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Posts Tagged ‘Canadian culture’

Wind Mobile: The Canadian Government Listened

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 15, 2009

WINDmobile

New Kids

No Usage Based BillingYou could have knocked me over with a feather.

The Canadian Government actually listened to Canadians

On Friday Industry Minister Tony Clement overturned the CRTC decision to deny Wind Mobile the use of the spectrum they purchased. Instead, Globalive’s WindMobile now has the opportunity to roll out their new cel phone service.

Canadian Cel Phone Service

Canadian cel phone costs… ooof.   And have you noticed how every Canadian seems to have at least one cel phone horror story.   I haven’t heard anything good about the state of Canadian cel phone service– except from those who are profiting from the cel phone incumbents.

The Canadian government looked at Canadian Cel Phone service and realized that Canadians were paying through the nose. Our government decided to attempt to remedy the situation by auctioning some cel spectrum on which the incumbents would not be allowed to bid. The point was to introduce new players. The hope was to trigger competition.
Canada Flag
Which could only be good for Canadian consumers.

Vetted by Industry Canada, Globalive’s Wind Mobile was allowed to bid in the spectrum auction— because they had been approved.   They paid their money then went on to lay out piles of cash to set up operations and hire staff and create advertising; they were gearing up to go.

Even before Wind Mobile opened for business strange things began happening in the world of Canadian cel phone service.   Some of the incumbents began changing some of their worst policies.   After all, they were about to be faced with actual competition in the cel phone market.   What a concept!

Canadian consumers were happy…

Of course, the incumbent Cel providers were not.   They complained to their friends at the CRTC.   They said that Wind Mobile is not Canadian enough.

CRTC listened to the complaint, and decided that Wind Mobile was not Canadian enough.   Even though as near as I can tell, Wind Mobile is a Canadian company run by Canadians. They have foreign investment capital. Most businesses require investment capital. Just as most people need financing to buy a home. Just becasue a bank starts out holding the mortgage doesn’t make it the banks’s house.

Even though Wind Mobile had paid the Canadian government millions for the cel spectrum they had won in the auction, as well as spending plenty more for the business start up, suddenly Wind Mobile was in limbo.   Talk began to float around about how the incumbents would now be able to buy the Wind Mobile spectrum   —   at bankruptcy prices.

…thoughts of competition had danced in our heads

Canadian consumers were not happy to have the competition we wanted snatched away.   There was grumbling.   And muttering. Many voices were raised in opposition to this CRTC decision.   Many voices.   For instance, I muttered and grumbled in this very blog.   And I was not the only one.   One of the things I read and heard over and over again were complaints about the lack of “Canadianess” of our Canadian Cel phone providers. (Although some of them operate under more than one name, which may be confusing the CRTC into thinking that there is lots of competition, there are really only 3 Canadian cel providers, the “incumbents”… Bell, Rogers and Telus.
Bell Canada Logo
Although these companies are “Canadian”, Bell Canada, for instance, has shut down much of their operations on Canadian soil in order to set up operations overseas so they don’t need to spend as much money.   (Not that they passed any of this savings along to consumers, you understand.)

Wind Mobile’s head honcho Tony Lacavera fought the CRTC decision.   He gave interviews in the mainstream media so Canadians knew what was happening.   He appealed to Industry Canada. They had after all given him the go ahead, and all the costs Globalive had incurred to start up Wind Mobile were done in good faith.   He took it to the Canadian Cabinet.

[We’re in a recession!   Here are Canadian entrepreneurs bringing a huge investment into Canada.   And the CRTC is telling them to go away?   Do they not live in the same world you and I do?]

Most amazingly of all, our government listened.   Industry Minister Tony Clement overturned the CRTC ruling Friday December 11th, 2009.

Globalive Welcomes Gov’t of Canada Decision and Prepares to Bring WIND Mobile to Market in time for Christmas.

BRAVO!

Imagine my surprise to read this diatribe Telco decision violates Telecommunications Act: Union from Canada’s “largest telecom and media union” criticizing the Canadian Government’s decision.   I would have thought that a union of telecom and media workers would support new investment in Canada’s telecom industry.   Instead they are parroting the Incumbent Cel phone companies.

Am I naive in thinking that a union representing telecom workers would welcome a company that could offer jobs to the many telecom workers who lost their jobs due to downsizing or when Bell moved so much of their operations overseas?   If I was a member of this union I would be wondering whose side CEP is on.

