interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘cell phone’

The First Honest Cable Company

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 29, 2013

This is a very funny video… or it would be if it wasn’t true. So true. And if it wasn’t equally (or more true) for cell phone companies and the big Internet Service Providers.

This issue, like many others, is only an issue because the CRTC (our telecom regulator here in Canada) does the bidding of the industry it is exists to regulate. They mostly don’t even pretend consumer protection is an issue they consider. Under Canada’s inadequate inequitable and antiquated electoral system, this isn’t likely to change soon.

If you want things to change, you have to step up and start doing something about it. Canada needs to adopt Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have a meaningful democracy, where people (not corporations) have a say in our government. How can you do this?

Sign the Declaration of Voter’s Rights at Fair Vote Canada, and look for your local chapter so you can get involved.

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Answering UBB Questions #1

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2010

No Usage Based BillingThe 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.

Old logo with text: The Bell Telephone Company of Canada - in a circle around a Bell which has the text: Local and Long Distance Telephone

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?

rural telephone poles along side a gravel road

BONUS answer

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.

Stop Usage Based Billing



 

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11316 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: Clement1@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



 

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

DAY against DRM: Video

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 4, 2010

[Note: The subject is Video… sorry, it just occurred to me that folks may come her looking to see video rather than discuss it.]

May 4 - day against DRMTuesday May 4th has been designated the Day Against DRM by the Free Software Foundation.

“Today is about taking time out of your usual routine to speak out in favor of a DRM-free society. We do not have to accept a future where our interactions with computers and published works are monitored and controlled by corporations or governments.”

Defective By Design: Day Against DRM

Most people don’t know what DRM is, even if they’ve heard of it. Yet it is becoming an ever more prevalent component in our electronics, which are in turn becoming ever more prevalent in our lives.

DRM stands for digital rights management.

“Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology that inhibits uses of digital content not desired or intended by the content provider. The term does not generally refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Digital rights management is used by companies such as Sony, Apple Inc., Microsoft, AOL and the BBC.

The use of digital rights management is controversial. Proponents argue it is needed by copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work, either to maintain artistic integrity[1] or to ensure continued revenue streams.[2] Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation, maintain that the use of the word “rights” is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term digital restrictions management. Their position is essentially that copyright holders are restricting the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws, and should not be covered by future laws.[3] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other opponents, also consider DRM systems to be anti-competitive practices.[4]”

Wikipedia

Boy sits in a tree reading.

I don’t have (and won’t have) a Kindle, for many reasons, but the Kindle provided one of the most ironic DRM stories. In the mistaken belief that George Orwell’s masterwork 1984 was in the public domain, Amazon released it as a Kindle book. Many people bought it. As it turned out, the book wasn’t in the public domain, so Amazon utilized their ability to access the Kindles of the people who had “purchased” the ebook and summarily removed them. People who hadn’t finished reading their copy suddenly no longer had one. People who had utilized the Kindle’s annotation feature lost their annotations with the ebook. Amazon did reimburse their customers. It was after all an honest mistake on their part; they had not known the book was not really in the public domain. But what this episode clearly illustrates is that the Kindle that people pay hundreds of dollars for, as well as the ebooks that they purchase from Amazon, are not under their own control.

If you were one of these customers who purchased the Kindle ebook reader and ebook, Amazon utilized their DRM capability to reach inside your Kindle and take back the ebook you had purchased in good faith.

ownership

Clearly, there is a failure to communicate. When we buy something, we believe we own it. The person or company we paid should no longer have any right to the product. They certainly should not have the right to come into our homes and take back the product we have purchased.

But DRM exists to allow the seller to control the product, and how we use the product, even after we have paid for it.

No one actually comes out and tells us in the store that we are buying goods that have been deliberately crippled with DRM.

If they did, customers might not buy them. But there is no ambiguity with retailers– they tell us they are selling us things, and we believe we are buying them.

But apparently the concepts of property ownership that have been prevalent in our society for centuries have suddenly changed. Yet people, customers, consumers have not been told about this. But we need to know about it. We need to understand it. And we need to give our informed consent.

But manufacturers, retailers and governments are not discussing it with us.

