interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘competition’

crtc speed matching saga

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 31, 2010

CRTC

Monday’s CRTC release: CRTC encourages competition and investment in the provision of Internet services

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today determined, on the basis of the evidence submitted at a recent public hearing, that large telephone companies must make their existing Internet access services available to alternate Internet service providers (ISPs) at speeds that match those offered to their own retail customers. This requirement will ensure that alternate ISPs can continue to give Canadians more choice by offering competing and innovative Internet services.

This CRTC decision seems eminently reasonable; the carriers must make the bandwidth speeds available to their own retail customers available to the customers of Independent Service Providers. This is a real win for Canadian consumers.

The thing is, this decision was already made. Wading through the CRTC release we learn this CRTC ruling was already made as “various decisions issued in 2006 and 2007”.

Vertical Canadian Flag

Why did it take the CRTC four years to make it stick?

Apparently the Federal Cabinet stepped in on behalf of the carriers (Bell et al) and ordered the CRTC to revisit the issue. They were told to ensure speed-matching requirements:

  • wouldn’t unduly diminish incentives to invest in new network infrastructure in general and, in particular, in markets of different sizes;
  • without speed-matching requirements would there be sufficient competition to protect the interests of users;
  • are the wholesale obligations imposed on incumbent telephone and cable companies equitable or a competitive disadvantage; and
  • will these wholesale requirements unduly impair the ability of incumbent telephone companies to offer new converged services, such as Internet Protocol television?

In other words, Federal Government interference resulted in four years where the carriers were allowed to discriminate against the Independent ISPs by denying them access to the best speeds. The retail customers of the Independent ISPs could not get the bandwidth speeds that the retail customers of the carrier ISPs could get.

Hardly sounds fair to Canadian consumers.

Surprise surprise.

reactions to the crtc ruling

TEKsavvy Solutions Inc. logo“The Commission’s refusal to mandate the provision of new central office-based telephone company and local head-end-based cable company wholesale services severely limits other competitors’ ability to provide new differentiated service offerings. To that extent the CRTC’s approach will entrench the duopolistic nature of the communications wireline services industry in many important markets and stifle the ability of competitors to provide new and innovative services. In this environment, it will be very difficult for competitors to attract the capital necessary to innovate, grow and contribute to the greatest extent possible to the competitive landscape and increase consumer choice. Canada’s productivity and international competitiveness will remain sub-standard at a critical time in the country’s economic development and the longerterm prospect for competition in the communications sector is very uncertain” added Marc Gaudrault, TSI’s Chief technology Officer.”

TekSavvy Solutions Inc. Reaction to Landmark CRTC Decision: Competitors Allowed to Exist but Denied the Means to Innovate

“By mandating that consumers are able to obtain services from competitors at the same speeds that they can obtain services from the telephone and cable companies, the CRTC has handed a victory to Canadian businesses and consumers” said Bill Sandiford, Telnet’s President and CTO. “The Commission has ensured that end-users of these services will continue to be able use their provider of choice without being subjected to slower speeds by doing so.”

In the same ruling, the Commission denied the implementation of CO-based ADSL services, and refused to force the large telephone and cable companies to further unbundle their networks.

Sandiford added, “It is unfortunate that the Commission has failed to allow competitors the ability to innovate and compete with the telephone companies on a deeper level. We agree with the dissent of Commissioner Timothy Denton on this matter.”
Telnet Communications Pleased by Reprieve on Internet Speed Matching but very Concerned about Longer-Term Prospects for Competition following Landmark CRTC Decision

I can certainly understand the mixed reaction of the Independent ISPs.

The CRTC and the Federal Government seek to safeguard fairness for the carriers but have no qualms about imposition of a competitive disadvantage to the Independent ISPs.

The Federal Government was concerned that fairness to consumers might “diminish incentives to invest in new network infrastructure”?

These are two separate issues.

It should have been in the carrier’s interest to maintain and keep the infrastructure current. That would benefit customer and carrier alike.

Perhaps the problem arises because the carriers are too busy doing other things instead of re-investing in infrastructure.

Like for instance in 2005 Bell Canada launches downloadable music service.

Bell VIDEO Store

Or Bell’s own unthrottled downloadable video store in 2008 — just at the time it became known they were throttling other Internet traffic as reported in:

Canadian Internet customers have certainly been paying enough to pay to keep the Infrastructure current.

Whatever the reason, study after study (at least in those studies not paid for by Bell) have indicated emphatically that the Canadian Internet infrastructure is falling more and more behind:

Montreal Gazette: Canada’s Internet slow and expensive: Harvard.

Ultimately it is always the Canadian consumer that takes the hit.

The decision reaffirms a December 2008 CRTC ruling, which was remanded for reconsideration a year later by Industry Minister Tony Clement. The government acceded to lobbying from the big phone companies and ordered the CRTC to review its decision on the grounds that it had failed to consider a number of issues:

* How the matching speeds would diminish the phone companies’ incentives to invest in new infrastructure.
* Whether there is sufficient competition to protect consumers without the requirement of matching speeds.
* Whether the regulatory requirements on phone and cable companies are equal.
* How the matching-speeds requirement would affect phone companies’ abilities to offer services such as television over an internet connection.”

—CBC: Small internet providers get higher speeds: CRTC

the crtc says:

“Access to broadband Internet services is a key foundation for the digital economy,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “The large telephone and cable companies are bringing their fibre networks closer to Canadian homes and businesses, which allows for faster Internet connections. Requiring these companies to provide access to their networks will lead to more opportunities for competition in retail Internet services and better serve consumers.”

So finally, four years later, Canadians will get speed matching matching. But oh!  For a 10% increase?

