Bell to appeal CRTC internet billing decision

Bell Canada intends to appeal a CRTC decision that would see its internet customers billed by how much they download each month.

Bell Canada intends to appeal a CRTC decision that would see its internet customers billed by how much they download each month.

The company is disputing the regulator's requirement that it move all of its retail customers off unlimited download plans before it can implement so called usage-based-billing on its wholesale customers, which are typically smaller companies that rent portions of Bell's network in order to sell their own internet services.

In a letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission dated May 25, the company said the requirement is unfair, because it shows favouritism to cable internet providers, who are under no similar obligations. Bell also said the CRTC has shown favouritism to cable companies on several occasions by more quickly processing their requests on issues such as wholesale rate changes.

"This … has the effect of skewing the market for these services by introducing uncertainty and delay into the approval process for the [Bell] services, while continuing to, in effect, rubber stamp rate and service proposals presented by the cable companies," the letter said.

Bell said it intends to apply to the CRTC for a "review-and-vary," or a request that the regulator re-examine and change its ruling, in the coming days.

The majority of Bell's retail internet customers are already on usage-based plans, which the company implemented several years ago. Some customers, who are on "grandfathered" unlimited download plans, would need to be moved onto usage-based services.

Bell has said it needs to implement usage-based billing to cut down congestion on its network.

Under the plan approved by the CRTC, the company will be able to charge wholesale ISPs a flat fee for connecting to its network, and for a set monthly usage limit per customer. Beyond that set limit, users will be charged per gigabyte, depending on the speed of their connections.

Customers using the fastest connections of five-megabits per second, for example, will have a monthly allotment of 60 gigabytes, beyond which Bell will charge $1.12 per GB to a maximum of $22.50.

If a customer uses more than 300 GB a month, Bell will also be able to implement an additional charge of 75 cents per gigabyte.

The ruling also required Bell to make any "usage insurance plans," which give its own retail customers extra monthly usage for a small fee, available to wholesale ISPs.

CRTC commissioner Candice Molnar, who spent more than two decades working at SaskTel, attached a dissenting opinion to the ruling. She said the requirement on Bell to move all of its customers off unlimited downloading plans was unnecessary because a vast majority were already on usage-based services.