interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Happy New Year Canada from the CRTC

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 31, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

The CRTC’s gift to Canada is to inflate the cost of the Internet to make Canadians use it less.

And so it begins. Canadians, already paying among the highest Internet rates in the world, will be paying more in the New Year, since the CRTC ruling allowing Bell to charge UBB to the customers of the Independent ISPs.

Canadians will be paying more for less.

The Independent Canadian ISPs have been fighting Bell’s proposal to introduce UBB on their customers. Which makes sense because UBB will artificially inflate what their customers have to pay. But after all the statements and appeals, the CRTC has continued to discount everything except what Bell Canada has said. The CRTC ignored the many thousands of Canadian complaints made directly to their website. And the submissions made by the Independents. It’s actually pretty amazing that there has been this much response from the public considering the lack of attention given the issue by mainstream media.

But after all is said and done, the CRTC thinks Bell’s idea to artificially raise Canadian Internet rates is a good way to “manage” Internet traffic. The point of UBB is to make the Internet expensive so Canadians will use it less, so that Bell doesn’t need to upgrade it’s 15 year old infrastructure.

The way it works is that we will be allowed to have a certain amount of bandwidth (the cap) and then we will be charged UBB for any bandwidth we use beyond that.

We can see the shape of things to come by visiting the website of one of the Independent ISPs: Primus: Usage Based Billing


Canadians owe a vote of thanks to Primus, the first Independent ISP to let us know how UBB will effect their customers.

Currently UBB is in an appeal phase, which will end January 25th. Until such time, there is no point in appealing to Tony Clement, who might be prevailed upon to overturn the CRTC’s UBB ruling.

But in the meantime, Primus is opening the door to show us what is in store if Bell Canada’s UBB is allowed to proceed.

Let me just say this is an incredibly risky thing for Primus to do since they run the very real risk of frightening their customers away. But it’s an incredibly important gamble for them to take on behalf of all Canadians. Doing this now just might start to generate some much needed media attention. Because the biggest problem is what it has always been: most Canadians won’t know about UBB until we are hit with the first bill. Once in place it will be much more difficult to stop than it would be now. So Primus has unrolled a web page showing how the imposition of UBB will work on their customers.

Primus’ High Speed Internet users will now be capped at a whopping 25GB per month.

Is that a lot?

  • Your existing High Speed Internet plan will now have 25GB (gigabytes) of monthly usage included
  • For the minority of customers who exceed this amount, additional usage up to 300GB will be charged at $2.00/GB to a maximum of $60.00/month. Usage in excess of 300GB per month will be charged an additional $1.10/GB.
  • Additional Usage Plans can be purchased starting at $5/month for an additional 40GB
  • Primus: Usage Based Billing

    A look at the “additional usage plans” reveals that the high end consists of paying an extra $15.00 per month for an extra 120 GB.

    Currently, I pay $35.95 before taxes monthly for 200 GB from my own Independent ISP. Yet if I was a Primus customer, I wouldn’t even be able to get as much as 200GB without paying UBB overages. Starting with the 25GB cap, and adding on the extra 120GB, I would still only be able to get a maximum of 145GB. Then if I exceed that, presumably it is at $2GB up to a maximum of $60. extra per month.

    My family has only exceeded our current limit once, so 200 is enough for is. But would 25 GB be? I doubt it. But I don’t know. I can’t know.

    That’s one of the insidious things about UBB is that:

    Customers don’t KNOW how much bandwidth we will consume.

    In the early days of the Internet, UBB was charged per minute. AT least customers could understand that. But bandwidth? What does that mean? Well, bandwidth means two different things.

    Bandwidth means the SPEED of transfer. It also means how much you transfer. But we can’t figure out what we are paying for because if I upload a photo to Flickr or Facebook the size of the photo is not what I’m charged for. So how can any of us possibly tell? We can’t. It’s mumbo jumbo. And it varies. There isn’t a meter, at least not one that we will see. Certainly not one that will tell us how much bandwidth we will consume of we click on that link.

    To their credit, Primus tries to give us an idea:

    How many gigabytes (GB) do different online activities use?

    1GB of usage will allow you to do the following things (approximate measurements):

    • View 26,000 web pages or
    • Send 105,000 e-mails or
    • Attach over 2,000 Microsoft Word documents (of about 10 pages each) or
    • Receive up to 500 digital photos or
    • Download more than 200 songs or
    • Stream 18 hours of music from the web or
    • Download 1.5 movies (or 2/3 of a movie in high definition) or
    • Play games online for 240 hours (or 10 days)

    Primus: Usage Based Billing

    The first point tells us that we can look at 26,000 web pages. In the first place,


    Are they talking about nice simple little web pages like this plain text web page petition or are they talking about larger web pages like my this family history webpage which has photographic content and will consume a huge amount of bandwidth in comparison.

    Until you click on the link and find yourself on that web page, you have no idea if it’s a huge one or not. Plain text uses the least bandwidth. Images use more. The better quality the image, the larger the bandwidth consumption. I know my family history page is big because my brother complains it takes a long time to load (with his Rogers high speed). One major reason I started creating my family website was to share great family history photos with all the extended family members… and any other netizen interested in historical images. I’ve actually used smaller versions of the images on my page to keep it faster moving, but you can click on each image to get a larger printable image. Photographic images must be large if you want to be able to decently print them, so that would increase bandwidth.

