Slowing the Internet flow of information to a drip: The dangers of metered usage

by Francis Wooby on January 31, 2011

I’m okay with paying more for Internet access; but, I’m not okay with paying more for less. And this is what I fear might happen if Canada continues along the path toward allowing Bell, Rogers and other big ISPs to charge with a metered rate.

Right now, we pay a set amount of dollars per month which gets us access to the Web. The speed may vary depending on your plan, the time of day, your equipment, location, and any other number of factors. Regardless of the speed, though, you’re usually allowed to download/stream a lot of information—often up to and beyond 200 GB. This allows us to IM with friends, watch (legit) TV online, download (hopefully purchased) music, rent streaming movies, game with players around the world through our X Boxes, tweet, and so on, without worrying about hitting any sort of limit.

Now, though, the CRTC has opened the door for companies to start charging us based on how much we use. Thus we’ll be charged a base rate that will only allow us to download/stream a small fraction of what we can currently. Each kilobyte of information over that limit will cost us money—sort of like going over the minutes on your cell phone, or surpassing the text limit. As we know, this can quickly lead to costing us, the customer, big money before we even know we’ve passed the cap.

Obviously, these changes anger me because it’s going to mean more expense each month. However, on top of this I am worried about the larger socioeconomic trends.

For one, I’m worried about innovative technologists making a run for the border, and I don’t mean Taco Bell. Those who are continuously making the Internet a more versatile, accessible tool probably aren’t going to stick around in Canada where the price of doing business is just too much. This is especially doubtful when you have the United States, with a hell of a lot better web access, so close.

Then there’s the average users like us, who won’t be able to enjoy that much of what online has to offer, for fear of breaking the bank. As online TV access, radio, collaborative tools, etc. get better by the day, Canadians will be stuck using the very basics as little as possible unless they can afford the outrageous fees.

Instead of allowing us to access information and entertainment through our iPads, laptops, desktops, netbooks, smart phones and the like, these companies would, surprise, surprise, rather us stick with their standard direct TV satellites (that don’t work in the rain), land lines and hey, maybe even fax machines. This isn’t because their television service is better than what you can get online, it’s because they spent lots of their money developing those clunky systems, ignoring progress being made with online platforms, and now they need to force you to purchase them so their investment doesn’t become a waste.

Over and under all, this move stinks, and I encourage visit where you to learn more about it, and how we might be able to slow, soften or even stop the damage this is going to cause us.

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