Over a month ago the federal telecommunications regulator issued what it hoped would be a final decision on setting a wholesale rate regime for independent Internet service providers.
But on Wednesday a group of ISPs complained to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that one of the biggest Internet carriers in the country is impeding their ability to offer customers competitive service The Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC) demanded the commission order BCE Inc’s Bell Canada to implement the new capacity-based residential rate regime in a way that doesn’t impose costs on the customers of ISPs.
In addition, it wants the CRTC to order MTS Allstream and cable companies Rogers Communications, Cogeco Cable and Shaw Communications — who ISPs buy connectivity from — to conform to the letter of the November decision.
CNOC said it is “concerned that certain aspects of how these incumbents plan to implement the approved capacity model is unworkable and will cause significant expense and inconvenience for independent ISPs and their end-users.” This, it said “would have a chilling effect on competition in the provision of retail Internet access services by independent ISP subject to this model.
The move comes as one of the country’s biggest ISPs, Teksavvy Solutions Inc., announced it will raise some of its monthly service fees for residential customers by up to $4.
“We’re not happy having to do this,” said George Burger, a Teksavvy advisor. But he blamed the increases on the CRTC’s November decision to set up the new capacity-based pricing regime that Internet carriers have to use selling wholesale connectivity to ISPs.
And it may not be over, he warned, saying Teksavvy will have to closely watch the usage patterns of subscribers under the new pricing.
“It’s pretty certain we’re not going to be adjusting downwards,” he said.
Teksavvy is the first ISP to announce new rates, and it is expected others will do so this week.
ISPs, who buy connectivity from large carriers, have been pushing for some time for the ability to match the faster speeds telephone and cable carriers have been able to offer their business and residential customers. The CRTC said carriers had to allow speed matching, but ISPs complained that an earlier decision approving Bell’s application for usage-based billing — which would have tied wholesale pricing to Bell’s pricing — made it impossible. UBB links rates to the amount of volume of data customers used each month, but ISPs said they wouldn’t be able to offer service different from carriers.
After a public uproar
the commission in November gave the choice to carriers of continuing existing pricing or switching to a formula partly based on the amount of capacity subscribers use with a new pricing formula.
Bill Sandiford, president of the Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), said Wednesday the group is still trying to decide if it can persuade the CRTC to take another look at the wholesale rates it set.
Meanwhile, CNOC has been fruitlessly negotiating with Bell since the middle of last month on how to impliment the new wholesale regime. The frustration led Wednesday’s application to the CRTC.
One complaint is that Bell has told ISPs they have to assign separate realms for business and residential traffic as a result of the November CRTC decision. In effect, Sandiford said, that will mean ISPs will have to make their customers change their user names so the carrier can distinguish between residential and business customers. That’s because the November decision created separate residential and business wholesale pricing regimes.
The cost, Sandiford said, could be “enormous” to the customers of ISPs. There are easy ways for Bell to split the traffic, CNOC argues in its application. The application also has other technical complaints about the way Bell plans to impliment the capacity-based model.
Bell declined to comment because it hadn’t seen the CNOC complaint.
The new capacity-based model was to come into effect Feb. 2. CNOC has asked for a temporary delay to deal with its complaints.
The rates Teksavvy says will come into force Feb. 2. range from $24.95 a month for basic DSL service with a speed of up to 3 Megabits per second and a data cap of 25 Gigabytes, to $77.99 a month for up to 25 Mbps with unlimited data.
The current top rate is $67.97 a month for up to 25 Mbps and 300 GB of data.
Some of the new rates will dropped slightly – for example, the 12 Mbps/300 GB service that now costs $41.99 will cost $39.95 next month. But the price of most 300 GB services will rise. To ease the pain Teksavvy won’t count any data downloaded between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m., considered off-peak hours.
There will be three new speed packages with unlimited data: 12, 16 and 25 Mpbs.