Answering UBB Questions #1
Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2010
The 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.
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?
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.