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Uproar Over Eastlink’s 15GB Usage Limit Brings Call to Ban Data Caps in Rural Canada

EastlinkLogoA plan to place a 15GB monthly usage cap on Eastlink broadband service in rural Nova Scotia has led to calls to ban data caps, with a NDP Member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia leading the charge.

NDP MLA Sterling Belliveau is calling on the Liberal government to prohibit Eastlink from placing Internet data caps on rural broadband.

“This newly announced cap really sends us back to the 1990s when it comes to technology,” Belliveau said in a news release Tuesday. “The province paid $20 million to bring this service to rural communities, and as such, the Minister of Business needs to tell Eastlink this can’t stand.”

Belliveau’s office is being flooded with complaints from residents and business owners upset about Eastlink’s data cap, which includes a $2/GB overlimit fee, up to a maximum of $20.

“Only rural customers get penalized for using the Internet,” complained Angel Flanagan on Twitter. “We can’t have Netflix or YouTube. Eastlink, stop this cap and upgrade your services and give us better Internet. We don’t need to use it less.”

“I am so angry about the Internet capping,” said Emma Davis. “Eastlink you are out of your goddamn minds. Rural Nova Scotia is entering the Dark Ages.”

rural connect

Eastlink’s Rural Connect package is a wireless service, delivering speeds up to 1.5Mbps at a cost of $46.95 a month. The service is provided where wired providers are generally not available, including Annapolis, Hants, Digby, Yarmouth, Queens, Lunenburg, Shelburne and Kings counties. Eastlink says its new usage cap was designed to accommodate “intended usage like surfing the web, reading/sending emails, social media, e-commerce, accessing government services, etc. — and NOT video streaming, for which the service was not intended.”

Belliveau

Belliveau

Eastlink’s continued dependence on a low capacity wireless network platform has conflicted with the changing needs of Internet users, who increasingly use high bandwidth applications like streaming video that can quickly clog wireless ISP traffic.

When the service was designed, the popular video streaming service “Netflix was shipping DVDs by mail,” says Eastlink spokesperson Jill Laing.

The cap was implemented to “address Internet traffic, which we believe will help provide equal access to the service and deliver a better overall rural Internet experience for customers,” Laing wrote.

Eastlink says the average customer uses about 12GB of traffic, excluding video streaming. Setting a usage cap at 15GB should not be a problem for customers who stay off Netflix, argues the ISP.

“Those who are using the service as it was intended to be used should not be impacted by monthly usage,” she wrote.

The fact Eastlink labeled some traffic legitimate while video streaming was discouraged did not go over well with customers.

“Who made them Internet Gods when our provincial tax dollars helped finance their Internet project,” asks Al Fournier. “The very fact they would suggest a 15GB cap with a straight face in 2015 should be ringing alarm bells in Ottawa about the rural broadband crisis in Canada.”

nova scotiaFournier suspects Eastlink has not invested enough to keep up with a growing Internet because the service originally advertised itself as a way to listen to online music and watch video. But he also wonders if the data cap is an attempt to force the government to fund additional upgrades to get Eastlink to back down.

“This is why wireless ISPs suck for 21st century Internet,” Fournier argues. “They are incapable of keeping up with growing traffic and bandwidth needs and need to be retired in favor of fiber.”

But at least one wireless provider in Nova Scotia does not understand why Eastlink is making a fuss over data caps.

Cape Breton’s Seaside Wireless Communications offers Internet access in Antigonish, Cape Breton, Colchester, Cumberland, Guysborough, Inverness, Pictou, Richmond and Victoria counties, along with rural parts of Halifax County, and has no data caps.

“It is not even on our radar,” said Loran Tweedie, CEO of Seaside Wireless. “This is a differential we are proud of.”

Some Nova Scotians are also questioning why their Internet service is being capped while rural Eastlink customers in Newfoundland, Labrador and Ontario can continue to use the Internet cap-free, at least for now. Others are suspicious about the future of Eastlink’s maximum cap on overlimit fees, currently $20. Canadian providers have a history of raising the maximum cap, subjecting customers to greater fees.

