Bell’s New Bandwidth Caps Could Turn Canada Into an Oldteevee Wasteland

Canada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has decided that incumbent Bell Canada can charge its wholesale ISP customers based on the bandwidth usage of their end users, as first reported by CBCNews.ca. This decision puts pressure on smaller ISPs that are using Bell’s network infrastructure to implement bandwidth caps similar to those the telco is imposing on its own customers, or significantly raise prices for unmetered accounts.

Bell’s new wholesale pricing structure includes bandwidth limits of as little as 2 GB per month for the lowest-priced wholesale DSL account and charges of as much as C$1.75 ($1.59) for each GB above that limit. Customers of resell ISPs will be able to subscribe to higher tiers if they’re wiling to pay more, but Bell’s highest cap stands at 60 GB per month. Good luck to all those Canadian HD video startups.

Bell Canada has had cutthroat bandwidth caps in place for its retail DSL customers for years, and the company recently applied with the CRTC  to impose similar pricing structures on its wholesale customers, which are typically smaller ISPs that rely on the telco’s phone lines to sell DSL access. Bell proposed its new wholesale tiers in March, arguing in an application with the CRTC that “the present flat-rated pricing structure…is no longer appropriate, in light of trends of significantly increasing demand for Internet usage and the impacts that such usage is having” on Bell’s networks.

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Bell’s new wholesale pricing structure and existing retail bandwidth caps in detail. Overage charges are capped at C$22.50 per month, but there are additional charges for heavy users.

The company also claimed that a tiered pricing structure would actually benefit consumers because it “encourages end-users to adjust their behavior to match their usage levels to their willingness to pay for such usage.” That’s right. Caps only encourage you to reflect on your Internet usage. Is that HD video download really worth an overage charge of eight bucks to you? No? Then go watch oldteevee and stop complaining.

Bell’s plans faced resistance from affected ISPs and end users alike, with some arguing that the company really just wanted to protect its own TV offerings by stifling potential online competition. Bell shot back, claiming that the proposal “in no way affects the adoption of new technologies…nor does (it) limit wholesalers or their end-customers from using or accessing these new technologies.”

True. Bandwidth caps alone may not completely prevent you from accessing newteevee. That’s why Bell’s got P2P throttling. The telco has been in the headlines repeatedly in recent months because it also started to impose Comcast-like P2P throttling measures on its wholesale customers.

These measures are currently under review by the CRTC, but don’t hold your breath hoping for Canadian net neutrality regulations. Essentially, if you’re a customer of a Canadian ISP like Teksavvy, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that Bell will be slowing down your torrents and charging you extra if you stream or download video through other means.

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