Over the past decade or so, instead of explaining to consumers that the rules of buying and selling have changed manufacturers have just been quietly putting DRM on products that we purchase. It is easier for them to cripple the technology than try to explain that they’ve changed the rules. After all, if customers know that the rules have changed, the very natural question is: what do we get out of it? The unfortunate answer to that is “shafted”.

video DRM

The first time I heard about DRM, it wasn’t called DRM, it was called “copy protection”. I heard that the Disney corporation had developed a method of preventing customers from copying the pre-recorded Disney video tapes. At the time, video was state of the art, and no one else was copy protecting movies. As near as I can figure it, the process made the signal of the video tapes too weak to copy well. There is just enough power to play on a television, but the signal strength was too weak to make copying possible. This copy protection was ostensibly to prevent bootlegging. The funny thing is, it didn’t. Although consumers are prevented from making a back-up copy of the movie they purchased, bootleggers always have state of the art equipment to get around DRM.

The speech balloon I added to Sita says "No DRM for Me" - Sita created by Nina Paley.

Click for larger image which can be printed as a 4×6 Day Against DRM mini-poster.

Although I never tried dubbing any of the Disney movies that I bought for my family, I came to this realization that this is roughly how VHS copy protection DRM works when I started copying my home movie video tapes onto DVDs on a VHS to DVD burner. If there are glitches in the video signal, or dropout, or “snow”, when I am copying video tapes the recording abruptly ends, the machine stops dubbing and notifies me that I do not have the right to copy this material. This is particularly infuriating because I certainly do have the right to copy my own home movies I have made onto my own DVDs.

computer DRM

My sister had a similar problem with her first VISTA computer. It would not allow her to copy photographs she’d taken of her own family onto her own computer, because VISTA believed she was infringing copyright.

DVD DRM

When video tape first came out, North American video tapes were recorded in NTSC and European tapes were recorded in PAL. This was a way to address the physical problem of different television technology. This was necessary because broadcast signal and the scan lines in television sets varied. Because we were already used to the fact that videotapes were different in different regions, I know I never questioned the idea that there would be region restrictions for DVDs.

But I’ve since learned that there is no physical reason for DVDs to have regional restrictions. This is another form of DRM. If I live in Canada, and purchase hundreds of DVDs, then move to Sweden, all of my DVDs would be worthless. So I would have to purchase them all over again.

cel phone DRM

We bought a set of family cel phones, but although the phones had many really great capabilities, they had been locked down and crippled, so that the customer was forced to do everything through the retailer’s website (very expensive). We returned them and went with a different company.

There are more DRMed products every day. Consumers must begin to tell manufacturers and governments “No DRM.”

Sita Sings the Blues: No DRM

cover art for SITA SINGS THE BLUES dvd

Filmmaker Nina Paley made a wonderful animated film using very old sound recordings that were clearly in the public domain. But big media “copyright reforms” have changed things so radically –by retroactively extending the copyright term which should have ended and placed the recordings in the public domain in the 1980’s– that somebody owns the particular rights – “synch rights” — which you need when using recorded music in a film. ”

The long and the short of it is that Nina Paley would have to pay had to pay gigantic sums of money in order to acquire these rights and release her film. Another alternative would be have been to throw out the film (a couple of years worth of classical animation). She instead decided to:

“pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt. …

“Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

—Nina Paley, CORRECTION


chose the radical course of releasing her film under a creative commons license.

You can download the movie for free on Nina’s website: Sita Sings the Blues

You can learn more about the distribution at the Question Copyright “Sita Sings the Blues” Distribution Project

Just recently Nina Paley was offered an opportunity to distribute Sita on the American streaming site Netflix, who refused to run her film without their standard DRM. You can read all about it on Nina’s blog Although the money would have been helpful in paying off the film’s outstanding debt, Nina Paley turned Netflix down for ethical reasons.

Nina Paley believes that strongly that DRM is bad.


image credit: “No DRM for Me!” is a remix of part of this image from Nina Paley’s wonderful animated film “Sita Sings the Blues”.

A higher resolution version of this re:mix 4×6 mini-poster is available here: http://russwurm.org/bulletin/images/NOdrmFORme.jpg


For more links about Day Against DRM blogs posts and activities from all over the world, visit http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:Day_Against_DRM_2010

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »