interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘ISP’

The First Honest Cable Company

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 29, 2013

This is a very funny video… or it would be if it wasn’t true. So true. And if it wasn’t equally (or more true) for cell phone companies and the big Internet Service Providers.

This issue, like many others, is only an issue because the CRTC (our telecom regulator here in Canada) does the bidding of the industry it is exists to regulate. They mostly don’t even pretend consumer protection is an issue they consider. Under Canada’s inadequate inequitable and antiquated electoral system, this isn’t likely to change soon.

If you want things to change, you have to step up and start doing something about it. Canada needs to adopt Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have a meaningful democracy, where people (not corporations) have a say in our government. How can you do this?

Sign the Declaration of Voter’s Rights at Fair Vote Canada, and look for your local chapter so you can get involved.

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

EU: Public Consultation on “Open Internet”

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 11, 2012

Network neutrality (also net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle that advocates government regulation of Internet service providers[1], preventing ISPs from restricting consumers’ access to networks that participate in the Internet. Specifically, network neutrality would prevent restrictions on content, sites, platforms, types of equipment that may be attached, and modes of communication. Network owners can’t interfere with content, applications, services, and devices of users’ choice and remains open to all users and uses.[2][3][4]

Wikipedia, Network Neutrality

Here in Canada I first became aware of the idea of Net Neutrality when I began the StopUBB blog. Because I believe in free speech, I oppose censorship, and since the Internet has become so terribly important to us all, we all need to be able to access it.   Net Neutrality seems like a no-brainer to me, but those who want to harvest the Internet don’t agree.

Canadians have not been well served by out telecom regulator, CRTC, which blithely granted permission to the legacy carrier, Bell, to utilize Deep Packet Inspection without even a pretence of oversight.  Although our Canadian Privacy Commissioner warned about it, but most people didn’t hear about it, or understand it.  Most of us still don’t realize that everything Canadians post to the Internet was legally opened to the scrutiny of a private corporation when the CRTC essentially handed Bell the keys to our online privacy.

This ruling gave Bell the legal wherewithal to use its technical DPI capability to look at everything we put online that is not encrypted.

That means they can read our unencrypted email.  Bell employees with access can look at the DMs we send on Twitter or Identica, or what we believe to be “private chats” on Facebook or forums.  They can peruse the “private” baby pictures we post to Flickr, or home movies we post on YouTube, even when set as “private”.

Most of us don’t use encryption because we don’t know how and/or we don’t understand why it’s necessary.

EU Public Consultation

Currently the EU is looking at ISPs and Net Neutrality, by holding a public consultation.  Just to see, I took a look at it, and discovered that the questionaire was huge.  Cumbersome.  It asks the same kinds of questions over and over again, possibly in an effort to get people to eventually provide the desired answers.

Or perhaps the goal is to reduce the number of responses that will have to be dealt with.  If people start the thing but leave half the answers blank, there will be a lot of room to fiddle with the results.

In some ways, it looks very much as though this questionaire is really an instrument of propaganda.  It utilizes biased phraseology and presupposes consumer privacy invasion is both necessary and beneficial.  The questions posed don’t exactly support “Net Neutrality” or an “Open Internet.”

Just Do It!

Everyone in the EU has an opportunity to submit their own answers to this consultation.

If you live in the EU, I very much urge you to fill in this questionaire, so you don’t end up under a regime like ours.

It seems I have a pretty good grounding in all of this, so I thought I would share my answers with you here.  Since I have this blog licensed directly into the Public Domain, please feel free to make use of any of my answers that may help you fill this epic out.

Public consultation on specific aspects of transparency, traffic management and switching in an Open Internet

Questionnaire on one page

Question 1:

a) Please provide a brief description of your interest in open Internet issues.

Answer:  Free speech and a free exchange of ideas is important both for healthy culture and democracy. the protection of privacy, including anonymity is also important for the security of citizens.

b) Please provide your name, postal and e-mail address and if you wish, your telephone number for any questions on your contribution.

[On this I used my name and email address; all you need do is include your own name]

c) In which Member State(s) do you live?

Answer:  Canada … not a member state; but Canada has already started down the slippery slope and I hope to warn the UK against this dreadful error

Does your answer to this question (a,b or c) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

1. Traffic management

Question 2:

Please provide your views on the following ways/situations where traffic management may be applied by ISPs.

Are traffic management measures:

a) applied to deliver managed services (e.g. to ensure a guaranteed quality of service for a specific content/applications)

Answer:  problematic
If this means interfering with other packet traffic to give preferential treatment to some, it is wrong.

b) taking into account the sensitivity of the service to delay or packet loss

Answer: problematic
Neutrality means that all Internet traffic is treated neutralluy … equally. Preferential treatment is inappropriate.

c) used to implement or manage compliance with the explicit contractual restrictions (e.g. on P2P or VoIP) of the Internet access product accepted by the user

Answer: problematic
Contractual agreements between users and 3rd party services are simply none of the ISPs business. If the ISP is providing such services it ought to fall under conflict of interest.

d) targeting types/classes of traffic contributing most to congestion

Answer: problematic
This is not net neutrality, this is the carrier choosing which customers/traffic to discriminate against.

e) targeting heavy users whose use is excessive to the extent that it impacts on other users

Answer: problematic
If heavy users use is impacting on Internet service, the ISP needs to invest in infrastructure. No discriminatory traffic management processes are appropririate. Until the ISP improves the infrastructure, the only appropriate response would be across the board slow downs.

f) applied during busy times and places, when and where congestion occurs

Answer: problematic

This appears to continue the theme of targetting specific Internet traffic.   When and where congestion *actually* appears (not where the ISP alleges it will appear) in conjunction with g) affecting ALL applications/content providers in the same way (application-agnostic) would be acceptable. Targetting specific traffic is always inappropriate.

g) affecting all applications/content providers in the same way (application-agnostic)

Answer: Appropriate

All Internet traffic should be treated equally. (application-agnostic)

h) affecting (similar) applications/content providers of the same category in the same way

Answer: problematic

all traffic should be treated equally

i) used, without other grounds, against services competing with the ISP’s own services

Answer: problematic

Are you serious? Is an explanation actually required to explain that ISPs should not be allowed to discriminate against its competitors? See: Conflict of Interest, Anti-Trust

j) implemented at the full discretion of the ISP

Answer: problematic

Full discretion of the ISP is legally far too both broad and far too dangerous. What about human rights? Human Rights don’t just stop because we’re on the Internet.

k) other differentiation criteria (please specify)

Answer: The very same human rights citizens enjoy in the real world should be enjoyed on the Internet. Citizen privacy should never be legally breached without a warrant, certainly not by a wholly unaccountable corporate entity or quasi governmental service.

Real Net Neutrality means ISP accountability.

Does your answer to this question (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j or k) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

1.2 Traffic management and privacy issues

Question 3:

Where the user’s consent is required for traffic management measures, particularly where such measures might entail access to and analysis of certain personal data by ISPs, please explain how (e.g. in which format) this consent should be sought by the ISP, what prior information needs to be provided by the ISP to the user, and how the user consent should be given, in order to optimise user awareness and user convenience.

