Canadian ISPs Pretend To Care About Data-Capped Customers, Plan To Offer Net Neutrality-Skirting 'Two-Tier' Data Plans
from the only-fixes-ISPs'-problem-about-where-to-grab-more-money dept
In Canada, where functional net neutrality rules are still in place, ISPs are looking to subvert these in order to double-dip on data charges or push preferred services. What they're aiming for is so-called "two-tier" data plans in which certain services won't count against users' data caps.
The premise of a two-tier Internet based on data usage stems from the proliferation of data caps among many providers, particularly for fast-growing wireless Internet services. The days of "unlimited Internet" are over at many providers, replaced by packages that include a fixed amount of data usage each month with expensive overage charges for those that exceed their monthly allocation.Rather than raise caps, lower prices on restrictive caps or eliminate them altogether, the ISPs are instead pushing for something not unlike AT&T's recently announced "sponsored data" plans. This would allow Canadian ISPs to either collect from internet services by having them pay "freight" on data or, failing that, push their own preferred platforms and services by having these not impact customers' data usage.
Sensing consumer frustration with data caps, network providers have begun to offer access to some services or content that does not count against the monthly cap. The result is a new two-tier Internet: one Internet that counts against the monthly data cap and another that does not.
As usual, it's being presented as a "win" for customers. ISPs will "assist" frustrated users in staying under their data caps by either funneling them through ISP portals (and using these to push other preferred services) or by making a bit more money selling data usage to interested companies.
Canadian providers have also begun to examine how data caps can be used to differentiate between content. For example, Bell offers a $5 per month mobile TV service that allows users to watch dozens of Bell-owned or licensed television channels for ten hours without affecting their data cap. By comparison, users accessing the same online video through a third-party service such as Netflix would be on the hook for a far more expensive data plan since all of the data usage would count against their monthly cap.All of this goes to prove that ISPs/wireless providers don't really care how much data their customers use. They only care how much money they can make from the data flow. This will encourage users to return to the good old days of buffet-style internet usage… provided, of course, that they use the ISPs preferred platforms and services. The message is clear: use all the bandwidth you want, just as soon as we've dipped our wicks into the revenue stream. As for the net neutrality concerns, the ISPs will likely address those the same way AT&T did. Everything's arriving at the same speed, sponsored or not, so what's the big deal?
The end result will be even less competition and users will be put in the position of using incumbent services (or inferior services) in order to avoid cap overages. Once these two-tier plans become the norm, the instinctual reaction from ISPs will be to further lower data caps. After all, users are getting so much data for "free," they're barely racking up overage charges. That's an unacceptable outcome, and very shortly, what's being pitched as a boon for frustrated customers will turn into a downward spiral of cap constraints and the elimination of competitive pressure.