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(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Bob Jonkman’

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



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CRTC Approved UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 6, 2010

No Usage Based BillingAccording to the CBC Story, CRTC approves usage-based internet billing this will probably come to pass in September.

Canadian Flag Submerged in American FLAG

More than 8,000 citizens told the Stephen Harper Conservatives that they did not want copyright law that is a Canadian DMCA. But it looks like Prime Minister Harper is going ahead with it anyway.

Around 4,000 citizens protested against Bell Canada’s imposition of Usage Based Billing on the customers of the Independent Service Providers. The CRTC ignored the protests from the consumers and the Independent Service Providers and gave it provisional approval.

Another 10,000 Canadians signed the Dissolve The CRTC petition. Yet the CRTC is still there. Making bad rulings that demonstrate they don’t understand.

This Canadian Government just doesn’t even listen to citizens.

Conservative Party logo

It seems that citizens aren’t listened to even when we have a minority government.

Even with a minority government we’ve been screwed with UBB. CRTC has approved Bell Canada’s request to implement Usage Based Billing on the Independent Service Providers customers. On average, Canadian internet costs will at least double come September. They were already among the highest in the world. (For mediocre service too.) It was too bad, I was really attached to my Internet Service Provider, but it will be a miracle if they can stay in business.(I will never grasp the rationale of why Bell can collect money from people who are not their customers.)

Usage based billing will put Canada at a huge disadvantage internationally. We just lost a huge bit of Internet access…

Konrad von Finckenstein


To get an idea of where the CRTC is coming from in approving Bell Canada’s imposition of Usage Based Billing I offer this exerpt from Jesse Brown’s October 2009 Interview with CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein.

CRTC

CRTC

12:30 KvF: Well, well just a second. You know, you have, uh, If somebody comes forward and says this, uh, Internet Service Provider is it in, applying Internet Traffic Management, and he is, uh, this, that, unfairly, uh, discriminating against me or, uh, it may impairs my use, and the first, then the onus, as we set out in our, uh, the, our decision, is on the ISP to come forward and say either “No I’m doing it” or “Yes I’m doing it and I’m driven to it by this and this” and you go though the analytical framework. So you’re positing right away that actually that, that is happening. I don’t, you have to, that’s exactly what you are trying to do, trying to be preventive and, uh, prompt. If and when congestion arises, if it doesn’t arise then of course there’s no issue. If it does arise, then, as I said before, that’s, they may build extra infrastructure, if not they put in economic measures to, to have people pay for the use and thereby modu, modulate the use. If that doesn’t work then only you go to technical ones. Then, uh, uh, you want me to prove a disaster before it has happened. How can I do that?

—CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein
Search Engine with Jesse Brown: The Neutral Throttle? An interview with CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein
Transcript on This Blog Is Not For Reading

In listening to Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein’s answers all through the interview, he clearly indicated that he accepts everything Bell Canada told the CRTC as truth. It sounds like there was never any evidence. But if Bell Canada says they have to throttle people of course they do. Nad things might happen if not.

But the very saddest thing is the CRTC Chairman’s idea that the way to address an inadequate Internet infrastructure is to curb customer use by imposing caps and high prices.

The Canadian Internet is too successful seems to be the problem the CRTC is addressing. Too many people use it for too many things.

Instead of asking Bell Canada why they have not been upgrading infrastructure (beyond maintenance) over the last 15 years, the CRTC solution is to curb Canadian Internet use so that we will use it less. This does not bode well for our children’s future. Much less an economy that runs more and more online.

That’s the CRTC strategy. Now, I’m not an economist, but somehow that doesn’t really sound like a recipe for fostering online economic growth to me.

Canadians need to pay more and use the Internet less.


Since this will make the Internet so much more expensive for Canadians, probably a lot of the copyright stuff will be moot. Independent musicians and other artists will have a much harder time finding an audience when the audience can’t afford to wander freely online.

I’m open for suggestions.

Here’s an oldie but goodie:

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10603 signatures

If you have, who can you get to sign it?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm us all.