Answer:   It is a fallacy that blanket user consent is necessary for traffic management measures. Police can direct traffic without seeing people’s Identification documents, Internet Traffic can be managed in much the same way … that is what neutrality *is*.

There is no reasonable need for this kind of access.  If this access is demanded, it is not for user convenience, but for ISP convenience.  It weakens our personal privacy, by making it easier to spy on Internet users, as well as  improving the ISPs ability to provide preferential treatment to some Internet traffic and discriminate against other Internet traffic.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No


2. Transparency and switching (consumer choice)

Transparency is a key tool in the EU electronic communications framework to protect users and to ensure competition. Transparency enables consumers to optimise their informed choices and thus benefit fully from competition, in particular at a time when ISPs are developing new business models.

The BEREC investigation has revealed that many consumers have Internet access subscriptions with a number of restrictions. Moreover, the development of new business models is likely to lead to a broad range of offers which may contain different traffic management restrictions. These may address the needs or interests of specific consumers at prices which might not otherwise be available. It is, however, not clear whether ISPs are sufficiently transparent about such restrictions allowing consumers to make a deliberate choice. Customers, therefore, need clear, meaningful and comparable information on any limitations of their subscriptions comprehensible to all.

These requirements raise the question whether a restricted Internet access product may still be described, without qualification, as “Internet access” or whether the unqualified label “Internet access” should be reserved to (largely) unrestricted access offers. This debate has already been opened in some Member States and this public consultation seeks also views on this issue.

Another aspect of transparency concerns broadband speed, and in particular possible discrepancies between advertised speeds and actual speeds.

Transparency should be complemented with measures aimed at ensuring easy switching from one provider to another, and from one offer to another offer of the same service provider, to empower consumers to choose the service which best matches their individual needs. The electronic communications framework facilitates switching of operators by imposing the obligation to implement number portability within one day, by limiting the initial commitment period in contracts with consumers or by specifying that the conditions and procedures for contract termination shall not act as a disincentive against changing service provider.

It further specifies that subscribers have a right to withdraw from their contract without penalty upon notice of modification to the contractual conditions. It is also important to ensure that barriers do not arise as a result of the growing trend towards bundled services. This may require that switching processes and contractual arrangements are consistent between services offered in bundled packages, e.g. the most common “triple play” package of fixed voice, broadband and pay-TV.

Question 4:

In order to allow consumers to make informed choices, on the basis of clear, meaningful, and comparable information, which elements should be communicated to consumers?

- Elements related to traffic management practices:

a) Contractual restrictions (blocking, throttling, other restrictions on application use)

Answer: Important
Totally inappropriate.  Unacceptable.  Certainly not Net Neutrality.

This presupposes the right of an ISP to deliberately degrade the service it offers consumers. Why should consumers be forced to accept such restrictions?

b) Traffic management policy applied to prioritise certain traffic in specific circumstances

Answer: Important

Totally inappropriate. Unacceptable. Certainly not Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality can only exist if traffic management is application-agnostic.

c) Whether and to what extent managed services may affect the quality of the best effort Internet (e.g. the possibility of the Internet connection being affected when watching IP-TV or when using other managed services)

Answer: Totally inappropriate. Unacceptable. Certainly not Net Neutrality.

e) Data allowances (caps), download limits

Answer: No. This artificial way to disproportionately increase revenue is both inappropriate and unacceptable.

f) What these data allowances enable customers to do in practice (download x hours of video; upload y photos etc.)

Answer:  Important
Calling this kind of restriction a “data allowance” would make Big Brother proud. These are nothing more than “data RESTRICTIONS” which have the effect of gouging consumers

Elements related to speed and quality:

a) Average speed, typical speed ranges and speed at peak times (upload and download)

Answer: Government needs to ensure that advertised speeds are accurate. After all, if they are not, the ISP is committing fraud. Fraud on the Internet should be just as illegal as fraud in the real world.

b) Respect of guaranteed minimum speed (if applicable)

Answer: Important
If an ISP offers a “guaranteed minimum speed” consumers must have a reliable simple way of measuring, and remedies if such speed is not delivered.

c) What these speeds allow customers to do in practice (video-streaming, audio-download, video-conferences etc.)

Answer: Important
If these speeds are being bought by discriminatory treatment of other Internet traffic, the price is too high. ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised bandwidth speed.

d) Latency/network responsiveness (a measure of traffic delay) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. certain applications such as IP-TV or videoconferencing would be more seriously impacted by higher traffic delays in the network of the provider)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

e) Jitter (a measure of the variability over time of latency) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. echoing in VoIP calls)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

f) Packet loss rate (share of packets lost in the network) and which services would be affected thereby (e.g. VoIP)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

g) Reliability of the service (network accessibility and retainability), i.e. measure for successful start and completion of data sessions

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

h) Quality parameters for (mobile) voice telephony (call setup success rate, dropped calls, speech quality, other)

Answer: Important
ISPs must have adequate infrastructure to supply advertised service.

i) Other, please specify:

Answer: If the “traffic management” requires taking bandwidth from one customer to supply the needs of another, it is never appropriate.

The real world equivalent would be a Hotel claiming to provide “first class service” by snatching a sandwich from the mouth of the customer in the coffee shop so it can fill the order of the VIP guest seated in the candlelit dining room.

Does your answer to question 12 (or to any of its sub-questions) contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 5:

Some ISPs currently apply ‘fair use policies’, which give them wide discretion to apply restrictions on traffic generated by users whose usage they consider excessive. Do you consider that, in case of contractual restrictions of data consumption, quantified data allowances (e.g. monthly caps of x MB or GB) are more transparent for consumers than discretionary fair use clauses?

Answer: No

Calling a policy “fair use” does not make it so.

Restrictions do not reult in fair use, but in restricted use. These restrictions are not beneficial to consumers, and making them transparent will not make them beneficial to consumers.

Another real world analogy: when I turn on the tap to fill my sink so I can wash dishes, I would be unhappy my flow of water stopped so the public utility could give my neighbor’s dishwashing machine preferential treatment.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 6:

a) When should the elements of information referred to in question 4 be provided to the consumer by the ISP?

Answer:  before signing the contract
IF these elements are going to be allowed under law, consumers must be informed well enough that they can make a reasonable assessment BEFORE signing any contract. Any changes to a legally binding contract necessarily require a new contract, and the ISP should be liable to penalties should the consumer not agree to such after-the-fact changes.

This is not Net Neutrality, but Net Restriction.

Communication to consumers is called “advertising,” and is not the same as contract negotiation.

If the ISP wants to change the contract, the contract needs to be renegotiated. Announcing unilateral changes to a legal contract during the term of such a contract is not acceptable.

b) Which format (e.g. contract, general terms and conditions, separate and specific information, other (please specify)) do you consider appropriate to communicate this information to consumers?

Answer: Communication to consumers is called “advertising,” and is not the same as contract negotiation.

