Shaw on UBB

Blog, Disruption, Les Routledge

“As we said last week, bandwidth is not unlimited and that is the crux of the issue. We believe there are many potential solutions to this challenge. We’re asking for our customers’ help to build Internet options that work for everyone.” Calgary Herald

Let’s hope that Shaw is genuine in its interest to pursue “many potential solutions” instead of charging customers a punitively high bit transmission fee even when the network is not congested.

While Shaw is and should be empowered to determine how they charge for the services they offer to customers, it could be a good PR move to demonstrate that the concept of applying usage based billing is driven by a need to manage congestion instead of a being a means to maximize revenues or hobble competitive media service offerings.  Within this context, they should keep in mind the request to the CRTC issued by independent ISP’s about the proposed UBB hearing.

8. Last-mile broadband connections  provided  by  the incumbents  on a wholesale basis to their competitors can now be used to provide a wide variety of services. These include voice, data, video, Internet access and a range of services that never touch the Internet!….
… Instead, the CRTC has a repeated tendency to treat competitors as mere resellers of incumbent retail Internet access services. This is also an outdated approach to WHSAS regulation, which allows incumbents to confer undue preferences upon themselves with respect to the manner in which they use their last mile broadband access connections to deliver services to consumers relative to  the  manner  in  which  they allow competitors to sue [SIC] those connections.

If you cut through the complicated words like “confer undue preference”, the message is that Shaw and third party ISP’s should be on a level playing field when it comes to delivering services like video-on-demand content.  For example, if Shaw is streaming an on-demand video to a computer from their service, the cost of moving that data should be the same as the cost incurred to receive video content from a 3rd party provider such as Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.  If bandwidth caps and usage metered billing applies to one it should apply to both.

The challenge for Shaw as they contemplate changing their bandwidth caps and UBB policy is being perceived by customers that the changes are fair and that they are not self serving.  Perhaps they may want to reference one of my previous blogs about voluntary steps they could take to provide that level of comfort to their customers and competitors.

At the end of the day, consumers may be agreeable to the implementation of new policies on bandwidth caps and usage-based billing provided the change is done in a manner that does not discriminate against content or services offered by third parties.