Bye Bye UBB
Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2011
Yesterday the CRTC did an about face and reversed the terrible decision to allow Bell Canada to charge Usage Based Billing to the Independent ISP’s customers, effectively pronouncing UBB dead.
On the specific decision, the CRTC rejected the UBB model it approved less than a year ago, acknowledging that it was too inflexible and could block independent ISPs from differentiating their services. The issue then boiled down to Bell’s preferred model based on volume and the independent ISPs’ approach who preferred capacity based models. The Commission ruled that capacity-based models are a better approach since they are more consistent with how network providers plan their networks and less susceptible to billing disputes.
With Bell’s preferred approach out of the way, the Commission was left to choose between two capacity models – the independent providers’ “95th percentile” solution and MTS Allstream’s capacity model. The Commission chose a variant on the MTS Allstream model that involves both a monthly access fee and a monthly capacity charge that can increase in increments of 100 Mbps. That model is even more flexible than what MTS proposed, suggesting that the Commission was primarily focused on building in as much flexibility for independent providers as possible. In addition to this model (which the Commission calls an approved capacity model), the large ISPs can continue to use flat rate models which provide for unlimited usage.
Michael Geist, The CRTC’s UBB Decision: Bell Loses But Do Consumers Win?
Although I agree that further changes should be made, I’m not so sure I go along with all of Professor Geist’s suggestions. The CRTC clearly does not function the way that it should.
The CRTC’s mandate is supposedly to protect consumers. Looking at the history of UBB it is clear that the CRTC does not. In practice, consumers don’t even make it onto the their radar at all; the only CRTC concern is the ISPs.
The CRTC continues to allow Bell Canada to deploy:
- Deep Packet Inspection. This essentially allows Bell Canada total access to all unencrypted Internet traffic. Which means the technology gives Bell the means to read our email, and the CRTC allows this. With zero oversight. The CRTC trusts Bell with their privacy, but I don’t. And although I’m not even a Bell customer, my email is not safe from Bell, because my ISP goes through Bell. This is no more reasonable than giving blanket permission to Canada Post to open postal mail.
- Gouging Customers. I was aghast that the CRTC didn’t understand that most Canadians pay a lot for mediocre Internet access, and worse, didn’t seem to believe the issue was relevant to their deliberations. Have to move to a different geographical location in order to get an another choice of ISP is not “choice.”
- Throttling the Internet. This one still boggles my mind today just as much as when I first heard about it. When customers pay for a level of service, and the service provider deliberately impedes that service, providing inferior service than has been contracted for is wrong. And again, Bell is not only does this to their own customers, but to the customers of the Independent ISPs as well. Worse still, Bell decide singles out specific Internet traffic to discriminate against it. The CRTC gave Bell permission to do this, the implication being that is that all encrypted traffic is “Downloaders” It seems to me, even if someone is using the Internet for nefarious means, to illicitly download copyrighted content, say, it should not give an ISP the right to provide less bandwidth than the customer paid for. This argument is flawed; one crime doesn’t justify another.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I grew up in a world where deliberately short changing consumers was considered to be fraud, and when even the government law enforcement officials were required to get a warrant before they read my mail.
These are some of the reasons why I don’t think the CRTC is doing its job of protecting consumers. This could be fixed by making sure that the CRTC reflected its real constituency better. [hint: the CRTC should not be limited to past or present Telecom employees, but should also include consumers.] There shouldn’t have to be a major outcry before the CRTC hears consumer; if the CRTC is going to continue to exist, it needs to be responsive to the public.
If the CRTC isn’t reformed, it should be dissolved and replaced with something that does look out for citizens.
Both Bell and Rogers have far too much control over too many facets of the industries they inhabit. This sure looks like what our American friends might define as “anti-trust.” Where was the CRTC … how did things get this messed up if the CRTC was doing its job?
Rogers is apparently an even worse throttler than Bell, and in fact, “Rogers: The World’s Worst Throttler (Officially)”.
These corporations are not going to behave any better unless compelled to do so. Maybe its time they were broken up; the Internet is an essential service, perhaps it should be administered like any other utility, for the public good rather than the corporate greed.
[Thanks to both Robert & Joan!]