New Democrats on Internet Usage Based Billing -- A Reply by Jack Layton

#Internet

Fri, Jan 21st, 2011 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

A while ago I took the time to write to various members of parliament about the issues behind usage based internet billing. I just now received word back from the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democrats Party. It's more a press release than a formal reply, but here's hoping something starts moving to protect the interest's of consumers and not just the bottom line of Bell Canada and Rogers.

Thank you for taking the time to write and share your views on the issue of usage based billing. It's a pleasure to have your thoughts on thisissue.

The CRTC's ruling on this matter is just another example of a decision that meets the best interests of those principally in the ISP industry, and not that of consumers. For our part, we have spoken out time and time again in favour of protecting the needs of consumers.

As you know, usage based billing is just another method for the majortelecommunications companies to gouge consumers who are already payingexceptionally high internet access fees in Canada. NDP Digital Affairscritic Charlie Angus has challenged usage based billing. He said, "Thelarge ISP-broadcast entities now have a tool for squashing their maincompetitors - both in internet and video services. We need clear rulesthat put consumers first."

You can find out more about our position by visiting this link:http://www.ndp.ca/press/canadians-lose-out-with-internet-metered-billing.

Mr. Angus has been at the forefront of matters regarding the CRTC andits management of issues in the best interests of consumers. Duringcommittee hearings in November, Mr. Angus questioned the role of theCRTC, and their fundamental lack of understanding the concerns of theaverage consumer and small business owner. Following is an excerpt ofMr. Angus' comments:

"...that the CRTC's 'prime directive', as we said in the old Star Trekdays, because I'm going back to the 20th century here, is to interfere in the market as little as possible. You say that again and again, and then you say that of course you want to ensure diversity of voice. I would have assumed that the main role of the CRTC -- why we have it -- is to ensure the public interest is defended. It's not the job of industry to represent the public interest. It's not the job of industry to do the diversity of voice.

We're in a situation here where Bell can offer their phone viewers exclusive highlights of the Grey Cup if they sign on at $3.99 a month or $5.99 a month. That would make perfect sense from a business model. A small start-up company that's competing with Bell would like to get access to content. As you say, certainly content comes from all over the world, but we're interested in content that's coming from Canada, that's being created now by this exclusive group.

What steps are in place? Or have you even addressed the fact that the guys who are selling me my phone package every month are the same guys who are controlling the content? And they might not want that content going to their competitors, because hey, you're going to get a better deal in their little walled garden. That's the issue we need to look at."

Additionally, Mr. Angus has introduced specific legislation to addressnet neutrality. Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act(Internet neutrality), aims to amend the telecommunications Act toprohibit telecommunications service providers from engaging in networkmanagement practices that favour, degrade or prioritize any content,application or service transmitted over a broadband network based on itssource, ownership, destination or type, subject to certain exceptions.You can review the text and timeline of the Bill C-398 by visiting:http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/LOP/LEGISINFO/index.asp?Language=E&query=5843&Session=22&List=toc.

Looking forward, we will continue to put consumer protection ahead ofindustry demands.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to write and share your views onthis important matter.

Sincerely,

Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada

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