Ottawa Forces CRTC Retreat on Internet Bandwith Caps

Removing Netflix concerns, federal government forces CRTC to reverse course on excessive bandwith-use charges.

TORONTO – The CRTC is expected to retreat from a controversial usage-based Internet billing ruling as early as today, or be forced to do so by Ottawa.

Federal industry minister Tony Clement told a CBC Radio morning show Thursday morning that the CRTC must “go back to the drawing board” on forcing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge for excessive bandwith use, or the Ottawa politician will overturn a Jan. 25 decision by the regulator to do so.

Clement added he expected an answer on his request from CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein either before or during testimony he is to give Thursday afternoon before a House of Commons committee on Parliament Hill

Consumer groups raised the alarm last week when the CRTC ruled major ISPs like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications can determine usage rates, including overage fees, charged by smaller resellers using their bandwith.

The CRTC mandates that Bell and Rogers lease their networks to smaller Canadian ISPs to foster competition. 

Also raising the alarm last week was Netflix, which insisted across-the-board usage-based billing in the Canadian market threatens its expansion north of the border.

Netflix last September started offering Canadian a $7.99 a-month pure streaming service, in competition with domestic broadcasters, cable and satellite TV operators.