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Usage Based Billing – Stop The MeterPosted by Jenn on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
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Heard the ruckus about the StopTheMeter.ca campaign? No clue what they’re talking about? For those just joining us here are the quick & dirty facts about the outrage over metering the Internet or usage-based billing (UBB):

  1. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved Bell Canada’s request to initiate usage-based billing (UBB) in 2009.  Check the Source.
  2. Under UBB there is a flat-rate for a set amount of Internet usage, plus usage charges for any additional use to a certain amount and a second usage charge for any additional over use. For example here is Bell Canada’s “Performance” package for Ontario:
    • Flat-Rate Charge: for a download speed of “up to 6 Mbps” you can download 25 Gigabytes (GB) for $31.95 per month. (aprox. $1.27/GB)
    • UBB Charge #1 “Usage Over Charge”: $2.00/GB to a maximum of $60
    • UBB Charge #2 “Extreme Usage Charge” (beyond 300GB): $1.00/GB
      Check the Source.
  3. Netflix has stated that charging “for each extra gigabyte of data makes no sense when the cost to transport that gigabyte, for telecom companies, is often less than a penny.” Check the Source #1. Check the Source #2.
  4. Unlimited Internet packages will be completely eliminated in Ontario & Quebec as of March 1, 2011. And in these two provinces, ultimately, there is no other option – if you have Internet, you’re a Bell Canada customer, directly or indirectly, through smaller Internet Service Providers (ISP). Check the Source.
  5. I know, you don’t live in Ontario or Quebec and neither do I but according to Tom Copeland, the chair of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers: “In the marketplace here in Canada, it’s monkey see, monkey do”. Check the Source.

Do you have any idea “how much Internet you use”? Seriously, in gigabytes (GB), how much per month do you consume? If UBB comes to your city/province/country you’d better find out and fast so you can limit yourself or be prepared to pay through the nose.

Now here’s a point that I haven’t seen anyone else bring up… There is no way for an end user to tell how many GB any given site will take up before loading the page, meaning as the consumer under the UBB system you’re forced to “buy” before you’re able to evaluate either the product or see the price tag. In effect there is no way for you to change your Internet viewing habits before they gouge you at least once.

The folks at OpenMedia.ca have spearheaded a fantastic campaign at StopTheMeter.ca. Here’s what you can do to Stop The Meter on your Internet service:

  1. Sign the ‘Stop The Meter’ petition,
  2. Like OpenMedia.ca on Facebook,
  3. Share OpenMedia’s Posts with your friends on Facebook,
  4. “Attend” the ‘Stop The Meter – National Day of Action’ on Facebook,
  5. Follow @OpenMedia_ca & Tweet about ‘Stop The Meter’ on Twitter,
  6. Educate yourself and others, for example share this YouTube video: George Stroumboulopoulos takes on UBB

For those with a little more time here’s the whole problem as I see it:

My concern is not paying for what I use. I’m deeply concerned about the very low usage limits and unfairly exorbitant fee schedule considering Internet consumers have no way to measure, manage or control how much of their limit will be used by visiting any particular site, and the related problem of the misunderstanding of the term ‘downloading’.

Many websites sell advertising space filled with audio, video or flash animations, some have enormous images where small images will do, some websites like Facebook host image and animation intense games that could be a significant draw on any monthly allowance, all of which can be a large percentage of the total gigabytes downloaded.

And it doesn’t stop there if you use services like Netflix or iTunes, do any online gaming either on your computer like on Second Life, Blue Mars, or Facebook (FarmVille, CityVille, Mafia Wars, Bejewelled Blitz, Restaurant City etc.), or on consoles like the XBOX, Playstation or Nintendo, or view Photo Galleries like on Flickr or Facebook or anywhere else, watch YouTube videos, podcasts or TV shows online you’re in for a terribly rude awakening. These activities are some of the most usage-intense things you could choose to do online.

Downloading is not just something you do when you want to save a file from the Internet to your computer. With every website you visit everything you see on the screen, the images, text, advertising etc, and even things you don’t see like ‘cookies’ (which track your user behaviour) must be downloaded to your computers’ temporary Internet files in order to build the representation of the site on your screen.

Now that you’re starting to see the size of the problem, are you ready for the real kicker? There is no way for an end user to tell how many GB any given site will take up before loading the page, meaning as the consumer under the UBB system you’re forced to “buy” before you’re able to evaluate either the product or see the price tag.

This is clearly unacceptable. Here’s your chance to stand up and do something before it’s too late. To Stop The Meter on your Internet service here’s what you can do:

  1. Sign the ‘Stop The Meter’ petition,
  2. Like OpenMedia.ca on Facebook,
  3. Share OpenMedia’s Posts with your friends on Facebook,
  4. “Attend” the ‘Stop The Meter – National Day of Action’ on Facebook,
  5. Follow @OpenMedia_ca & Tweet about ‘Stop The Meter’ on Twitter,
  6. Educate yourself and others, for example share this YouTube video: George Stroumboulopoulos takes on UBB
  7. Contact your Local and Provincial and Federal Government Representatives about your concerns, and
  8. Otherwise help get the word out – here are some ideas just off the top of my head
    1. Talk about UBB with your friends, family and coworkers.
    2. Wear a Stop The Meter t-shirt or a Mind The Cap t-shirt.
    3. Take out an ad in your local paper.
    4. Write to mainstream news sources and urge them to investigate the UBB issue.
    5. Attend any physical Stop The Meter events in your city (why not make yourself a witty sign now so you’re ready when the event is announced)
    6. Make a Stop The Meter poster and paper your neighbourhood – remember the classics like telephone poles, abandoned buildings and fences but don’t forget to ask store owners to post one in their windows and neighbourhood corkboards like at coffee shops, grocery stores, libraries and community centers.
    7. Choreograph a Stop The Meter interpretive dance or call up the old flash mob for one last hurrah.

It’s more than just the future of the nerdy old Internet at stake; it’s your freedom to choose as a consumer, your open access to information on demand, and your ability to choose how/where to spend your time online free from worry of how much more it might cost you.

Do you want to know more?
Check out this fantastically in-depth article by Prof. Michael Geist posted this morning.

One Response to “Usage Based Billing – Stop The Meter”

  1. […] this previous entry I wrote to sum up the usage-based billing problem. Visit the OpenMedia website to find out more or […]

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