Ottawa reviewing CRTC decision on download caps; observers stunned that Canadians actually care about telecom regulations

Ottawa reviewing CRTC decision on download caps; observers stunned that Canadians actually care about telecom regulations

When the CRTC announced the final part of its decision on usage-based billing for Canadian Internet service providers, they probably didn’t imagine it would make waves like it has. It’s taken months for the regulator to decide that independent ISPs (who buy access from Bell and Rogers) would have to get rid of their unlimited plans and instead offer plans with caps on the amount information that can be downloaded—you know, plans more like what the big providers charge. The decision announced last week was just the last step, but it was a doozy.

When users learned what it would cost them, they were unhappy. By Monday morning the Canadian Internet was howling, and even some foreigners got in on the act—remember Wil Wheaton? (He’s got about 1.7 million followers on Twitter, so it’s actually a pretty big deal when he says Canadians are getting overcharged.) By Tuesday afternoon, all three national parties had registered their disapproval, and last night the Industry Minister Tony Clement himself announced that the CRTC decision is destined for the trash bin.

According to the Globe and Mail:

Clement made the surprise announcement late Wednesday night via his closely followed Twitter account.

He confirmed reports by the Globe and Mail and other media that the Tories were prepared to take this step.

“True. CRTC must go back to drawing board,” he tweeted after being asked if it was true the government would act “if the CRTC does not back down.”

There are obviously details to be worked out and questions that need to be answered. What in particular does the government object to in the CRTC decisions? Was it the low download caps? The high prices? We’ll find out at least some of the answers when CRTC chief Konrad von Finckenstein appears before a Commons committee today.

It’s rare that this country has a wild week in the obscure world of communications policy: since when do Canadians care that much about telecom regulation? Part of the answer is probably the nagging sense a lot of Canadians have that, despite what numbers from Netflix might say, they’re lagging behind other countries when it comes to the Internet—a nagging feeling that keeps being proven correct. Add it all together, and mix in a little anti-government sentiment that follows the CRTC around like a bad smell, and it’s an explosive mix.

CRTC will rescind ‘unlimited use’ Internet decision – or Ottawa will overturn it [Globe and Mail]
• Ottawa orders review of Internet pricing regime [National Post]
Second-guessing the CRTC comes at a price [Globe and Mail]
Does Internet-billing decision make Canada ‘a digital backwater?’ [Globe and Mail]