“It’s hard to speak to what will happen over time. We’ll certainly evaluate where we’re at later in the fall,” said Laing.

Liberal provincial Business Minister Mark Furey said he was aware of Eastlink’s rural broadband data cap but only promised to monitor the situation for now.

Starting next month, Eastlink’s rural Internet packages will be capped at 15 gigabytes of usage per month. CBC Radio Nova Scotia’s “Information Morning” program speaks with Eastlink and Port Royal resident Gary Ewer about the impact the usage cap will have. (10:15)

You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Currently there are 20 comments on this Article:

  1. Victoria Herron says:

    It is wrong that you are going to limit our usage amount. WE pay more then enough for the service we get. i myself don’t use that much but I want to be able to use it however much I want without worrying about it. I often am on in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and sometimes not at all during the day but other times I can be on for 1 hour during the morning and then again in the afternoon. How much I use it should be my choice, I am paying you for full service not limited service.

  2. Connie Conrad says:

    Eastlink’s proposed Cap for Internet usage in rural communities is Hogwash!
    They have absolutely no problem charging what they want and as rural residents
    we pay. In the news item I read, Eastlink stated that the amount of GB we have
    was only for surfing the Web and email! No one ever said that when we got internet!
    We honestly have no choice in this situation and it simply isn’t fair!

    • Jayn says:

      Agreed. Not to mention that Skype is an important tool for friends and family to stay connected these days. My parents live in an affected area and telling them “no video streaming ” is akin to telling them “you can’t see your grandson anymore”.

      I get that there can be practical issues in upgrading service, but don’t cite “intended use” as why there’s no real problem.

  3. Angela Acker says:

    I can’t believe they are trying to do this,, I live 10 km outside the town limits of Bridgewater and I can’t even get their “rural service” and I live less that 2 km from where their wired service ends, I feel they fell very short of what our government expected them to do

  4. Shawna Smith says:

    I am very interested to know why I am just reading this now online, shouldn’t Eastlink be providing this information with our monthly bill. I was never given the information when I signed up for this service that our usage was or would be limited. That just bad business practice for Eastlink, take the government funding, effectively tax $, sign up customers, then down the road change the service instead of upgrading equipment to accomodate usage. What other internet provider has been able to invest so little capital, receive government funding and refuse to provide the service needed. I for one will go without and cancel my service with Eastlink before I support a business that treats their customers like that! I would pay another provider more for less service first.

  5. Llewellyn says:

    I disagree with the bandwidth limit. Eastlink is doing this because they are in control of the fact that people in rural areas have no other alternatives besides dial-up. If there were other alternatives, there prices would be better and we would have no limit. I have the wireless broadband and is completely dissatisfied with the service. My understanding is they were contracted by the government to give rural residents high speed. I’ve had trouble with connections and they wouldn’t even send a tech person out. And now this limit is even more discouraging. If there’s ever an alternative, I’ll go elsewhere.

    • Brittany says:

      We don’t even have dial-up out in Melbourne, Pinkney’s Point, Little River Harbour or Comeau’s Hill anymore and there is no high speed service, only broadband which has 60 some odd people and can barely have facebook working right on a good day!

  6. Rosemary says:

    Hi I heard that there is nothing out there besides eastlink there is City Wide commutions we live in Saulnerivell and we can get home phone and internet for $72 taxs in

  7. Terry Boudreau says:

    That is not right they are ripping us off to begin with. 1 mbps of service more like 0.3 to 0.6 mbps. It has been 2 years since I seen 1 mbps. It is 2015 and they can’t get anything better then that. There not trying because they don’t care. I have been on the phone with them many times.

    In town regular service high speed internet is 20 mbps so that is 20 rural houses to one bill in town limits. Nice pay.

    FAR NO so kick us again and cap us.

    What they are doing is mind blowing just mind blowing. What they are saying is people in the right areas (wired) you can have a sports car at 500 mph with unlimited gas and people out of area (rural) you can have a scooter at 50 mph with 15 liter of gas.

