Canada's CRTC postpones implementation of usage-based billing rules

Canada's communications regulator Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has decided to postpone the implementation of its proposed Usage Based Billing (UBB) rules for 60 days.

The move comes after Bell Canada (NYSE: BCE) actually filed a request for a delay. Along with delaying the implementation of the new rules beyond the March 1 beginning date, the CRTC plans to delay the implementation of the new rules that would allow Bell Canada to charge alternative operators using its network the same usage-based caps they charge their own retail broadband customers.

During a hearing with Commons industry committee yesterday, Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), defended his agency's new UBB rules.

"I would like to reiterate the Commission's view that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services," he said. "We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users," he said. "For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users."

Although large incumbent operators such as Bell Canada have put in usage caps of between 20 and 60 gigabytes, competitive ISPs like TekSavvy either offer 200 gigabyte caps or even unlimited use. If the rules go into effect, competitive carriers would have to enact similar bandwidth usage limits on usage.

Not surprisingly, the CRTC's proposed rules have drawn the ire of both competitive telecom service providers such as Tek Savvy that purchase wholesale last mile capacity from large carriers like Bell Canada and offer unlimited broadband packages to consumers.

Industry groups and competitive carriers aren't the only ones protesting the rules, however.

Canada's Prime Minister Steven Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement also have been vocal about their opposition to the proposed UBB rules.

Clement said in a gathering with reporters after the meeting with the CRTC yesterday that the Candian government is confident they'll overturn the CRTC's rules. "I'd like to be clear ... regardless of the outcome of the CRTC review, under a Conservative government, this ruling will not be implemented," Clement said.  

For more:
- Telecompaper has this article
- The Globe and Mail has this article

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