Usage Based Billing is a Disservice to Canada.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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Parody: Downfall

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 23, 2010

Canadian Copyright

Johnny Wayne holds a brush under his nose to compliment his Hitler Hairdo as Frank Shuster reads from the script at a CBC microphone

the past

Growing up in Canada, had I thought about it at all, it would never have occurred to me that parody was not protected under Canadian copyright law. After all, parody has long been a major staple of Canadian comedy. Who could forget the classic CBC comedy specials featuring the famed Canadian comic duo Wayne and Shuster?

Wayne and Shuster were parody. Generations of Canadians grew up laughing at their comedy.

Who could possibly forget Johnny Wayne in Spock ears…?

Or a a bald Frank Shuster captaining the Love Boat…?

Wayne and Schuster satirized, lampooned and parodied anything and everything over the course of their career which spanned decades. In those days, producers of the American television programs that Wayne and Shuster parodied probably had no idea that Canadian copyright law was any different than American copyright law which does allow parody. It would never have occurred to any of them that they could have sued the CBC on the basis of Wayne and Shuster content. In those days the big media companies were just happy Wayne and Shuster gave them such great free publicity.

It is absurd that parody is NOT protected under Canadian copyright law

Canadians have contributed a vast amount to the world of humour over the years. The fact that parody is not protected in Canada is probably one reason why so many Canadians in the funny business have emigrated south. Yet Canadians are always willing to laugh at ourselves and our foibles through parody. Parody helps us let off steam so we don’t take to the streets and storm the Bastille.

Yet in today’s world Canadians reckless enough to who commit parody in Canada expose themselves to legal penalties for copyright infringement.

“the” parody meme

There is a powerful scene in a 2004 German movie called Der Untergang in the original German, more familiarly known to English speakers the world over under the name Downfall. This one scene from this film is quite probably the single most re-mixed bit of video in the history of the world.

The first time I saw a Downfall parody re:mix it was lampooning ill advised Canadian government activities.   But that was not the last time I saw a Downfall (Der Untergang) parody. There have been many many more.

I had never even heard of Constantin Film or Downfall (Der Untergang) before the subtitled parodies of began surfacing on YouTube a couple of years ago. I think that’s probably true for most of the world’s population outside of Germany.

But over the last couple of years this one Downfall scene has been subtitled, and subtitled, and subtitled again, and uploaded to YouTube, to illustrate a wide variety of issues and causes. Some are political minefields, while others are purely frivolous, like this anti Comic MS font Downfall parody.

But even though parody has been protected under American law for many years, the American DMCA allows take down notices on the basis of mere allegations. Contrary to the body of law that came before, this reversal puts the onus of defense on the accused, and allegations of infringement are treated as proof, and it YouTube seems to pull videos at any rights holder request, whether under DMCA or not.

This puts the accused in the dubious position of guilty until proven innocent. This also means the rights holders can censor parody by saying it copyright infringement.

MIT Free Culture has created an internet research project called YouTomb, to track videos taken down from YouTube for alleged copyright violation. You can see their Constantin Film Produktion GmbH results here.

A few days back UK blogger Glyn Moody passed along an online article warning of that Constantin Film the company that made Downfall decided to take action against these parodies.

“Also, someone really needs to make a video about Hitler being upset that Constantin Film is DCMAing Hitler parodies.”

MG Siegler, Techcrunch: Hitler Is Very Upset That Constantin Film Is Taking Down Hitler Parodies

Of course, in true internet fashion, the reaction to this is, naturally enough, a parody. I learned about this new parody clip, easily the funniest parody version I’ve yet seen, from a Malaysian friend who was heard about it from a New Zealand friend who was ReTweeting the Electronic Freedom Foundation. I hope it stays on YouTube as long as possible. Because not only is it funny, it makes some excellent points about copyright. In the interim, by linking to it here I may help a few more folks see it: The Downfall Parody in response to the Downfall Parody take-down notices

I can certainly understand that the film makers who crafted this ultra serious historical film Der Untergang might have a hard time accepting the fact that what is probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film has been transformed into a re:mix parody meme. At the same time, this has enormously raised the visibility of both the film and the film company on an international level. I know at least one person who intends to purchase a copy of Downfall (Der Untergang) specifically because the scene that has been parodied so many times is clearly so well done.

