CRTC Limits Internet Pricing Debate

CRTC not to consider pricing by retail Internet services providers at upcoming hearings into usage-based billing.

TORONTO – The CRTC on Friday signalled it may push through plans to end unlimited online access packages by excluding the issue of pricing by small Internet service providers (ISPs) during upcoming public hearings.

“The CRTC will not be expanding the scope, as requested by several parties, to include the billing practices for retail Internet services,” the CRTC, Canada’s broadcast regulator, said in a statement.

“There is no evidence that market forces are not working properly in this unregulated market,” the regulator added.

The CRTC is to hold hearings in July on Internet pricing after the entry of Netflix into the Canadian market prompted larger ISPs like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications to introduce usage-based caps to thwart heavy bandwith use by subscribers.

But smaller ISPs that rent Internet network access from Bell and Rogers to create retail internet service packages for their own customers argue they need to offer unlimited Internet access to distinguish themselves from bigger ISPs.

The CRTC, by not considering the billing practices of retail internet service providers at the upcoming hearings, instead wants to focus on usage-based charges as it concerns network capacity and congestion, and data caps “driven by peak traffic periods.”

The July hearings were prompted by opposition from the federal cabinet in Ottawa to the CRTC introducing usage-based billing for customers of smaller ISPs.

Such a move would deny Canadians the ability to download unlimited content from Netflix Canada, iTunes and other online video sources without paying overage fees.

The CRTC maintains most Canadian Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy Internet data users.