    Not right at all!

  8. Marion says:

    Iam sure when I sign up for Eastlink. .it was for unlimited. ..it sincerely hope this cap is banned.

  9. Jen Carter says:

    I live in an area where there are no other “high” speed internet service providers – so I am feeling trapped. There is also no cable service where I live – so… my options are??? This is surely due to lack of infrastructure to keep up the the demand. For them to cite what folks should be doing while using their internet is ridiculous.

    They are making these demands from areas that have no option but to keep them – not in areas where folks can get other providers. And then to find out our tax $$ provided them with $20 million so that every Nova Scotian could have high speed?

    I truly hope this gets resolved by our government – as that is the only corp big enough to take them on – and fight for our rights.

    After their announcement – if there was any way I could give them no more of my $$ I would – however in New Edinburgh, just outside of Weymouth and St. Bernard, we have only them or dial up.

    Thanks Eastlink for trying to put back in the dark ages.

    A very unhappy rural dweller.

  10. S.g. says:

    the list of things about which Mark Furey is unaware could fill a Wikipedia page.
    The Eastlink spokesperson lied about capacity. they throttle the speed to save money. Eastlink wireless is the slowest of 17 systems available in Canada.
    My neighbours who live 200 metres from us have wired service.We got stuck with wireless,installed at a greater cost to them than what it would have cost to extend the wire.

  11. Tahl says:

    Eastlinks reasons are just excuses, really they don’t want to put any more money into rural internet to deal with the traffic issue. We have no options up here for service providers, I can get horrible over priced satellite tv and our land line was no better so I use the internet for both and pay under 60 dollars a month instead or over 200. Highspeed internet is important to rural areas, the internet is how we keep our options open.

  12. Sora87 says:

    Look at it this way. Data Caps represent your freedom on the Internet. They are effectively limiting your Freedom by putting a Cap on it. In this case you have 15GBs of Freedom. After which if you value your Freedom you pay the Company more for another GB of Freedom. After only 10 more GBs of Freedom you are a slave to the Company for the last 29Days. To make it worse they have an Extortion game going where they use there slaves as hostages to get more Money out of the Government to Upgrade and they never do. Instead your Corporate overlord treats it as a Chrismas bonus leaving his slaves in agony while he Extorts more money from the Government. Sounds Exactly like America.

  13. Craig Hubley says:

    1. “Data caps” do not exist in the real developed world. They exist in Canada only because of a total lack of co-ordinated investment in Internet infrastructure. Every other country has a national broadband program that improves backhaul fibre optics between towns on highways and long stretches of barren road. Maine, for instance, has a “Three Ring Binder” of 1100 miles of dark fibre optic cable already built with more on the way. This can be accessed at flat rates of 9 to 15 cents per month per mile. However in Nova Scotia there is no such guarantee of low prices and interference-free connectivity for smaller ISPs. As a consequence, we don’t have them, and as a consequence of that, big companies can apply “caps”.

    Nova Scotia needed this five years ago, and it needed it before money was wasted on repeater towers.

    2. It’s absolutely clear with this phrasing “to help facilitate the transition to monthly usage” and “will be implemented” that what amounts to a $20 rate hike for everyone who streams, will eventually become an unlimited “Canada’s worst cell phone bill” abusive $2/gigabyte forever. Just like Canada’s uniquely bad mobile data plans. In fact, the 900MHz service will probably be replaced eventually with cellular antennas and identical plans to mobile devices, which are not even remotely acceptable for rural home business etc.

    Keep in mind that the latency of cell phone data is very often erratic and throttled, in part due to the technical problems of bouncing off further away antennas and being more susceptible to rain and fog, but also in part due to the conflict of interest in telcos wanting to sell voice minutes and not support oh say Skype and VoIP that compete with voice minutes at a flat rate.

    So the only acceptable substitute for Rural Connect is a wired connection: DSL or cable/Ethernet, doesn’t matter, what matters is that the fibre comes no more than one repeater away, preferably the transformer on your pole.