Another other notable copyright reform parody was created by E.F.F. director Brad Templeton, whose parody Hitler, as “Downfall” producer, orders a DMCA takedown promoting parody and the Electronic Freedom Foundation was actually taken down, but is now back online. You can read all about it in his blog Brad Ideas. At the end of Brad’s film he gives a link to the E.F.F. Fair Use page

I hope that Constantin Film decides to change their position on this issue. Clearly, they have a name that is now known around the world because of this much parodied film clip. And although some factions of the American Government are pushing for A.C.T.A., United States copyright law does clearly protect parody. Should this go to court, not only will Constantin Films have alienated a vast potential audience, but they are likely to spend a fair bit of money prosecuting an un-winnable court case.

what could Constantin Film do?

special features text graphic

The best idea I’ve heard for a  Constantin Film solution was Canadian Bob Jonkman‘s suggestion to release a Downfall YouTube Special Edition. Naturally this DVD set would contain the original film in German, with subtitles in all appropriate languages. The special features would include all the YouTube parodies.

Perhaps Constantin Film could even put together a special interactive “make your own captions” feature that would allow you to caption your own and upload it to YouTube. I’m not sure if that would be technically feasible, but if it was I’d guess it would be a huge moneymaker.

The beauty of a strategy like this is that it would not alienate a potential global audience, but would instead sell them a lot of DVDs.   Once people have bought the DVD, they are rather likely to watch the actual film.

Win-Win, don’t you think?

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C: Deep Packet Inspection

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 28, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The Second Part of this series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. Apologies for the protracted delay….I didn’t think this would be so difficult to write and get right… added to the breaking news of the spyware bill followed closely by the CRTC’s supposed Net Neutrality decision (which advised everything but) … needless to say getting this online took longer than planned. This is the third installment of my Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series. The fourth part will be >>D: BitTorrent]

NOTE: There were some problems with the latter portion of this article that have been brought to my attention.  It seemed important to rework the ending for clarity, beginning at “A Piece of the Action“.   –llr

“Canadians are paying some of the highest costs for some of the lowest speeds. A small cabal of cable giants have been allowed to squeeze out competition and slow down innovation while dinging the consumer for third-rate service…

“The United States is enshrining net neutrality principles as a fundamental principle for economic restructuring. The Europeans are setting benchmarks for open access to high speed. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are giving the cable giants a free pass to gouge consumers.”

— Charlie Angus, New Democrat MP

what is Deep Packet Inspection?

Bell Canada is currently using Deep Packet Inspection or DPI equipment to “throttle” Canadian Internet use.  Explaining DPI in Canadian English is actually pretty difficult for a variety of reasons.

jargon

[Special thanks to Ed and Bob for explaining these terms well enough for me to get it.]

The newness of the technology added to the flexible use of jargon have erected barriers to understanding just what is going on. Since the jargon is not standardized the jargon doesn’t always mean the same thing.  Although Bell Canada utilizes words of jargon that are used elsewhere, Bell Canada assigns its very own “Bell Canada” meanings.   Whether this is deliberate or a simply happy accident, the upshot is that it makes it extraordinarily easy to be misled into thinking that Bell Canada means one thing when they are talking about something completely different.

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 interchangably Traffic Shaping or Throttling does not require the invasive Deep Packet Inspection process either, again for the same reason: it is not targetting 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

Bell Canada

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

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.

RESET

Bell Canada gets to decide the fate of our packets.

It is important to understand that the only reason Bell Canada offers wholesale bandwidth is because they have been compelled to do so by the Canadian Government. Left to their own devices, Bell Canada would never have done this, because these wholesale Customers compete directly with Bell’s own Sympatico Internet Service. But the Canadian government thought (and rightly so) that Canadians need the ability to access modern technology at reasonable prices if we are going to be able to successfully complete in the global economy. So the Canadian government opened the market to Independent Service providers who would access the Internet through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access Service (GAS).