Critics of Mr. Clement’s decision are citing foreign ownership as the problem.

Is foreign ownership bad for Canadian culture?

I have a hard time believing foreign ownership of a phone company could have much impact on Canadian culture.   The only change in our culture I can envision is that griping about our cel phone providers may no longer be a national pastime.

If you want to know about culture, let’s just take a quick peek at the “Canadian Music Industry”. The four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association are: Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada. Please note that all four have “Canada” appended to their names to differentiate them from the non-Canadian mother companies, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, EMI Music, and Universal Music. For decades the Canadian music industry has been dominated by “branch plants” of foreign companies.

Foreign domination of our music industry has been the reality accepted by Canadians since the mid twentieth century.

And let’s not forget that once upon a time the Canadian Parliament passed a special law incorporating a largely foreign owned company– Bell Canada — as a Canadian Corporation.   Isn’t it about time our telecommunication industry got some new blood?

Wind Mobile could hardly do worse than the incumbents.


I don’t know about you, but I still believe one of the best things for Canada would be the dissolution of the CRTC, so
If you haven’t yet: Sign the Petition, check it out at:

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
10316 signatures

and if you have, tell everyone who will be affected by increased internet costs

stop usage based billing logo

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Why Usage Based Billing Won’t Bring Bell Canada the Profits they Expect

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 8, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Bell Canada applied to the CRTC for permission to implement Usage Based Billing.

Incredibly, the CRTC completely disregarded the wishes of the thousands of Canadians who told the CRTC they wanted the Bell Canada cash grab application to be denied.

Naturally, the Independent Internet Service Providers also asked the CRTC to deny the order which will at best seriously damage their ability to do business in Canada.

Bell Canada is not actually providing any new services to the Canadian internet users who will be hard hit by the additional fee being levied in exchange for… nothing.

Customers will be paying more for the very same service only because the agency that exists solely to regulate the telecommunications industry on behalf of Canadian citizens has completely ignored our wishes by granting Bell Canada’s request to unreasonably elevate out rates in exchange for… nothing.

If you believe that the CRTC should have done their mandated job and used their regulatory power to prevent Bell Canada from gouging Canadians rather than granting them the authority add additional costs to Canadian internet users in exchange for…. nothing… you may wish to express your disapproval of the CRTC by signing the online petition at http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

The saddest thing is that Bell Canada probably won’t even realize
the vast unearned profits they expect from Usage Based Billing.

Rich Canadians
The only Canadians who will be able to easily afford to pay the unreasonably inflated costs without a murmur are unlikely to do so. Because of course, one reason why the rich retain their wealth is because they don’t squander money for… nothing.

Since Independent ISPs are being forced by CRTC to implement Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing, CRTC has effectively legislated them out of independence, and it will be a miracle if they can continue to exist. So the only way rich Canadian internet users will be able to express their anger would be to switch to Rogers, Canada’s other over endowed Internet Service Provider.

Marginalized Canadians
Of course the people who can just barely afford to be connected to the internet now, and the people who were hoping that they’d be able to connect to the internet in the near future will be out of luck. They just won’t be able to do it.

In the midst of this global recession, people who are out of work will have a much harder time finding jobs since an increasing number of employment listings are handled exclusively online.

Ordinary Canadians
The people who can afford to access the internet today may in fact stay connected to Bell Canada or the newly emasculated Independents after Usage Based Billing is implemented. Most ordinary Canadians like myself will not provide Bell Canada with the big profits they hope to realize for the simple reason that our budgets will not allow it. At least not after the first *GASP* that many of us will have when the first Usage Based Billing invoices are issued come November.

So Bell Canada will receive a one time pure profit spike largely because most Canadians won’t be prepared for it since there has been next to no media coverage. (That’s the kind of thing that happens when a Regulatory body like the CRTC allows the carrier to own the media outlets and control news media content.)

Bell Canada is expecting to charge these usurious rates to Ordinary Canadians so that they realize a big profit for doing… nothing.

Since the internet has become such a big part of our lives, Ordinary Canadians are unlikely to just walk away from it.

But Canadians will no longer be able to participate online as fully as the rest of the world’s citizens.

We will stop being bold.

