Sunday, January 30, 2011

UBB Can Only Get Worse

Mamdatory usage based billing (UBB) starts on 1 March and it is even worse than what was originally proposed over a year ago. The usage cap dropped from 60GB to 25GB. The overage fees went up from $1.12/GB to $1.90/GB. Despite the best efforts of everyone to fight this, the CRTC basically ignored them all, and only listened to Bell's input.

The only concession was that the overage allowances that Bell offers its retail customers had to be made available to the wholesale ISP's customers as well. Of course, greedy Bell wanted this to cost the same as retail but the CRTC decided a 15% discount was enough. It's not. 15% percent gives the wholesale ISPs no wiggle room to be creative in their pricing. Which is probably the point.

These allowances are sold in 40GB blocks for $4.75. You can have a maximum of three blocks. If you need more than 145GB you can get a 275GB block for $55 which covers you to 300GB, the maximum allowance you can buy. After that you have to pay $1.90/GB which is a ridiculous amount for a retail level usage charge. How can retail cost more than wholesale usage fees?

It's all very complicated and completely inflexible. You can't just add and remove a block when ever you need since it's all tied to Bell's metering and billing cycle which is a calender month. Basically, every customer has to decide a month in advance what their usage is going be, which is totally impractical. On top of that, the wholesale ISP is liable for their customer's usage, so they will need to ensure that everything is covered when a user is getting close to their limit. Some ISPs could throttle or even cut people off.

In my case, my monthly usage is low now (~60GB) but once F1 and WRC season starts, it will climb well past 90GB, which is too close for the two block allowance (105GB) for my liking. I opted for the three block allowance for piece of mind. Effectively, I'm paying $46 for a paltry 2.5Mb/s connection. Basically giving Bell money for nothing. I've eliminated the services on my Bell land line to compensate, and I'm looking for ways to cut it even further. Unfortunately, DSL requires a land line so I can't ditch it completely.

I can guarantee that there will be disputes between Bell and the wholesale ISPs over differences in the overage amounts. Those fights will be ugly. UBB can only get worse before its get better. The reason it will eventually get better is because the CRTC introduced UBB in a way that effectively reduces competition, which completely goes against their mandate. The fight goes on.

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