It is also important to understand that the reason Canada has an existing infrastructure of Internet Carriers is because these Carriers were given both Canadian government protection and assistance to allow their establishment starting with the special act of the Canadian Parliament which incorporated Bell Canada in 1880. One of the key reasons Internet Carriers exist today are government granted easements which allow them to run their equipment and wires across privately held Canadian property– not just the property of their customers. Every Canadian landowner can refer to their deed to find the portion of their land which offers access to these and other utilities. It doesn’t matter if the property owner does not use these services, the Canadian Government has enforced these easements across Canada in the name of the public good.

When Bell Canada and the other Internet Carriers take the Independent ISPs to task for not running their own wires directly to customers’ homes, bear in mind that these Internet Carriers conveniently neglect to mention their own preferential status in the matter of easements. After all, the only reason they are in a position to offer Internet or phone service is because the Canadian government has graciously allowed their wires and equipment to occupy our soil, for the public good.

It is critical to understand that Bell Canada’s wholesale customers are Bell Sympatico’s direct competition, the Independent ISPs. These Independent ISPs purchase bulk blocks of bandwidth from Bell Canada then repackage and apportion out this bandwidth as they see fit in order to offer Internet Sevice to Canadian retail customers.

Bell Canada’s Secret “Throttling” Exposed

CRTC

CRTC

As I understand it, customer complaints about a sudden drop in efficiency first alerted the Independent ISPs that there was a serious problem with Canadian Internet service. The Independent ISPs investigation into the matter discovered that Bell Canada was interfering with their retail customer’s Internet traffic.

The concerned Independent ISPs took their complaint to the CRTC.

Having been caught in the act, Bell Canada admitted to “throttling” and I believe it was also the first time that Bell Canada came up with the excuse that they had to “throttle” customers because the Internet was congested. Bell Canada claimed that they were only “throttling” for the good of the Internet.

Because Bell Canada talked about “Traffic Shaping” and “throttling”, they gave the impression that they were simply following the standard network maintenance operating procedures described above. Bell Canada convinced the CRTC that there was too much traffic on the Internet, although to date have not offered proof of this allegation. Once Bell Canada had the CRTC convinced there was a problem, they explained that “throttling” was necessary in order to clear the congestion. Bell Canada was given the CRTC’s blessing to “throttle” Internet speeds by artificially slowing certain traffic during peak usage hours.

Does the CRTC believe whatever Bell Canada tells them?

Of course the practice Bell Canada calls “throttling” actually adds packets to the Internet, so instead of clearing congestion, it slows the traffic by adding to the congestion. Bell Canada neglected to mention any of this when they asked the CRTC to condone their practice.

If the CRTC doesn’t understand something technical, isn’t it their business to find out?

Bell Canada’s friends at the CRTC gave them permission to “throttle” the customers of the Independent ISPs who were in direct competition with Bell Sympatico. Since we know that Bell Canada’s kind of “throttling” doesn’t clear up Internet congestion, it adds to it, is this a sign of CRTC incompetence or just another indication of CRTC disregard for the rights of Canadian consumers?

License to Discriminate

Bell Canada has indicated that they aren’t going to “throttle” everything, just the heavy users (BitTorrent traffic from P2P sites). This is why Bell Canada needs to use Deep Packet Inspection, so they only interfere with specific Internet traffic that Bell Canada doesn’t like. The CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to discriminate against Canadians based on the contents of their Internet packets.

Adding injury to insult, CRTC gave permission to deliberately degrade the quality of the access these Canadian citizens are paying for. Bell Canada claims that this is necessary because these heavy users are using more than their fair share of Internet bandwidth. Never mind the fact that these Internet Users are paying for this access– in many cases these Internet users are paying a premium for a larger slice of bandwidth precisely because they are heavy users.

The Bell Video Store did not prove successful and has since gone out of business. However, the practice of “Throttling” can still be profitable since Bell Canada will still be able to charge Internet customers for the deliberately inflated bandwidth.

In order to achieve this legal discrimination, the Deep Packet Inspection software has to look inside the packets so Bell Canada can decide which packets to interfere with.

what about the issue of privacy?

