interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 18, 2009

Although they began low, over the past few years Canadian internet rates have been escalating to the point where we are paying some of the highest rates in the world for internet connectivity.

In the midst of a recession.



And the CRTC has just given Bell Canada permission to implement Usage Based Billing. In just a few months every Canadian who accesses the internet through the phone lines will be paying more than we’re paying now. In some cases double or more. Bell Canada even gets to charge those of us who get our service from independent ISPs. Usage Based Billing will force Canadians to be paying Bell Canada for everything we do online. Including email. Including spam.

In the midst of a recession.

At a time when so many Canadian Families are struggling to put food on the table, many parents will be forced to curb their children’s internet access because reducing service will be the easiest way to keep internet costs down (short of cutting it off). In a world which increasingly relies on internet access for so many things, this will not be good for our children.

Usage Based Billing will put Canada at a decided disadvantage in the global economy. It will certainly make it much more difficult for Canadians to create innovative software or hardware because the creators and inventors will be stifled by the necessity to watch the clock when they are online.

In the midst of a recession.

If enough Canadians speak up loud now we may still be able to stop this. But once they begin raking in our cash, it will be difficult or even impossible to stop. Remember the GST? It’s never going away.

Things we can do:

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Although I am aware that submissions have closed, as a private citizen I have put in the following complaint to the CRTC. Here is How you can do this:

  1. Submit to the CRTC
  2. For the type of application select Tariff,
  3. and as a subject, use File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181.
  4. Thanks to Antonio Cangiano for these instructions!

This is what I said in my submitted complaint:

“I am extremely angry that the CRTC has decided to allow Bell Canada to charge Usage Based Billing on my connection to the internet. My business relationship is with Teksavvy, NOT Bell Canada.

Even worse, there is no possible justification of Usage Based Billing.

Not only will this greatly increase my own costs in using the internet, it will most certainly damage the lives of all Canadians, particularly marginalized Canadians. The worst of it is that it will have such a negative impact on our children.

Although Bell Canada shareholders will see short term profit, they will suffer long term from the damage this move will cause to the Canadian economy. Because the result of increasing Bell Canada’s profits will have the larger and more serious ramification of placing Canada at an unfair disadvantage to the rest of the world in our ability to compete in the global market.

Even before this change was announced I was disgusted that Bell Canada was receiving the lion’s share of the payments I make to my ISP. Yet my ISP has been able to provide me with much better service than I’ve seen others get from Sympatico (Bell Canada). The profit Bell is likely to realize from this new deal is ridiculous.

I cannot imagine why the CRTC would see fit to increase for Bell Canada profits over the good of Canadian Citizens. Especially during a recession.

The CRTC is supposed to exist to benefit Canadian citizens.”

What else can we do?

If anyone has any other suggestions please let me know.

This issue will touch all Canadians.  Most people still aren’t aware that this is happening, so spreading the word is probably the most important thing to do.


STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

P.S.  If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this blog, please contact me.


