Surfing and downloading from the internet is about to get more expensive for many Canadians as internet companies Shaw and Primus have announced plans to impose new fees and caps on internet usage.
Over the past year, the CRTC, Canada's communication regulator, let Bell and Rogers start charging extra for customers who download a lot of data. The growing demand for live-streaming and online movies gobbles up huge chunks of bandwidth on the World Wide Web.
Primus and Shaw have said they will begin passing on higher fees to their customers beginning Feb. 1. Primus, for example, rents bandwidth on Bell's networks and said Bell is inflating the costs for everyone, including them.
"It's an economic disincentive for internet use," said Matt Stein, vice-president of network services for Primus. "It's not meant to recover costs. In fact these charges that Bell has levied are many, many, many times what it costs to actually deliver it."
Hugh Thompson, who runs the website Digital Home, said he's been hearing growing consumer complaints.
He said more people say they are receiving bills of $5 to $10 a month in penalties — with some complaining their penalties are running as high as $100 — all for their use of iTunes, YouTube and Netflix.
"Their bandwidth has skyrocketed from maybe a gigabyte or two a month to some cases of 200 to 300 gigabytes per month," said Thompson.
"So now that people are using so much bandwidth, the companies are crying foul. They're saying: 'We can't make money off this. We need to charge more.'"
Currently, only a small percentage of users download enough data to hit these new caps. But many fear these fees will soon apply to everyone as the internet becomes more video based.