Shaw planning to revive metered internet billing: critics
Critics of usage-based Internet billing say Shaw Communications is moving forward with the much-maligned pricing scheme, despite widespread public opposition.
The system, which would see customers pay a flat rate for Internet then surcharges for exceeding their monthly data limit, was proposed by the company early this year. In February, amid a mounting chorus of disapproval, Shaw agreed to stall implementation pending a series of customer consultations.
Now, OpenMedia.ca, a non-profit advocacy group, has released a purported recording of a Shaw executive conference call hosted by CEO Bradley Shaw to discuss findings from the meetings.
In it, Shaw says customers have shown "a recognition that the principle of ‘if you use more, you should pay more' holds true."
Related: Listen to the recording here
He then attests that customers professed little willingness to switch providers if usage-based billing is imposed. "We are of the mind that we still have a tremendous upside in terms of pricing power on our Internet services," he said.
The recording, dated April 13, 2011, outlines a May or June date for clarifying pricing and packaging plans. It is unclear whether those plans are to be made public at that time.
Phone and email requests for comment from Shaw were not returned by Sunday evening.
Steve Anderson of OpenMedia said Canada already has among the highest fees in the world for Internet and phones – and the change, if implemented, would mean even higher costs for heavy web users.
"People could end up paying, you know, double their Internet bill if they watch a lot of videos, for example," he said.
Anderson said a gigabyte of data costs between one and eight cents to deliver, but some companies have proposed charging between two and 10 dollars per gigabyte downloaded above a user's data limit.
Telus spokesman Shawn Hall told CTV News his company will also be implementing usage-based fees later this year for anyone exceeding their monthly cap.
"It's going to be really customer friendly," he said. "You'd be forgiven for the first month you go over. You'd get lots of warning, lots of notice that you were going over with options of moving to other plans."
Telus says most of its customers use an average 15 gigabytes per month. For about $35 per month, they offer 75 gigabytes – suggesting few people would be affected by the change.
"It's only fair that people pay for how much Internet capacity they use," Hall said.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has spoken out against usage-based billing, while NDP Leader Jack Layton has promised to ban it outright if elected to power.
The prospect of usage-based billing has proven wildly unpopular among the public; an OpenMedia petition against the practice has been signed by more than 484,000 people.
Bell Canada, of which CTV is a subsidiary, also proposed usage-based billing in 2011. Plans were pulled in late March, also in response to public outcry.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Brent Shearer