    3. Rural Connect users were already paying about 4x-10x more for worse latency and unreliable connectivity than people paying almost the same price for 10megabit cable. This aggravates that gap.

    Including taxes this is another $320/year expense that hits rural people only, and that’s while this $20/month “cap on the cap” is in place. Don’t expect that to last forever. In fact, count on it coming off within a year.

    4. The original PC govt subsidies were badly designed and paid to build many repeater towers instead of doing more to fill the fibre optic gaps so that towers would all be on fibre optic cable. That left many customers on “two hop” connections, forced to share repeaters like the old “party line” telephones. This is causing a lot of the network contention. Obviously once the signals get to an actual WIRE, which are shared with wired cable customers, nobody has a problem with puny 1 to 2.5mbps streams.

    This cap is not going on to the 5 and 10 mbps cable customers lucky enough to live on a served road. That pretty much proves that this “problem” is restricted to the repeater network that Eastlink designed.

    5. About a third of Nova Scotia still has no true 10megabit or better broadband service. Building open dark fibre networks as Maine and New Hampshire have will put many more competitors into the game.

    There is no reason for Eastlink to want this, nor Bell, so other players will have to build it, and that means changes to the tariffs and regulations and subsidies.

    6 Unlike in the US where “community broadband” and local power utilities have been a major focus of recent FCC rulings, in Canada. Provincial governments have totally failed to understand the implications of the “energy Internet”, in which power and Internet connectivity are deployed together.

    A modern power grid requires fibre optics to every pole (not yet another low-capacity single-purpose wireless network for metering only – fight that like crazy folks, it does you no good and plenty of harm), and some portion of power distribution network expenses devoted to bandwidth, and recovered by the rental of fibre strands to telcos/ISPs.

    Our current government, accepting the advice of its bureaucrats with 1980s experience, has a 1980s concept of “cross-subsidization” which is, in a word, wrong. It’s wrong legally, wrong technologically, and wrong in policy and management terms. In 2015, some portion, be it 5% or 35% or even 85%, of the cost of running fibre optic cables to every pole, is legitimately part of the expenses of building and maintaining a safe, monitored, pre-emptively maintained power distribution network. Look at examples like Chattanooga Tennessee and the US FCC rulings regarding that. Our provincial government has taken a position more or less similar to Comcast or the US Republicans who try to block “community broadband” projects, and that leads directly to cowed electric utilities unable to run their own fibres for fear of being accused of “cross-subsidization”, a concept that belongs in the 1980s with dumb grids.

    In the US the FCC has ruled that communities and publicly owned co-ops not only can, but MUST, subsidize communications build outs as part of their local power distribution modernization efforts. But as with broadband, Canada has no national smart grid plan, leaving it up to the province to fix all this.

    7. Modifying the subsidy program so that building more repeater towers is NOT being subsidized, but covering 5-10km stretches of road to dense but isolated communities IS being subsidized, should have happened two governments ago. That would remove most of the excess load from communities like, oh say, Green Bay, where densely packed houses all have individual antennas, but could very easily be served by a single fibre snaking down the less populated road from Petite Riviere. Removing just a few such South Shore communities from the Rural Connect and getting them to wired cable would mean more happy customers and revenue for Eastlink, and fewer users on the existing repeaters, so better performance for all.

    8. Eastlink as a company seems so poorly organized that they cannot respond clearly to a well stated single business case that includes TV, cellular and Internet revenues, to justify a fibre that would serve all these needs. Their various networks seem to be all expected to pay for their own individual backhauls, even the new ones or sparse ones, which utterly defies the way the industry does this math. They continue to take customer survey requests only one by one, not for whole villages at a time.

    9. There’s no alternative proposed to this long term capping of data, and our government doesn’t seem even interested in negotiating one. It is certainly their business, certainly their problem, public money was spent to support the Rural Connect network, and if it was mis-spent on repeaters not on backhaul, then it’s up to government to fix this. There certainly are plenty of other ways for rural customers to put $20/month towards long term connectivity solutions.

