Dear Mr. Levesque,
Here are the answers to your two questions:
No, the manual reading fees for a non-communicating meter are not the same as they used to be for the old electromechanical meters. However, when all customers had electromechanical meters that required manual reading, it was only natural to distribute all reading costs evenly in the rates paid by all customers, as they all benefited. Nowadays, with next-generation meters that automatically transmit the consumption data to our servers, manual reading is no longer necessary, except for the few clients that have opted out and chosen to have a non-communicating meter installed. Non-communicating meters require the on-site presence of an employee to read them, and that is why Hydro-Québec charges $5/month from clients who have opted out. We bill customers for the actual costs of the service provided, no more, no less: no one pays reading fees twice.
As for your second question, the fixed charge is only one of the three components that make up the residential electricity rate (Rate D). In addition to the fixed charge, Rate D is comprised of what we call the first tier (applicable to the first 30 kilowatthours per day) and the second tier (applicable to the remainder of the electricity consumed). These are the three components that, together, cover the total costs incurred by Hydro-Québec in order to supply electricity to its clients and deliver the services they need. Therefore, a particular service, such as meter reading, cannot be associated with a specific component of the rate. These fees, as all others, are covered both by the fixed charge and by the first and second tiers.