The large telephone companies have been investing in upgrades and expanding their networks. In recognition of these investments, the CRTC will allow them to charge competitors an additional 10-per-cent mark-up over their costs for the use of their wholesale Internet services’ higher-speed options.

Pardon? Isn’t that part of doing business? The large ISPs are already billing more than enough to pay for infrastructure improvements. Isn’t this why Canadian Internet rates are among the highest in the world?

Wires at Bell Mobility

As a side note, a Globe and Mail story about WindMobile’s adventures in Canada ought to be a wake up call. For all the vaunted CRTC insistance of ‘fairness’ we are seeing:

In Canada, the regulatory system and the established providers are not making Orascom’s venture an easy task: Both Rogers and Bell have lowered prices and launched new unlimited services only in the markets where Wind operates. But Mr. Sawiris, though annoyed, is not easily daunted.

Canada is a telecom backwater, says bold backer of Wind Mobile

How can the CRTC allow Rogers and Bell to lower prices only in specific markets?

If the price is lower in one place, it is discriminatory not to offer the same prices across Canada.

The CRTC protects consumers how…?



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10950 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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Canadian Market said NO to UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 6, 2010

Telephone poles stretched along side a gravel rural road

No Usage Based Billing
The Internet is an interconnected network of wires connecting computers all around the world. The physical conduit of the Internet is the telephone wire or cable and associated equipment that connects together to form the “infrastructure” or “backbone”.

Because Canadian communications systems must cover great distances to serve a relatively small population these systems have traditionally required special treatment in order to provide Canadians with the services we need to both exist and compete in the first world economy. Although Canada has never had a strict telephone monopoly, from the very beginning different telephone companies provided services in different geographic locations across Canada. Which means we have for the most part had a “virtual monopoly” because each geographic area had only one telephone provider.

Regardless of what Canada’s telecommunication regulator the CRTC seems to think, if you have to sell your house and move to a new geographic location in order to get a different Internet Service provider it does not qualify as “consumer choice”. So although we have different companies providing access to the Internet, a great many Canadians have only one possible Internet Service Provider.

A Mennonite horse and buggy crosses the road

[When discussing the ISP “carriers” I pretty much always say “Bell” for the phone carrier, although in many cases Telus should be included as well. In the same way when I speak of the cable carrier I say “Rogers” to stand in for all the Cable companies, which over all of Canada I understand to also include Shaw, Cogeco, and Vidéotron because from where I sit here they all appear to be marching in lockstep. I do not presume to know if, when or how any of these companies may be interrelated. I myself have only had dealings with Bell and Rogers.]

infrastructure and private property

Somehow Bell Canada never seems to mention that the only way the telephone system we have today could have come into existence was through the goodwill of private property owners and government cooperation. They like to take all the credit for establishing the phone/cable infrastructure, but they could never have done it without our help.

Because the thing to remember is that telephone poles carrying telephone wire cross private land.

Had stringing the wire been left entirely up to the telephone companies, we might still be using smoke signals. Because without government assistance, the phone company would have had to negotiate with every single land owner. Individual property owners would have been able to prevent the telephone wire from crossing their land. Instead of ending up with a system covering all of the settled portions of Canada, we might have ended with many small unconnected pockets of telephone service.

Because as sure as the sun rises in the east, even today there are people who don’t want telephone service.

Certainly some would decline for religious reasons, while others might try to pry excessive sums of money from the phone company in exchange for granting a right-of-way across their property. To prevent such snags which might have rendered the existence of the telephone system impossible, forward thinking government mandated “easements” along the road side portions of private property. This government intervention allows utilities like electricity and telephone companies to put up poles along these easements and then string wires along them, or dig up land to allow cables or pipes to run under this land for the public good. In this way, the government acted to ensure Canada’s technologically wouldn’t lag.

The “who owns the wire” problem is not unique to Canada. Even in countries with dense enough population to support telephone competition it only makes sense to string one wire. Property owners can be persuaded to accept one set of telephone poles running along their land for the common good, but would balk at 5 sets of telephone poles. So even where there are five telephone providers they share the wire.

"Punchcard" photo by Mutatis mutandi

computers

When I was a kid, my Dad took us to a local university to see a gigantic machine that could solve mathematical equations if you fed it punch cards. Punch cards were exactly what they sound like: bits of cardboard with holes punched in them.

The computer programmer communicated with the computer via punchcards. The pattern of the holes made up the program. Back in those days of vacuum tubes, most people could not imagine the possibility that personal computers would ever exist. Computers were simply too big.

But then came miniaturization. Really, weren’t the first home computers was actually the digital calculators that swept over the world in the 1970’s? With the ability to achieve miniaturization, home computers were not far behind. The first home computers were DIY projects; if you wanted a computer you had to put it together. So naturally the first people to have home computers were the techies who could build them.

But it wasn’t long though before enterprising businesses began selling personal computers or PCs that anyone could use. Spreadsheet programs like Lotus Symphony revolutionized the accounting Industry. Desk Top Publishing was born. Games could be played. Calendars kept. The possibilities seemed endless. And they were.

Today ordinary people get personal computers in much the same way we get cars. We no longer need to know how to build or repair one.

the Internet

In the early days of personal computing, people could purchase modems that would connect computers via telephone lines. When your modem was connected to the phone line, it took control of your telephone service. When your computer was talking on the phone, you couldn’t. It got to the point where some computer users would get a second telephone line so their computing time wouldn’t tie up their telephone.

Before the Internet became available to ordinary people, there were independent computer networks. My first venture online was in 1989 with a commercial service called Compuserve. Although the research possibilities were excellent, the fun part was being able to live chat with folks from around the world.

The downside was that it was terribly expensive. You paid by the minute, which can add up quite quickly. Learning how to do anything took a lot of time and every minute online cost money. Although it was fun, being fresh out of college, I simply couldn’t afford it. So I went off line again. The public library was a much more economical place to do research.