If the ISP wants to change the contract, the contract needs to be renegotiated. Announcing unilateral changes to a legal contract during the term of such a contract is not acceptable.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 7:

a) In order to promote transparency and consumer choice, do you consider it necessary that comparable data on the Internet access provided by ISPs is collected and published by NRAs or another independent organisation?

Answer: Consumers need real data to be able to make informed choices.

Do you think this information should be broken down by geographic areas or different data plans?

Answer: Certainly.

b) What are the advantages and corresponding costs of this data collection and publication being undertaken by NRAs or by another type of organisation (please specify which one). Please provide an estimate at EU-level or for an EU Member State of your choice.

Answer: The advantage is that consumers can make informed choices. That ought to be of great value to any democratic state.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 8:

a) Do you consider it necessary to regulate the labelling as “Internet access” of subscriptions that restrict access to some Internet services, content or applications?

Answer: Yes.
Truth in advertising should be policed and enforced by all governments

b) If yes, which restrictions would be acceptable before a subscription could no longer be marketed, without qualification, as an “Internet access” product”?

Answer: None

c) What would be the consequences (including the cost) for ISPs if they were not allowed to market as ‘Internet access’ an offer with certain restrictions, or if such marketing was subject to mandatory qualification? Please provide quantification for your own company or an ISP of your choice explaining your assumptions and methodology.

Answer: Perhaps consumers would look more kindly on ISPs that employed honesty in marketing.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

2.2 Switching

Question 9:

a) Please explain what barriers to switching ISPs still exist (if any) and how they can be overcome. Please mention in your reply all direct and indirect factors dissuading consumers from switching (e.g. obstacles linked to the terminal equipment, burden of proof regarding a possible breach of contract, etc.)

Answer: If the ISP has not lived up to its end of the contract, it is in breach of contract, no barrier to switching should exist.

b) How should an ISP inform consumers of changes to their packages?

Answer:  After the current contract expires. If the ISP changes the terms during the contract term, but fails to procure consumer acceptance of such change, the ISP is in breach of contract.

c) What actions by an ISP would constitute a breach of contract or modifications to the contractual conditions which would enable a consumer to be released from a contract?

Answer:  The same actions that would trigger breach of contract in the real world; not living up to the terms, and/or changing the terms without the consumer’s agreement.

d) Should customers be able to easily opt out from certain contractual restrictions (up to a completely unrestricted offer) by the same operator?

Answer:  Yes
Consumers should not be compelled to accept restrictions.

If yes, how could this be facilitated?

Answer: That would be up to the ISP to determine, under government oversight, of course.

e) Do you think that a customer should be allowed to switch to another operator within a reduced contract termination period in case his/her current operator does not at all offer an unrestricted Internet access product or does not allow switching to such unrestricted offer?

Answer: Yes, absolutely.
If the consumer’s ISP does not offer unrestricted Internet access, but another ISP does, the consumer should not be penalized for choosing Net Neutrality.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 10:

While there may be valid (technical) reasons why consumers do not always get the advertised service speed or quality, should there be a limit on the discrepancy between advertised and actual service parameters (e.g. speed)?

Answer: Yes
Truth in advertising. Consumer protection.

If you consider that there should be a limit on the discrepancy, how should this limit be defined?

Answer: I would put the question to I would put the question to Christopher Parsons (@caparsons) [http://www.christopher-parsons.com/blog/]

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 11:

Pursuant to Article 30 (6) of the Universal Service Directive conditions and procedures for contract termination shall not act as a disincentive against changing service providers. How could changing of operators be facilitated? Please provide examples and explain your response.

Answer: Governments must enact appropriate legislation to protect consumers.

Question 12:

How could the transparency of bundles (packages including telephony, Internet, TV) be improved for consumers and how could switching be facilitated in the presence of bundles?

Answer: Consumers want — and would be better served by being able — to buy what they want without being forced to take (and thus subsidize) services they do not want.  If ISPs want to mess about with bundles, this is the ISPs decision as part of its business model.  If an ISP doesn’t offer consumers what they want,  it may well fail.  That is the cost of doing business.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 13:

a) How important would be the benefits for end-users of improved transparency and facilitated switching?

Answer: Very important.
Consumer choice is always best for consumers when it is both informed and unrestricted.

b) What would be the expected benefits in terms of innovation by new businesses (content or applications) as a consequence of improved consumer choice and increased competition between ISPs?

Answer: Businesses that cater to consumers and offer real Net Neutrality would prosper, while those seeking to discriminate, throttle and restrict consumers would not.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

3. Process
Question 14:

a) Do you consider that intervention by public authorities is necessary at this stage?

Answer: Yes

If so, what would be the appropriate level of such intervention?

Answer: Get some laws in place to guarantee citizens access to real Net Neutrality.

b) What would be the consequences of divergent interventions by public authorities in the EU Member States?

Answer: If necessary, governments could take over ISPs that do not follow the law.

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Question 15:

Under article 22(3) USD NRAs have the power to set minimum quality of service requirements on undertakings providing public communications networks. In a scenario where in a given MemberState no unrestricted offer is available (for instance because all operators actually block VoIP), do you consider that the “minimum quality of service tool” should be applied by the NRA to require operators to provide certain unrestricted offers?

Answer: Yes
Doesn’t the law (as stated) provide for this?

Does your answer to this question contain confidential information?

Answer: No

Your response must reach the Commission by 15 October 2012!

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

UBB Choice? Smoke and Mirrors

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 4, 2011

No Usage Based BillingNow that various politicians of every stripe seem to have weighed in on UBB, and the announcement that it will be overturned has been made, the UBB front is quieting.

There has been shock and surprise that Bell requested a delay in UBB implementation. Of course it makes perfect sense… it will have died down in a couple of months. Will the same level of consumer outrage be there? We’ll have to see. Bell has been playing politics in Canada since it was formed by an Act of Parliament.

The lack of care for consumers as a crucial Internet stakeholder was apparent in that the CRTC allows the regulated Industry a three month appeal process, yet Implementation of UBB (including notification) to consumers was a single month.

And the CRTC is planning a “review.”

In von Finckenstein’s effort to defend UBB, he failed to recognize that there is a world of difference between supporting the choice of an ISP to implement UBB and a regulatory model that leaves an ISP with no other alternative. The CRTC’s UBB decisions are wrong not because UBB is wrong, but because they undermine the potential for competitors to make alternative choices.

Michael Geist, The CRTC’s Faulty UBB Foundation: Why There is Reason to Doubt the Review

Michael Geist is right.

The biggest tragedy is that Consumers are deprived of choice.

It doesn’t matter that Industry has choice if consumers have none.

The biggest failing of the CRTC is that the ONLY thing they take into account is the needs of the industry. Throughout the whole UBB issue, they have totally and utterly ignored the public. I first heard about UBB when the CRTC had closed the comments after the first proposal by Bell. At that time 4,000 consumers had filed complaints about UBB using the proper CRTC process. Yet when the CRTC approved UBB, it dismissed this incredible level of citizen input with a single line that consumers had commented. That’s THOUSANDS of responses made about something that had NO press coverage.

