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The Globe and Mail

It's time for foreign competition in Canadian telecommunications

A worker prepares a server inside a hall of the upcoming CeBIT fair in Hanover March 2, 2008. The world's biggest IT fair CeBIT opens its doors to the public on March 4 and runs through March 9, 2008.

Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Canadians are among the world's greatest Internet users. Yet many are unaware that their access to the Internet is metered. Many plans limit downloading to as little as 40 gigabytes a month - a bit of browsing and an hour of online video a day - before extra charges kick in. The most restrictive high-speed plan in the U.S., by contrast, offers many times more - 250 gigabytes of data - at lower prices. Many U.S. plans have no limits whatsoever.

It is time, in short, for some foreign competition to enter the market for this essential utility.

Some say we need to meter the Internet so that bandwidth hogs stop clogging it with their indiscriminate, illegal downloading. Others say that an Internet free of any usage restrictions at all is a national prerequisite for a modern economy.

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It's more complex than that. The CRTC has failed to adequately protect consumers, in part because of erratic federal policy.

More important, we know that our appetite for the Internet is only going to get more voracious. And that online blockages aren't caused by the few, but by the many, who jump online at the same time to relive Olympic hockey gold, to see whether Hosni Mubarak will fall, or to watch the latest offering from Netflix. So the federal government should let the competition in - to build more Internet infrastructure, and to offer more competitive plans to Canadians.

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