I just went to search out Compuserve now. I’m happy they’re still out there. Oh and look… the deal I see is 2 months free to start and after that $17.95 per month unlimited. Twenty years ago my bill for a single month exceeded $100, and that was using one of their more economical billing plans! Times certainly have changed.

Later I became involved with an early computer network, a BBS or “bulletin board system”. These independent computer BBSs were very similar to the Internet forums of today; you posted your comment and it stayed there. People would check in over time and join in the conversation. No live chats here.

But it was an excellent antidote to Compuserve, because it was free. Voluntary donations helped support the system by paying for improved equipment for the people running it. A BBS was not a commercial venture, they were communities… today we’d call them social media… started by a few people with computer know-how and equipment to run it on. People found out about a BBS by word of mouth. Then as now content was important for finding and then keeping an audience.

three AOL disks

four AOL offers on four b;ue enrollment CDs

The people who owned the equipment controlled the BBS, and acted as the system administrators or SYSOPS. But it was the users who brought the BBS to life by beginning new discussion areas and posting conversations and content to the BBS. Because it didn’t happen in real time, the posts were often more thoughtful than live chat. But the owners held ultimate control; they could cut off anyone for any reason. Initially this power was only used to clamp down on abusive behavior; there were online Trolls then as now. Later on personalities and personal politics came into it.

My disillusionment coincided with one heavy contributor being cut off simply for having different attitudes and philosophies– mostly he annoyed the owners. But because he provided so much content and administered so many discussion groups, they didn’t want to cut him off for good, so instead they gave him small suspensions to keep him in line. That type of petty abuse of power is why I left that BBS, and has a lot to do with why I support net neutrality today.

That was around the time when the Internet became generally available to the public. Overnight there were Independent Internet Service Providers springing up all over Canada, and around the world. And although many people signed up, it was far from universal.

an array of internet hook up CDs

There were many seductive elements. Email and Instant Messaging held great appeal. Instant connectivity. Research, information… everything at your finger tips. But in many ways it was a luxury. A plaything. It was only later it became a necessity.

In my recollection, a lot people were initially resistant to going online because it was so expensive. There were many many ISPs, and so competition was fierce. Even so, it was still very expensive. ISPs charged by the minute. The most persistent and pervasive ISPs battling for customers was America Online.

AOL: Usage Based Billing

They must have mailed out hundreds of thousands of AOL sign up CDs. Maybe millions. I know I didn’t start keeping the CDs that kept turning up in my mail initially. Yet I still probably have around thirty of their CDs.   Yet I never did sign up with AOL.   I knew from my Compuserve experience how quickly the usage costs could add up, and how expensive it would be.   Not to mention virtually impossible to budget for.

AOL usage based offers

The AOL marketing campaign is writ large across those old CDs.
540 Hours Free
1000 Hours Free
1344 Hours Free
2000 Hours Free
3 Months Free
$9.95 for 6 months

AOL tried giving better and better introductory offers but it just did not work. After the early adopters, the techno types who would do whatever it took to be online — and more importantly pay whatever had to be paid– the mostly ordinary people just weren’t interested. It was a big cash outlay, after all. Just getting a reasonable computer system cost around three thousand dollars.

My first PC had a double floppy drive — not even a hard drive — a black & white screen — a dot matrix printer.  Three grand.

After laying out the green, most of us weren’t ready to sign away the rest of our disposable income for the Internet. Because after AOL’s “introduction period” was over, it would be back to the very pricey Usage Based Billing options. It just cost too much.

And there wasn’t even the content available online that there is today.

Certainly finding what you wanted took work, and learning is very expensive when you’re being billed per minute. The point is, you didn’t NEED to go online. You could buy a whole encyclopedia on one CD, or a spreadsheet program, a word processor or graphics software or games, and your computer could do everything you needed it to. People didn’t need the Internet. It was just too expensive. A toy.

What happened to AOL? The king of marketing? At one point they were the one to beat. They marketed the heck out of the Internet. Who else could afford to scatter CDs across the land with such bold abandon. Or convince respectable venerated Canadian banking institutions… notably some of the most caution in the world… to partner them? What cataclysm could have done for AOL?

Wait a minute:

Canada had ISP competition?  

Canada?

What happened to all those ISPs?

Bell Sympatico and Rogers Internet

enter the carriers

Bell Canada and Rogers Cable entered the fray.

Bell Canada was the major telephone carrier; they controlled and maintained the telephone cable backbone. Telephone traffic traveled over this wire, and now Internet traffic did too. Up until this time, Bell Canada just had phone lines, they were the major telephone carrier who controlled the wire backbone connecting home computer users to the Internet.

But now, Bell decided they wanted to get into the internet game. So Bell hung out a shingle as an Internet Service Provider, or ISP.

When Rogers entered the market they brought their own backbone in the form of urban cable connections. The first time I recall hearing about Rogers as an ISP they were offering high speed Internet connections. I wasn’t paying much attention back then. One minute there were scads pf Canadian ISPs and the next there were only two.

Bell and Rogers introduced “Unlimited Internet” into the Canadian market

Bell and Rogers used their corporate might to introduce low cost UNLIMITED Internet service packages that the smaller ISPs could not possibly match. Offering unlimited Internet access made trying it much more palatable because learning how to use it was no longer prohibitively expensive. Not only did customers switch to Bell and Rogers in droves, but more:

elimination of usage based billing allowed the Canadian Internet Market to really take off.

Canadian consumers told the market in no uncertain terms that we did not want the Internet on a Usage Based Billing model.

Low cost entry into the Internet made Canadians embrace the Internet. This is why Canada was an early adopter, and a leader in Internet use. Even though it didn’t take long for prices to climb. Since the other competitors were gone, Bell and Rogers had the market carved up between them so prices began to rise rapidly.

