A recent study suggests that some 10 per cent of Canadians now use the streaming video service Netflix. But the company evidently believes it could be doing better — and providing a better service to Canadians — were it not for Canada’s internet service providers.

It’s almost a human rights violation what they’re charging for internet access in Canada,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told a conference in Los Angeles last week, as quoted by GigaOM.

“The problem in Canada is … they have almost third-world access to the internet,” he added in an interview a day later.

At the heart of the matter for Netflix is "usage-based billing," or limiting the amount subscribers can download per month, a practice some Canadian ISPs put into place at roughly the same time that Netflix was preparing its move into the Canadian market. Some ISPs that already had caps lowered those limits in response to Netflix's arrival.

Using Netflix on an internet service with a low download limit can lead to prohibitively expensive overage fees.

Internet providers in Canada are frequently “vertically integrated” as part of larger media companies, such as Bell and Rogers. As a result, Netflix is in effect a competitor to those companies’ on-demand cable TV services, which charge on a pay-per-view basis rather than offering a flat monthly fee like Netflix does.

In a sign that Canada's big media companies see Netflix as a threat, Bell Canada recently announced plans to launch its own Netflix-style streaming service.

All major Canadian ISPs now employ usage-based billing. The lowest cap is on Videotron’s basic service — 5 gigabytes per month, or slightly more than one typical high-definition movie per month. Bell’s lowest-tier service, by comparison, has a gig cap of 15 gigabytes, or three hi-def movies. All ISPs have high-end services that provide at least 200 gigabytes per month.

Netflix’s response to this has been to reduce the quality of the video it streams to Canadians, saving some bandwidth. But the company is clearly on the warpath against the practices of Canadian ISPs. In a letter to the CRTC in 2011, Netflix argued that the ISPs’ claim they need to charge overage fees in order to reduce network congestion “relies on highly questionable assumptions.” The company said ISPs like Bell are making a 99 per cent profit margin on what they charge for exceeding download limits.

Yet the notion that Canada’s internet is substandard as a result of usage-based billing is arguable. A recent study suggested Canada is fourth in the world when it comes to the internet having an impact on society -- though the study does point out that Canada lags when it comes to internet infrastructure.

Another study showed Canada is ninth in the world when it comes to access to broadband, ranking higher than the U.S. or the U.K.

(H/t: Mark Evans at Forbes)

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  • 8. Russia - 0%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 7. Germany - 7.1%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 6. United States - 23.1%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 5. France - 27%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 4. United Kingdom - 31%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 3. Italy - 33%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 2. Japan - 37.5%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>

  • 1. Canada - 81.4%

    Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies). Source: <a href="http://www.analysisgroup.com/" target="_hplink">Analysis Group, Inc.</a>


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  • 10. Open Text Corp.

    Brand value: $624 million Photo: Tom Jenkins, CEO of Open Text Corporation (The Canadian Press) Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 9. Cogeco

    Brand value: $790 million Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 8. Bell Aliant

    Brand value: $1.015 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 7. CGI Group

    Brand value: $1.301 billion Photo: CGI Group founder and chairman Serge Godin, left, and chief executive Michael Roach (The Canadian Press) Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 6. Quebecor

    Brand value: $1.753 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 5. Telus

    Brand value: $3.019 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 4. Shaw

    Brand value: $3.191 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 3. BlackBerry (RIM)

    Brand value: $3.293 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 2. Rogers

    Brand value: $4.087 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 1. Bell

    Brand value: $5.258 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>


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  • Canada's 7 Media Giants

  • Postmedia - $1.1 Billion

    Postmedia was born in 2010, when the bankrupt Canwest media chain was broken up. A consortium led by then-National Post CEO Paul Godfrey bought Canwest's newspaper assets, including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, as well as both English-language dailies in Vancouver.<br> <br> Pictured: Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Torstar - $1.48 Billion

    Torstar's flagship property is the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. It also owns the Metroland chain of weeklies and the internationally popular Harlequin, publisher of pulp romances.<br> <br> Pictured: The Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Shaw - $4.74 Billion

    Western Canadian cable TV giant Shaw entered the media big leagues with the 2010 purchase of Canwest's broadcasting assets, including the Global TV network. The company was founded by Jim Shaw and is still controlled by his family.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Brad Shaw<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em><br> <br> <em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated that Shaw had purchased Canwest's newspaper assets. It only purchased the broadcasting assets. The company had backed out of an earlier attempt to buy three CTV stations.</em>

  • Quebecor - $9.8 Billion

    Founded by Pierre Peladeau and run by his son, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, Quebecor owns the Sun Media and Osprey newspaper chains, as well as cable provider Videotron, Quebec TV network TVA, and a number of publishing houses.<br> <br> Pictured: Pierre-Karl Peladeau<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Rogers - $12.1 Billion

    Founded by Ted Rogers, Rogers Communications is a major player in cable TV and wireless services. The company controls Rogers Media, which operates 70 publications, 54 radio stations and a number of TV properties including CityTV and the Shopping Channel.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Nadir Mohamed<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Woodbridge (Thomson Reuters) - $13.8B

    Woodbridge is the holding company owned by the billionaire Thomson family. It controls 55 per cent of Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest news services organizations. Woodbridge's revenue is not reported, but Thomson Reuters reported revenue of $13.8 billion in 2011.<br> <br> Pictured: The late Kenneth Thomson, company chairman, in Toronto in 2003.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>

  • Bell Canada (BCE) - $18.1 Billion

    BCE is one of Canada's largest corporations, and owns telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure. Its subsidary Bell Media purchased the CHUM group of radio stations in 2006, and Astral Media in 2012. The company also controls CTV, making it a dominant media player in Canada.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>