Taking a stance on UBB

In early February, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) came under fire for its decision to allow large telecom companies like Shaw and Bell to implement a usage-based billing system for internet providing.

The issue then reared its head once again as it became one of the more contentious talking points of the 2011 federal election. The Conservative government has taken heat on its delayed reaction to the CRTC decision, while all the federal parties have taken marked stances when it comes to usage-based billing.

The issue, along with things such as copyright laws, online privacy and net neutrality, has given rise to the popularity of the Pirate Party of Canada, which became an officially registered political party in 2010. 10 Pirate Party candidates are running for office from across Canada, including Steven Bradley Scott in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Usage-based billing is an anti-competitive price gouging of Canadians,” said Scott. “We’re being billed as if [the internet] is water. I don’t mind calling it a utility, but we’re not going to run out of internet…. [Usage-based billing] is just a continuation of the negative consumer relations that’s been going on for years between the telecommunications monopolies and the people of this country.”

The Pirate Party’s platform advocates for open internet and immediate reform of the CRTC to include greater transparency, and including “consumer advocates,” in discussions surrounding issues such as usage-based billing.

“When it comes to pushing broadband internet into rural communities, we’re very concerned with what’s going to happen,” said Scott. “Without major CRTC reform and regulation of prices, you can bet that in those communities, they will be paying through the nose.”

The other parties have all expressed similar sentiments, however in a study conducted by non-profit organization; openmedia.ca the New Democratic Party (NDP) took the strongest stance. According to the study, the NDP intends upon refocusing the mandate of the CRTC to regulate the telecom industry and “stand up for the public interest, not just the major telecommunications companies.”

“The NDP has anti-[usage-based billing] policy, we don’t stand for it,” said Kitchener-Waterloo NDP candidate Bill Brown. “We are looking to bring broadband service across Canada…. and make sure that all Canadians have access to reliable high speed internet access.”

The Green Party and the Liberals also took a stance against usage-based billing.

The Conservatives, on the other hand have come under a large amount of scrutiny when it comes to usage-based billing. Demonstrators rallied against their lack of action on when it came to the initial decision regarding the implementation of the system, and the party then declined to participate in openmedia.ca’s survey.

“The party that’s getting the most attention with this issue is the party that’s talking about it the least, the Conservatives, and I think that’s well-deserved,” said Scott. “They’re taking a wholly irresponsible stance and I think that’s because they’re not interested in protecting Canadians past this election.”