Because the thing about Usage Based Billing is that if we are very very careful, we may be able to keep with our budgets. Of course if our inboxes have a heavy dose of spam we may have to stay offline a bit more for that month. What other things will change? We’ll be unlikely to participate in Wikipedia. So all those Canadians who have been freely contributing to wikipedia’s store of internationally accessible knowledge will think twice before they do it again.

Big deal, the CRTC might say. Wikipedia isn’t even Canadian, they might say.

And I would agree that wikipedia is not Canadian, it is international. And Canadians have been promoting Canada to the world through wikipedia.

Which is why wikipedia has a large proportion of Canadian Content. (Maybe even more can con than you would get on a Canadian radio station.) Up until the advent of Usage Based Billing, like everyone else in the world, Canadians have been adding information we feel is important to wikipedia. The kind of information that would be found in an old time encyclopedia. But in addition to all that, wikipedia hosts an impressive amount of information on Canadian art, artists, musicians, etc.

The List of Bands from Canada is only one small way that ordinary Canadians have supported Canadian culture on the internet. But some of the Canadians who promote Canada to the world in that way are no longer going to be able to afford to do so. And many other Canadians will never have the opportunity to even try to participate in anything like wikipedia. It will just cost too much.

Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing Canadian will certainly cause contributions by Canadians to fall off. It will be too expensive.

How much amazing art and music will Canada miss out on by preventing many perfectly good Canadians from getting internet access. How much independent research and development will be done in Canada if it is too expensive for average people to utilize the internet full strength.

Canadian Small Business
How many small businesses will simply not be able to compete? Even though as far as I know “business” connections (currently substantially more expensive than individual connections) are not supposed to be affected by the introduction of Usage Based Billing. Except that many small businesses who are either starting out or just hanging on by the skin of their teeth (this is after all still a recession we’re in) don’t have “business” connections.

And of course businesses that rely on website advertising revenue will suffer a big downturn thanks to the drop in casual Canadian internet use.

Usage Based Billing will certainly change how Canadians use the internet and make it much more difficult for Canada to compete in a global economy.

Even if you work for a big company who can afford a business connection, they are unlikely to provide an additional business connection to allow you to work from home. So Usage Based Billing will impact on the ability of employees to “telecommute” because it will be too expensive.

And Bell Canada?
In order to implement Usage Based Billing Bell Canada will have to spend money to handle the administration of this new billing procedure. So Bell Canada is going to be spending a little bit more money to do that. But particularly in this economic climate Bell Canada is not going to take in the big pots of money they are expecting Usage Based Billing to generate.

We’re in a recession. Even if ithe recession is beginning to ease off, the money just isn’t there.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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Psst… Pass It On: Stop Usage Based Billing

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 1, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

I’m nobody important.  I’m not a “Name” commentator.  I’m not an “expert” on the internet.  I’m only a member of the public.  A Canadian.  An individual.

Just a mom, with a blog.

Like you, I’m a member of the Canadian public that the CRTC believes does not matter. In granting the Bell Canada request for Usage Based Billing the CRTC casually dismissed the Canadian public– the very people they exist to serve– in one sentence:

Telecom Order CRTC 2009-484 – Ottawa, 12 August 2009 – Introduction

“2…. The Commission also received a large number of comments, mostly from individuals;
these submissions generally opposed the Bell companies’ applications.”
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2009/2009-484.htm

Like most Canadians I didn’t know about Usage Based Billing, so I wasn’t one of the “nobodies” who posted the comments so cavalierly dismissed by the CRTC.

Some people in the Canadian computer community were in fact aware of the Usage Based Billing issue because American ISPs had been trying to get Usage Based Billing approved in the States. So pros and cons of Usage Based Billing had been discussed in technical forums, often alongside net neutrality. (Something else I’d never heard of.) But the FCC turned them down. So the Americans have provided a bona fide example of a telecommunications regulator actually operating for the public good. Huzzah!

None of those technical folks with their thumbs on the pulse of the internet were prepared for the sudden onset of Usage Based Billing. The first even THEY seemed to have heard of it was on the last day (the only day?) submissions were to be accepted by the CRTC.

Why don’t Canadians know that their internet costs will double in less than three months?

Strong and free?

Strong and free?


Because Usage Based Billing has not been in the news.  That’s the way the CRTC and Bell Canada want it.  The last thing they want is for ordinary people to find about about this.