Throughout the entire UBB process, the CRTC has completely ignored citizen needs and issues. Incredible since their mandate is to look out for consumers.

If you don’t think that is a mammoth number, look at the number of participants in last year’s Digital Economy Consultation – which *did* have press coverage:

“Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2000 Canadian individuals and organizations registered to share their ideas and submissions. “

Minister Clement Updates Canadians on Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy

The CRTC has consistently ignored consumers, while ruling in the Interests of the large telcos. What UBB seeks to do to Independent ISPs is terrible.

But I believe it is most terrible because of what it will do to consumers.

NO CRTC

CRTC #FAIL

Right now, today, in 2011:

  • many Canadians only Internet option is dial-up.
  • many Canadians have but ONE Internet ISP “choice”.
  • some Canadians have two Internet ISP “choices” – legacy telephone or cable ISP
  • some Canadians have the choice between the legacy telcos (aka the carrier-ISPs) and Independent ISPs.

The only “choice” many Canadians have, the only way to choose a different ISP, is to move to a different geographic location. You know, sell your house, get a new job. etc.

Which is no choice at all.

The past two years has consisted of a great deal of time and money spent by all the ISPs. Lawyers fees alone would have been staggering.

If all of that money had been spent on expanding service areas, think of where Canada would be now.

No matter what happens, this has been an incredible #FAIL on the part of the CRTC.

In SPITE of the CRTC, there actually are a few UBB free choices, regardless. According to Reddit: UBB-Free ISPs yak.ca and eyesurf.net don’t get their Gateway Access through Bell. There probably are more like them scattered across the country.

It’s not over yet.

Regulating Canada into the last century will not help our digital economy survive in this one.
We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 14099 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clemet1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Responsibly against Internet Throttling *and* UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on February 3, 2011

or, Why David Eaves Is Wrong about Usage Based Billing

David Eaves is a smart guy. The problem is that there is so much misinformation about Usage Based Billing,  like so many others, he is terribly misinformed:

“One thing that has bothered me about these complaints is that they have generally come from people who also seem to oppose internet service providers throttling internet access. It’s unclear to me that you can have it both ways – you can’t (responsibly) be against both internet throttling and usage-based billing. “

—David Eaves, Why the CRTC was right on Usage-Based Billing

It’s understandable, really. UBB is difficult to understand, describe and explain. Because it’s so complex.
For instance, try explaining that Bell is a backbone carrier as well as an Internet service provider competing with their own wholesale customers.
It’s kind of like a song i heard when I was a kid, something about being your own grandpa….

First, the jargon is so new, much of it isn’t even in Wikipedia.

That’s one of the things I struggled to address when I started this blog. But it gets worse. Bell doesn’t use the words of jargon the same way other ISPs in other parts of the world do.

Let’s look at “throttling”:

The short version is that Bell’s version of “throttling” consists of deliberately impeding traffic, which actually artificially inflates bandwidth consumption. Worse, they use DPI to discriminate against specific traffic. When you add UBB to throttling, the result looks very much like fraud. Which is why the American ISP Comcast was slapped down by the FCC when they did it.

Understanding Bell Throttling, excerpt from C: Deep Packet Inspection

POLICING

Policing

Policing traffic above a certain rate simply consists of allowing dropped packets when there is Internet congestion. Using the infamously overused highway analogy, if there were two westbound lanes of traffic and the lead car in the fast lane has a blow-out and slams on the brakes and skids to a stop, the other cars in the fast lane can either rear-end this car or overflow the highway into the center ditch. Or both. The traffic in the slow lane just keeps moving along and none of it is lost.

So if the Internet truly is congested, some of it will go through fine but whatever doesn’t fit will simply be discarded, and become “lost” or “dropped” packets. The traffic that is not dropped moves as smoothly as ever. Without an acknowledgment of receipt, the dropped packets will eventually be resent when the recipient system places a “resend” request after the congestion has cleared up. Because this method of clearing up Internet congestion does not target any particular type of Internet traffic, it does not require the invasive deep packet inspection process.

Traffic Management: Forced Through A Bottleneck

Traffic Shaping or Throttling

The practice known as “Traffic Shaping” can also be called “throttling”.

Traffic Shaping is applied to Internet congestion by forcing all the traffic to slow down and conform to a certain speed by pushing it through a bottleneck.

In this process, no traffic is lost, it is simply delayed in a huge queue. Your computer’s packets will take longer to cross the Internet, and generally your computer will slow down its demands until the congestion is cleared. Revisiting the highway analogy, if we funnel four lanes of traffic into one, everyone gets to where they’re going, but the trip might take an hour instead of fifteen minutes.

This process called interchangeably Traffic Shaping or Throttling does not require the invasive Deep Packet Inspection process either, again for the same reason: it is not targeting a specific type of traffic, it slows down everything.

“ ‘Policing’ drops packets when a bandwidth threshold is exceeded, while ‘traffic shaping’ queues packets during high bandwidth use and releases them when bandwidth use reduces. No data is lost with ‘traffic shaping’. (Cisco, Comparing Traffic Policing and Traffic Shaping for Bandwidth Limiting)

‘Policing’ and ‘traffic shaping’ are protocol agnostic; all traffic is equally affected. Neither ‘policing’ nor ‘traffic shaping’ requires DPI.

Bell Canada’s throttling does neither.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

What Bell Canada calls “throttling” is not the same thing as what the rest of the world calls “throttling”.

What Bell Canada means by “Throttling”

“ Bell uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to identify peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic (CRTC filing), and most likely the Bittorrent protocol in particular. Bell Canada uses Sandvine’s equipment for DPI and throttling. With throttling, a forged reset is sent to the client for a percentage of transmitted packets. The client needs to re-establish the connection, as well as re-transmit the lost data (Robb Topolski first discovered the use of forged reset packets). Since Bittorrent transmits as much data as it receives, the re-transmission costs are significant.

BELL Logo

In the US, this practice was ruled illegal by the FCC .

‘Policing’ and ‘Traffic Shaping’ sound like industry weasel words to make it sound like they’re doing a good thing. ‘Policing’, ‘traffic shaping’ and ‘throttling’ all degrade service for the party being policed, shaped or throttled. Of the three, Bell has chosen to use ‘throttling’, the technique that’s most disruptive to its customers.”

–Bob Jonkman, Sobac Microcomputer Services

RESET

Bell Canada gets to decide the fate of our packets.

In 2008 Bell Canada acquired Sandvine‘s Deep Packet Inspection equipment with the intention of charging their own customers for their bandwidth usage. Using the DPI process to peel back the packet layers, Bell Canada is able to acquire a lot of information from the packets that make up our Internet traffic. Unfortunately, DPI also shows the Carrier what the content is, unless the content is encrypted. If the content IS encrypted, DPI lets Bell Canada know it’s encrypted. Essentially Deep Packet Inspection gives Bell Canada the capability of reading any unencrypted packets we send across the Internet.

