Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Social benefits

The NDP wants hearings into consumer usage based billing, according to Charlie Angus, saying “Caps for consumers must be looked at.”

I agree that consumers internet plans should be looked at. And, when they stop to think seriously about “caps,” the NDP should reconsider its policy on usage based billing. To date, it has thrown its support behind the misguided Stop the Meter campaign from Open Media. The NDP needs to carefully assess the impact of banishing tiered pricing for internet on its constituents.

Last month, Tim Wu wrote that pricing differentiation should be based solely on speeds. I challenged that view, saying that this limits choice to consumers. At the extreme, it means the lowest price plans are dial-up and any increase in speed has an associated price increase, with no differentiation allowed based on the amount of use. In Tim Wu’s view – and apparently the view of the Stop the Meter folks, all internet plans are unlimited plans.

The NDP social policy says that it believes in “protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that every citizen has access to high quality social programs.” People who want to ban tiered internet restrict the choices available to consumers. Whatever the price might be for unlimited use at a given bandwidth speed, the price would be lower for some level of use less than “unlimited.”

Not every internet user needs an unlimited plan. How is it in the interest of seniors to be restricted to a lower speed at a given price point, rather than let them make the choice to buy a higher speed, but lower volume service? Why would we restrict low income households to dial-up service, because some people think service providers should not be allowed the flexibility to offer higher speed services with usage restriction?

The NDP definitely needs to look at consumer internet services. When it reflects, I think it will realize that it has been caught on the wrong side of this issue.

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