The Internet has impacted on just about every type of business there is. We buy and sell on eBay or Amazon. We pay our bills online. We can read Canadian laws online. Get up to the minute weather reports. We watch TVor read the newspaper online. Canada Post is offering to deliver email.

the Canadian Internet market clearly said “No” to Usage Based Billing

Because customers overwhelmingly chose “Unlimited” over the usage based pricing model, Bell and Rogers got the added bonus of eliminating the competition. Bell and Rogers were vying for supremacy so they built good infrastructure to offer the fastest best service. Back then, Canada had some of the best Internet access speeds at some of the lowest prices in the world.

This is a very large part of the reason that Canadians embraced the Internet so whole heartedly.

But the upshot is that Canada was left with only two ISPs. It was such a monumental error that even the Canadian Government noticed, and stepped in and told Bell and Rogers that they would have to share the infrastructure so that competitors could enter the Internet market in an attempt to re-introduce competition.

I’m not quite sure why, but it seems that all the Independent ISPs seem to get their Internet connection through Bell. When Bell set up the “Gateway Access System” (GAS) through which they sell wholesale bandwidth to the Independent Internet Service Providers The CRTC allowed Bell to set their own prices. Naturally they set very high prices. The Independent ISPs could then redistribute the bandwidth however they saw fit.

Canadian paper money, photo by laurelrusswurm

At first Bell was happy since they were making money from their GAS business. They were probably surprised that the Independent ISPs provided low priced packages and good Internet service without gouging that have built loyalty for the Independents. It’s funny how just about anyone you ask has at least one Bell or Rogers horror story in their repertoire, but I’ve never heard any about the Independent ISPs.

Canada’s place as an Internet leader has been slipping badly. Although Bell has done basic maintenance on their phone/Internet infrastructure they seem to have neglected the continuous upgrading they should have done. In real terms that makes Canada’s Internet service of today hopelessly out of date. What was cutting edge 15 years ago is paleolithic today.

Although the service has stayed the same with little or no infrastructure improvements Canadian Internet costs have been climbing.

(Make no mistake: the inflated Internet costs that Bell and Rogers have been charging have been more than enough to cover upgrades.)

Many Canadians went online because it was affordable back then, but that is no longer true.

Now, at a time when it has become more important to go in the Internet– to do our banking, pay our bills, find jobs, do school work– today Canadian Internet rates are some of the highest in the world. The Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity for Canadians. But not all Canadians can afford to even go online. The “digital divide” is yawning already, but now it’s about to get even worse.

Because the CRTC has approved Bell’s application to begin Usage Based Billing.

Real costs have nothing to do with it. Market forces have nothing to do with it.

The CRTC will allow our Internet rates to double to economically force Canadians to reduce Internet use.

CRTC #fail



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10925 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



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

Trollbusters

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 1, 2010

Trolls: Sometimes Trolls are Welcome.  There are many different types of Troll.  This Troll was the hit of a D&D convention.  The one place trolls are never welcome is on the internet.

StopUBB seems to have acquired its own troll.
(Click on the troll to see a larger image.)

Instead of simply leaving my responses to troll-dom buried in the comments, I thought my time would be better spent with an article about Internet Trolls.

No Usage Based Billing

Internet Anonymity

One of the strengths of the Internet is that it usually possible to comment anonymously. The reason that this is a strength is that it allows people to share information — whistle blowing information in particular — with less personal risk. This is good for society.

Another strength of the Internet is that it is largely “self-correcting”. Because commenting is encouraged most places, and an awful lot of information is available for user-editing, when someone gets something on the internet wrong, there is usually someone who will correct them. So if a “whistle blower” turns out to be someone spreading malicious information, they will be outed and discredited very quickly. This is fabulous.

Now, I have never made any secret of the fact that although I deal with a lot of technical things in this blog, I am not a technical person. If I get something wrong, I want to know about it, so that I can correct it. That’s one reason that my name and email address are plastered all over my blogs. It has to do with credibility. If you want to correct me loudly, you can do it in a comment. If you prefer to do it quietly, you can send me email. (Don’t worry, thanks to some really smart tech people I have a very good spam filter.)

The reason I started this blog was to help other non-technical internet users understand the issue of Usage Based Billing. As an ordinary person myself I have to first learn about the issues and processes before I can hope to write about them. I have lately increased the scope of this blog to cover internet freedom issues like Net Neutrality and ACTA which will also impact negatively on ordinary Internet users. The point of this blog is to demystify the computerese so that ordinary people can understand the issues that will affect us all. Computers and the Internet are no longer luxuries.

I am fortunate in that I’ve had some good instructors, and for things I’ve researched on my own I’ve had excellent feedback. As well I know I have a few very technically astute readers who will not hesitate to provide technical correction where warranted.

European troll with a walking stick stands on a city street.

Trolls

A problem that has emerged out of Internet anonymity is a type of commenter which has come to be known as a “Troll”. Trolls comment wherever they think they can do damage. In forums, Facebook, blogs, and news articles.

Some trolls are just the internet version a vandals; they want to wreck things, or stir things up. Some delight in the power they feel in arguing about anything or everything. They will jump into any argument and take the contrary position just for the fun of it. This type of troll has been around since the earliest days of computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes were the early forums on independent computer networks that predate public access to the Internet of today).

As the Internet has achieved wider readership and acceptance, there has emerged a new class of troll, Professional Lobbyist Trolls. I’m guessing that at least some of these trolls receive a paycheck for their efforts, although it’s conceivable that some simply work for the corporation they are lobbying for. Whether they are officially remunerated for troll comments or not, I consider these people to be Professional Trolls because they engage in troll behaviour for gain.

