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Canada already has some of the slowest and most expensive Internet rates in the first world and its about to get significantly worse. Earlier last week the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that Internet service providers (ISP) could start metering bandwidth (Usage-based billing).

Internet service providers around the country will be metering bandwidth as low as 25 gigabytes per month. The telecoms argue that the average user will easily stay under the limit, but the average user isn’t a family of four who downloads and plays video games on XBox Live or Steam, downloads music and television shows on iTunes or streams movies on Netflix or YouTube. This average user doesn’t view and upload family photographs and video to share with family and friends, or video chat on services like Skype to loved ones living out of town or serving our country overseas. Any person involved in any of these activities can easily break a low limit like this, and then be forced to pay exorbitant fees once surpassing it. While in costs pennies for each gigabyte of data transmitted, ISP’s can charge up to $4 per gigabyte.

Bell, Shaw, Cogeco and Rogers are all multi-service providers. They give us Internet, TV, landline and mobile phone service. They have a goal of eliminating as much outside competition as possible so that their business succeeds and usage based billing will do just that. Is it a coincidence that this ruling gets passed just shortly after Netflix, an online video rental service, came to Canada?

As Regina residents, we have the privilege of an ISP who has their own sophisticated infrastructure not subject to this ruling . SaskTel has pledged to never charge its customers on a usage based system. However not only will this affect us while traveling with the inevitable disappearance of free Internet in hotels and coffee shops, but because it cripples the competitive market for online services, domestic and international.

The Internet is not just for reading the news and checking email anymore. It has evolved and we as Canadians use it for communication, entertainment, education and it as a part of our lives. We can not let this happen.

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