“What would you think if you wrote a letter and it could be opened up by a postal or a courier service before it reaches its destination? What would you think if that happened to your online communication? It’s not necessarily a hypothetical question.”

–CRTC Public Consultation on Internet Traffic Management Practices, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner’s question isn’t hypothetical anymore.

Bell Canada says that they need to use Deep Packet Inspection to identify the traffic they wish to throttle.

The CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to look inside the packets. Everything on the Internet is packed in packets. Every email, every instant message, every web page, every transaction we make is now available to Bell Canada scrutiny.

The CRTC doesn’t seem to think this is a bad thing. Of course, its my privacy they are putting at risk, and yours, not their own. Its easy for them to be magnanimous with my privacy.

“One issue that has been the focus of much debate is the use of deep packet inspection (DPI) to shape/control traffic. So, what is the privacy issue? Well, there is the potential for DPI technology to peek into an individual’s entire on-line activity, which may include sensitive personal information. When DPI is used, it is also seemingly “invisible” to individual users. It is important that we are made aware of DPI’s potential use to manage our activities on the Internet.”

–CRTC Public Consultation on Internet Traffic Management Practices, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

moneyI’m curious if the CRTC members would be so eager to pass out copies of their own personal house keys to the same Bell Canada employees who will have access to our Internet privacy. Oh, I’m sure that a clear majority of Bell Canada employees are completely ethical and wouldn’t dream of invading anyone’s privacy. It’s just the one that isn’t trustworthy that worries me.

Bell Canada is a corporation. A corporation does not have ethics, it has a bottom line.

Even if the people at the corporation’s helm may choose not to abuse this extraordinarily broad power today, their successors of tomorrow may not.

The CRTC may trust Bell Canada to behave ethically but I don’t. What’s more I shouldn’t have to since Bell Canada is not my ISP.

Bell Canada has no business peeking in my packets.

4I don’t have any business relationship with Bell Canada at all. I’m not even using Bell Canada telephone service anymore. I cancelled my Bell land line and switched to Teksavvy. If nothing else it’ll save me a bit of money which I can put toward future Internet use when Usage Based Billing is implemented.

Bell Canada’s only relationship to me is an arms length one: Bell Canada is merely the Internet Carrier — a utility company — to the Independent ISP where I get my Internet service. The electric company I get my power from doesn’t try to tell me what appliances I can run. They may suggest it would be better not to use an air conditioner on a hot day, but if I do they don’t slow down the current I receive or drop me off the grid. If all the electric customers choose to use their air conditioners anyway, the entire system might crash. But the electric company does not deliberately sabotage their customers.

In anticipation of the possibility of power power failure, the electric company has been constantly improving the way that they run the power grid over the years. The electric company doesn’t try to force their customers to slow down, they work hard to find ways to keep ahead of the demand. They are always searching for new ways of doing things that will allow them to continue to provide the valuable commodity they offer.

How can the CRTC give Bell Canada permission to bill non-customers?

5This is the big question that I just can’t get my head around. The Internet service I subscribe to is Teksavvy’s.  I do NOT subscribe to Bell Canada’s Sympatico service. Teksavvy is an independent ISP.   Teksavvy is Bell Sympatico’s direct competition.

First the CRTC gave Bell Canada the right to “throttle” me, even though I am not a Bell Canada customer. (How can they DO that?)

Now the CRTC is adding injury to insult by allowing the implementation of Usage Based Billing. The CRTC has given Bell Canada the right to charge me an additional sum of money for the exact same service I am currently paying for, even though I am not a Bell Canada customer.

The CRTC has actually given Bell Canada the right to interfere in my business relationship with a competitor.

What gives the CRTC the right to do this at all?

A Piece of the Action

3Maybe its time for the electric company to petition the CRTC for the right to institute an additional Internet fee structure specifically for Bell Canada.

Lets call it “A Piece of the Internet Action” billing.   The CRTC could simply order Bell Canada to pay half of their Internet Usage Based Billing windfall to the the electric company.   Since Bell Canada hasn’t actually done anything to earn the increased fees they will be charging courtesy of the CRTC’s largesse,  it should be no hardship for Bell Canada.  Since the CRTC wants to rejig the world of economics, this would give them expanded scope to inflict even more havock on the Canadian Economy.