    An extra $20 per month for some fixed period to actually pay to extend the cable network – solving the bandwidth bottleneck for good rather than inviting further caps and charges – might well be welcomed by many such villages that can be served by 5-10km cable extensions. Considering that a house on a wired Internet connection is probably worth $5-10,000 more than one that is not, just judging by the averted cost of connectivity alone (to say nothing of the community likely dying for lack of connection), there is a lot of political gain to be had for supporting villages that have long stretches of wild road between, but are easy to serve once you get there.

    Such ‘edge’ extensions and flat-rate-access open dark fibre connections could be done by NSP, Bell, Eastlink, a local power distributor, or a community co-op. But the province and NSP do not make it easy to figure out how to build a local fibre network like the Valley Communities Fibre Network which owns a town-to-town backhaul of 72 fibres to Middleton. That network, by the way, rented 6 strands to Rogers to connect all of its towers in the Valley. So we already have publicly owned fibre rented to private companies in Nova Scotia, and it is improving service already in that region. We also have several town-owned fibre loops run by private companies expanding business connectivity in downtown cores of small towns.

    10. Most immediately, what will Eastlink do to customers who exceed the 25GB and are no longer paying per byte? It seems obvious they must throttle and arbitrarily retard performance, even on sensitive or business critical applications like Voice over IP, or VPN connections to secure servers.

    If indeed they are running into backhaul problems, they’d have little choice but to do that rather than slow down customers who haven’t hit the 15GB cap yet or who are paying them for gigabytes 16 to 25.

    The number of business and social problems *THAT* will create is endless. So far better to improve the backhaul before any cap can happen. But wait, there’s no time to discuss this. And that’s by intent.

    There is no time to discuss this or even find all the knowledgeable spokespeople before August 1. The summer is no time to organize, especially with most activists busy with the federal election. That timing too is by design.

    11. Satellite will never be an option, the inherent latency problems prevent VPN, VoIP, gaming, and a lot of other uses. It has also historically been absurdly expensive, and that probably won’t change.

    12. Bell may smell opportunity in some places and accelerate its switch upgrades to serve communities within 15-20km of a switch with FibreOp, but that is not going to help the power grid, and it is not going to help the lack of competition. More private backhaul monopolies is more long term problems and gouging. We’ve seen Bell pretty much lead the charge on data caps on both wired and wireless connectivity in the past, and once they have a monopoly or no uncapped competitors, we can only expect the same problem to recur.

  14. Craig Hubley says:

    IT’S NOT NETFLIX

    Here’s how you know the Eastlink story is a plain lie: This “data cap” will do absolutely nothing to prevent contention and poor performance on peak viewing times like weekday evenings. If the cap applied to usage only in peak periods like say 7pm-11pm Sunday to Friday almost no one would have much problem with it, given support for configuring updates, downloads, etc. to avoid these times.

    There are at least a dozen technical solutions to apply (including throttling only the high-quality/HD Netflix connections, throttling upgrade/update and other buik traffic) before going to a data cap only 25% higher than the average usage (which most users will see sometimes, and a third will see every month) before going to data caps, even with the existing network backhaul which is clearly inadequate and ill-designed.

    Given that Microsoft, Apple, Google, and every application developer now updates gigabytes at a time, often without telling the user explicitly, to pretend this is all about Netflix is a joke, a fraud, and a plain lie. Internet radio actually uses more bandwidth since it’s left on all the time in a great many households. And as I say capping does nothing about peak use.

    RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE – WHY IS SOUTH NS FALLING BEHIND EVEN THE NORTH?

