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CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

OpenMediaworkstokeeptheInternetopen,affordable,andsurveillancefree.

www.OpenMedia.org

OpenMediaEngagementNetworkP.O.Box21674,1424CommercialDr.
Vancouver,BC,CanadaV5L5G3//18448915136

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

Introduction

Inthisreport,weinvestigatethestateofdatacapsandoveragechargesinCanadaforwireline
andwirelessInternetservices.Wepresentthesizeandfrequencyofdatacapsacrossmajor
providersbasedontheretailpricingavailableontheirwebsitesasofJune3,2016,and
determinehowmuchcustomerscanexpecttopayforexceedingtheirusagelimits.

Inaddition,weexaminewhatfactorsplayapartintheadoptionofrestrictivedatacappolicies
thisincludescompaniesuseofdatacapsandoveragefeesaspricingtools,aswellastheirrole
inproppingupproviderownedservicessuchascableTVbymakingthirdpartystreaming
applicationslessattractivetocustomers.

Wealsoattesttothelackoftransparencyofferedbymajorprovidersregardingtheiravailable
packages,datacaps,andoveragefees,andhowthispreventscustomersfrommaking
informeddecisionsabouttheirservice.InlightoftheCRTCsrecentlylaunchedconsultation1on
differentialpricingpracticesrelatedtoInternetdataplans,thisreportultimatelyseekstoinform
readersofthepunitivenatureofdatacappolicyandassociatedoveragechargesinCanada.

ResidentialInternetDataCaps

TelecomcompaniesarekeepingCanadiansonashortleashwhenitcomestodatacaps.Some
ofthesmallestdatapackagesinCanadaprovidesubscriberswithamere20GBofdataforthe
entiremonth,suchasBellsFibe5packageinOntario.Incomparison,theminimumamountof
datacappedbymajorprovidersintheUnitedStatesis150GB2adifferenceofnearlyeight
times.Figure1belowcomparesthesmallestdatacapsfoundacrossCanadianproviders,and
thefeesassociatedwithexceedingmonthlyusage.

Figure1:MinimumDataCap/OverageComparisonWirelineInternet

Company

Package

DataCap

Region

BellAliant

AllPackages Unlimited NL/NB/PEI/NS

BellCanada

Fibe5

20GB

ON

Cogeco

Express15

70GB

QC

Rogers

Internet5

25GB

ON/NL/NB

Shaw

Internet5

65GB

AB/BC/MB/SK/WesternON

Telus

Internet1

80GB

AB/BC

TelecomNoticeofConsultationCRTC2016192.Source:
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2016/2016192.htm
2
DanielleKehlandPatrickLucey,ArtificialScarcity:HowDataCapsHarmConsumersandInnovation,
OpenTechnologyInstitute,June2015,
https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/3556artificialscarcity/DataCaps_Layout_Final.a7ef6b9029da4
dd29324757e5710b903.pdf

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

Company

OveragePolicy

BellAliant

Nofees,astherearenocaps.

Bell

Overagefeeis$3.00/GBto$4.00/GB,cappedat$100permonth.

Cogeco

Forspeeds>40Mbps,overagefeeis$1/GBwithoutamonthlybillinglimitFor
speeds<40Mbpstheoveragefeeis$1.50/GBwitha$50monthlylimit.
Unlimiteddataaddonhasnooveragefees.

Rogers

Overagefeeis$1.50/GB,cappedat$100/month.

Shaw

Nooveragefeesdatacapsenforcedbysuspensionofservice.

Telus

Overagedatasoldin"buckets"First50GBbucketis$5,Subsequent50GB
bucketsare$10,uptoamonthlymaximumof$45.

Forperspective,watchingaprogramonNetflixwillusebetween1and3GBofdataperhourof
streaming.3Therefore,inonemonthitwouldtakeonly45minutesofstandarddefinition
streamingperdayforacustomertoexceeda20GBdatacap.Saygoodbyetobingewatching
yourfavouriteshowsuponexceedingyourlimit,justfourHDepisodesofTheWalkingDead(at
approximately3GB/hour)wouldblowpast10GBofdatainoverage.Dependingonprovider,that
couldaddupwardsof$40toyourmonthlybill.