    But by sharing these images on the Internet, every time anyone looks at them it will cost me money. I could afford to start my family history page, and share these valuable images freely with the world because I could afford the annual outlay for the domain name, and I taught myself (with a lot of help from HTMLdog) how to make web pages. But I might not be able to add images or keep them online especially if I suddenly start to get a lot of traffic.

    Let me tell you, it was really difficult to find a plain text example today. Since more and more people have better and faster computers more images and video is the norm. I would be surprised if you can even find 26,000 web pages on the internet that don’t have any graphics. Web sites have videos. Advertising banners and pop-ups are animated. Streaming video consumes much more bandwidth even than my photographs. Every time you go to a website you consume bandwidth. Every time you open a new page on the website you consume bandwidth. And we will be paying for all of it with UBB charges added on to the laughably low caps. Just surfing the web will suddenly cost money. And we have no way of knowing how much bandwidth we consume when doing it.

    Do you go online with your cell phone? I don’t. My cell phone provider was charging a nickel a page. Even if I accidentally hit the button. So I called up and got them to disconnect my web access. It is ludicrous to expect consumers to pay for advertising. Yet Usage Based Billing will do that too. Not just when we surf the web, but when we receive email spam. That’s Internet use too.

    You can read a lot more about why this is such a very bad thing in Why Stop Usage Based Billing?

    It’s a complicated issue (which is why I’ve been writing about it) but it isn’t really an issue of usage.

    If it was really about  use, we would all pay for exactly what we use. But, in fact, no one does. Those people who only go online for an occasional email won’t profiting by this. They still have to pay the base rate.

    And as long as Bell is throttling users we are being charged more than once for the same bandwidth.

    But as long as customers have no way of knowing what we use, or predicting how much we will use by going to that website, bandwidth isn’t as real as any word made up by Dr. Seuss. They can make it up as they go along and we have no way to tell.

    We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.

    [thanks to @rhelewka for the heads up]

    Post Script: These new UBB price increases will have to be administered by the Independent ISPs, put the money goes to Bell. This UBB Increase is directly attributable to Bell, who will be profiting from it.  So don’t blame your Independent ISP: they’ve been fighting this one on your behalf both before the CRTC and in the courts.    Support your ISP

    remember: if the Independents go out of business, the costs will have nowhere to go but up…

    and customers will have nowhere to go.

    We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.

    If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11462 signatures.

    If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

    That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
    Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

    You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

    Heritage Minister James Moore – email:

    Industry Minister Tony Clement – email:

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email:

    After all, they work for us, don’t they?

    STOP Usage Based Billing

    STOP Usage Based Billing

    7 Responses to “Happy New Year Canada from the CRTC”

    1. Joyce said

      I signed the petition today. Just waiting on my email back so I can confirm my signing.

      I hate to say this, but only because we have been looking to dump Cogeco Cable (who’s infrastructure and product is so poor the only thing they can advertize is their “customer service”, as the product itself is incredibly inferior and overpriced and no one would ever believe any advertizing about its quality) and started hunting around for alternative’s did we even become aware of the issues surrounding usage based billing.

      Despite what many of the techies who haunt these boards may say, the issue has received very little press that has made an impact on the average consumer, even though the impact will be huge. I have quizzed many of my friends and family recently on this matter and none are aware of the issue and forthcoming impacts to their bills – and we are all working professionals – either bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, teachers, etc. Of course the big telco operators are not breathing a word about it, since they are the only benefactors.

      And I think you would be hard pressed to find any urban household containing computer using children and teenagers that would not blow a 25gb cap out of the water faster then you can snap your fingers. I laughed when I read the Primus letter (we have a primus phone and got it as well) as from what I understand some 85% of their urban customer base exceeds the cap. Definitely not a “minority”. Mine is a family of three and we are routinely at 110GB to 140 GB per month on our Cogeco internet, and that costs us at least $120 per month as a result.

      The CRTC decision is mindboggling in its disdain for the consumer, for competition, and for net neutrality. Truly Canada is the banana republic of all banana republics where the internet, telecommunications and tv competition are concerned.

    2. RobertX said

      Hey Laurel…

      Many people in the DSLReports board that I just left say that “heavy users” are to blame. I am such a user. Do you necessarily frown upon my actions?

      • Heavy use has nothing to do with it, and usage costs are negligible. Anyone that thinks that doesn’t understand it. The UBB increase isn’t about use. For Bell it’s a way to increase profit during a recession without having to reinvest so they can improve the infrastructure. ANd as a bonus it will probably kill any possibility of meaningful corporate competition.

        As i understand it, Bell’s infrastucture is in the neighborhood of fifteen to seventeen years old. Think about that for a moment: how old is the computer you are using? I doubt any Canadian Internet user uses equipment that old.

        Bell should have/could have upgraded, but they don’t have to when the CRTC will gift them with such a huge increase.

    3. laniwurm said

      Vancouver City Council passed a motion today calling on the crtc to reverse it’s ubb decision

    4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wayne Borean. Wayne Borean said: RT @laurelrusswurm: New #StopUBB post: "Happy New Year Canada from the CRTC" (thx to @rhelewka) […]

    5. […] since the CRTC ruling allowing Bell to charge UBB to the customers of the Independent ISPs. …read the full article here Post Information Rate this Post:  Loading … Written by Frank, Filed under: Digital […]

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