    There is no question Al Fournier is correct to day. “The very fact they would suggest a 15GB cap with a straight face in 2015 should be ringing alarm bells in Ottawa about the rural broadband crisis in Canada.”…that “Eastlink has not invested enough to keep up with a growing Internet” and “the data cap is an attempt to force the government to fund additional upgrades to get Eastlink to back down” and finally that “wireless ISPs suck for 21st century Internet… are incapable of keeping up with growing traffic and bandwidth needs and need to be retired in favor of fiber.” At the very least, to every community, and in the long run, to every transformer. Once you’re at the pole or curb there are dozens of ways to get a few gigabits into the building – there is certainly no need to invite more monopolies by subsidizing fibre into the building itself (someone who really wants that, can pay for that extra few meters and housecall themselves). Even the Harper feds have been forced into the year 2000 or so:

    “he federal government announced Tuesday a $6-million contract with Seaside Wireless Communications to introduce and to upgrade high-speed Internet to 14,000 homes and businesses across 10 counties in northeastern Nova Scotia.”

    ” Seaside CEO Loran Tweedie said the $6-million grant from the federal government will be part of a $15-million upgrade to the company’s Internet network to “get it to the level it needs to go. …“We’ve got three years to finish the mandate that’s been outlined,” Tweedie said. He said 70 per cent of the work will be upgrading existing subscribers and the remainder will be used to expand the network. “It’s a combination of the two, the lion’s share of which will be making sure that the customers that we have right now have a much higher level of service than they currently enjoy.””
    http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1297597-rural-internet-service-gets-faster

    No such announcements from Eastlink. Why not? Why is this investment not happening in the south?

    Could it be because the Conservatives expect to hold on to Central Nova and Cumberland-Colchester, but not to hold on to West Nova and South Shore St. Margaret’s? Is it simple bribery with public cash?

    Now there’s a good question to ask in the federal election campaign this summer.

    SEASIDE’s NETWORK

    Seaside is clearly doing something right, and perhaps Seaside should take over the network entirely in the Eastlink territory / southern NS ? Here’s what they say about how they did it:

    “We did find that in many areas, the 900 Mhz spectrum got crowded, especially when we bumped up against territory where other WISPs were operating. We found we could eliminate some but not all of these problems with advanced synchronization—when all users cooperated.

    Fairly early in the project, we began using a variety of other frequencies — 2.4, 3.65, and 5.8 Ghz — each of which has its own characteristics. We were able to solve most problems by using the optimal frequency for a given location. Most of our 900 Mhz radios will operate at 3.0/1.0 Mbps, but other frequencies are capable of higher speeds, so we are increasingly moving to newer radios in other parts of the spectrum.

    We currently have ~10,000 customers on our fixed wireless network, which spans 30,000 sq. km. We have no bandwidth caps and no plans to implement them. ” – http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r30153370-Eastlink-rural-Wireless-just-got-worse

    How many Eastlink customers are getting anywhere near the 3.0 download / 1.0 upload that Seaside claims? What is the problem here? Obviously it is the poorly designed Eastlink repeater network and the failure to wire up the towers instead of relying on multiple repeaters.

  15. arbin says:

    “Jill Laing confirmed this week that Eastlink had withdrawn its bid to provide services to under-served rural areas of Nova Scotia under a federal government program called Connecting Canadians, saying the funding levels were not adequate to deliver wired Internet technology to remote areas.” http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/business/1298376-brighton-technological-backwaters-in-the-internet-era

    In other words, Seaside is competent and Eastlink is not. Time to point this out to investors, potential employees, customers, and everyone else who might have a choice not to choose Eastlink.

    Join the facebook group
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Eastlinks-cap-on-Rural-internet/481651228670394

  16. caliseo says:

    What I don’t understand is why does the crtc allow their to be a data cap at all, last I check data isn’t a Limited resource where when we run out that’s it.

    • Wireless is a shared resource. The more people using it, the slower the speeds get. Some providers split up their network geographically so fewer customers are sharing the same access point. Others increase their bandwidth to support more users.

      I think Eastlink considers both options not worth their investment to improve the existing network, which was fine if this was still 1996. What needs to happen is either a new provider takes over providing the service and is willing to invest in it or some sort of government funding is used to support upgrades and expand capacity. The rural access dilemma is the same everywhere. For-profit broadband makes rural service not profitable enough, which is why we need to stop treating broadband as just a business. It’s a utility.

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