UBB Internet Toronto

Torontonians remain vigilant in fight against UBB

By now, most people have heard about the CRTC's controversial decision to allow major telecommunication companies - like Bell and Rogers - to meter internet usage, also known as usage based billing (UBB). This means independent ISP's will no longer be able to offer unlimited internet packages, which many believe is part of the reason internet costs remain fairly competitive in Canada.

There is good news: recently, the Liberals officially declared they are opposed to UBB; and a few days ago the Conservative government announced they will be reviewing the CRTC's decision. Finally, late Wednesday night Industry Minister Tony Clement announced via Twitter that the CRTC needs to re-evaluate its decision, or it's likely Conservative government will overturn the decision as early as next week.

The bad news is this doesn't mean internet costs won't still be increasing.

"Keep in mind that we don't yet know what the CRTC will do: Clement is still sending them "back to the drawing board" and could accept a decision that results in UBB w/ a slightly fairer deal for indy ISPs," OpenMedia.ca, who launched the "Stop the Meter" campaign, wrote on their Facebook page following Clement's announcement. "If we don't keep going, we will still see UBB for most Canadians."

If the CRTC does keep UBB in some form, we'll all be paying a lot more money for less internet usage. According to the CRTC, with UBB the way it is now, we'll be seeing a charge of roughly $2 per gigabyte of data. How much does that amount of data cost the provers? The number that I'm hearing thrown around is one cent. That's a $1.99 markup per gig - and pretty insane if you ask me.

To put it in perspective, it takes approximately one gig to stream an hour of standard definition footage on Netflix; two gigs if you're streaming high definition. This means on top of the user fees already being payed to Netflix, it would cost Canadians an additional two to four dollars to watch a movie once they've exceeded their minimums.

That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but for heavy internet users - those who don't have cable TV and stream all their shows - or for businesses that rely on the internet for their day-to-day operations, it's a crippling cost.

Kamil Mytnik is a Toronto based graphic designer and photographer, and he's deeply concerned about the effect UBB will have on his operations. "One photography session can hit 400 pictures, each photo between 5-30 megabytes in size. That comes out to four to eight gigs per session I'm uploading and sending to clients," he says. " That's 1/3 of my monthly bandwidth [under UBB] not even considering my other net usage - like YouTube, Netflix, and email."

He's not alone.

Photographer Evan Ashenhurst's data usage last month (both business and personal) was 110 GB. "The internet is crucial to my business - about 80% of our operations are online. We put [all our photos] in our online store as a full sized file, and our printers draw from those files. [...] If my costs go up, my clients costs will go up. What scares me the most is that every business will have to do this."

In protest, Myntik and a few friends organized a rally taking place at Yonge/Dundas Square on Friday. Over 2,000 people are confirmed as attending on Facebook. In addition, OpenMedia.ca has been collecting signatures of Canadians opposed to UBB - almost 360,000 Canadians have signed so far.

Despite the recent and potentially good news from Clement, Toronto's rally organizers aren't declaring a victory yet, either - and the rally is still going ahead as planned tomorrow.

"A response on Twitter can hardly be considered official," said organizer Calvin Tennant, "And we won't stop until we see a definite improvement."

Photo via OpenMedia's Flickr page.

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