Customersshouldanticipatepayingmoreinoverageiftheirservicecontainsmoretollbooths,
asthereissimplyagreaterchancethattheywillexceedtheirdatacap.Thenumberofcapped
InternetpackagesinCanadaissignificantlygreaterthanintheUnitedStates.Canadian
providerBell,forexample,breaksuptheirserviceintomoredistincttiersofdatathanAmerican
providersCoxandCenturyLinkcombined.4Figure2showsthedatacapsineachbasicpackage
offeredbyCanadianInternetserviceproviders.
Figure2:CanadianDataCapsWirelineInternet
Company
BellAliant
Bell
Cogeco

DataCap
NB,NS,NL,PEI:Unlimited
ON:50GB,200GB,20GB,125GB,75GB,250GB,740GB,Unlimited
QC:20GB,60GB,110GB,120GB,150GB,250GB,400GB,Unlimited
ON:95GB,175GB,275GB,425GB,525GB,Unlimited
QC:70GB,160GB,260GB,400GB

HowcanIcontrolhowmuchdataNetflixuses?NetflixHelpCenter,2015,
https://help.netflix.com/en/node/87
4
BellBundles,Bell,2016,http://www.bell.ca/Bellbundles

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

ON:25GB,125GB,200GB,Unlimited

Rogers

NB,NL:25GB,125GB,Unlimited

Shaw

AB,BC:65GB,150GB,300GB,450GB,800GB

Telus

AB,BC:80GB,150GB,200GB,300GB,450GB,550GB,Unlimited

Wireless

Onwireless,weexaminedCanadasBigThreewirelessprovidersBell,Rogers,andTelus
acrossfourdistinctpricingzones.ThesezonesaredividedintoManitoba,Saskatchewan,
Quebec,andAlberta/BritishColumbia/Ontario/AtlanticCanada.Thepricing,numberofcaps,
andtheamountofdataallottedaregovernedbycompetitionfromafourthcarrierinprovincial
wirelessmarkets.Manitoba,Saskatchewan,andQuebeceachseedistinctofferingsfromthe
restofCanadaduetoregionalfourthcompetitorsMTS,SaskTel,andVideotron,respectively.
BothMTSandSasktelofferaffordableunlimiteddataplanstotheircustomers.OftheBigThree
incumbentnationalcarriersthatoffermobiledataservicesnationwide(Figure3),notasingle
onehasanunlimiteddataoption:allBigThreepackagescomewithdatacaps.

Figure3:DataCapsComparisonWireless
Company
Bell

Rogers

Telus

Region

DataCap

AB,ON,BC,Maritimes

500MB,1GB,2.5GB,5GB,7GB,10GB,15GB

QC

4GB,6GB,10GB,14GB

MB

2GB,6GB,10GB,15GB

SK

1GB,5GB,10GB,15GB

AB,ON,BC,Maritimes

1GB,2.5GB,5GB,7GB,10GB,15GB,30GB,60GB

QC

4GB,6GB,10GB,14GB

MB

1GB,2.5GB,6GB,10GB,15GB

SK

1GB,5GB,10GB,15GB

AB,ON,BC,Maritimes

1GB,2.5GB,4GB,7GB,10GB,20GB,40GB

QC

4GB,6GB,10GB,14GB

MB

1GB,5GB

SK

2GB,4GB,8GB,12GB

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

Canadiansinsomeareasarebeingofferedcompletelydifferentservicesthantheircounterparts
inotherprovinces.Forsomeplans,monthlyratesintheOntarioregioncanbemorethan
doublethepriceofanidenticalplaninManitoba.Forexample,comparea15GBplanacross
multipleregionsandcarriersinFigure4.

Figure4:DataChargesComparisonWireless

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

Exceedingallotteddataforthemonthcanhaveveryexpensiveconsequencesforusers.Mobile
dataoveragefeesarechargedbythemegabyte,andcanaddupquicklyiftheuserplanson
streamingvideoormusic.Forexample,insomecasesaworkdaysworthofSpotifystreaming
on"extreme"qualitycouldusealmost1GBofdata.5Anadditionalgigabyteofdatainwireless
overagefeescouldendupcostingthecustomeranextra$50ontheirmonthlybill,atwhich
pointacustomersdatausagemustbecappedaccordingtotheCRTCsWirelessCode,andthe
customerspermissionsoughtforfurtherdatachargestobeincurred.6Wirelessoveragefees
arecomparedacrossnationalcarriersinFigure5.

Figure5:OverageChargesWireless
Company

OveragePolicy

Bell

Overagefeeis$0.06/MB.

Rogers

$5/100MBData"usageexceedingplanallotmentchargedinincrements
roundeduptonextMBorGBasapplicable."

Telus

$5/100MBupto1500MB(datawillberoundeduptothenearest100MB),
then$0.05/MBafterthefirst1500MB.

