Earlier this month, the CRTC issued a decision to force third party Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to switch to so-called usage-based billing (UBB) or metered pricing. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one visibly upset as nearly half a million Canadian consumers strongly voiced their opinions by signing a petition to STOP the meter, a website started by a group called OpenMedia that is leading the charge.
Our very own Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, confirmed via Twitter that the government would overturn the ruling if the CRTC didn’t “re-evaluate” their decision. That got me thinking. Isn’t it time we reevaluated (not just UBB) how we treat the Internet in Canada? Rather than limit its use, I propose we make access to the Internet a fundamental right or essential service benefiting all Canadians.
That Was Then, This is Now
Let’s compare today with an example from the 1990s. Back then, dial-up Internet was the new kid on the block. It was cumbersome and not easy getting online. Only the technical elite and the true geeks got it and used it regularly. It didn’t have the mass-market appeal and adoption rate that exists today. Back then it was a reference tool and used to send and receive email. Today, as Thomas Friedman writes in the The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, the browser not only made the Internet alive but it made the Internet accessible to everyone from five-year-olds to ninety-five-year olds. The more alive the Internet became, the more different people wanted to do different things on the Web. So, than meant demanding that computers, software and telecommunications networks be able to digitize and transport words, images, video and data over the Internet to anyone’s screen. To me, the Internet sounds more like a utility because almost all Canadians are expected to use it. When I say almost all, I mean it.
My Grandma and Grandpa are Online Too
Let me share a story about my 85 year old grandmother and 79 year old grandfather. My grandmother called me one day to ask how to open an attachment she received in an email from a company she deals with. My grandfather uses his bank’s online portal to monitor and conduct investment trades not to mention sharing endless jokes with his friends over email. As it turns out, this is the same grandfather that chastised me for being on the computer 15 years ago and blamed everything on the “computer generation”. Today, he has me on speed dial to troubleshoot when he can’t connect to Internet from his country cottage. A decade ago, if you told me that my grandparents would use the Internet on a daily basis in this way, I would have raised my eyebrows in disbelief. Clearly things have changed for the better.
Today, the Internet has become a utility that serves all people and acts as a tidal wave for innovation and economic growth. It is no longer a luxury but best seen as a fundamental right and essential service. Everyone and everything is plugged in. Isn’t it time we took a closer look at equal access and fair cost for all?
Day of Action
On February 26th, OpenMedia will be hosting a Stop The Meter – National Day Of Action. The Toronto event takes place at Queen’s Park from 1-2:30pm.
Stay tuned for my follow-up post on UBB
In my next post, I will offer two solutions on how to CRTC can do the right thing by bringing us together rather than tearing us apart and talk about the National Day Of Action.