updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu May 26, 2011
Shaw makes rare move to increase Internet caps
Canadian cable provider Shaw hit back at mounting complaints of restrictive bandwidth caps by unveiling a new set of Internet plans with much looser caps and increased speeds. Starting June 7, capped plans will start with at least 400GB of data per month at 50Mbps down, 3Mbps up at $59 per month for those with a Legacy TV package, moving up to 100Mbps down, 5Mbps up and 750GB of data for $79 per month. A second phase in August will add a 250Mbps download, 15Mbps upload plan with a 1TB cap for $99.
Both phases will have genuine unlimited plans. In the first phase, a 100/5 unlimited plan will be available for $119 on top of the TV plan. From August onwards, this plan will be replaced by a 250/15 version for the same price. Existing 1Mbps, 7.5Mbps, and 25Mbps plans are getting an immediate boost from 15GB, 60GB, and 100GB caps to 30GB, 125GB, and 250GB respectively.
The gesture is likely a competitive one made to have DSL and the few independent providers look poor in comparison. However, the gesture is the first of its kind from a major Internet provider in Canada, many of whom have been instituting low caps and raising overage fees. Most have typically much lower caps; Rogers most recently lowered its caps for new customers even as it was increasing speeds, guaranteeing that newcomers would be more likely to pay extra.
At one point, the CRTC had been close to passing a measure that would have forced smaller companies leasing access to incumbents' networks to impose similar caps and usage-based billing on their customers, even if they could easily afford larger caps or unlimited data. A public outcry and threatened government action has put the measure on hold until at least July. Suspicions had been raised, though not confirmed, about collusion after the CRTC's talking points in pushing the requirement very closely mirrored those of companies like Bell.
Internet providers in North America have regularly tried to claim that the rapid growth in online video has raised the costs of maintaining their networks and that they allegedly need to institute low caps to keep these costs check. Critics, including smaller providers and advocacy groups, have shown evidence the claims are often false since the cost of bandwidth has often gone down. They have at times accused companies like Bell and Rogers of using low caps to either delay network upgrades or to discourage competition from nimbler rivals to traditional TV, such as iTunes and Netflix.
Netflix has singled out the CRTC's proposal and caps as direct impacts on its performance and recently offered lower-bandwidth streams just to make sure users could keep streaming movies if lower caps were enforced. [via Michael Geist]