Oh the drama of the "usage based billing" debate! Or is it really a debate when one side is a few huge companies with a virtual monopoly on high speed internet and the other side is pretty much everyone else?
The sparring match between the Prime Minister and the CRTC seems to be concerned more with the telco providers than cable providers, as the latter falls under slightly different rules. Also, the CRTC ruling doesn't change anything about what rules can be imposed on end users – it's concerned with the relationship between the telcos and independent providers which need to use the same infrastructure. So it was a nice surprise when Shaw took some initiative and scheduled some discussions about their recent decision to start imposing bandwidth caps.
I decided to take them up on their offer of attending a consultation session and thought I might get a little feedback from my millions of readers on what I should bring up. I'm walking in assuming that they'll see "no caps!" as a non-starter for debate, so with that in mind, this is what I plan to suggest:
A more reasonable overage charge. If Amazon lets me run a server at ten cents or less per GB of bandwidth, why does my ISP think charging me $1-2 per GB is fair?
Allow banking of GB under the limit. Most months, I'm using less than half my cap. This month I changed online backup providers and went way over. But throughout the year, it would even out. I think a lot of people are in the same position. Even fairer would be to get money back for the GB you don't use, but somehow I see them less likely to go for that. Businesses like the subscription model for a reason: it makes them a steady income per customer.
A higher cap. I seem to remember hearing that high speed internet in the U.S. tends to have around a 250GB cap (if anyone has a reference to this, I'd appreciate it!). This seems a lot more reasonable given the rise of services like Netflix, that cause people to legally use a lot more bandwidth. In fact, Shaw's initial decision to start imposing caps shortly after Netflix was introduced in Canada was rather suspicious, as the service obviously competes with Shaw's TV offerings.
Netflix and Michael Geist have both talked recently about the real cost for last-mile internet delivery (which would presumably be the part where congestion was really a problem). The figure ranges somewhere between one and three cents per GB. If ISPs are claiming that UBB at $1-2 / GB over the cap is fair, they should provide some publicly available numbers to back that up. Otherwise, they shouldn't be surprised when customers think they're just trying to milk them for more money.
Anything I should add? Any corrections to make to that information, or ways that the argument could be strengthened and/or made more persuasive (recognizing the fact that they're in it to make money and are going to be balancing how much the anger of customers is going to cost vs. the amount any concessions are going to cost)?
No, I'm not expecting much from this, but as with voting, I feel that an attempt at positive participation secures a certain amount of the right to complain afterwards. Please get any comments in before 6PM on Monday, March 7th, as that's when I'll be attending. I'll be sure to report back on how things go.