Internet caps drastically lowered

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Unlimited Internet packages are quickly becoming a thing of the past as usage-based billing for Internet services is set to take effect in March.

TekSavvy customers — accustomed to unlimited Internet packages — received an e-mail Saturday notifying them that their Internet usage would be capped beginning March 1.

"From March 1 on, users of the up to 5Mbps packages in Ontario can expect a usage cap of 25Gb (60Gb in Quebec), substantially down from the 200Gb or unlimited deals TekSavvy was able to offer before the CRTC's decision to impose usage based billing," the e-mail to customers read.

The cut in service stems from a Jan. 25 decision by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission — Canada's regulator for all things television, radio and Internet — which granted the country's Internet providers the right to charge wholesale buyers of Internet service their normal retail rates, at a 15% discount.

The move has widely drawn the ire of consumers.

"What can I do with 25Gb/month shared between two people?" asked Samuel Pikelin, a student in Ottawa. "I basically can't use the Internet anymore.”

The move is also dangerous for businesses, including U.S. firm Netflix which recently launched in Canada to offer unlimited streaming video on-demand for $8 a month.

For Daniel Bader, a Toronto-based technology journalist and editor-in-chief of thecellularguru.com, the CRTC's decision to crack down on companies like TekSavvy is poorly thought out.

"This is a stark and stifling enterprise and will only negatively affect Canadian business productivity and lower the amount that people are willing to invest in exploring the web. I cannot justify spending $8/month on Netflix when I have to worry merely about my surfing habits causing me to go over my monthly allotment," he said.

"In order to run a business, and to facilitate a non-cable dominated home entertainment system, one needs access to bandwidth," he added. "Whatever inroads the television networks had made to streaming video will be negated overnight.”

An online petition, run by OpenMedia.ca, has gathered more than 100,000 signatures from people hoping to have the policy overturned. Signatories to that petition include several municipal mayors.

Concerns expressed through the petition include the future of companies that offer cloud-based computing services, online gaming through systems like X-Box Live, online backup services and others.

The CRTC decision argues that usage-based billing is a way to effectively manage Internet traffic so that high-activity users do not hamper the experience for lower-activity users.

Detractors argue that the policy negates the efficiencies and consumer choice offered by allowing third-party companies like TekSavvy the chance to by wholesale bandwidth from larger service providers.

TekSavvy is also asking its customers to fight the change.

"Like our customers, and Canadian Internet users everywhere, we are not happy with this new development. We will continue our efforts to fight the imposition of exorbitant bandwidth charges on usage," they wrote to customers. "We will keep you informed of our efforts and look to you for your help.”


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