Why Usage Based Billing Sucks
Posted on February 7th, 2011 in current events
I am connected to the Internet an average of 16 to 18 hours a day. Yes, that means that the only time I’m not online is when I’m sleeping or driving. But in 2011, this has become my way of life, as well as many others across Canada and the rest of the world.
So how do I spend so much of my day online? Well, for one, my job entails that I be connected all day. Many of the tools required for my job are cloud-based services, such as Google Apps for email, calendar and shared documents. We use Go Plan for project management. I use Mockingbird to mock up projects. We use Gtalk to chat with each other, which is handy with our desks being physically separated across a large, shared office space, and 1 member of the company working remotely from Toronto. Our phones use VoIP. Sometimes I might open up local software such as Word, but the rest are still running in my browser in the background.
At home, my BlackBerry connects to my wireless network; I don’t get cell phone service in my apartment, so the wifi connection allows me to still receive data on my phone. To make phone calls from home, I use Skype Out. Both of those also help me from going over my expensive cell phone minutes or data plan.
I don’t subscribe to cable or satellite for television (that’s another rant for another day), so I “watch TV” by streaming shows from the websites of Global, CTV and CBC. Or from Netflix. (Yes, my TV is connected to a media PC). All of which are legal methods of consuming television content, and which are actually promoted by the networks themselves. However, streaming is extremely bandwidth intensive. Occasionally, I’ll download a movie or TV show that isn’t available via streaming in Canada. Downloading content like that is much less data-intensive, but also slightly less than legal. And my ISP throttles that traffic, making it extremely slow and time-consuming.
Sure, I’m ahead of the curve on this, but in time most people will be living this way too. Of course, not if the CRTC let’s Bell get it’s way.
Because the biggest problem with my connected lifestyle? I don’t buy any of Bell’s or Roger’s bread and butter – home telephone or cable/satellite television. Me and the people who live like me are eating away at “old business”‘s primary source of revenue, opting for alternative forms of entertainment and communication.
So they make me pay for it, literally, with usage based billing. Yes, that term has been thrown around a lot lately, but it’s been in place on most residential Internet connections for years. I get charged when I use “too much”. And I have gone over my cap and used too much; the bill that comes in is expensive. The rate I get charged — $1-4/GB depending on where you live — is marked up anywhere between 3,333.3% and nearly 13,333.3% more than what it costs the ISP to deliver that data to me. Can you imagine if your business could mark up your product or service that much?
They claim it’s because I should pay more if I use more, as if I was using up some precious resource. But that’s not how the Internet works. Internet usage is more accurately likened to how long you watch TV for, than how much gas you use in your car. The Canadian Business magazine simplifies it:
…imagine if your bill were to go up commensurately depending on how long you had your TV on for. Your neighbour, who watches only an hour or so a day, would see his bill stay at $54. But you like to regularly watch sports, the news and American Idol, so your bill climbs to $80. You’d probably be pretty steamed, right?
For years, I thought I had to just put up with it. I wasn’t aware of some of the resellers and wholesalers offering unlimited bandwidth plans, until the CRTC decided to take it away. The fight against usage based billing in this case has made me realize how unfair the whole billing practice is unfair, uncompetitive, and will lead to stifling innovation in the homes and businesses in Canada.
I’m supporting Open Media and other groups and individuals in the fight against usage based billing in Canada because the CRTC needs to realize that bending to the will of Bell is NOT what the people of this country want, in terms of competition or billing models.
For now, I’m waiting out my contract with my ISP (only 4 months left!), and then I’m planning to switch to Teksavvy. Even if the CRTC goes through with the usage based billing changes and I can’t get unlimited bandwidth, I think it’s important to support the little guy and support competition in telecommunications in Canada. Actions speak louder than words, but money yells. Maybe if enough money starts yelling and screaming, the big telcos will notice.
You can sign the Stop the Meter petition below or at stopthemeter.ca. So far, fewer people have signed it than currently live in the city of Brampton, so, you know… get on it.