Independent Ontario internet service provider (ISP) TekSavvy called upon the Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) to establish emergency provisions for independent Canadian ISPs that would help mitigate high operating costs.

In a press release, TekSavvy noted that the increased internet use caused by social distancing has made its costs “impossible to meet” and that it wants incumbent telcos to respect the new CRTC wholesale pricing set in August 2019, which has been temporarily suspended by the Federal Court after outcries from big telcos about unfair pricing.

“Independent ISPs already pay inflated rates but the pressures of COVID-19 have made our costs impossible to meet,” said Andy Kaplan-Myrth, vice-president of regulatory and carrier affairs at TekSavvy in the press release. “The government has the solution right in front of it: the CRTC already calculated more reasonable rates in their August 2019 rate decision.”

Furthermore, TekSavvy said that incumbent carriers are unilaterally changing the regulated ordering and repair processes, which “may bestow undue commercial advantages” to the incumbent’s retail services.

Its call to action hailed from a comment posted by Michelle Rempel Garner, shadow minister for Industry and Economic Development (IED), who has asked the CRTC to change billing structure lest it wants to see independent internet providers shut down from unsustainable costs.

“Under capacity-based billing (CBB), smaller internet service providers pre-purchase the amount of network capacity that they expect to need to serve their retail customers from the big telcos,” wrote MP Rempel Garner in her press release. “Since the rates are usage-based, the increasing demands on the servers caused by the need to work from home mean that ISPs are now paying astronomical fees to the big telcos to use their networks. If these ISPs are forced to close shop, thousands of Canadians may have to go without internet.”

Garner proposed that incumbent telcos follow the CRTC wholesale pricing set in August 2019, which has been temporarily suspended by the Federal Court. She also suggested that the CRTC replace capacity-based billing with a flat-rate billing to put a cap on future usage cost increases.

As Canada continues to flatten the curve, TekSavvy has temporarily removed overage charges for its subscribers until April 30. As usage surged, TekSavvy had to bolster its network capacity by 20 per cent since March and expects to continue to do so as usage increases. It subsequently increased the monthly residential internet subscription by CA$5 for all its residential subscribers at the end of March, drawing heavy criticisms on social media from its users.

TekSavvy has declined to comment further.