The first kind of troll exists because they feel empowered through the argument. These trolls often engage in bullying tactics. The standard advice for dealing with these amateur trolls is “Don’t feed the troll.” This means that they should be ignored, because they will never back off. The more you respond, the worse they get. By ignoring them you deprive them of their power. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work because some of them will simply continue to escalate the abuse until a response is forthcoming.

The second type of troll exists because a special interest group – usually a corporation or a political party – is engaging in activity or behaviour that the public will not agree with because it is not in the best interests of the public. The professional troll’s job is to con us into thinking that it will be in our best interests, or if that doesn’t fly, that it’s necessary to make a sacrifice for some reason.

When CBC online runs a story decrying a bad corporate behaviour or government policy, something that triggers thousands of public online comments, often the special interest group behind the bad behaviour or policy tries to stem the tide of public negativity by sending in Professional Trolls. These trolls spread misinformation intended to muddy the waters and try to dissipate or minimize the public outrage. Trolls will attempt to deflect criticism by suggesting a different scapegoat, or more commonly by trying to cast doubt on the credibility of the information. Professional trolls have a whole arsenal of weapons for attacking an idea on every front except merit. That’s the biggest problem professional trolls have to overcome — a lack of valid arguments.

You can usually spot a Professional Troll because they are arguing against the good of society. The corporation, political group or ideology that the troll is advocating/lobbying for, will always gain something at the expense of others, usually the public. Because ordinary citizens don’t have lobbyists.

The StopUBB Troll

First I’ll reprint the Troll Comments I received today followed by my Comment Reply. Then I’ll break the troll’s comment down and analyze the flaws.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Wow so much FUD in this article. Not a Rogers employee, but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense, and guess what, carriers all pay on usage, broadband customers can to. You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Lol the Troll is spreading misinformation again… Although protesting that it is “Not a Rogers employee”, Lol the Troll‘s email address is through an offline “holding company” website with a Rogers IP address. Certainly looks suspicious.   Lol the Troll claims that “carriers all pay on usage”. Either Lol the Troll truly doesn’t understand (intelligence is not a pre-requisite for troll-dom) or is being disingenuous. Bell Canada is a “carrier”.  I doubt Bell Canada pays usage to anyone.

Admittedly, Rogers is also a carrier. Rogers doesn’t usually have to pay for internet access on it’s own cable, but there are some parts of Canada where Rogers is forced to go through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System (GAS), so I expect at those junctures, Bell is charging usage to Rogers. You would think that Bell and Rogers would be able to play nicely together, but neither share very well, and though they seem to work in conjunction at times, both want to be the only Canadian Internet monopoly.

The Independent Service Providers… that is to say, the Independent ISPs that Industry Canada mandated into the Canadian Internet market in order to provide Canadian consumers with access to competition, must purchase access to Bell Canada’s GAS as well. My understanding is that the Independents are ISPs not carriers. They do in fact pay a great deal for their internet access.

The Independent ISPs have contracted for blocks of bandwidth access with Bell Canada. Bell Canada was able to set the excessive prices they wanted, and the Independent ISPs agreed to pay the high prices Bell Canada set.   So Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth the Independent ISPs get through GAS. These independent ISPs do business by packaging the bandwidth differently than Bell Canada does. Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth that these ISPs re-sell to their own customers.

Usage Based Billing would mean that the Independent Service Providers’ customers would be forced to pay Bell Canada for “usage” that has already been paid for. The Independent ISPs are fighting against UBB because they don’t believe that their customers should have to pay more for the same service they get now. Usage Based Billing will also force the Independent ISPs to use Bell Canada’s pricing system, which will unfairly shackle their business model and most likely put them out of business.

Lol the Troll also attempts to discredit me personally as someone who doesn’t pay for my own Internet connection. Lol the Troll is accusing me of being an unproductive young person, without life experience, living in my parents basement, presumably off my parents.

First of all, a young person living in their parent’s basement is not necessarily unproductive. And age does not always bring life experience.   Considering that Lol the Troll made a second post with the same type of denigration on the About UBB and Me a page that very clearly says who I am, it is reasonable to think that Lol the Troll just wanted to try to discredit me, not caring about accuracy.

Now for the point by point Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Wow so much FUD in this article. “
Broad statement. Opinion, not fact. Attempt to establish street cred by using the acronym “FUD”. This actually backfires since the wikipedia definition points to someone with a marketing or political background. Precisely the demographic for professional trolls.

FUD: Fear, uncertainty and doubt, a marketing or political strategy.

Wikipedia

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Not a Rogers employee,”
Attempting to discredit my information without any validity. I’m sure Rogers has competent as well as incompetent staff just like any other large corporation. Working for Rogers wouldn’t make me an expert. Anymore than not working for Rogers would.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense,”
Saying the information is wrong without any supporting information. aka “Because I say so”. Lol is spouting nonsense. Thanks to research I quite understand why DPI is illegal in Europe, and ought to be here. At minimum it needs oversight.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “and guess what, carriers all pay on usage,”
Argument based on Fallacy. Partly correct, not remotely logical. Having just read the Wikipedia page I am amazed… the fallacy page is pretty much a Troll Primer. If you think a comment was made by a troll, chances are their argument will contain at least one of the fallacies listed on the Wikipedia page.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “broadband customers can to.”
Presence of the incorrect “to” indicates someone overly reliant on spell check.
The argument is specious. The points have nothing to do with each other.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.”
Inept inaccurate personal attack as a means of discrediting the accurate information I provide.

As mentioned, the other appearance of Lol the Troll is on my About UBB and Me page.

a naked rainbow haired troll doll, a naked blue haired troll doll with blue gem inset at navel, yellow haired and pink haired baby trolls wearing bibs and nappys, a white haired baby troll in a bunny suit, and a yellow haired troll wearing balloon trunks

My younger sisters were quite into troll dolls when we were kids. I couldn't see the attraction.