The original application of DPI was to allow Bell Canada to keep track of their customers’ bandwidth use. This necessarily requires information about both senders and recipients, because you can’t reasonably charge Usage Based Billing without knowing which customers used what amount of bandwidth. Bell Canada did not require permission to do this to their own retail customers, because the CRTC does not set Internet pricing. The CRTC allows the ISPs freedom to charge what they want, since the CRTC believes Canada enjoys competition. The idea here is that customers who are dissatisfied with the price or the service terms they are getting are able to change ISPs.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that Bell was busily “throttling” customers, it seems that Bell Canada had begun a new business enterprise: The Globe and Mail: Bell launches video download store. Although customers using Peer to Peer file sharing protocols for downloading were being throttled, it seems subscribers to Bell Canada’s own download service were not.

The problem began when Bell Canada took things too far. After deploying their Deep Packet Inspection package, it wasn’t long until Bell Canada took it a step further– Bell Canada began to use DPI to “throttle” their wholesale customers’ Internet traffic as well.

Congestion

Certainly there is congestion. If you were using a 15 year old computer you would find it much slower than the one you’re using now.

The Canadian Internet infrastructure seems to be rather like that. At the beginning, Bell infrastructure was state of the art. It isn’t state of the art any more. This isn’t because of anything Bell has done, it seems to be what Bell has not done. It’s the same infrastructure they had back then.

Is that the fault of consumers? No. We pay some of the highest Internet rates in the world.

Non-discriminatory traffic shaping (slowing everything down, rather than singling out the traffic you don’t like) is the accepted practice in parts of the world where citizen privacy and equality is valued. DPI is illegal in many parts of the world because of its capacity for abuse.

Artificial Scarcity

The Internet is NOT full. The technology is not getting more expensive. Far from being a genuinely scarce resource, technology is getting faster and storage capacity is increasing while costs drop. Had Bell upgraded the infrastructure to leading edge five years ago it would have much cost far more more than it would cost today. And it would only be half as good.

I remember when my sister’s 2 gigabyte hard drive was unimaginably large. Today you can get a 2 Terabyte drive for around $100 and a 2 GB flash drive is barely adequate for my kid’s school work.

Canadians have been paying inflated costs all along that more than pay for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, yet if there has been any of the latter I’ve not heard a peep about it. So long as the CRTC allows Bell to charge the customers of their competition UBB there certainly is no incentive for Bell to increase capacity.

People Don’t Understand Bandwidth

What is bandwidth? How much are you using? How can you reduce it?

The first thing to realize is that we are paying for our Internet connection. I pay TekSavvy, my ISP, the agreed rate. My ISP pays the Carrier, Bell, the agreed rate. UBB is an additional cost added to an already profit generating price structure. It over rides contracts.

When TekSavvy buys bandwidth from Bell, they have bandwidth they can redistribute at their discretion.

If you buy a basket of apples from a Farmer, and then give one apple to Tom, three apples to Dick, and 14 apples to Harry, the farmer can’t charge more because Harry took too many apples.

Yet one of the most persistent fallacies floating around is the idea of “bandwidth hogs.”

hogwash

Hogwash

Actual usage costs range from less than a Canadian penny a gigabyte to possibly as high as three cents/GB.

Yet the big telcos want to charge a range from one to five dollars per gigabyte.

The Independent ISPs have contracted for finite blocks of bandwidth. They pay Bell what they have contacted — prices set by Bell — to pay for these blocks of bandwidth. UBB is a bonus that will be paid to Bell in exchange for providing zero in additional value. Without, say, having to upgrade.

Ultimately, unlike paying for a glass of water, Canadians don’t even know what bandwidth is. The CRTC claims that they support choice. Yet when the Internet first opened up, Canadians chose not to get involved. Originally, the Internet was all Usage Based Billing all the time, charged by the minute. Aside from Technophiles and the rich, Canadians stayed offline. It wasn’t until we could get the Internet at flat rates that Canadians jumped on board with enthusiasm.

Even Bell can’t reliably offer more than a “range” of what some internet activity will actually cost.
There is no meter we can see. Right now I could walk outside and wade through the snow and write down the numbers on my hydro meter. The federal government guarantees the accuracy of the equipment.

Yet there is absolutely no oversight for UBB.
Bell could pull figures out of the air, and consumers have no recourse.
Nor does Bell actually undertake to deliver speeds that they claim to offer.

And the CRTC allows this, instead of looking out for the best interests of consumers.

It’s not over yet.

Regulating Canada into the last century will not help our digital economy survive in this one.
We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 13974 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clemet1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Answering UBB Questions #1

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2010

No Usage Based BillingThe first question posted on the new UBB Question page is from Paul’s two part question that I think requires a three part answer.

Question # 1)

Does Bell currently charge its own customers with a Usage-Based Billing method, and is simply seeking permission to extend this to its resellers? Or is it seeking permission to use this model, even with its own customers?

Answer # 1)

Bell does currently charge their own customers UBB along with caps.

That is to say, the customers who are not still on the Unlimited packages that Bell originally entered the Internet market with.

In May I looked at what packages Bell offers to new customers customers in the article Why Do Bell and Rogers Have Customers?

The CRTC’s attitude seems to be that Bell is within their rights to do pretty much whatever they want to their own customers without seeking CRTC permission.

This was made very clear with the issue of “throttling”; the CRTC had no problem with Bell throttling their own customers; it only came up as an official CRTC matter when the Independent ISPs complained that Bell was throttling their customers.

Personally, even though I am (thankfully) no longer a Bell customer myself, I think this is wrong. If Canada is to have a regulatory body like the CRTC they should be charged with looking out for the best interests of ALL Canadians, including Bell customers. When any retailer behaves badly citizens ought to have recourse.

Old logo with text: The Bell Telephone Company of Canada - in a circle around a Bell which has the text: Local and Long Distance Telephone

Question # 2)

Where does BellAliant fall into this?

The two primary ISPs in Atlantic Canada are BellAliant (a merger? of Bell with the previous telco, Aliant, which itself was a merger of the individual provincial telcos), and EastLink (cable provider). Would BellAliant be considered a reseller, is it considered “Bell”, or does it fall outside the scope of this ruling? Knowing this would be quite helpful for rallying local politicians.

Answer # 2)

I would consider this “a Bell by any other name” [with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare]
As a consumer, I do not presume to know the ins and outs of the labyrinthine relationships of Bell companies.

Bell may wish to give the impression it is not simply one very rapacious corporation with an unacceptable amount of power and influence, but rather a group of smaller corporations. But it certainly appears to me that that Bell Aliant is part of the “Bell Family” of companies. And in Canada’s west end I have just as much trouble seeing actual differentiation between Bell and Telus, a corporate entity which certainly looks and acts like yet another incarnation of Bell.

There may be separations on paper but from where I sit Bell is one behemoth wearing two hats: that of the carrier that controls the telephone wires and a second hat as Internet Service Provider. The idea is that these are supposed to be two separate business entities, but the reality is such that even the CRTC no longer pretends to believe this.

