I’m not one for capped internet connections. Never have been. Not even if I’m only checking email. I took full advantage of one ISP on my way out for reasons of capped bandwidth/traffick shaping policies–that they’re still continuing with, last I’d heard. I ripped into another for offering its own customers an on-demand streaming service a la Netflix and deciding hey, our internet customers don’t actually need a reason to use our service over torrents, so we’ll just count it against their bandwidth cap. I went at them again, this time for lowering their already ridiculously low caps in response to the launch of the offending Netflix in Canada. At the time, while none of the big 3 ISP’s (Rogers, Bell and Telus) were offering unlimitted internet services, the smaller ISP’s TekSavvy, Primus) were. And life was great. I ditched Bell for TekSavvy, who I ended up leaving for other reasons over 2 and a half years later–but that’s been beaten to death over here already, and avoided both issues. Bell decided not long after that that they didn’t much like us playing that game. So they wined to the CRTC. As did Rogers, as did Telus. Because, you know, competitive advantage in Canada just shouldn’t be allowed to exist. This past week, the CRTC agreed. Now, as of February first, even the smaller ISP’s are mandated to piss off their customers by charging them for any and all usage that takes you beyond 25 GB. After 25 GB, your options are to pay $x for every gig over that amount, or pay another price–usually only slightly less–for blocks of bandwidth, some companies (hello, TekSavvy) are calling it insurance, that you may or may not actually end up using for a month–more than likely, you’ll end up using.
As a general guide, let me let you in on a little hint as to just how ridiculously tiny 25 GB is. If you’re into the whole online gaming thing, even if it’s just one of those games you find on Facebook to kill half an hour on your coffee break, you can blow through 25 gigs easily in a month. If you’re doing anything more demanding than that, for example playing World of Warcraft, even if it’s not for very long at a stretch, 25 gigs goes by pretty quick. Get a lot of email? Use a fair bit of Twitter? Decide you want to install your favourite OS on a spare computer? Or virtually? Do pretty much anything that isn’t your typical half-hour of internet usage a day for checking email/paying bills? Your 25 gig cap waves goodbye in an aweful goddamn hurry. Yep, you guessed it. Youtube, streaming music, random TWAudio or Q-audio things, they hurt too. And don’t even get me started on what any even moderate amount of file sharing of any kind, legal or otherwise, does to the bandwidth cap–which would be the entire reason for the cap in the first place.
The major players in the Canadian market have been calling the shots pretty much since the advent of the CRTC and the granting of regulatory authority to the CRTC over our portion of the internet. Bell, Rogers, Telus all started throttling traffick, manipulating things in such a way that traffick that fell into specific categories was slowed or otherwise given headaches–we call that throttling, or traffick shaping. The big push from the smaller ISP’s at that time was “we’d never do that to you!”. And, ironically, they were right–they usually never did. So shortly before I officially was to switch ISP’s from Bell to Teksavvy, Bell thought they’d extend a favour to the smaller ISP’s, and do the traffick shaping for them. Nice, no? Naturally, the CRTC was perfectly fine with it–prompting at least two complaints and a petition that didn’t actually end up getting a whole lot of anywhere. And voila, one third-party throttle, served monopolistically. It’s been that way escentially since. Same with the newest issue of usage-based billing.
Bell and Rogers began instituting, and later lowering–hence those first few links at the top of the entry–bandwidth caps. They started out mildly reasonable and didn’t hang around there long. Instead, prices went up, bandwidth went down, and–at least on DSL–speeds escentially stayed the same. Suddenly, we weren’t getting what we’d call our money’s worth. Once again, up comes the smaller ISP, this time with an unlimitted bandwidth offering and a promise of “We wouldn’t do that to you!”. And, once again, they’re usually right–they, specifically, wouldn’t do that to their customers. And once again, Bell, Rogers and Telus, who the smaller ISP’s have little to no choice but deal with if they want to be able to offer internet service, volunteered to do them the favour of instituting bandwidth caps for them. And once again, they did it with the complete backing of the CRTC–poof, usage-based billing is born, the unlimitted internet is dead. As before, there’s a mass amount of appeals underway to try and convince the CRTC to see reason, but so far, it hasn’t done much but take up space in the news. And once again, the CRTC is stuck in 1995 or 2000, in the land of the barely above 56k. And just like that, like the land of barely above 56k, the CRTC snaps its fingers and unlimitted internet no longer exists. Now if we could just see *improvements* to our internet services come through as quickly as hinderences. Well, can’t have everything. At least someone’s seeing some quick progress.