I actually saw this one first.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!

Since the attempt at putting me down is so patently “out there” I didn’t bother arguing the point.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 8:26 am
Ooohh look— StopUBB got its very own troll! My very own troll! Awesome.
And not only that, a troll who can’t read!
Even funnier, one who is parroting misinformation. Guess that’s why it calls itself “Lol”.

Now for the Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. “
Ridiculous attempt at a personal attack especially considering that it is made directly below my biographical information.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. “
Aside from the incoherence, it appears that Lol the Troll is trying to sell the lie that Usage based billing will make the Internet cheaper for people who do not use torrents. Usage Based Billing charges will be assessed in addition to what users currently pay in Internet rates. Nowhere in any part of the official Bell Canada Usage Based Billing submission to the CRTC did Bell ever make any claim that any user would be paying less than they are paying now. But trolls can say what they want.
Lol the Troll is also attempting to imply that all torrent traffic is illegal or bad in some way, when readers of StopUBB know that isn’t accurate.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!”
Another vague attempt at personal attack in combination with casting aspersions on the excellent BitTorrent protocol, which is not only legal, but used for many excellent things, like distribution of Free Open Source software. Or Project Gutenberg.


I hope this article has made troll spotting a little easier.

I’ll leave you with my kid’s favorite web comic XKCD‘s take on amateur trolls:



[Image Credits:
D&D Troll photograph by Benny Mazur (benimoto)
European Walking Stick Troll Photo by HuBar, Wikimedia Commons
Troll Family Group, photo by Felicity Green, aka mygothlaundry, Flickr
the Troll in the “Troll Busters” logo was provided by Roixa RRG You can see more of her work in her ROIXA RRG blog
And of course thanks to Randall Munroe for publishing XKCD under a Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution Non-Commercial license which allowed me to reprint his comic in its entirety.]

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Throttling PROVES that the Internet is NOT congested

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 3, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

A big part of the Bell Canada argument in favor of Usage Based Billing (and “Throttling”) is the idea that the internet is “congested”. This is pure fabrication.

It is simply not true.

If the internet was actually congested, if the internet was anywhere near full, throttling would be the last thing Bell Canada would do BECAUSE the act of throttling actually increases the consumption of bandwidth.

Every time Bell Canada engages in the process of “throttling”
Bell Canada is adding to the alleged internet congestion.

Bell Canada throttles by deliberately cluttering up the internet. Throttling does indeed slow your service down.

Throttling is done by slowing down your internet packets by disabling some of them, so you are forced to use more bandwidth. They stop your packet’s message from getting through. Bell Canada doesn’t remove the packet, it is still floating around on the internet. But this forces you to send a replacement packet that maybe this time Bell Canada will allow to get to its destination. So those disabled packets are now adding to the supposed congestion.

Of course the computer users can not see this. We don’t KNOW when Bell Canada is stopping out packets, or for that matter how many packets they are stopping. We just know its taking a long time.

In trying to understand this, I came up with the following analogy (a version was originally posted in the comments section of one of the CBC online stories, CRTC wants internet pricing answers from Bell).

Understanding Throttling: The Ice Cream Parlour Analogy

Say you went to an ice cream parlour and ordered a 2 scoop ice cream cone. The server scoops one scoop into your cone, throws a second scoop in the garbage and then places a third scoop on top of the first,. Then she hands you your 2 scoop cone along with a bill for 3 scoops.

THAT is what throttling is. If you’re transferring a 5 gigabyte file you might find yourself paying for 7 gigabytes of bandwidth. Up until now it has “only” had the impact of making Canadian internet users reach their bandwidth limits sooner. But with “Usage Based Billing” you will ALSO be paying for Bell’s deliberate bandwidth inflation, in other words the bandwidth they throw in the garbage (the 2nd scoop).

Lets try a long distance phone call analogy.

Say I want to make a 3 minute long distance phone call to my granny.

So I call her up on the telephone and say, “Hey Gran, what’s happening?”

But at this point, the phone company deliberately cuts off my connection.

So I have to call her back. Of course I do.  This time I say.

“Hey gran, it’s me. Sorry, I don’t know what happened. Anyway. I was wondering what you’re up to this weekend. Since Marv is in town I thought we could have a…”

WHOOPS. The phone company disconnects my call again. So I have to call back again. This time I say,

“Hey gran I’ll make it quick… we’re having a barbeque for Marv on Sunday… Can make it? Sure you can bring your beau. Ok, Jack’ll pick you up at 2. Bye.”

When the phone bill comes in, instead of paying for the three minute call I’ve budgeted for, thanks to the phone company’s deliberate interference, I end up paying for 5 minutes on the line with my gran rather than three.

This is how throttling works. Which is a compelling reason why Usage Based Billing should never have been approved. As long as Bell is “throttling” they are deliberately inflating customer usage numbers. Which means that when they implement Usage Based Billing, they will be fraudulently billing customers— with the permission of the CRTC.

The fact that we don’t understand the jargon is a big part of why Bell Canada (and the CRTC) think they can get away this. In self defense I’ve done some research and created a Glossary of UBB terms on my dedicated Stop Usage Based Billing blog:

Usage Based Billing: A Glossary

If CRTC does not understand these issues, why are they giving Bell Canada permission for implementation of them?

Don’t forget: http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
6325 signatures!

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

Usage Based Billing: CRTC Complaints Department

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 2, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

FIRST: I mentioned in Psst… Pass It On: Stop Usage Based Billing that everything in the Stop Usage Based Billing blog was in the public domain. It occurred to me that it might help to make this announcement a little more formal. So I have now officially registered this blog with a Creative Commons CC0 listing to place my Stop Usage Based Billing blog in the public domain. This will allow everyone the right to borrow any bits of this blog they may find useful. For letters of complaint, for example. You’ll find the creative commons badge at the bottom of this post, but applies to the entire Stop Usage Based Billing blog.

