MTS urges CRTC to scrap internet usage billing

MTS Allstream is petitioning the CRTC to scrap an order that will allow Bell Canada to bill internet customers based on how much they download each month.

MTS Allstream is petitioning the CRTC to scrap an order that will allow Bell Canada to bill internet customers based on how much they download each month.

The Winnipeg-based company, which sells internet services to businesses across the country by renting parts of Bell's network, says the so-called usage-based billing (UBB) ruling handed down last month was premature, given that a number of related issues are also being considered.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the government are each mulling a number of cases, all of which will have significant repercussions on the gateway access service (GAS) that Bell rents to wholesale companies such as MTS, Teksavvy and Acanac, the company said.

Mulling issues

The CRTC is in the midst of:

  • Determining whether additional rules are needed to ensure net neutrality, or preventing internet providers from interfering with traffic.
  • A review of the appropriateness of mandating certain wholesale high-speed internet access speeds.
  • An appeal from competitors and consumer groups on a ruling last year that allowed Bell to continue traffic-shaping practices.
  • Two appeals, one each from Bell and Telus, on an order issued last year that requires them to provide matching internet speeds to wholesale competitors.

The government is in the midst of:

  • Mulling two appeals, one each from Bell and Telus, on the CRTC order requiring them to provide matching internet speeds.
  • Pondering an appeal from MTS on a CRTC "essential services" decision.

"There are no fewer than eight separate proceedings outstanding in which every aspect of Bell's GAS service is under review. In fact, the fundamental structure, classification, pricing and treatment of this service are the subject of each and every one of these proceedings," MTS said in a filing to the CRTC on Friday.

"The issuance of the UBB order in the absence of a coherent regulatory framework at this juncture creates an unreasonable amount of uncertainty."

The order, which will allow Bell to charge end customers for going over a set monthly download and upload allowance, is scheduled to take effect in November. MTS says the CRTC erred in making a decision on UBB before resolving the other eight issues, as each of them will affect wholesale services.

MTS has requested an expedited hearing of its appeal, with interested parties having until Oct. 2 to file their comments.

The company wants the order rescinded and a maintenance of the status quo until the other eight issues are resolved. The status quo should be acceptable to the CRTC, MTS said, because the regulator has refused to enforce its matching speeds order on Bell and Telus, which was made nine months ago.

"Certainly, preservation of the status quo would have no serious impact on Bell, whose delays in providing matching speeds, notwithstanding the commission's repeated directives to this effect, suggests that the status quo is an acceptable state of affairs," MTS said.

Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said the CRTC's order was the result of a well-considered decision. "It's only fair to treat us like the cable companies."

MTS, along with a host of smaller internet providers, has launched an all-out offensive on the CRTC, Bell and Telus in recent weeks. On Sept. 11, the companies launched the Coalition for Competitive Broadband, a lobbying campaign designed to muster public support for MTS's essential services appeal to the government. MTS and Acanac last week also asked the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the CRTC's UBB order.

Industry analysts have said a number of recent CRTC decisions have left MTS and the smaller providers fighting for their lives.