4 Responses to “What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing”

  1. Greg Fish said

    The Usage-Based-Billing (UBB) Scam
    Usage-based-billing (UBB) is a sham and a colossal scam – a literal crime of the century. I can prove it and this is how we stop usage based billing. We publicly accuse Bell Canada, BCE, Rogers, etc., of specific crimes that they will not be able to ignore. We will make them have to sue us in court to stop our accusations or acquiesce, give-in and abandon UBB. If it’s to be a law suit, the discoveries in that case will make interesting reading!!
    And what are these crimes. The implementation of usage based billing as a scam to steal money from unsuspecting and non-technical customers. And this article outlines how.
    Individual customer internet usage is not measurable. Neither Bell, nor anyone else, has the means to measure your internet usage, at all. And this is because of the nature of both “TCP/IP data transmission” and “measure”.
    First, let’s tackle “measure”. Wikipedia implies that the term is so widely used in various contexts that it suggests further refinement. “Measurement” is better defined. “Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the meter, second or degree Celsius.” It then goes on to say, “Standards – With the exception of a few seemingly fundamental quantum constants, units of measurement are essentially arbitrary; in other words, people make them up and then agree to use them. Nothing inherent in nature dictates that an inch has to be a certain length, or that a mile is a better measure of distance than a kilometer. Over the course of human history, however, first for convenience and then for necessity, standards of measurement evolved so that communities would have certain common benchmarks. Laws regulating measurement were originally developed to prevent fraud in commerce.”
    Laws regulating measurement were originally developed to prevent fraud in commerce!! Wow. We have laws to prevent commercial fraud. Based on measurements. Buy a pound of butter or a liter of milk and you better well get what you paid for! It’s a standard and precedent consumers have long understood to be a given.
    So, to legally measure data usage we will need to define a physical quantity, which in the case of usage-based-billing appears to be “Time”, specifically the telco’s “billing period”, typically a month. But hold on – problem already; all months are not equal. So your contract may say per month but some months you may allegedly “consume” more “data” because the month is longer, but your allotted amount is static!
    Regardless, let’s say that they really can “measure” data usage on a daily basis. So we would expect the “data usage” to be measured on an “X per minute” or “X per day” or “X per hour” basis (or even “X per month” if we weren’t really serious about accurate measurements).
    So now we need to define “X”, our “unit of measurement”. Most say it is gigabytes or megabytes or kilo bytes but really, we’re talking about bytes – 8 bits – 8 ones and zeros. So our unit of measurement is a logical state – one or zero, true or false, yes or no, on or off. It is important, in the interest of accuracy to deal in bytes. Why? Because there is confusion about how big the other units are!! Is a kilobyte a thousand bytes? No. It’s One thousand and twenty four. Is a megabyte a million bytes. No it’s 1024 kilobytes (1024×1024=1,048,576 bytes). Gigabytes and terabytes skew the numbers even more.
    So, wow, now we have a provable legal measurement metric. Bytes per second (or minute or hour, or day, or month – we can all do that math). But wait, aren’t you already paying a byte per second charge?
    Your basic service rate is determined by the size of “pipe” or connection your contract for. You have a “guaranteed” rate of data flow – so many megabits per second. This is called pipe-based-billing and is the only legal way the major ISPs in this country – Bell and Rogers – may sell their Internet connectivity to their competitors; other independent ISPs who get their Internet connectivity from the major telcos.
    In November, 2011, the CRTC passed regulations prohibiting the practice of usage-based-billing for transactions between independent ISPs and the major telcos, stating that pipe-based billing was the only allowable model. One of the many reasons given for the ruling was that it was understood that usage-based-billing resulted in an inordinate number of irresolvable billing disputes, i.e. it was unsupportable by legal proof!
    But the CRTC didn’t see fit to extend this understanding to transactions between ISPs and retail customers. The reason – they weren’t asked to. All three parties to the dispute – CRTC, Major Telcos and Independent ISPs didn’t want it extended and so never brought it up. The CONSUMER billing status quo was fine for all Consumer billers!
    The usage-based-billing model is favored by the telcos exactly because it cannot be proven. But try asking them to prove it, just for laughs.
    Ask for specific numbers of actual usage with timestamps, i.e when and where you visited sites or other data consuming services and the data “consumption per second” during that usage. Please remember that not even the publisher of a specific page on the internet will know the size of the page in kilobytes because pages can have elements, i.e. advertisements, videos, audio streams, etc., that are sourced outside of the page address you visited and change with every page view, (and you may or may not even be aware that continuous data transfer is occurring).
    That question alone will bring the script-driven brain-dead 310-SURF serf’s script to an abrupt end. “It’s a privacy issue,” “The Privacy Act prohibits providing details of a two way communication (all Internet traffic is two way – more on that later) to only one of the parties involved.” “Other users (of the service YOU pay for!) may have their privacy compromised.” This is the true reason for some of the Internet provisions of the Privacy Act. It is not to prevent you from knowing what porn sites your kids visit. The fact that it does is inconsequential except that it infringes on your right to regulate a service you pay for and to manage your family’s affairs as you see fit. IT IS TO PREVENT YOU FROM KNOWING HOW THE TELCOS CALCULATE YOUR BILL! They can then charge you for “services” they cannot define to you! By law!
    So that avenue of questioning hits a legal dead end.
    So let’s change the question from “what did you measure” to “how did you measure it”. Specifically, what are the algorithms used to determine “usage” as related to billing practices. You may be surprised with the answer. Ask directly about the use of “95th percentile” usage calculations. This was the predominant algorithm (amongst a whole array of them) used in previous usage-based-billing (UBB) schemes between the telcos and independent ISP’s before UBB was outlawed. You are billed at 95 percent of your PEAK usage during the billing period. So imagine that day when you watched a Netflix movie and filled the pipe for a couple of hours, translated to 95 percent of that over the whole billing period!!! Huge bills, for sure.
    Do the telcos use 95th percentile calculations for consumer bills as well. I’m sure (because I have asked) that they won’t tell you. They won’t divulge any data as to how the usage portion of your bill is calculated. So we can only assume they do use some form of 95th percentile calculations and act from that assumption. Accuse them of it in public and see what falls out. Make them say publicly how the calculate data usage for consumer accounts.
    They won’t say how because how is a crime!!. It is widespread consumer fraud. The thing measurement laws were supposed to prevent.
    The truth is this. The UBB billing algorithm for the usage portion of your internet bill has a main over-arching component and that is “bill what the market will bear”. Emailed messages about your account usage are marketing test messages meant to frighten you into “upgrading” to a more “economical” (read “pricier”) “base” rate!! I just got one that said that my data usage on my “25 gigabyte plan was 12.85 gigabytes and there were still 29 days left in the billing period” and suggesting I upgrade to a costlier plan. I complained through the only method available immediately which was on-line chat with a script-driven moron who almost immediately cited the Privacy Act and left the conversation (digitally hung-up on me!). So I replied to the email threat I had received only to get a reply that stated that as of July 4th 2012 there would no longer be any email support available. It included no answer to my query about how the calculations were made. It was only May 22nd.
    Ignore the marketing message and next you’ll get a healthy bill for “extra data usage”. I’m bracing for mine.