Of course the downside of registering a Creative Commons CC0is that supporters of Usage Based Billing people may attempt to use material provided in this blog in their continuing misinformation attempts.

You might ask: who in their right mind would support Usage Based Billing?

Sadly, the answer to that one is easy, the main pro-UBB lobby is of course those who expect to profit from Usage Based Billing. That is to say primarily Bell Canada, but can include everyone and every company associated with Bell Canada, including CTVglobemedia and every one they can control either through economic plums or economic sanctions. I’m sure that this type of manipulation is a lot easier during a world wide recession.

The only others supporting UBB are those who have bought into the misinformation being spread and promoted by pro Usage Based Billing lobby. There is no shame in that, after all you can’t beat the talented writers and advertising folks employed by CTVglobemedia. It’s even conceivable that some of those talented people don’t really understand the jargon and might not realize why this is such a big problem. I’d expect controlling the jargon would make it a lot easier to put your own spin on it.

I know we think of a lobbyists making a big noise to sell their cause, but when you’re lobbying for acceptance of something like Usage Based Billing which can’t possibly be supported by any rational argument, lobbying for a silence would certainly be the way to go.

If you’ve already signed the http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/ online petition, and are looking for something else to do to try and stop UBB, as a concerned Canadian it is always within your rights to make a complaint to the CRTC.

CRTC

CRTC

Even if you have already submitted your comment or complaint to the CRTC specific to CRTC Ruling File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181 to protest the CRTC’s extremely bad decision to allow Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing, you are still well within your rights to place another complaint through the CRTC complaints page I’ve just stumbled across on the CRTC website.

These pages offer you advice and explain the complain procedure to make it easy for Canadians to submit specific customer complaints to the CRTC in the areas of :

  • television and radio (Broadcasting complaints: TV and Radio | CRTC),
  • phone (Telephone service: making a complaint) including both land lines and cell phones, and
  • internet service in Canada (rates, quality, access, legal actions and complaints)

I would venture a guess that a completely different group of CRTC staffers deal with the complaints made through this web form. In fact there would probably be different CRTC complaints staff sections to deal with each of the three different areas the CRTC is supposed to regulate.

At any time you can go to the CRTC online complaints department and submit a complaint here:

Ask a question or make a complaint
Send us your question or complaint about television, radio, telephone, cellphone, Internet or other services. CRTC responds to most questions within 10 working days. Find out more about how we handle complaints for Television and Radio, phone and internet.

1. Make a Complaint about Broadcasting

Perhaps you might wish to make a complaint about broadcasting. The CRTC first recommends that you complain to your broadcaster before complaining to the CRTC. This is reasonable. So first you should contact CTV and ask them why they are not covering Usage Based Billing. Remember, the CRTC first announced UBB in April, but just approved it in August. In all that time, why has CTV not covered Usage Based Billing? My most recent CTV web search came up with this:

Screenshot: CTV Usage Based Billing Search

Screenshot: CTV Usage Based Billing Search

The fact that more than six thousand Canadians have already signed the online petition calling for the dissolution of the CRTC– in spite of the apparent news blackout of Usage Based Billing– hasn’t raised a single microphone at CTV. Isn’t that a strong indication that Canadians are very are interested in the CRTC Usage Based Billing decision? Six thousand concerned Canadians would trigger CTV coverage of any other story. Yet CTV is not covering Usage Based Billing. Why?

CTV is covering the CRTC and CTV is covering news about the Canadian Internet. Here is an example in a CTV online article about the multi-billion dollar revenues generated by Canadian internet services CTV: Telecom Growth. But they are doing it selectively.

Could it be that Bell Canada isn’t allowing CTV news to cover this news? You can ask CTV news yourself. Send in your questions directly:

When that doesn’t work, you may send your complaint along to the to the CRTC about the fact that CTV is only selectively reporting the news to Canadians.

2. Complain about the Telephone Company

It would not be unreasonable to wonder about Bell Canada’s “confidentiality of customer records” I certainly would not trust any company who read their customer’s mail without permission, which is essentially what Bell Canada is doing with its internet “deep packet inspection”. Maybe they really are only reading the bits that say what kind of packets they are. Personally, I wouldn’t take Bell Canada’s word for it.

(Actually, its even worse than just reading their customer’s mail, they’re interfering with it too.)

Like everyone else in Canada, I’ve had issues with Bell Canada over the years. Even though they were incredibly high handed in the days of monopoly, the influx of competition seemed to make them ease up. After all. Bell Canada has always been there. Why not trust them?

Hmmmm. Not too long ago I had a problem with Bell Canada, and I ended up talking to someone in their “loyalty” department. To smooth my feathers he fixed the problem and gave me a $30.00 discount on my next bill. Then he actually told me that if I called back in three months and asked for the loyalty department and said I was going to switch to a different telephone carrier, they would give me another $30.00 discount. He also told me that Bell Canada would give me this “discount” every three months if I kept calling back.

What kind of business is Bell Canada running? I think that policy is twisted. In the first place Bell Canada is essentially bribing customers from switching to the competition. Class action suit anyone? Adding insult to insult, Bell Canada has such a low opinion of Canadian consumers that they don’t even trust us to stay bought.

If Bell Canada can afford to do this it strikes me that they are making too much money already. Lets look at this as a business practice. The first thing that really bothers me is that the Bell Canada Loyalty department is actually penalizing Bell Canada’s loyal customers. The granny who would never dream of switching doesn’t get that annual $120.00 savings because she is loyal to Bell. Call me crazy, but I just can’t figure out why Bell Canada doesn’t just improve service? Reduce charges? Compete fairly? Maybe they are so sure that they are going to get to be a monopoly again that they would rather bribe customers piecemeal as needed than clean up their act.