They need to keep Canadians in the dark.

After all, CTV is ignoring it. The Globe and Mail is ignoring it. Of course Bell Canada is a very large shareholder in both of these news outlets. And of course the news media controlled by Rogers isn’t covering Usage Based Billing either. Coincidence? I think not.

The only coverage I’ve been able to find is some stories on CBC online, but the story apparently hasn’t been big enough to keep alive. But still, thank goodness for CBC, because their coverage has been better than nothing.

The big problem is that although most people who know about this are understandably annoyed:


Most Canadians still have not even heard of Usage Based Billing

The first time most Canadians will even find out about Usage Based Billing will be when they are suddenly hit with a huge bill.

The problem is, Usage Based Billing will have a huge impact on Canada.

Short term, it will cost us twice as much as we’ve been paying to go online. Which will make Canada far and away the most expensive place on earth to access the internet.

And we’re not talking about improved service. Canadian’s won’t get anything new or better for the privilege of paying twice as much.

The reason Bell Canada wants to introduce Usage Based Billing is to be able to inflate the take.
And incidentally kill off Bell Sympatico’s surprisingly robust competition.

The CRTC’s own website says:

“But the CRTC’s role in telecommunications is evolving. In many telecom markets, several consumer choices are available. This natural competition results in better prices and packages for consumers. In these cases, CRTC allows competition, not regulations, to drive the market. The CRTC regulates only where the market doesn’t meet the objectives of the Telecommunications Act. CRTC’s website http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/backgrnd/brochures/b29903.htm

Yet the CRTC’s approval of Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing does precisely the opposite of what they claim they do.

Usage Based Billing will directly harm the independant ISPs who purchase bandwidth wholesale through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System. These ISPs have done a good job. They’ve brought competition into the Canadian marketplace in exactly the way they were supposed to. Because they offer great service and great deals, they have been getting customers. Maybe even customers who are dissatisfied with Bell Canada.

The introduction of Usage Based Billing means that all the people who have contracted for internet service through the independent ISPs will find our service providers can no longer meet the terms of the contract. The fledgling Independant ISPs will be hit badly. This will stun, stall or eliminate Bell Canada’s internet competition. Usage Based Billing is here because the CRTC used regulations to drive the market into the ground. Not for the benefit of Canada. But for the benefit of Bell Canada.

Bell Canada is a soulless corporation, and as such they are entitled to be greedy and desirous of making make twice as much money for the same service.

Usage Based Billing is NOT what the CRTC is mandated to do.

The CRTC exists expressly to regulate soulless telecommunication giants so they can’t double costs to Canadians for no reason beyond corporate greed.

Usage Based Billing will compromise or eliminate both access and affordability. The CRTC has no excuse for giving Bell Canada carte blanche to gouge the taxpayers they are supposed to represent. This CRTC regulation is in direct contravention of their own stated objectives of the Telecommunications Act.

This is what the CRTC is supposed to do on behalf of all us nobodies:

According to the CRTC’s own website, the CRTC is supposed to:

  • CRTC Mandate: ….ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public.
  • Broadcasting: ….ensures that all Canadians have access to a wide variety of high-quality Canadian programming….
  • Telecommunications ….ensures that Canadians receive reliable telephone and other telecommunications services, at affordable prices.

CRTC Website: About the CRTC

The CRTC is incompetent, or the CRTC is corrupt. It doesn’t really matter which because the result is the same.

The point is that they are not only NOT supposed to do harm to Canada the CRTC is supposed to protect Canadian interests.

And this ruling will unquestionably harm Canada. At minimum CRTC is not doing their job.

And this will harm Canada how?

The increased cost means that Canadians will be paying much more than citizens of other countries to access the internet.

The costs to Canada will include (but not be limited to) Canadians paying to:

  • receive spam in their email,
  • see advertisements on websites,
  • or to upgrade Windows.
  • Job seekers may not be able to access jobs requiring online response.
  • School web access will be underused as families may not be able to afford the bandwidth.
  • Grandmothers downloading photos may be forced to choose between internet access and dinner.
  • The people who can barely afford to get online now will find it much more difficult when the cost is so much higher.

