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Internet users worried about usage-based billing
Choosing an internet provider might become a lot like choosing a cell phone plan, as Internet providers start a practice called usage-based billing.
If users go over their download limits, they could face hefty fees.
For years the big Internet service providers have had download quotas. For the most part, they haven't enforced them.
But once they start, it's going to hit a lot of people in the wallet.
"Up to a certain level we are going to get free bandwidth. But after that, you are going to have to think: ‘Do I want to download that movie? It might be another dollar on my cable,'" said Tom Keenan, a University of Calgary professor.
Morgan Booker downloads music and watches movies online and worries that he'll go over limit on his Shaw account.
He'll also be keeping an eye on who is using his Internet.
"I'll make my Internet connection as secure as possible because I don't want somebody tapping into my connection just because they are getting close to their limits," Booker says.
Usage-based billing will also hit businesses like Zoom Web video integration, which creates videos and streams them on the net.
Many smaller providers resell Internet services and offer unlimited Internet, an option that may soon disappear.
A recent CRTC ruling allows Bell to charge usage-based billing to those resellers. The ruling only applies to Bell and its effect will mostly be in Eastern Canada.
But there are concerns that the practice may spread across Canada, and the federal government is reviewing the decision.
"We have great concerns about this ruling because on its face it does not foster the kind of consumer protection we'd like to see. It does not help in innovation," said federal Industry Minister Tony Clement.
Big Internet service providers say caps and overage fees are needed because video streaming sites are chewing up bandwidth.
Technology experts say the reason is more about controlling what you watch and how you watch it.
Almost every provider has a method for its customers to check their internet usage, and experts say wise users will check it frequently to ensure they don't wind up with unexpectedly large bills.
An online petition against usage based billing has already garnered over 208,000 names.