Can the Internet run without electricity?  Certainly not.  Bell Canada’s Internet equipment doesn’t run on good wishes, it runs on electricity. Oh sure, Bell Canada is already paying for the electricity they use. (Just as we lowly customers are already paying for the Internet service we are getting.)   That shouldn’t stop the CRTC.   They see nothing wrong in allowing one company to bill another company’s customers; in comparison a  ruling like this would be seem logical.

This would be a way for Bell Canada to share the excessive profits they will make as an Internet utility with the Internet’s real Backbone Utility.  After all, without electricity there would be no Internet.

The CRTC’s approval of this “division of the spoils” type of billing would give the electric company a chance to step up to the plate for what clearly should be their cut.

Of course the simplest way to assess “A Piece of the Internet Action” billing would be to divide Bell Canada’s Internet profit column– lets say by a 50% split– down the middle.   It would be a simple matter for Bell Canada to cut a monthly check.   That’s not so much… after all the electricity utility makes the Internet possible.

Of course if Bell decides to ignore this CRTC ruling (as they have so many others), the best part is that the CRTC wouldn’t even have to do anything about it (the CRTC’s preferred course of action) because the electric company could just turn off  Bell Canada’s power until they made the required payments.

Since the CRTC finds it is reasonable to double fees without improving the service this would even fall within CRTC precedent. 

A Piece of the Action

How much Bell Canada equipment runs without electricity?

How much electricity does it take just to run the lights Bell Canada uses so their employees can work?

  • How much recording equipment does Bell Canada use (for monitoring their employee’s calls)?
  • How many Bell Canada computers Canada run on electricity?
  • How many servers?
  • Routers?
  • DSLAMs?
  • How many electric pencil sharpeners?
  • Coffee machines?
  • Refrigerators?
  • Microwaves?
  • Radios?
  • Air conditioners?
  • Signs?
  • Copiers?
  • Electric drills?
  • Vacuum cleaners?
  • Elevators?

How many Bell Canada employees would climb all the way to the top floor of the Bell Canada building if the electric company decided to cut off Bell Canada’s power and they couldn’t use the elevator?

Not because they’ve earned it, just because they want it.

6The point is that the electric company doesn’t have any more or less claim to additional funds for our Internet usage than Bell Canada does.

And the electric company is NOT demanding an entire new fee structure in the form of an additional Internet charges.

Because it makes no sense.

In exactly the same way that Usage Based Billing makes no sense.

I’m only a consumer, but I have some serious issues here. Deep Packet Inspection is at best dangerous, offering a whole catalogue of ways that the privacy and security of Canadians could be compromised.  If the object is truly to manage congestion DPI is unnecessary, because either Policing or real Traffic Shaping would do the job.  Government authorized discrimination against particular users engaging in perfectly legal access that they have paid for is— at best— apalling.

Canada has certainly come a long way since Pierre Trudeau famously insisted that:

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau

It seems Canadians no longer need to worry about  government invasion of privacy, we just need to worry about the corporations the CRTC allows to  invade our privacy.

(We won’t even think about the fact that Bell Canada is also interfering in Internet business by throttling encrypted Internet packets on the grounds that it might contain P2P traffic.  )

The best option available to Canadians seems to be the routine encryption of everything we do online.  I will start looking into encryption options, and I’d appreciate hearing any pro & con advice from users who have used encryption.

Of course, once we stsrt using encryption to protect our privacy, we KNOW Bell Canada will throttle our Internet traffic.

The part that is really really bad is the part where a corporation has been given the right to deploy this incredibly invasive technology.  Worse, this corporation has been given legal permission to use this means of  breaching of Canadian privacy with absolutely no oversight.    Bell Canada says they will only use this awesome power for good.

That isn’t good enough.



If you haven’t signed the petition, it’s available online at
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
If you have signed, encourage other Canadian Internet users to sign. After all, Usage based Billing will affect all of us.
It’s up to 9139 signatures!

[….the next segment in the alphabet series will be D: BitTorrent]

Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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