Canada's Prime Minister Harper to review proposed UBB rules

Canada's broadband consumers aren't the only ones unhappy with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's (CRTC) usage based billing (UBB) stance as the country's Prime Minister Steven Harper has called for a review of the new rules.

"We're very concerned about CRTC's decision on usage-based billing and its impact on consumers," Harper tweeted yesterday.

As reported in CBC News, the Canadian government has until March 1 to either accept, propose changes or reject the CRTC's decision on UBB.

Customers of competitive service providers such as Tek Savvy and Primus that rent copper facilities from large incumbent service providers like Bell Canada (NYSE: BCE) were informed they would have to limit the amount of movies and high speed data to comply with the CRTC's UBB ruling.

This ruling effectively gives Bell Canada the right to charge wholesale customers the same usage-based caps they charge their own retail broadband customers. Earlier this week, the CRTC mandated that Bell give its wholesale customers a 15 percent discount.

Rocky Gaudrault, CEO of TekSavvy previously said the CRTC's decision "essentially gives the opportunity for incumbents like Bell, at zero cost, to increase their margins and stifle competition. He added that "we asked for a discount of 50% to give us flexibility in serving our customers, but the CRTC limited the discount to 15%, so we are essentially stuck with pricing that serves Bell's interests, but no one else's."

Consumer and Internet advocates echoed a similar sentiment, arguing that the UBB ruling would not only lead to higher prices, but it would give incumbent service providers like Bell Canada an unfair advantage over competitive ISPs. In addition to driving up broadband prices, the ruling could also have an effect on the consumer's ability to use new services, including Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX) flat rate streaming video service, which it announced last September that it would offer the service in Canada.

For more:
- CBC News has this article
- Broadband DSL Reports has this post

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