Thanks to pressure from hundreds of thousands of Canadians, it looks like independent ISPs like Teksavvy, Distributel, Acanac, and Start are finally gaining the ability to do what citizens need them to do: provide independent affordable Internet services, and in so doing provide a check on Big Telecom price-gouging.
For instance, TekSavvy recently announced that they are lowering their DSL prices by about 18 per cent on average. This is a big deal -- and it's been a long time coming.
Here's the step-by-step of what happened:
- Canadians realized we're being price-gouged by Big Telecom. As York University's David Ellis rightly gripes, "in addition to some of the world's highest prices, we put up with unacceptably slow speeds, shitty customer service, off the graph latency, way too little fiber, and marketing that deliberately confuses and misleads."
- The forced imposition of Internet metering on all Canadians became the straw that broke the camel's back. When the CRTC made a decision that allowed Big Telecom giants to impose their punitive usage-based (metered) billing model across the whole Internet service market, Canadians decided that enough was enough. Over half-a-million joined the pro-Internet community and signed the StopTheMeter.ca petition. The pressure drove policymakers back to the drawing board, and started a snowball effect of positive change in the telecom market.
- Canadians kept the pressure up. It's difficult to describe this as one unique step, but for more than a year Canadians continued to come together to fight for Internet openness and affordability en masse. After they lost the metered billing battle Big Telecom, unsurprisingly, tried to impose a back door price hike. Policymakers noticed that we weren't letting up, and as the usage-based billing hearings came and went and a new CRTC Chair took his seat, it was always clear that disappointing citizens in this matter was simply not an option.
- The results came. As a result of the Internet metering debacle, the CRTC restructured the way Big Telecom could charge their independent competitors in a way that gave small ISPs more autonomy overall. Later, as Canadians spoke out against Big Telecom's lack of transparency, the CRTC ordered more of Big Telecom's costing information to be made public. Finally, with more information on the table and with Canadians still calling for more choice in the Internet service market, the CRTC recently released new terms for indie ISPs to able to access telecom infrastructure, which is what ultimately led to those smaller competitors being able to lower their rates.
While we still have a ways to go before the Internet service market offers Canadians the level of choice and affordability we deserve and what we need to at least become globally competitive, the coming together of the pro-Internet community to create real, tangible change is nothing to sneeze at.
The next steps? Keep pushing for a more open and affordable Internet (including through our cell phone market), share OpenMedia.ca's Action Plan for a Connected Canada, and if you haven't yet be sure to make the switch to an independent ISP today.
This is what progress looks like. Let's keep going.
Follow Lindsey Pinto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Lindsey_Pinto