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CRTC reverses controversial usage-based billing decision

In a major win for open-Internet advocates, Canada's chief telecommunications regulator has ruled that large ISPs cannot use a "usage based billing"(UBB) price scheme in charging other wholesale providers.

Monday's ruling by the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC) reverses a controversial decision made by the body last January which gave Bell and other major ISPs the right to charge wholesalers a per-byte fee for data-use over a certain limit.

Under the new regulatory regime, ISPs may now sell smaller providers a set capacity per month or a simple flat fee for a set level of speed.

In a press release published, advocacy group calls the decision "a step forward for the open and affordable Internet."

In response to the CRTC's decision in January, OpenMedia launched its "Stop the Meter" campaign to protest UBB billing, which the group characterized as "price gouging." Responding to the public outcry, last February, the Harper government warned that if CRTC did not overturn its decision, the ruling would be reversed legislatively.

Because smaller Internet service providers do not typically have their own networks, they must purchase this service from larger ISPs, such as Bell, Telus, Shaw, before packaging and reselling that service directly to consumers. By allowing major ISPs to use a UBB model on wholesalers, Internet advocates worried that those wholesalers would be forced to implement a similar scheme in charging consumers.

"It is truly rare for people to outmaneuver Big Telecom's army of lobbyists," says Steve Anderson, executive director of "But together Canadians did it."

Ben Christopher reports for The Tyee.

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