Bell Canada backs down on UBB proposal

Amid growing public pressure and with a federal election looming, Bell Canada on Monday withdrew its proposal on usage-based billing for Internet customers.

Providing that smaller Internet service providers (ISPs) at the wholesale level pay for any overruns they incur, Bell in a statement said it is willing to offer them more autonomy on billing decisions.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has had Bell’s usage-based billing (UBB) proposal under review following a direct request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper in February to reconsider a ruling that would have forced ISPs to charge customers that use excess network capacity.

ISPs and online activists have been adamantly opposed to the idea of UBB, insisting it would make it impossible for smaller firms to compete with the likes of Bell and other incumbents.

Instead, Bell is offering what it calls an “aggregated volume pricing” proposal, or AVP. Pricing by overall volume of network capacity rather than per-customer usage, Bell said, will give smaller ISPs “greater flexibility to offer service packages based on their own business objectives and requirements.”
The critics were not immediately pacified by the move.

“(AVP) is only a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem,”
Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia, a group that’s behind the online campaign, said in a statement on the group’s Web site.  “We . . . hope the CRTC takes Bell’s submission as a sign that widespread usage-based billing is not an acceptable model for Internet pricing and that it creates policy to support the affordable Internet.”

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