Conclusion
CanadianshavebeenledtobelievethatdatacapsareanecessarypartofInternetservices.
However,comparisonswithothercountriesaroundtheworldprovethatthisisnotthecase.7
Uponcloseranalysis,itbecomesclearthatdatacapsarenothingmorethanpricingtools
disguisedasnetworkresourcemanagement.8Theargumentsfordatacapsasatraffic
managementpracticesimplydontstanduptoscrutiny.9
Forexample,whenbundledwithTVservices,BellsmonthlyInternetdatacapsvanish.10In
effect,ISPsusethethreatofoveragefeesanddatacapstoherdcustomersawayfrom
thirdpartystreaming,andtowardtraditionaltelevisionpackages.Thissuppressesinnovation

SpotifyDataUsage,VodafoneHelpandSupport,2015,
http://vodafone.intelliresponse.com/index.jsp?requestType=NormalRequest&source=100&id=1537&questi
on=Spotify+data+usage
6
SectionE.BillManagement,TheWirelessCode,Simplified,CRTC,November142014,
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/info_sht/t14.htm
7
DwayneWinseck,RethinkingUniversalServiceforthe21stCenturyandanAllIPWorld,Canadian
MediaConcentrationResearchProject,August142015.
8
KehlandLucey,op.cit.
9
InterventionSubmittedtotheCRTC,Re:TelecomNoticeofConsultation2015134,ReviewofBasic
TelecommunicationsServices,Filenumber:8663C12201503186,CommentsofOpenMedia,
OpenMedia,February12016,
https://openmedia.org/sites/default/files/openmediacrtc2015134interventiontwofinal_0.pdf
10
BellBundles,Bell,2016,http://www.bell.ca/Bellbundles

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

newservicesarelesslikelytobeadoptedbyconsumerswhentheyfeelbothboundtoexisting
servicesandintimidatedbyexcessiveusecharges.
Thistacticisespeciallytroublingwhenwetakeintoconsiderationthatthebasicconceptbehind
cappingindividualsubscribershasbeendisproven.Thecommonassumptionisthatbandwidth
hogsmusthavetheirusagecappedtoavoidnetworkcongestion.Inreality,thatstrainon
resourcesisinsteadcausedbyincreasedtrafficloadsduringpeakperiods.11Furthermore,costs
incurredbyISPsforindividualuserbandwidthusageareextremelysmall,andareinnoway
accuratelyrepresentedbycurrentoveragefees.12
Customersarebeingtoldtheirregularonlineactivitiesareexcessivebasedonfallacious
reasoning.Unclearmotivesforcappingusagehasledtomanymisconceptionsregardingdata,
causingsubscriberstoremainuncertainabouthowtheirtimeonlinetranslatesintogigabytes.
Companiesperpetuatethislackofunderstanding.Wefoundproviderwebsitesdifficultto
navigateandlackinginclearreferencestooverage,letalonecomprehensiveeducational
resourcesonunderstandingdata.Someprovidersattempttoexplaintheissue,buttheresults
areoftenmisleading.13
Becauseofthisconfusion,subscribersarehesitanttopartakeinactivitiesthattheybelievewill
pushthemovertheirdatalimit.Theymayfeelbarredfromengagingwiththeonlinecommunity,
andcouldbelessinclinedtodownloadsoftwareupdatesthatkeepuserssecure.Datacapsare
telecomswayofdiscouragingpeoplefromusingtheInternet.Theyhavenoplaceinaworld
whereaffordableaccesstobroadbandisanecessity.

11

Winseck.op.cit.
NateAnderson,Shouldbroadbanddatahogspaymore?IPSeconomicssayno,ARSTechnica,May
302016,
http://arstechnica.com/techpolicy/2016/05/shouldbroadbanddatahogspaymoreispeconomicssayno/
13
ExcerptfromDwayneWinsecks2015reportregardingBellsattempttoclarifydatausagefor
customers:Itisdifficulttoseehowthiskindofinformationcouldbehelpfultoacustomerwithno
technicalbackground,especiallysinceseveraloftheseclaimsareerroneousormisleading.Bellsclaim
that125GBcanaccommodate3,125,000pages,forexample,meansthateachmegabyteofthe125GB
capwouldhavetoaccommodate25Webpages(125GBis125,000MB,and3,125,000/125,000=25).
AccordingtothelatestdatafromtheHTTPArchive,however,thisfigureisoffbyafactorof50when
contrastedwithactualHTTPtraffic.TheArchiverecordshowsthatasofJuly15,2015,theaverage
transfersizeofaWebpagefromthetop1,000siteswasalmost2MB(1961KB)meaningthatacapof
125GBwouldaccommodate62,500Webpagesratherthan3,125,000.102YetevenifBellwasusing
accuratenumbers,itisdoubtfulthatitsguidelineswouldbeofmuchuse.Nomainstreamusercounts
Webpagesastheycomeandgo,whichistosaynothingoftheawkwardfactthatpeopledownload
differentmixesoffiletypesondifferentprotocolplatforms,sothatanytargetforWebpageswouldhave
toaccommodateanyoralloftheotherkindsofdataBellmentions,suchasmoviesandpictures.
12

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

AppendixA

CanadianDataCapsSummaryReport

June2016

AppendixB