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Thursday, February 3, 2011

One Drop Becomes a Ripple

I'm Canadian. I know that not all of my readers are, so I'm just going to provide a bit of backstory. A few weeks ago, I learned, through various social media outlets that the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) was putting a plan underway to charge internet users according to a new usage-based billing plan. Currently we operate under a monthly-limit sort of billing plan, very similar to cell phone plans where you purchase minutes. For a certain rate, you can download up to a certain amount of data. Most consumers have been able to find plans that allow them to enjoy the benefits of high speed internet at an affordable price.

You all know how much can be found online if you look hard enough- well our willingness to seek to find free services had led a growing number of us to forgo purchasing cable television services, after all, many of our favourite shows are available online, and in many cases, they are available directly from the companies that broadcast them. My household jumped off the cable bandwagon when we moved to our current apartment- but it wasn't so much because we could find free entertainment online, it was more to keep advertising out of our home and regain control of our mental atmosphere... but that's a different story.

So the CRTC comes along, complaining that people aren't purchasing cable television services like they used to and that they're losing money, and major internet service providers say that they have made so many infrastructure changes that they have to increase their prices structures, and they draft up an idea to get more money out of their customers- hike their internet rates and charge based on the amount of data that gets downloaded. These companies pay less than a penny to transfer 1GB of data, and in some cases they wanted to charge between $1 and $4 for that same amount of data transfer. I know intuitively that seems like a pretty big jump, but mathematically that's a 1000 to 4000% markup! I could write an entire article about how wrong it is for a company to sell a product or service that is marked up so exorbitantly.

Needless to say, there was "virtual" outrage over this matter as consumers rushed to sign the online petition posted by Open Media, or flooded government inboxes with pleas, arguments, or even diatribes regarding this issue.

This morning as my teeth were finally beginning to stop chattering in the sub-zero environment of my Honda Fit, and the frost which had so annoyingly appeared on the inner side of all my windows was beginning to fade away, I heard on the radio that the government had decided to step in to over-rule the CRTC's plans- because they had been overwhelmed by social outcry and calls to the government to help prevent this corporate money-grab from actually taking effect. We all rely on the internet for many reasons, but I signed the petition because I am trying to operate a small home-based business and a significant investment towards its profitability occurs in online marketplaces. In this case it wasn't "I want the internet", it was "I need the internet", and having to pay more would cut into costs possibly to the point of no longer making a profit.

Every day the world is changing more and more, and so are the ways that we as humans are interacting with one another and creating connections. I love running a small business because I have the opportunity to connect with customers on a very real level by providing them with something I hope they will treasure and that helps them to look at the world from a different perspective or in ways they hadn't considered before. I've had opportunities to treat people to an interaction that is practically impossible to find between Consumer and Corporation, because I want to treat my customers in exactly the same way I would want to be treated. Corporations have to learn to adapt and change and stop trying to bully their customers around because they have clout. Consumers are discovering that they have a middle finger, and when we all come together we can make a pretty big "EF YOU!".

Thanks to everyone who contributed to raising a big stink about this ridiculous policy.

You can find (and sign!) the petition here: http://openmedia.ca/meter

An Article from the Toronto Star recapping the issue to date: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/932571--ottawa-threatens-to-reverse-crtc-decision-on-internet-billing

The next time that you see a petition making the rounds for an idea that you are even mildly interested in, in support of, or against, don't hesitate to sign. You have no idea how much your one drop can contribute to a ripple that might become a tidal wave. Don't be afraid to try to make a change.


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