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Canada Surrenders to Corporatist Forces, Internet Stolen

January 31, 2011 Technology 1 Comment

Image: Adapted from Bell Headquarters by Sweet One under a CC-BY-SA license.

I have a series of questions for our Canadian fans. Do you like the internet? Do you like using the internet for legal services such as gaming and Netflix? Do you like watching ShufflingDead’s videos in glorious high definition on YouTube?

If you said yes to any of the above, then you are, right now, in the process of receiving an almighty corporate cock-lashing.

The CRTC, whose supposed job it is to regulate telecommunications carriers, gave network owners the go ahead to implement “usage based billing” as requested by Bell Canada. This was to come into effect 90 days from its October 28, 2010 decision. That would be right now. Under this system, Bell and others are allowed to charge internet users by the gigabyte.

Smaller ISPs who operate on the owners’ networks will be similarly charged, with a mere 15% wholesale discount, and forced to pass those fees on to their customers. This leaves Bell’s smaller competitors with little edge, and makes them more readily crush-able.

And what of those fees? Ontario’s TekSavvy will now be forced to slam its users with a 25GB per month cap. Going over that limit will set you back $1.90 per gigabyte. Let’s all go to the fucking lobby of justice known as the truth and figure out what that might look like for a “heavy” user (read: someone who actually uses the services available on the modern internet, not your email forwarding grandma):

Use: Gigabytes: Cost:
Cruising the internet for titties. 25GB $31.95
Steam sale. 20GB $38.00
10 HD movies on Netflix. 20GB $38.00

Wow, over $100 a month to use the internet?!?! Convenient how the high-bandwidth entertainment offered online suddenly looks a lot less appetizing, huh? With users forced to pay more for the bandwidth they’re consuming, they’ll be forced to cut down on such activities, and turn to other sources for movies and other amusements. It just so happens that Bell and other carriers offer their own entertainment services at slightly more palatable rates! This move severely harms the competitiveness of great services like Netflix.

You may be thinking “poor Bell, it’s not fair that they should have to endure my heavy usage!,” but then you’d be a fucking idiot. There are fixed costs to delivering internet to your house, just as there are to hooking Freddy Facebook up with his poking fix. Your long nights of porn streaming that Freddy doesn’t engage in cost Bell about $0.01/gigabyte. Bell doesn’t have to manufacture extra bandwidth for you, they don’t have to mine it out of the ground.

The “why” of this scenario is simple: Bell wants to make as much money as possible. Charging customers out the ass is one way of doing that, being able to provide better deals than their small ISP competitors is another, and driving out competing services for their entertainment offerings is yet another.

The “how” is a little more disturbing. The CRTC initially sought to require Bell to delay usage-based billing until moving its customers off of unlimited plans, and offer usage insurance plans to smaller ISPs. Bell appealed those decisions, and the CRTC complied. Let’s read the subtext: Bell owns the government of Canada. Corporations run our lives and the government is complicit.

The internet is the most powerful communications and entertainment tool in human history. It allows anyone, from anywhere in the world, to talk to anyone else. It allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to produce digital entertainment, and provide it to anyone else. When corporations are allowed to limit and manipulate your use of the internet, they deprive you of the freedom fundamental to the value of that tool. Fight the power.

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