Policy + charging

O, Canada! Netflix Streaming Gets a Reprieve

Canadians who use all-you-can eat plans from smaller ISPs can continue gobbling away at Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) content without fear of being dinged by government-mandated metered billing policies ... at least for a little while.

The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) backpedaled Thursday on plans to force smaller ISPs to implement the kind of usage-based billing models and overage fees that some of the larger providers, such as Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) and Shaw Communications Inc. , already use.

The rules were set to take effect on March 1, but the regulator said Thursday that it will delay any such mandates for at least 60 days as it reviews its decision.

CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein remained defiant that usage-based policies are legitimate, arguing that "Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users." (Interestingly, he said Bell Canada was among those asking the CRTC to delay the rule.)

Why this matters
How this shakes out in Canada could have a significant bearing on the United States, where some believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's network-neutrality rules are a green light for the return of metered billing for broadband services. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) had kicked the tires on such models but shelved them amid a firestorm of criticism.

ISPs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. might be watching too. They're using monthly consumption caps rather than metered billing. Users who breach the thresholds aren't charged by the gigabyte, but continued breaches will get them booted.

For more
For a deeper dive into the usage-based billing issue on both sides of the border, check out:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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