The CRTC's decision to allow internet service providers to charge their customers for downloading excessive amounts of data threatens "free and open access to the internet in Canada," the NDP said Thursday.

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The NDP says the CRTC's decision to allow service providers to charge for downloading large amounts of data threatens free and open access to the internet. ((CBC))

Charlie Angus, the NDP's digital affairs critic, said the telecommunications regulator's decision to allow usage-based internet billing won't just affect the so-called bandwidth hogs but could hit many Canadians financially.

"We've seen this all before with cellphones," said Angus. "Allowing the internet service providers to ding you every time you download is a ripoff. Canada is already falling behind other countries in terms of choice, accessibility and pricing for the internet."

As the larger internet service providers are also broadcasters and content providers, usage-based billing could be used to limit competition from online video services like Netflix. He said it could also be used to eliminate competition from smaller third-party ISPs.

"The large ISP-broadcast entities now have a tool for squashing their main competitors — both in internet and video services," said Angus. "We need clear rules that put consumers first."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has slowly allowed large service providers like Bell and Rogers to charge internet users who download more than the limit of data for their particular service plan.

For example, in Ontario, Rogers charges customers of its $59.99 a month Hi-Speed Extreme plan who go over their 80 GB a month limit $1.50 per GB for a maximum of $50.

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 companies like it.