[In actuality it is even worse than this. Much much worse. Not only does Bell also wear a “Cell Phone Provider” hat they are also well on their way to wearing a really big “Media Mogul” hat IT World Canada: Bell Canada back in the content business with CTV bid which is undoubtedly a huge part of why Canadians are not being informed about this and other equally crucial issues to our future.

a matter of language

As a writer, I understand the power of the language to slant our perceptions. This is part of why there are so many issues around the jargon of this new technology. And if having to cope with brand new terminology wasn’t bad enough, Bell makes it worse by using some terminology differently than ISPs in other parts of the world do (“throttling, for instance). This certainly helps to muddy the water.

The Internet and digital technology is still very new, and the words we use to discuss these issues can be used to clarify or confuse. Which is why one of the first things I put together for this site was a glossary. Consumers have no hope of even understanding what is being discussed if we can’t speak the language. Which is why it is so terribly important that Canada’s regulatory body does their job and looks out for consumers. And why I suggest Canadian consumers should sign the online petition at http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

In order to discuss any of this effectively we all need to be on the same page.

Paul asked good questions, but I think it is equally important to address the question he did not ask: what are Independent ISPs?

rural telephone poles along side a gravel road

BONUS answer

It is a serious mistake to call the Independent ISPs “resellers”.

Bell’s ISP competitors should more properly be called Independent Internet Service Providers. Because the Independent ISPs provide consumers with access to the internet, the same as the Bell or Cable ISPs do. Internet Service Providers provide consumers with access to the Internet. They sell us access. The Independent ISPs are wholesale Bell Canada GAS customers.

The reason calling the Indie ISPs “Bell resellers” is a problem is that it implies Bell has a proprietary interest in the Internet. And while I expect Bell would like nothing better than total control of he Internet, Bell does not own the Internet. Bell owns part of the Internet infrastructure (cable and equipment) on Canadian soil.

Bell owns this infrastructure only because successive Canadian governments gave Bell priviledged status and protection from the beginning. I expect there were government subsidies as well as made laws allowing Bell to run wire across private and public property alike to ensure Canada could participate in the 20th Century with a nation wide telephone network.

Bell owns the telephone wires over which we make our phone calls. This does not mean Bell owns our phone calls.
By the same token, Bell does not own the Internet.

As a backbone carrier, Bell simply controls the wires.

When the Internet was initially opened up to consumers in Canada, the original Internet Service Providers provided consumers with Internet service across the same telephone cable. Nobody called them “resellers” then.

Since Bell doesn’t own the Internet, a case could be made for calling Bell a “reseller.”

This was before Bell decided to enter the market with their own newly minted ISP which put all the original ISPs out of business by offering Unlimited Internet packages… For more detail on the history of how we got here in my Canadian Market said NO to UBB article.

Except now, with CRTC approval of Usage Based Billing, Bell the carrier has been granted the power to dictate costs and pricing schedules to the Independent ISPs that directly compete with Bell the ISP.

Stop Usage Based Billing



 

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11316 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clement1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



 

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Canadian Market said NO to UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 6, 2010

Telephone poles stretched along side a gravel rural road

No Usage Based Billing
The Internet is an interconnected network of wires connecting computers all around the world. The physical conduit of the Internet is the telephone wire or cable and associated equipment that connects together to form the “infrastructure” or “backbone”.

Because Canadian communications systems must cover great distances to serve a relatively small population these systems have traditionally required special treatment in order to provide Canadians with the services we need to both exist and compete in the first world economy. Although Canada has never had a strict telephone monopoly, from the very beginning different telephone companies provided services in different geographic locations across Canada. Which means we have for the most part had a “virtual monopoly” because each geographic area had only one telephone provider.

Regardless of what Canada’s telecommunication regulator the CRTC seems to think, if you have to sell your house and move to a new geographic location in order to get a different Internet Service provider it does not qualify as “consumer choice”. So although we have different companies providing access to the Internet, a great many Canadians have only one possible Internet Service Provider.

A Mennonite horse and buggy crosses the road

[When discussing the ISP "carriers" I pretty much always say "Bell" for the phone carrier, although in many cases Telus should be included as well. In the same way when I speak of the cable carrier I say "Rogers" to stand in for all the Cable companies, which over all of Canada I understand to also include Shaw, Cogeco, and Vidéotron because from where I sit here they all appear to be marching in lockstep. I do not presume to know if, when or how any of these companies may be interrelated. I myself have only had dealings with Bell and Rogers.]

infrastructure and private property

Somehow Bell Canada never seems to mention that the only way the telephone system we have today could have come into existence was through the goodwill of private property owners and government cooperation. They like to take all the credit for establishing the phone/cable infrastructure, but they could never have done it without our help.

Because the thing to remember is that telephone poles carrying telephone wire cross private land.

Had stringing the wire been left entirely up to the telephone companies, we might still be using smoke signals. Because without government assistance, the phone company would have had to negotiate with every single land owner. Individual property owners would have been able to prevent the telephone wire from crossing their land. Instead of ending up with a system covering all of the settled portions of Canada, we might have ended with many small unconnected pockets of telephone service.

Because as sure as the sun rises in the east, even today there are people who don’t want telephone service.

Certainly some would decline for religious reasons, while others might try to pry excessive sums of money from the phone company in exchange for granting a right-of-way across their property. To prevent such snags which might have rendered the existence of the telephone system impossible, forward thinking government mandated “easements” along the road side portions of private property. This government intervention allows utilities like electricity and telephone companies to put up poles along these easements and then string wires along them, or dig up land to allow cables or pipes to run under this land for the public good. In this way, the government acted to ensure Canada’s technologically wouldn’t lag.

The “who owns the wire” problem is not unique to Canada. Even in countries with dense enough population to support telephone competition it only makes sense to string one wire. Property owners can be persuaded to accept one set of telephone poles running along their land for the common good, but would balk at 5 sets of telephone poles. So even where there are five telephone providers they share the wire.

"Punchcard" photo by Mutatis mutandi

computers

When I was a kid, my Dad took us to a local university to see a gigantic machine that could solve mathematical equations if you fed it punch cards. Punch cards were exactly what they sound like: bits of cardboard with holes punched in them.

The computer programmer communicated with the computer via punchcards. The pattern of the holes made up the program. Back in those days of vacuum tubes, most people could not imagine the possibility that personal computers would ever exist. Computers were simply too big.

But then came miniaturization. Really, weren’t the first home computers was actually the digital calculators that swept over the world in the 1970’s? With the ability to achieve miniaturization, home computers were not far behind. The first home computers were DIY projects; if you wanted a computer you had to put it together. So naturally the first people to have home computers were the techies who could build them.

But it wasn’t long though before enterprising businesses began selling personal computers or PCs that anyone could use. Spreadsheet programs like Lotus Symphony revolutionized the accounting Industry. Desk Top Publishing was born. Games could be played. Calendars kept. The possibilities seemed endless. And they were.

