Internet access has become indispensable for practically every Canadian, regardless of age. Most of us have gotten used to playing a flat fee every month for that access; we download what we want, pay our bill, and forget about it.
In Alberta, both Shaw and Telus actually have caps on your broadband usage; technically, if you go over the monthly limit, they can charge you extra. So far, they haven't been exercising this power. But if the big internet service providers get their way, that could all change right after the election.
Despite their massive profits, the big ISPs want to implement usage-based billing, or UBB. The idea is that the more you download, the more you pay, which sounds fair on the surface but is really just a way of gouging customers for more money. Do you like receiving photos or videos of your grandchildren via email or on YouTube? Have you signed up for NetFlix? Do you send and receive large files for your business? Do you enjoy reading (or creating!) blogs with lots of photos and videos? Prepare to pay more - lots more - every month.
However, there is a way to stop this from happening: vote ABC. That is, Anyone But Conservative. Most of the major federal parties have Internet-friendly policies that would, to greater and lesser degrees, prevent ISPs from moving to UBB. Only the Conservatives have refused to take a position on this critical issue. Frankly, that makes me suspicious of their motives.
To be fair, when the big ISPs tried to push UBB on Canadians a couple of months ago, the Conservatives forced the CRTC to reconsider its decision to allow usage-based billing. But that's just good politics on the cusp of an election. By refusing to state their position on the future of UBB, the Tories are (or should be) leading Canadians to wonder what will happen after the election - when it will be too late to punish a government that allows UBB.
The Internet has become a critical medium for commerce, culture, diplomacy, science, history - it touches practically every life in the developed world. Canada's government should be pushing for cheaper, faster access. Instead, we're lagging well behind other developed nations in speed, price and ISP transparency.If we want to remain competitive, if we want everyone to have equal access to the Internet regardless of income, then we need to take this mantra to heart:
ABC or UBB. The Liberal and NDP positions (scroll down) on the Internet's future are particularly strong.