If you close your eyes and think hard enough, you can almost see the smirks on the faces of the telecom giants. If you let your imagination run wild, you can even hear the pitch that sold them on their latest course of action.
“No, sir, it’s better than cable TV,” beamed some middle management type, proud of his discovery, “with cable TV, we pay for content and then charge our customers based on how much they watch. If we start charging for the net the same way we charge for cable, we get the same cash from the consumer without having to fork out anything to those supplying the content. Cha ching!”
In case you haven’t heard, the CRTC just decided to allow giant Internet Service Providers like Bell to charge consumers for what they consider to be extra internet usage and pass these charges along to smaller resellers, who, in turn, will be forced to either pass this extortion along to their clients or go out of business. This is happening despite the fact that where the telecom giants have set the limit for excess usage is, is well below the point where it starts costing them extra to provide the service through their network.
It’s gouging, pure but not so simple. Not only are they overcharging the consumer for a service that at its very core is and was always meant to be unlimited in terms of where you can go and how much you can intake, but they’ve set it up in such a way that no matter what, they can’t fail in their attempts to control and maximize profits from the web.
If this drives consumers back to more expensive and soon-to-be archaic services like cable TV, they win. If people buy the new price structure and start paying extra to watch videos and other content that the cable companies themselves didn’t shell out a dime to carry, then they really win. In both cases, the losers are the consumers and independent content producers (either by people not watching a new video they don’t know out of fear of being charged for it or by greedy companies profiting off their work without paying).
Now close your eyes again and go back to that same imaginary meeting. The middle management guy has just finished his pitch when he is very abruptly interrupted by one of his bosses:
“Sounds good in theory,” the bigwig interjects, “but there’s no way in hell it’s going to work. You see, there are agencies in place to stop just such a thing from ever happening. There’s no way in hell we could pass such an obvious cash grab.”
Now open your eyes wide and realize that it did pass. The CRTC is playing dirty ball with the telecoms and with anti-CBC, anti free expression Harper in charge, don’t hold your breath for any salvation from on high. The internet as we know it may be changed for the worse real soon.
Some politicians, most notably the NDP and the City of Vancouver, have taken up the cause but this needs massive grassroots opposition if the net we all know and love is to be saved in Canada. Fortunately, the opposition is mobilizing quite well.
Over 61 000 people have already signed a petition to stop the meter and if you care about affordable access to the whole web and if you don’t want to be gouged by Ma Bell and friends, you should too (and you can do so here).
It’s time to stop ISPs from charging you extra for something they get for free. It’s time to stop the meter now before it’s too late!