Today ordinary people get personal computers in much the same way we get cars. We no longer need to know how to build or repair one.

the Internet

In the early days of personal computing, people could purchase modems that would connect computers via telephone lines. When your modem was connected to the phone line, it took control of your telephone service. When your computer was talking on the phone, you couldn’t. It got to the point where some computer users would get a second telephone line so their computing time wouldn’t tie up their telephone.

Before the Internet became available to ordinary people, there were independent computer networks. My first venture online was in 1989 with a commercial service called Compuserve. Although the research possibilities were excellent, the fun part was being able to live chat with folks from around the world.

The downside was that it was terribly expensive. You paid by the minute, which can add up quite quickly. Learning how to do anything took a lot of time and every minute online cost money. Although it was fun, being fresh out of college, I simply couldn’t afford it. So I went off line again. The public library was a much more economical place to do research.

I just went to search out Compuserve now. I’m happy they’re still out there. Oh and look… the deal I see is 2 months free to start and after that $17.95 per month unlimited. Twenty years ago my bill for a single month exceeded $100, and that was using one of their more economical billing plans! Times certainly have changed.

Later I became involved with an early computer network, a BBS or “bulletin board system”. These independent computer BBSs were very similar to the Internet forums of today; you posted your comment and it stayed there. People would check in over time and join in the conversation. No live chats here.

But it was an excellent antidote to Compuserve, because it was free. Voluntary donations helped support the system by paying for improved equipment for the people running it. A BBS was not a commercial venture, they were communities… today we’d call them social media… started by a few people with computer know-how and equipment to run it on. People found out about a BBS by word of mouth. Then as now content was important for finding and then keeping an audience.

three AOL disks

four AOL offers on four b;ue enrollment CDs

The people who owned the equipment controlled the BBS, and acted as the system administrators or SYSOPS. But it was the users who brought the BBS to life by beginning new discussion areas and posting conversations and content to the BBS. Because it didn’t happen in real time, the posts were often more thoughtful than live chat. But the owners held ultimate control; they could cut off anyone for any reason. Initially this power was only used to clamp down on abusive behavior; there were online Trolls then as now. Later on personalities and personal politics came into it.

My disillusionment coincided with one heavy contributor being cut off simply for having different attitudes and philosophies– mostly he annoyed the owners. But because he provided so much content and administered so many discussion groups, they didn’t want to cut him off for good, so instead they gave him small suspensions to keep him in line. That type of petty abuse of power is why I left that BBS, and has a lot to do with why I support net neutrality today.

That was around the time when the Internet became generally available to the public. Overnight there were Independent Internet Service Providers springing up all over Canada, and around the world. And although many people signed up, it was far from universal.

an array of internet hook up CDs

There were many seductive elements. Email and Instant Messaging held great appeal. Instant connectivity. Research, information… everything at your finger tips. But in many ways it was a luxury. A plaything. It was only later it became a necessity.

In my recollection, a lot people were initially resistant to going online because it was so expensive. There were many many ISPs, and so competition was fierce. Even so, it was still very expensive. ISPs charged by the minute. The most persistent and pervasive ISPs battling for customers was America Online.

AOL: Usage Based Billing

They must have mailed out hundreds of thousands of AOL sign up CDs. Maybe millions. I know I didn’t start keeping the CDs that kept turning up in my mail initially. Yet I still probably have around thirty of their CDs.   Yet I never did sign up with AOL.   I knew from my Compuserve experience how quickly the usage costs could add up, and how expensive it would be.   Not to mention virtually impossible to budget for.

AOL usage based offers

The AOL marketing campaign is writ large across those old CDs.
540 Hours Free
1000 Hours Free
1344 Hours Free
2000 Hours Free
3 Months Free
$9.95 for 6 months

AOL tried giving better and better introductory offers but it just did not work. After the early adopters, the techno types who would do whatever it took to be online — and more importantly pay whatever had to be paid– the mostly ordinary people just weren’t interested. It was a big cash outlay, after all. Just getting a reasonable computer system cost around three thousand dollars.

My first PC had a double floppy drive — not even a hard drive — a black & white screen — a dot matrix printer.  Three grand.

After laying out the green, most of us weren’t ready to sign away the rest of our disposable income for the Internet. Because after AOL’s “introduction period” was over, it would be back to the very pricey Usage Based Billing options. It just cost too much.

And there wasn’t even the content available online that there is today.

Certainly finding what you wanted took work, and learning is very expensive when you’re being billed per minute. The point is, you didn’t NEED to go online. You could buy a whole encyclopedia on one CD, or a spreadsheet program, a word processor or graphics software or games, and your computer could do everything you needed it to. People didn’t need the Internet. It was just too expensive. A toy.

What happened to AOL? The king of marketing? At one point they were the one to beat. They marketed the heck out of the Internet. Who else could afford to scatter CDs across the land with such bold abandon. Or convince respectable venerated Canadian banking institutions… notably some of the most caution in the world… to partner them? What cataclysm could have done for AOL?

Wait a minute:

Canada had ISP competition?  

Canada?

What happened to all those ISPs?

Bell Sympatico and Rogers Internet

enter the carriers

Bell Canada and Rogers Cable entered the fray.

Bell Canada was the major telephone carrier; they controlled and maintained the telephone cable backbone. Telephone traffic traveled over this wire, and now Internet traffic did too. Up until this time, Bell Canada just had phone lines, they were the major telephone carrier who controlled the wire backbone connecting home computer users to the Internet.

But now, Bell decided they wanted to get into the internet game. So Bell hung out a shingle as an Internet Service Provider, or ISP.

When Rogers entered the market they brought their own backbone in the form of urban cable connections. The first time I recall hearing about Rogers as an ISP they were offering high speed Internet connections. I wasn’t paying much attention back then. One minute there were scads pf Canadian ISPs and the next there were only two.

Bell and Rogers introduced “Unlimited Internet” into the Canadian market

Bell and Rogers used their corporate might to introduce low cost UNLIMITED Internet service packages that the smaller ISPs could not possibly match. Offering unlimited Internet access made trying it much more palatable because learning how to use it was no longer prohibitively expensive. Not only did customers switch to Bell and Rogers in droves, but more:

elimination of usage based billing allowed the Canadian Internet Market to really take off.

Canadian consumers told the market in no uncertain terms that we did not want the Internet on a Usage Based Billing model.

Low cost entry into the Internet made Canadians embrace the Internet. This is why Canada was an early adopter, and a leader in Internet use. Even though it didn’t take long for prices to climb. Since the other competitors were gone, Bell and Rogers had the market carved up between them so prices began to rise rapidly.

The Internet has impacted on just about every type of business there is. We buy and sell on eBay or Amazon. We pay our bills online. We can read Canadian laws online. Get up to the minute weather reports. We watch TVor read the newspaper online. Canada Post is offering to deliver email.

the Canadian Internet market clearly said “No” to Usage Based Billing

Because customers overwhelmingly chose “Unlimited” over the usage based pricing model, Bell and Rogers got the added bonus of eliminating the competition. Bell and Rogers were vying for supremacy so they built good infrastructure to offer the fastest best service. Back then, Canada had some of the best Internet access speeds at some of the lowest prices in the world.

