If you are like the majority of Canadians you use the internet and like most Canadians you probably didn’t know that providers not only throttle your internet speed but they also have a cap on your download and upload amounts. For most people this was a complete unknown until last week when Shaw announced that they would be billing customers who go over their plan’s transfer limits.
The ISPs or Internet Service Providers claim to be making this change because of the increased demand for online services like online TV, movies, music downloads and online gaming. The ISPs claim that most customers will not go over their amount in their plans but if they do they could be facing anywhere from 1 to 2 dollars per gigabyte when they go over. Granted if you only check your email, do a little browsing and maybe watch the occasional video or movie online you will not go over your limit but if you or your children play video games online, download music, subscribe to a service like Netflix or watch a lot of television online you could be going over your monthly usage plan.
What this really boils down to in Canada at least is that the major Internet Service Providers are also television providers: Shaw, Bell, Telus, and Rogers. Although these limits were already in place before this recent announcement one has to wonder about the timing. Netflix has been taking off in Canada. More and more Canadians including myself are watching more and more TV online especially with the affordability of the HD televisions and the ability to connect your laptop to the TV it has ever been easier to watch online content. I have to wonder if this is not just a way to try and force consumers to watch programing on their bloated cable and satellite packages. If this was the case then you would have to wonder why rather than penalizing their customers they would not try and capitalize off the new form of media delivery.
Although these caps may only affect a small percentage of users right now this will change sooner than later. 80 percent of Canadians use the internet according to Stats Canada with more and more of our daily routine focusing around the internet it will be just a matter of time before even the most casual of users will be using more than their plan.
Canada needs regulations that will protect the consumer but unfortunately this does not seem to be coming any time soon. The federal government has made no motions to change the rules; instead they allow the big corporations to do as they wish. The CRTC has ruled in favour of ISPs throttling speeds and now giving the thumbs up for data caps. The CRTC and the government are falling behind the reality of the information age. Canada has some of the most archaic cell phone plans and regulations in the world. Our content restrictions have blocked websites from other countries from being viewed here and now. They are giving the green light for Canadian consumers to be ripped off yet again by penalizing them for using what in some cases are their own services. The government needs to take a leap forward and think about consumers when it comes to the internet. The world is changing. It is time to bring regulation in line with reality.