Usage Based Billing (UBB) from a techie’s perspective

I know a lot of Canadians are weighing in on UBB (not enough mind you) but a good chunk of us are. Meanwhile most other countries are pointing at Canada and laughing. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes, and jot down my own thoughts on the matter, mostly for my own benefit.

In doing a bit of background research, I happened across a Canadian Heritage parody done by none other than Rick Mercer – video after the jump. To summarize – Canada – Gouging consumers since the advent of the telegraph.


I’m a self-professed tech guy, and I literally have spent the last 10 years of my life building / working on the web.  I also find things like network stacks / transmission interesting, so I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic.  So, armed with all that knowledge, I’ve been following this UBB  scandal with some significant interest.  I should also mention that in my house, we have Netflix and make liberal use of the Boxee box that Tania bought me.  With Tania being home / on mat leave – we can pull anywhere from 3 GB – 40 GB in a day.  Fortunately we’re signed up with a smaller ISP (Acanac) who are awesome and provide us unlimited bandwidth over cable for less than Rogers was screwing charging us.

Now, what does all that have to do with UBB – well, lets say I was still paying Rogers (for their terrible service / low bandwidth caps) – I’d be paying around $60 / month ($46.99 + modem rental + tax) for 60GB of bandwidth with $2 / GB of overage beyond 60GB.  Well, doing some quick math, average usage for my house is 450GB / month – making my monthly bill from Rogers $840 / month.

Am I a “bandwidth hog”, I wouldn’t consider myself one, if I’m paying for 10mbit service, I expect to be able to use that 10mbit whenever and however I want.  If I decide I want to use 10mbit for an entire month, I’d better be able to pull down 2.5ish TB in a month without incurring overages.

Now, why am I writing all this – because I do believe in UBB, go ahead and charge me for my usage, I really don’t have a problem with that.  The problem I have is with “what” they’re charging me.  Instead of charging me $2.00 / GB over a set limit, why not charge me a reasonable markup on what they pay for bandwidth.  If it costs them $0.05 / GB (which is what most people are estimating it actually costs Bell / Rogers), then they’d better not charge me more than $0.10 / GB – plus a flat monthly fee for the connection (something like $20 / month seems reasonable).

So, if the CRTC decides to make Canadian ISP billing into a more utility based billing, they’d better damn well put limits on the markup ISPs can charge.  Of course all this is just me speculating – Bell / Rogers owns the CRTC, and in the end will get what they want.

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