Net neutrality and UBB in Canada

I don’t think I’ve ever touched on politics in the blog, but since net neutrality and usage based billing are pretty big issues in the online community, I think it’s rather fitting.

If you’ve been watching the news in Canada, you’ve probably seen the recent outrage over UBB. At this point the CRTC has delayed implementation while they look at the issue again. Unfortunately, the quotes I’ve read from the head of the CRTC sounded like they came directly from Bell.

If you haven’t been watching the news, basically Bell asked the CRTC to pass something called “usage based billing”, and they did. Bell claims that it’s because a small percentage of users are using the majority of the data. What UBB does is set a low cap on users, and force them to pay DOLLARS per GB when they go over.

What Bell didn’t say of course was that the true goal of UBB is to make it insanely expensive to watch Netflix, YouTube, etc. That way, people won’t replace their Bell TV/Satellite with Netflix, an Apple TV, etc. Very few people have replaced Bell TV/ExpressVu so far, but the number’s growing as the internet continues to grow, and online video services get better and better. Bell’s concerned, because right now they don’t have any real competition in Canada, so they can charge whatever they want for their TV packages. As we move forward and more content becomes available on the internet, it’s probable that in 10 years, nobody will have Satellite/Cable TV and will instead plug their TV into their internet connection and watch TV through a price-competitive provider.

UBB stops that before it happens. If it’s too expensive to watch TV online, people won’t do it. Bell’s leveraging a monopoly in one market (internet access) to keep a monopoly in another (television). It’s anti-competitive.

There’s a pile of other collateral damage caused by UBB. The tiny bit of ISP competition that Bell has is forced to adhere to UBB pricing (against their will), which means they can’t offer unlimited packages, which means they’ll lose that competitive edge and will be killed off. Digital distribution methods like Steam, Apple’s app store, and heck, even Windows updates are going to be problematic in Canada. You’ll never be able to use an online backup service for your pictures/videos unless you pay through the nose for the data transfer, so if a fire takes down your home and you didn’t burn your family pics/vids to a DVD and store it offsite… well say goodbye to years of memories. Those are just a few starter examples.

Really, the largest-growing medium in the world is the internet, and this makes sure it stagnates in Canada.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.

For Mr. Angus’s take (the NDP’s digital affairs critic), watch the video below. Yes, the sound quality’s rather poor, but Charlie Angus (NDP) really has a grasp of the issues. I found him to be quite likable too. A good quality to have as a politician, no doubt.

Ironically, he admits he’s not a “techie”, but for a non-techie, the guy really *gets* it.

I don’t know about you, but I want this guy representing us in our next government.