Metered Internet Comes to Canada

The Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission approved Canada’s largest ISP, Bell Canada, to implement Usage Based Billing (metered internet). Instead of paying a flat rate for all-you-can-eat internet service, or around 200GB of monthly transfer, you pay $31.95 for 25GB worth of internet usage, and at least $1.90 per gigabyte if you go over that limit.

And here’s the fun part: Bell Canada owns most of the “last-mile” copper connections in Canada, so competing ISPs that use the same lines will also be metered by Bell.

To put this in perspective, let’s take a look at just how much data 25GB is…

  • Netflix streaming uses about 1GB per hour. So you could watch 25 hours (10-12 movies) in a month, assuming you did nothing else.
  • A 45-minute TV show or video podcast downloaded via iTunes is about 200MB in size. So, about 125 in a month.
  • A 1-3 minute video from YouTube is around 5-10MB in size, depending on the quality.
  • A one-hour (standard definition) stream from Hulu is about 350MB. You could cram about 70 hours of Hulu streaming into one month, again, assuming you only did that.
  • Online gaming, whether a console game or an MMORPG on your PC, uses very little data. In order to get around network latency issues (to keep the game from lagging badly) games send frequent, but very small, data packets. You probably wouldn’t use more than 50-70MB per hour of gaming, though it could vary greatly depending on the game. Also, voice chat would increase the number significantly.
  • Streaming music will use 30MB per hour using a low-quality 64kbps stream, and 60MB at 128kbps. You would eat through 25GB in 375 hours.
  • iTunes AAC music downloads generally range from 70MB-200MB per album. That’s about 128 albums per month.

One can’t help but wonder if Bell Canada wishes to prevent Netflix—which just recently became available outside of the United States—from being widely adopted in Canada, so more people will continue to use their cable television service.

Further Reading

EDIT: Apparently petitions work in Canada. UBB is being rescinded or overturned by popular demand.

  • Laura

    Bell already sent a note about this. They say I will not be affected as my usage is not that high. But, I know when I had a lighter Bell account I was billed for that extra bandwidth. So how is this a new thing, really?

    I don’t have a problem paying for the Internet, even at the current rate. What really ticks me off is the TV payments. I have Bell for that too but, of course, it is not really Bell. If you phone them you don’t talk to Bell. I get screwed over by that all the time. Rogers was worse though. Since that is all the choice I have I am just not going to have TV any more when my Bell TV contract is done. If I miss TV I will just think about how much I love paying $80+ a month for it. That is the real highway robbery in Canada if you ask me, not the Internet.