Economic damage done to Canada, although more difficult to quantify, will happen nonetheless. For instance:

  • Research and development will not be undertaken by scientists, inventors and web developers because of exorbitant cost constraints not faced by scientists, inventors and web developers in other countries.
  • Many Canadian Arts start-ups will not happen because suddenly Canadian graphic designers, artists, musicians and writers will no longer be able to avail themselves of the low or no-cost internet that will still be available to the other artists, writers and musicians in the rest of the world. Without this means of promoting their work in the face of exorbitant internet charges, many budding talents will be lost to Canadian culture.
  • Canadian IT Businesses who have already invested in websites dependent on high traffic counts neccesary to generate advertising revenue may find themselves floundering and failing in the face of a drastically reduced Canadian customer base. The artists, writers and musicians who do manage to commission websites or contract with hosting sites, will still have a much harder time connecting with their potential audience because the audience will need to be more careful in how they use the internet due to exorbitant usage costs not faced by consumers in other countries.

This economic damage won’t just impact on internet users, it will impact on all of Canada. Economically. In the midst of a recession.

Since the news media isn’t reporting this, we need to spread the word because the word MUST spread.

The petition to http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/ has slowed to a trickle. I think most of the people who know about Usage Based Billing have already signed it. But it is still very important to get more signatures. Hitting the 10,000 mark would be a big enough story that the major news outlets would not be able to ignore it without losing credibility.

But in the mean time, since the major news outlets aren’t telling anyone, WE must be the ones to pass it on.   It’s time for us nobodies to reach out and touch someone.  Individually none of us have the reach to spread the news to very many people at all. But if we all took the time to tell just a few people, the story would get around.

Write a letter to your Member of Parliament.   If you don’t know who that is, you can find out at :Members of Parliament. Snail mail to elected officials is still free.

If anyone needs to borrow bits from the Stop Usage Based Billing blog to use in any letters, everything in this blog is in the public domain. So feel free to help yourself if any of what I’ve written will help. Also, the UBB Glossary is pretty good reference material.

Another way ordinary Canadians can tell total strangers about Usage Based Billing is through writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Smaller newspapers, even free ones have an audience. Even if it doesn’t get published, at least somebody will read it. And if they don’t publish, you can always send it along here and I will publish it.)

I’ve signed up with Identi.ca where I’m starting a StopUBB group at http://identi.ca/group/subb

Canadians need to find out about this before the damage is done.   Do what you can.

So please, pass it on!


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Thing One: Speak Up

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 19, 2009

I’m going to try to do one thing to fight UBB every day. Today I went to Honourable James Moore’s website and selected “Contact the Minister” to send my message to The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

This is the message I sent electronically through his online form:



No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

I am very upset about the CRTC’s decision to allow Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Pricing. Inexplicably the CRTC is also allowing Bell the unprecedented right to charge UBB to non-bell customers.

As “a big fan of information technologies” you need to understand the gravity of this threat to Canadian internet access. As one of the overseers of the CRTC it is imperative that you look into this matter immediately.

I can tell you right now that if this ill advised system were already in place I would never have undertaken to create the russwurm.org web page (heritage).

Or made contributions to wikipedia (promoting Canadian Culture).

Or begun blogging (culture again).

Personally I have been working hard learning to make good use the internet but this extortionate pricing will most certainly force me to modify my internet behavior. The ramifications are simply frightening, particularly in the area of Culture.

These reply forms are awkward to use, so perhaps the best thing would be for you to visit the blog I’ve begun which is dedicated to this issue: https://stopusagebasedbilling.wordpress.com/

In addition to voicing my own concerns, my Stop Usage Based Billing blog also links to as much of the other internet online commentary on this and related issues that I have been able to find (and which I will continue to update). Perhaps you’d be interested in becoming a contributor to this blog when you get up to speed on this issue.

I believe that it is imperative for Canada to be able to participate in the Internet to the fullest capacity. The worst side effect of this decision is that it will curb Canadian internet use, which will certainly put Canada at a global disadvantage.

Like me until recently, most Canadians have no idea that this is happening. If it is allowed to be implemented, I expect that the Canadian response will not be a happy one.

Sincerely,
Laurel L. Russwurm



Canadian Flag

Canadian Flag


You can also contact the Minister by snail mail at:

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Amazingly enough, I believe that it is still free to mail letters to government officials in Canada.



If you wish to become a contributor to this blog contact laurel.l@russwurm.org



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