interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Dear Premier McGuinty

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 6, 2011

No Usage Based Billing

PremierMcGuinty at MaRS (CC by nc) by mars_discovery_district
Dear Premier McGuinty:

The CRTC has approved Bell’s application to assess an additional layer of Usage Based Billing along with Usage caps to the customers of the Independent ISPs. Unfortunately this will artificially increase the cost of Internet access.

Incredibly, the intent is to economically inhibit Canadian internet use. If Canadians reduce our internet usage under this ill advised Internet “traffic management” scheme, Bell will be able to further delay improvements to the decaying Internet infrastructure (largely unchanged in over fifteen years). Canadians already pay some of the highest Internet rates in the world. This will place us unquestionably in the lead for mediocre Internet service.

Consumers lack any reasonable means of measuring this bandwidth. We don’t understand what bandwidth actually is. Which means our our Internet use will be indiscriminately reduced once we start getting get hit with the disproportionately large UBB price increases. We will be unable to budget for these cost increases; the easiest way to cope will be to use the Internet as little as possible. The UBB charges could as easily be made up out of thin air, since there doesn’t appear to be any oversight planned by Measurement Canada.

Part of what is so unreasonable about the whole situation is that Internet bandwidth is virtually free; the only real costs are investment in Infrastructure and maintenance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell eventually contemplates infrastructure improvement they ask for special treatment or government assistance to pay for it.

There seems to be an intent not to impede Canadian Business Internet access, as these charges will only be levied against consumer accounts. This indicates a serious misunderstanding about economics: if consumers are unable to afford to use the Internet except for the necessities, we will not be participating fully in the Digital Economy. If consumers can’t afford to go online to shop it will certainly be bad for business.

Most especially, Canadian Internet hobbyists, who today can try out and experiment with ideas for creating content relatively cheaply will no longer be able to afford to do so. Small businesses attempting to determine just how they might best establish some kind of Internet presence will be impeded, as will students of all ages due to the inflated price increases.

A further casualty will most certainly be any sort of meaningful Internet competition, since this imposition of UBB will force the Independent ISPs to charge the rates that Bell dictates. the Independent ISPs will necessarily end up being unable to distinguish themselves from and therefore compete with Bell’s own retail ISP. It will be miraculous if the few remaining Independent ISPs manage to stay in business.

I understand the Provincial Government is not in any way responsible for the CRTC, a Federal regulatory body. Yet this CRTC policy will assuredly prove economically disastrous for both Canada and in particular Ontario, a province instrumental in driving Canada’s economy. Reducing our ability to both participate and compete in a global Digital Economy seems misguided at a time when the digital sector is growing.

Over the last few years as we have gotten closer to the probability of implementation of Usage Based Billing, thousands of Canadians have voiced their concerns, and protested at various points in the CRTC’s process, yet the CRTC has barely acknowledged this, and certainly not taken anything consumers say into account. Usage Based Billing is very difficult to fight against as the technology is so new, and the issues are so complex. Explaining it properly takes more than a sound bite.

I’m a private citizen who has spent my whole life in Ontario. My only connection with any Canadian ISP is as a consumer. I began my first blog in 2009. I have invested time and money purchasing a domain name and learning how to create my own personal website, as a hobby, which has largely sat unimproved over the past year because most of my free time has been consumed by my public service blog. The Stop Usage Based Billing blog I created in the fall of 2009 was intended as an online resource to help people understand and hopefully stop UBB from happening. I will be publishing a copy of this letter online in my StopUBB blog.

Currently the StopUBB blog is getting in the neighborhood of 200-400 page views per day. When I started StopUBB I deliberately chose not to host it on my own server with my own Domain name, instead electing to have it hosted on the site. Doing this means that I will not be penalized as larger volumes of bandwidth is consumed by growing numbers of Internet Traffic. Because that’s another consequence of Usage Based Billing; Canadians will be economically discouraged from creating and hosting our own Internet content precisely because we will be penalized by increased UBB costs if we are successful.

The world is still working out how best to manage the Internet, and one clear way for business to monetize their Internet presence is through advertising placed on web pages. Yet online advertising, particularly graphics and animation, consumes bandwidth as well. When we have UBB charges I am sure Canadians will determine how best to block online advertising. Particularly galling is that the spam we receive in email will also increase our Usage, and thus our ratings. Not only will we be inconvenienced by spam, we will now have the privilege of paying for it, thanks to UBB.

I appeal to you, as the Premier of Ontario, because the CRTC’s approval of Bell’s Usage Based Billing scheme is certainly going to be disastrous for Ontario.

The City of Vancouver has passed a motion recognizing the problems inherent in UBB and counselling against it. I hope that the province of Ontario can weigh in on the issue.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter; I trust that we can Stop Usage Based Billing.

Laurel L. Russwurm

Image Credits

Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty at the Premier’s Innovation Awards 2009, at at MaRS released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License by mars_discovery_distr ict

[NOTE: I am aware it is bad form to simply remove anything from a published post, but I was asked by the photographer to remove a photograph from this one and so I did.

The photograph in question was a (CC by-nd) two shot of Premier Dalton McGuinty originally positioned where the MaRS photograph is currently placed. I chose it because it was a good portrait of the Premier and it was posted online under a CC license. Clearly the blog post looks different without it. I emailed the photographer for permission to crop the second person from the no deriv photo. The photographer refused, instead asking that I remove the image altogether, although it had been taken at a public gathering where the Premier was dispensing public funds for education, and has been posted on Flickr under the CC license for quite some time. Still, I think it’s important to try to honor the wishes of the creator; even if they have elected to waive their legal monopoly of copyright by affixing a Creative Commons license. So I’ve taken the image down. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused among my readers.]

We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11539 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

4 Responses to “Dear Premier McGuinty”

  1. […] Dear Premier McGuinty The CRTC has approved Bell’s application to assess an additional layer of Usage Based Billing along with Usage caps to the customers of the Independent ISPs. Unfortunately this will artificially increase the cost of Internet access. […]

  2. RobertX said

    Funny, I just mentioned McGuinty… is your message a coincidence? I think not! 🙂

    Did you use the form that you found in the Premier’s web site? I’d like to write a letter to him too. I just want him to actually read my message.

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