Plans to charge for internet access based on usage — known as metering — get tossed around from time to time in the U.S. But if Canada’s experience with its attempt to force metering is any indication, it may be an even harder sell here than some people thought.
A series of decisions by a key Canadian government commission resulted in a situation where smaller ISPs were required to charge for usage beyond a certain point. But after many consumers denounced the idea, Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement has told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that if it doesn’t overturn the rules it just created — the government will do it for them.
According to The Toronto Star, large Canadian ISPs in Canada already have download limits that range from 20 GB per month to 60 GB per month. That’s are much lower than U.S. plans, which essentially involve unlimited use. Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), for example, says it will only take action if a user breaks a tipping point of 250 GB per month–a limit that would involve downloading about 4 standard-definition movies per day. Even then, the American ISP doesn’t do anything more than send a letter asking the customer to ease up on usage, although repeated violations can lead to account termination.
But Canadians who want a bigger data cap have been able to switch to smaller ISPs that have big usage caps or none at all. The recent CRTC ruling would have put a stop to those all-you-can-eat plans, but the pushback was apparently too great for the rule to stand. The CRTC received thousands of complaints about the rule banning unlimited-use plans, and the head of that commission has now been called to justify his decision to Canadian Members of Parliament.