Digital businesses will be hurt if the country’s major Internet transport carriers are allowed to impose usage-based billing on consumer subscribers, a parliamentary committee has been told.
John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, warned the House of Commons Industry Committee on Tuesday that the controversial billing strategy will cause Internet subscribers to cut back on their use of broadband to avoid usage penalties.
As a result, he said, a company with a high-bandwidth service will have trouble raising capital.
“The first question from a banker, I’m sure, would be, ‘So how are you going to get this [application] through the network? It appears you use this many gigabytes per item, or film or whatever. It would be a very difficult thing to capitalize,’” – unless he added, the content creator already had a deal with a large provider.
“It just creates an environment of almost fear.”
It was part of an afternoon of anti-UBB testimony from several of the country’s biggest independent Internet service providers (ISPs) who are lobbying parliamentarians to force the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to overturn its decision allowing BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada to impose its usage-based billing structure on them.
The committe hearings on UBB
continue Thursday with testimony from BCE Inc.'s Bell Canada, Calgary-based cable giant Shaw Communications, MTS Allstream as well as groups representing a number of ISPs.
UBB structures are monthly rate plans built around data limits with extra fees for going over the limit. Bell has changed from unlimited to UBB plans as a way to control ever-increasing traffic on its network to consumers. But ISPs who continue to sell unlimited data plans threaten this structure because their customers could drain capacity. So Bell convinced the CRTC to let it extend its UBB rates to ISPs.
Only weeks away from implementing the decision, the commission has decided to take a second look after a wave of public and political protests.
Also on Tuesday the commission said it will give the public until April 29 to file submissions on whether its review should be conducted online or if there should be public hearings.
However, Lawson objected to one of the main assumptions the CRTC says underlines its review: That the majority of Internet subscribers shouldn’t have to fund the heavy bandwidth use of a minority, which is the reason Bell says ISPs should have to follow the usage-based billing it imposes on Bell’s own subscribers.