War Rages On: Chairman of CRTC to face committee of MPs over UBB as petition sigs near 400,000

Konrad von Finckenstein, who is the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, will face the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology tomorrow, following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official vow to review the CRTC’s decision on usage-based billing, or UBB, which has become a hot topic over the past week.

Konrad must appear before the committee of federal MPs to explain—or rather, defend—the decision by the CRTC to allow internet service providers to charge by the byte. This decision, announced earlier in the year, sparked immediate outrage. As it will raise the already-pricey bills of myriad Canadian internet consumers, backlash has been fast and furious. In the eye of the storm of OpenMedia, a Vancouver-based organization whose petition has gathered signatures at an increasingly accelerated rate, and is expected to break a remarkable 400,000 by the time Konrad speaks tomorrow. It currently sits at just over 357,000.

The online petition was a catalyst for NDP and Liberal representatives to leap out and proclaim the CRTC decision was “anti-competitve,” as well as to provoke Industry Minister Tony Clements to comment on reviewing the decision, words soon after echoed by the Prime Minister himself.

It’s important to note that Stephen and his government have overruled a CRTC before—in fact, rather recently, in the instance of Globailve and Wind Mobile. (The CRTC ruled that Wind could not launch service in Canada’s regulated telecom sector because it has heavy foreign financial backing).

The CRTC’s decision on UBB is poised to be implemented at the beginning of March, which looms near, but leaves a reasonable window of time for the government to negate. If the decision follows through, small ISPs will be severely damaged, Canadian consumers will be on the hook for hefty monthly premiums, and innovation in Canada as a whole becomes at risk of being stifled.

Tomorrow may be a telling day.