    You may then roll your eyes and silently curse the biller, but pay up out of fear of losing your phone, and possibly TV service, as well as internet service, or getting an automatic bad credit rating for refusing to pay the “extra charges”. Or you may complain to the billing department, get the Privacy Act runaround and then finally, if you don’t acquiesce or fatigue-out, you will get a billing adjustment. You have just set your personal “what the market will bear” benchmark. All future bills will hover around that bench mark, carefully avoiding your wrath in the future. Funny how your internet usage stabilized so quickly, eh! In several months they will float another trial balloon your way and see if you pay or complain. The lesson here – ALWAYS COMPLAIN ABOUT THE ISP’s usage-based-bill!
    Make no mistake about it; the telco will NEVER sue you for non-payment of an invoice that includes “extra charges” for usage. But they will cut your phone and internet service and they will register a negative credit report by referring the bill to collection. No telco assigned credit collector will sue you either because they cannot access the information required to do so (telco won’t provide – cites Privacy Act). But you will get a bad credit rating. It will affect the amount you pay monthly on your largest lifetime purchases – your home mortgage, car loan, vacation loan, cottage mortgage, etc. They’ve got you by the short and …ies and most people know that. Individuals are being unfairly bullied by giant corporations – no news here. Dog-bites-man story.
    The only time the story changes to man-bites-dog, i.e. real news, is when individuals join together to fight the corporation. These are called class action law suits and any class action lawyers out there willing to take on the major telcos should drop me a line. In fact anyone wanting to launch or join a class action law suit should also drop me a line
    So, in lieu of a bunch of lawyers suddenly appearing and scrambling to take on the biggest players in an industry that is one of the biggest in the country, I have decided to publicly speak out about how this industry bullies and robs its customers. Directly accuse them of being thieves through commercial fraud – by billing one thing and delivering something entirely different. The amount of data you “consumed” has NO BEARING on the amount you are billed – guaranteed.
    So, now, to the intricacies of the TCP/IP data transmission protocol suite. TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol. It defines how data is transported (not “consumed”!) over the internet. Among other things it determines how data transmission protocols insure the accuracy of the transmission. This is how it works, albeit in a simplified easier to understand way.
    The data requested is broken up into “packets” of a certain size, say 64 bytes. The packet also contains other ones and zeros. These bits are used to route packet to its intended destination (receivers address) and also determine HOW AND WHEN TO SEND BACK verification (and so, includes the sender’s address as well). This verification of received data packets is very important. Applications and files of all kinds, which may be hundreds of megabytes in size, will not work if even one byte (in some case even one bit) is “wrong”, so accuracy is the most important feature of data transmission. How is this accuracy assured? It involves something known as a “cyclic redundancy check” or CRC number. This CRC is simply the total of all the ones and zeros in the packet and is included in the packet. When the receiver gets the packet, the first thing it does is check the CRC number of the packet against the sum total of all the bits (ones and or zeros) it received in the packet. If the numbers are not the same, the receiver sends a return packet saying “Hey, I didn’t get that last packet properly, please resend it”. If the numbers do match, the receiver still sends the sender a packet saying, “Hey I got that one okay, send another”. So every piece of a data transmission is actually a two-way data communication, sometimes referred to as handshake communications.
    But an interesting thing happens here. Suppose the line is perfect from start to finish. The data transmission is still almost twice the actual data requested. But what happens on a “noisy” line?
    First we should define noise. In all intelligent transmission, whether it’s telephone, telegraph, television, radio, etc., there is a phenomenon known as “signal to noise ratio” All transmissions regardless of the medium, are noisy to a certain extent. And telecommunications engineers define noise as “everything on the line that isn’t signal”.
    Well noise on an analog audio signal (plain old telephone service) is pretty obvious and telco’s do everything in their power to eliminate it. The same goes for radio and analog television. Static and snow are pretty obvious distractions from the experience!
    Not so for digital transmission. The nature of digital transmission as detailed above means that the noise is automatically eliminated by the CRC numbers and TCP/IP. The transmission may slow down but it will be accurate. But curiously, noise is no longer the enemy of the telco, to be eliminated at all costs. It is the friend of the usage based biller because noise EXPONENTIALLY increases the amount data transmitted as measured but the number of bits per second! In fact, if the noise is the right kind (digital), not only does it result in resending multiple packets multiple times, it also counts as additional ones and zeros – the noise itself becomes “traffic”!
    Then an even more pernicious transmission cost appears. If there are multiple transmission errors with packets of a certain size, the TCP/IP suite includes protocols to shrink the size of the packets from 64 to 32 or 16 or even eight! Big packets have errors so smaller packets will have fewer errors. But every packet regardless of size has the same “wrapper” data (sender’s address, receiver’s address, CRC number etc.) as a full sized packet. Again, an exponential increase in the total data transmitted. No wonder they won’t say how they calculate their charges!
    There is a secondary aspect of TCP/IP communications and that is something called data collisions. When two clients in the same subnet (collision domain) try to access the wire at the same time, there is a collision and both packets are lost in their entirety and must be re-sent. There is a time-out before the receiver reports that NOTHING was received yet and then the packet is resent. Noise and collision control are how ISPs can institute and manipulate “bandwidth throttling”. Bandwidth throttling is also regulated against as a means of enforcing data usage quotas.
    But bandwidth throttling in not regulated against as a means of increasing data transmission rates. No one’s brought it up yet apparently. Bandwidth throttling, by the way used to be used to control usage by increasing the throttling effect as your account neared the end of the billing period and it appeared you would “get more than what you bought”. It was their first attempt at coercing users into upgrading their base rate packages to prevent what I called “end-of-month-slowdown”. When it was outlawed, ISPs embraced usage-based-billing with a vengeance.
    Also, TCP/IP controls how ALL DATA Traffic – even VOIP (voice-over-IP) telephone conversations (virtually all voice communication is digital now, i.e. some form of VOIP) and digital TV service – is transported. How does the telco, by reading the number of ones and zeros on their line, determine whether the ones and zeros are voices conversations or television service or internet traffic? They are going to say they use “packet sniffers” to determine the type of content the packets contain and then filter on what known content types are present. What about the unknown content types? Data or noise? These are just some of the things you must trust your ISP to be honest about with UBB. Do you believe that their way of calculating billable data transmissions is in your best interests as a consumer or their best interests as a money vacuum. Are you even able to judge fair from arbitrary. You surely cannot control your data usage since not all data is displayed or played for your benefit. Lots of hidden data transfer occurs on lots of pages on the Internet. Many (most) websites collect data about your internet, shopping and searching preferences. Are you paying for that? Your ISP has almost exclusive access to the modem in your house and many are infected by viruses that constantly relay data to the Internet. Your ISP knows they are there and how they got there, has exclusive access to it and will do nothing about it. Are they complicit or hiding behind plausible deniability? “We can’t monitor everything”, they say while at the same time implying that they do when it comes to data usage billing!

