drills, process the elements, sail the natural gas tankers, or build the pipelines.

Now… I’m not saying that it doesn’t cost money to string wires and buy network switches – but in no way, shape, or form does it cost anything near what it costs to develop utility services.

In Canada, the largest internet service providers are trying to implement a “usage based billing” scheme upon their subscribers in the same way that you’d be billed for leaving your lights on at home all the time – except with the difference being that you’d have a flat rate up to a certain gigabyte level that you’ve agreed to in a package deal… and then, when you’ve passed that level – let’s say 60 gigabytes, you’d have to pay a steep overage charge of between $1 and $5 per GB.

The things that you should keep in mind going forward is that – according to network specialists that don’t represent Bell, Rogers, or Shaw – it costs anywhere between 0.0013 and 1.15 cents to send one gigabyte of data through Canada’s internet infrastructure – which is nowhere near the 100% to 500% markup that the large ISPs are demanding.

These ISPs had hoodwinked the Canadian Radio And Telecommunications Commission (the equivalent of the F.C.C. in the United States Of America) into agreeing to allowing these companies to charge their own customers these exorbitant fees PLUS forcing independent internet service providers (who purchase their internet backbone access wholesale from Bell Canada et al) to pass on UBB charges to their own customers as of the beginning of March 2011.

This would, in effect, remove all of the unlimited internet use packages available to subscribers of the smaller ISPs – which was, and has always been their major advantage in attracting internet customers away from the major ISPs who tend to offer firmly defined data caps (60GB, 125GB, 200GB, etc.).

By forcing the little guys to bill the same way that the big guys do, the CRTC had completely leveled the playing field – save for those few independent ISPs who had their own internet equipment that did not rely on Bell.

In Bell’s own words as they appeared before the government panel investigating UBB on February 10th, 2011: “…it (UBB) prevents them (independent ISPs) from differentiating their offers from our own.”

Gone would be the all you can eat internet buffet for $50… which an independent ISP could offer to attract new customers, which I’m sure pissed Bell Canada and it’s corporate allies off to no end because their corporate culture was based around screwing their customers any way they could through oppressive overage schemes.

In today’s world of ever-growing data bandwidth, a gigabyte doesn’t go as far as it did in days gone by… even in as little as five years ago.

In 2011, internet users have so many choices available to them online that are fairly data intensive: YouTube, Flickr, streaming Quicktime, Steam, and services like Netflix.

Even those people who like to haunt Facebook and Twitter are pulling down large chunks of data when playing Farmville or watching videos of their nephew’s little league game.

Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, Shaw Media, and the other large ISPs are entitled to make money… nobody is suggesting that they should give away internet service for free.

What has caused nearly half a million people to sign a petition, and what most people would agree to when asked on the street, is that the large ISPs should collect fees that reflect the actual costs of doing business – to have their billing practices be strongly rooted in reality.

Yes… there are an increasing number of Canadians using more than 200GB a month, but the problem is that Bell Canada and it’s friends don’t want to spend the money necessary to bolster their national infrastructure to accommodate this rising tide – and instead of doing the logical thing (building new and better data transmission networks), they want to stifle those 200GB+ users though harsh tariffs.

This is purely greed – nothing else.

The UBB pressure is aimed at maximizing profit.

Profit is good, yes… but obscene amounts of profit is simply evil – and the Canadian public is beginning to rise up against this unparalleled cash grab that isn’t replicated anywhere else in the world.

In a word, it’s uncompetitive – but that makes it too simple.

There are so many businesses in the Canadian marketplace that depend on a reliable, uninterrupted, and unlimited internet for everyone.

Do you think that places like internet cafes could remain in business if they’re forced to pay for their customer’s overages? I mean… I’m sure that you can’t offer internet to everybody who walks through the door and not blaze past 200GB in a month with little effort.

How about your local municipal library? Quite a few of them offer free internet access to their patrons… but would that concept still be viable when the library is being charged $5 for every gigabyte?

Don’t kid yourself: city hall would put a quick stop to that in very short order.

However, the biggest problem with UBB from an internet business standpoint – at least for those businesses that aren’t Bell & Co. – is that the UBB policy unfairly discriminates against companies like Netflix and YouTube that rely on their customers/visitors to be able to consume all the data they can put in front of their eyeballs.

This comes in direct competition to Bell & Co.’s own Media On Demand services – which generally have less content available than Netflix-type services – and results in lost revenue for the large ISPs.

So, again, instead of spending money to bolster their Media On Demand services, they want to quash those of you out their who would go to Netflix as a superior alternative by raping your wallets and bank accounts – forcing you to consume their paltry wares instead.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen such a clear-cut conflict of interest… such a blatant anti-competitive attack on consumers who dare to use anyone but the large ISPs and their various media holdings (CTV, Global Television, etc.).

Interestingly, the UBB provisions that the CRTC gave the okay to, are now in limbo as the federal government had told the CRTC to reconsider or be overruled point blank at the legislative level.

I say interesting because the Conservative Party Of Canada – the current party in power – is very, very friendly with Big Business.

To take a stand against the Big ISP lobby is contrary to party beliefs, and can only be interpreted as being responsive to public uproar – and a deft move to head off the opposition parties from gaining a political foothold that’s rooted in popular unrest.

Yes… it may be snide electioneering, but for the time being, the Government Of Canada is on the side of their electorate instead of giving away everything to Big Business.

How long this lasts is anyone’s guess… but I’d wager it will last as long as the Conservatives winning the next federal election – which is going to be sooner than later, after which time they won’t feel as threatened by the average Canadian citizen who uses the internet.

So, for now, do your part in trying to prevent Big ISPs from getting away with murder.

How?

Write a letter to your local MP… write a letter to your local newspaper’s editor… make a video about your views and post it on YouTube… call into a local radio show and tell them – and all the listeners – how you feel about the large ISPs trying to sodomize your cash flow.

Or… simply visit www.openmedia.ca and take advantage of their resources.

But, don’t take my word for it.

Go online – while you can afford it – and see what the average Canadian internet user thinks of UBB.