A Tale of 25 Gigabytes: What is the future of Internet usage for Canadians?

It’s over. But is it really over?

The obvious answer is no – it’s never over. While negating the CRTC’s decision was a positive move by the government and to the benefit of Canada and its consumers, issues still stand.

OpenMedia, the Vancouver-based organization that spearheaded the firestorm with its Stop the Meter campaign and online petition, is “reacting positively” to Stephen Harper’s reversal on internet metering. But it knows this was a battle won – the war still rages. OpenMedia “vows to increase the pressure until we see an end to unreasonable Internet usage fees, and big telecom is held accountable to the public.”

One issue is the lack of details; everything is vague and foggy. To elevate this, there is really no clear path for the CRTC, government, or telcos to go down – anything could happen.

OpenMedia, for one, will forge on with its Stop the Meter campaign, acting as wall of fortitude against any future attacks by ISPs or the CRTC. “Developments in the Stop The Meter campaign are bringing about a new way forward for communications in Canada,” says Steve Anderson, OpenMedia.ca’s national coordinator. “Canadians, in showing that they are organized and united, have moved the political process.”

It’s hard to argue that Canadian’s didn’t show exceptional passion on this issue – clearly, we exalt our internet and messing with a good thing is more than just stepping on our toes; it’s slapping us right in the face. And, as this debacle demonstrated, we’re willing and able to fight back. As Anderson notes, “Canadians have seen behind the curtain now and have come to the conclusion that the future of the Internet should not be decided by lobbyists and captured regulators.”

However, we must keep things in perspective. Yes, the CRTC decision was been effectively blocked. But this keeps us in the same spot. It doesn’t take us forward, which is where we need to go. There are still chokingly tight caps on bandwidth usage – as little as 25 GB per month. This low ceiling is seriously restrictive: Netflix users would be limited to as little as 12 hours of video streaming per month – much less if you factor in social networking online, email, YouTube, etc. And if you go over 25? Prepare to face charges of $1 to $2 per extra gigabyte in overage fees – despite the facct it only costs telcos roughly one penny.

OpenMedia says that one this is clear: “Canadians will decide the future of the Internet, not industry ‘stakeholders’.” But this may still be an optimistic view. While it’s certainly been proven that as consumers we carry serious clout, we’re a long way from having true power over our country’s telecommunications oligopoly.

Unfortunately, it’s a case of “time will tell.” The ball is always going to be in the corportations’ court – we’ve just got to play good defence.