Internet usage could impact monthly bill

The surge in home-based Internet usage could soon translate into dollars on your monthly utility bill – so users beware.

The surge in home-based Internet usage could soon translate into dollars on your monthly utility bill – so users beware.

Streaming Netflix, Skyping with the grandkids, chatting on Facebook, or downloading high definition games are popular past times that chomp up data on home service plans, which means overage charges are on the horizon.

While Telus doesn’t currently enforce thresholds on home Internet packages in the Greater Trail area, the company is running a pilot project in Prince George for “select” customers that includes charges for usage exceeding their Internet plan’s monthly data allowance.

“Telus is very cognizant that most people don’t know how much data they are using,” said Shawn Hall, from Telus media relations. “So one of the things we are doing in this pilot project is putting how much people are using on the monthly bill so they have that information before any changes,” he explained. “But most customers find their usage is well within the threshold of their plan.”

Telus maintains that customers who use their Internet service for email or to share a few photos shouldn’t pay as much as another who downloads hundreds of gigabytes for games or videos.

Additional usage charges begin in the zero-to-50 GB range at $5, and skyrocket to $75 for using 350 GB or more.

The pilot program is looking at a way that would be fair and equitable for charging for thresholds, Hall added.

Last year, Telus invested $2 million in Trail for new fibre-optic infrastructure that significantly increased Internet speed and brought the company’s Optik TV to the area. Recently, the telecommunications giant expanded the latter service on the Go app to allow customers to watch video on demand via their smartphones or tablets.

According to a 2014 Media Technology Monitor report, the concern for companies like Telus and Shaw Communications is not customers opting out of TV bundles in favour of online content, rather it’s the strain that streaming to second-screen devices is placing on Wi-Fi.

“The Internet really has become the dial tone in the household,” said Hall. “Use is certainly increasing rapidly so Telus continues to invest billions a year to make sure we have the infrastructure needed to provide customers with the Internet service they want.”

Shaw Communications upped regular monthly rates on all Internet plans January 1, with the company maintaining the price increase supports continued investment in expanding the company’s fibre-optic infrastructure.

Rates of household access are highest in British Columbia and Alberta at 86 per cent, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent study (2012). Additionally, about 60 per cent of connected households use wireless handhelds such as smartphones or tablets, to browse the web, check email or watch videos and movies.