Combating Network Congestion

Blog, Disruption, Les Routledge

Von Finckenstein said the CRTC review will evaluate the original decision to verify it protects consumers, ensures those who use the Internet “heavily” pay for their “excess use,” and enables small ISPs to retain “maximum flexibility and continue to be a key source of innovation in the industry.” Winnipeg Free Press

The industry claims that usage based billing is necessary to manage heavy traffic, reduce network congestion, and maintain quality of service for all subscribers.  If the goal of bandwidth caps and usage based billing is indeed focused on achieving those outcomes, the incumbent operators should propose a voluntary policy for the use of caps and UBB.  

For example:

  • the definition of bandwidth caps and usage based billing tiers will evolve together with overall trends is data consumption
    • as the average amount of bandwidth consumed by the average customer increases, the cap levels will increase to avoid “bracket creep”
    • usage based billing will not kick in until the bandwidth consumed exceeds the average level plus 2 standard deviations of data use (i.e. about 5% of the total user base will be subject to excessive data user fees)
    • UBB rates will be defined in reference to data usage fees prevailing in the United States, the UK, and continental Europe to be determined by an independent international party such as the OECD (image OECD broadband cost)
  • the definition of data traffic included in the calculation of average use will include both Internet usage and the data capacity consumed by delivery of digital services offered by the incumbent carrier including:
    • video-on-demand programming or HD television/movie products that are delivered via video-over-IP or comparable network-based transport
    • voice-over-IP telephone and interactive video-over-IP conferencing services
    • software, media content, or interactive game data traffic that is sold as part of a bundle of other media and content services by the incumbent
  • Usage based billing rates and fees will be applied on a non-discriminatory basis to both data traffic that is part of a carrier’s bundled service offering and third party services
    • for example, the incremental bandwidth cost levied on the delivery of a movie, video or television program will be equal whether the source is a service such as Netflix or an in-house on-demand video service offering
    • customer invoices will clearly separate and present the cost of data delivery from the cost of content services for in-house on-demand services
  • Every service provider that follows this voluntary code and model of UBB will agree to offer a private point-to-point service option for heavy users so their demand is partitioned from and migrated off the shared public network over time
    • the cost of the private point-to-point link will be set according to the price of comparable services offered to business, institutional or government customers
    • third party ISP offices will be one of the possible termination locations of that point-to-point link and access to the capacity of the link will be available to all parties on an equal basis (i.e. net neutrality).

As part of this policy, Cable Television companies and satellite television services owned by CATV or telephone companies will undertake to migrate digital tier pay-per-view services to an on-demand model using IP technology.  The bandwidth capacity consumed in the delivery of those premium services that are consumed by only a small minority of all customers will be made available to support the operation of public Internet and video-over-IP services on a non-discriminatory basis.

Implementing this type of voluntary UBB pricing and traffic management policy will address the need identified by both the Commission and the industry players, namely the need to implement effective traffic management tools to preserve the overall quality of service.  This policy also fits within the concept articulated by the Chair of the CRTC that heavy users, including heavy users of in-house on-demand services, pay for their excessive use.