This is a very large part of the reason that Canadians embraced the Internet so whole heartedly.

But the upshot is that Canada was left with only two ISPs. It was such a monumental error that even the Canadian Government noticed, and stepped in and told Bell and Rogers that they would have to share the infrastructure so that competitors could enter the Internet market in an attempt to re-introduce competition.

I’m not quite sure why, but it seems that all the Independent ISPs seem to get their Internet connection through Bell. When Bell set up the “Gateway Access System” (GAS) through which they sell wholesale bandwidth to the Independent Internet Service Providers The CRTC allowed Bell to set their own prices. Naturally they set very high prices. The Independent ISPs could then redistribute the bandwidth however they saw fit.

Canadian paper money, photo by laurelrusswurm

At first Bell was happy since they were making money from their GAS business. They were probably surprised that the Independent ISPs provided low priced packages and good Internet service without gouging that have built loyalty for the Independents. It’s funny how just about anyone you ask has at least one Bell or Rogers horror story in their repertoire, but I’ve never heard any about the Independent ISPs.

Canada’s place as an Internet leader has been slipping badly. Although Bell has done basic maintenance on their phone/Internet infrastructure they seem to have neglected the continuous upgrading they should have done. In real terms that makes Canada’s Internet service of today hopelessly out of date. What was cutting edge 15 years ago is paleolithic today.

Although the service has stayed the same with little or no infrastructure improvements Canadian Internet costs have been climbing.

(Make no mistake: the inflated Internet costs that Bell and Rogers have been charging have been more than enough to cover upgrades.)

Many Canadians went online because it was affordable back then, but that is no longer true.

Now, at a time when it has become more important to go in the Internet– to do our banking, pay our bills, find jobs, do school work– today Canadian Internet rates are some of the highest in the world. The Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity for Canadians. But not all Canadians can afford to even go online. The “digital divide” is yawning already, but now it’s about to get even worse.

Because the CRTC has approved Bell’s application to begin Usage Based Billing.

Real costs have nothing to do with it. Market forces have nothing to do with it.

The CRTC will allow our Internet rates to double to economically force Canadians to reduce Internet use.

CRTC #fail



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10925 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.
Because Usage Based Billing will harm not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clemet1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Usage Based Pricing: Why The Buffet Analogy Doesn’t Work

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 29, 2009

It seems that some American ISPs are also trying to promote the idea of Usage Based Billing. In fact, I just read an interesting post written by a guy named Buck on the Occam Networks Blog. It’s a very well written column in support of American Usage Based Billing.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

American Flag

The problem is Buck’s premise is based on a seriously flawed analogy.

Comparing the internet to a Buffet Restaurant, Buck talks about how some people eat more at a buffet and some people eat less. He tells us it isn’t fair that the people who eat less at a Buffet Restaurant are subsidizing the ones who eat more. The idea seems to be that the ones who eat more are greedy, and that they are taking advantage of the people who don’t eat much. He says it’s not fair to the Restaurant because they might go out of business if too many people want to eat too much.

Which begs the question:

If all of this is true, why do buffet restaurants exist?

The answer of course is that the restaurant business doesn’t work that way. Like every other type of restaurant, the Buffet Restaurant buys and prepares the food they estimate they’ll need. They balance what they spend with how much money they need to take in. If it they find they are throwing out too much food, they buy less food. If they aren’t making enough of a profit, they might raise their prices. If they raise their prices too high, they might lose their customers. A Buffet Restaurant deals with the very same business issues any restaurant does. The fact that some customers eat little and some a lot doesn’t comes into it.

In a traditional restaurant the light eater pays for food they don’t eat which is thrown out. In the Buffet Restaurant the light eater wouldn’t even have scooped the food they won’t eat onto the plate. In a traditional restaurant a heavy eater may not get enough to eat. Which makes them less likely to become a repeat customer. At the buffet, they can be sure they will get what they need.

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet.

Buck goes on to offer us an alternate scenario where he instead offers a “Mongolian barbecue” where the customer gets a big plate and can take what they want. Instead of paying one price, they are indiscriminately charged for everything they have taken by weight. Buck suggests that:

“The effect is that diners will take whatever food they want but are not as likely to overeat. Since the average eater is not paying more than their share in order to compensate for the big-eaters, the average eater pays less at a “per ounce” buffet than they would for an equivalent meal at a flat rate all-you-can-eat buffet. On the other hand, the heavy eater’s price for a comparable meal goes up, maybe even double what they would pay at a smorgasbord. These are the patrons that may be upset at the new pricing. Some will see the fairness in it and maybe curb their gluttonous ways while others will take their patronage to another restaurant. One could argue that these are good customers for the competition to have!”
writes Buck in the Occam Networks Blog

So, it would appear that in Buck’s model, the intent behind this pricing is not to make money for the restaurant, but instead to modify the customer’s behaviour. That is certainly an interesting business practice. Sadly, in modifying the behavior of his customers in an attempt to deliver them from their bad choices, it would seem that Buck’s ignorance of both human physiology and nutrition will certainly cause more harm than good. It would also seem to indicate that Buck is fortunate enough not to understand the correlation between poverty and obesity. Lucky Buck.

Errors of logic aside, the analogy is simply not… analagous.

Because the internet is NOT at all like a Buffet Restaurant.

When people access the internet they do not use it up. There is a finite amount of food in the restaurant which can be prepared and served at the buffet. When it is eaten it is gone. That doesn’t happen to the internet. Internet content isn’t finite. It doesn’t matter how many people visit a website, the content doesn’t get used up. In fact, websites want high traffic. The reason that they provide content is to attract an audience. They WANT high traffic.

In Buck’s analogy food is the content. Which brings to light another problem with this analogy. A restaurant offering a buffet has paid for the food. Yet the bulk of internet content is provided free of charge to the consumer, without any cost at all to the ISP.

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Lobster Thermidor

Really the only way to make Buck’s analogy work would be to say that the internet is not a Buffet Restaurant, it’s a neighborhood potluck supper being held in a rented Banquet Hall. The food is freely provided by the neighbors who attend, but somebody has to pay for the hall. That is the cost which needs to be portioned out.

It makes no difference to the owner of the Banquet Hall what the neighborhood group eats. Nor should it matter to the landlord how much any of the food cost to purchase, or how much time or effort was necessary in the preparation. The food is freely provided by neighbors for neighbors. The landlord set the price for the rental and the neighbors agreed to pay. Everyone is happy.

Until the night of the potluck when the landlord sees what the neighbors are laying out for the potluck dinner in his Banquet Hall, his attitude changes. These people aren’t serving Tuna Casserole, Baked Beans or Macaroni and Cheese, they are setting out Rack of Lamb, Chateaubriand and Lobster Thermidor.

Suddenly the landlord isn’t happy anymore. He could have charged them a lot more!

So the landlord decides to charge the neighbors for the food they ate at the potluck dinner in addition to what they agreed to pay as rent for the Hall, and we have finally achieved a good analogy for Usage Based Billing.

Hardly fair.


And let’s not forget:
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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