  2. Doug Owen said

    A Facebook page has been started up concerning the UBB with more information. It would be a good thing if people joined it and protested the UBB in it also. My MPP will be monitoring it.

    Here is the link:

    Stop UBB in Canada Facebook Page

    • There was already a FaceBook page!/group.php?gid=141482555398 (although no one has been administering it for quite some time).

      A couple of things to be aware of with FaceBook pages. Many people will not join FaceBook because it is locked down behind a proprietary wall. If you wish to spread information as far as possible you’ve chosen correctly in making the page visible without forcing people to decide to join. But yous should understand that many people who come to your page will not be able to click “Like” because they are unwilling to feed their personal information into the FaceBook maw.

      You should also be aware that this has been in the works for a couple of years, and there’ve been a variety of initiatives launched leaving a great many people unwilling to sign another petition or join another page. Even so, they remain in opposition. Adding new voices to the protest is valuable.

      That said, my only reservation is with the type of FB page you’ve chosen to host. I’m not sure of the FB terminology, but people can’t join your page, they can only “like” it. Although this type of set up can leave greater control in the hands of administrators, I suspect it will result in less participation than if it was a page people can join and have an equal say as members rather than relegation to the status of “others”. Membership is more participatory. Although there can be digressions the two most successful Canadian FB advocacy pages I know have been the CAPP page!/group.php?gid=260348091419 and Fair Copyright for Canada!/group.php?gid=6315846683.

      Good Luck. (we sure need it!)

  3. […] UBB Archive August 2009 #1. What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing #2. Thing One: Speak Up #3. Dissolve the CRTC? #4. This is How Throttling Works #5. Usage Based […]

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