EDITORIAL: Cable companies getting too much
The cable companies barked, so the CRTC bit.
Last week’s decision by the Canadian broadcasting regulator to allow the country’s largest Internet providers to charge for excessive use of bandwidth will further line the already bursting pockets of those companies. It also restricts the choice Canadian consumers have to how they access entertainment and information.
It didn’t take long for those providers to act. Shaw, the largest Internet provider in Western Canada immediately announced it would impose extra fees on users who exceed their monthly data caps of 15-350 gigabytes. That can be as little as four high definition movies.
Canadians already pay some of the highest rates in the world for mobile communications, thanks to the protected marketplace created by the CRTC. Now it seems Internet access will follow the same road.
As the Internet has become faster and more robust, and computers have become integrated into our leisure routines, we have been tantalized by the technology’s promise of putting what we watch on our televisions and how we watch it back into the control of consumers. Internet broadcasters like JumpTV offer niche and international programming that just can’t find a place on the already crowded and tightly-controlled cable and satellite dial. Companies like Netflix and Apple TV give consumers the ability to download movies and TV shows without a trip to the video store.
Of course those broadcasters don’t like the increased competition. Fewer eyeballs means fewer dollars from advertisers. Many of Canada’s broadcasters are owned by the same companies that control the cable and fibre optic networks that give us access to their programming—the very same networks most of us also use to access the Internet.
By giving those companies even more control of what we see, and how we see it, the CRTC has not only ensured their tremendous profits, it’s also stifled competition and innovation.