Personally. I would rather not deal with a company that treats its customers so shabbily. I’m going to be switching my land line to Teksavvy. The savings (yes, in fact they offer better deals than Bell Canada for telephone service too) will help my family budget for the increased internet costs that Usage Based Billing will cause us.

Warning: If you decide to do the same, make sure you call Teksavvy or whoever your new carrier is going to first. Arrange with the NEW CARRIER to arrance the transfer of service. If you do this, you will be able to port your existing Bell Telephone number to the new service. If you call Bell first and tell them you want to cancel, they are likely to disconnect you before your new service is in place, which means that you will not be able to keep the same phone number. (Just another way Bell Canada likes to mess with us

So, after you’ve talked to the phone company, you are supposed to go to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) and find your telephone companytheir list on , you are supposed to deal with them in an effort to clear up the problem.

If you don’t get satisfaction through this process, or if your company is not on the list, you can always go back and make your complaint to the CRTC.

3. Complain about Internet Service

I wouldn’t think there would be any limitation on how many complaints any one citizen is allowed to submit, so long as the topics are different. For example you could reasonably complain to the CRTC about:

  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing at all
  • the fact that the CRTC would rule in favor of Usage Based Billing in the absence of any meaningful public consultation
  • the fact that the CRTC would rule in favor of Usage Based Billing without making sure that the Canadian public was informed of this sweeping change before the fact
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to charge you for Usage Based Billing if you (like me) are not a Bell Canada internet customer
  • the fact that CRTC’s ruling will allow Bell Canada to increase your costs in accessing the internet
  • the fact that CRTC has jeopardized your privacy by allowing deep packet inspection of your internet usage, and
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to “throttle” internet use by inflating customer bandwidth, and
  • the fact that this CRTC decision to allow Usage Based Billing will allow Bell Canada to fraudulently bill internet users for the Bandwidth which the customer has not actually used but which has been deliberately inflated through Bell Canada “throttling”
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing in addition to what customers are already paying without providing any additional service to the customer to justify this increase
  • the fact that CRTC is allowing Bell Canada to implement Usage Based Billing in spite of virtually unanimous opposition from the public (the small segment of the public that found out about UBB)
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will make Canadian internet the most expensive in the world, and therefore unreasonably expensive, which is the opposit of &ldrquo;affordable&rdquo’
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing which will make internet access less accessible to Canadians due to these excessive new costs
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will damage the Canadian economy by limiting Canadian internet access for purposes of education, technology, art, music, writing, resarch, film, science, research, business etc.
  • the fact that there does not appear to be any good nor auditable way vouched for by Measurement Canada of measuring the usage in order to assess “Usage Based Billing” charges.
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will interfere in the internet consumer market to the extent of eliminating the independent ISP’s ability to compete, and
  • the fact that CRTC allowed Usage Based Billing will interfere in the internet consumer market to the extent of forcing Bell Canada’s (Sympatico) competition, the independent ISP’s, to break contractual agreements with their customers, and which will certainly damage and possibly destroy these companies, which will
  • effectively neutralize and wipe out all Bell Canada (Sympatico) competition.

CRTC would like you to go through the same process as with the telephone complaint, where you try to resolve the problem with the service provider. So if you are in fact a Bell Canada (Sympatico) customer, you can direct your questions and complaints directly to Bell or the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services Inc. (CCTS) first.

Of course my problem is not with my ISP, my problem is with Bell Canada’s interference in my business relationship with my ISP and with the CRTC’s ill advised approval of Usage Based Billing. So for me, it is a case of going back to make your complaint to the CRTC. Perhaps if enough Canadians ask enough questions we will actually get real answers. Perhaps if enough Canadians complain, the CRTC will be clever enough to quash the Usage Based Billing regulation, and then consider actually adhering to their mandate.

It should be more difficult for CRTC to ignore these complaints as these complaints are supposed to be handled by a staff member within ten days. THESE consumer complaints are supposed to generate a human response. Perhaps if we help to use up their budgeted resources they might be able to grasp why it is bad to allow implementation of Usage Based Billing which will certainly affect the budgets of the Canadian citizens they are supposed to be looking out for. Maybe then the CRTC wouldn’t be so eager to completely ignore the wishes of the citizenry, as did in making this bad decision in the first place.

To the extent possible under law, Laurel L. Russwurm
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Stop Usage Based Billing.
CC0

This work is published from Canada.

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Usage Based Pricing: Why The Buffet Analogy Doesn’t Work

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 29, 2009

It seems that some American ISPs are also trying to promote the idea of Usage Based Billing. In fact, I just read an interesting post written by a guy named Buck on the Occam Networks Blog. It’s a very well written column in support of American Usage Based Billing.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

American Flag

The problem is Buck’s premise is based on a seriously flawed analogy.

Comparing the internet to a Buffet Restaurant, Buck talks about how some people eat more at a buffet and some people eat less. He tells us it isn’t fair that the people who eat less at a Buffet Restaurant are subsidizing the ones who eat more. The idea seems to be that the ones who eat more are greedy, and that they are taking advantage of the people who don’t eat much. He says it’s not fair to the Restaurant because they might go out of business if too many people want to eat too much.

Which begs the question:

If all of this is true, why do buffet restaurants exist?

The answer of course is that the restaurant business doesn’t work that way. Like every other type of restaurant, the Buffet Restaurant buys and prepares the food they estimate they’ll need. They balance what they spend with how much money they need to take in. If it they find they are throwing out too much food, they buy less food. If they aren’t making enough of a profit, they might raise their prices. If they raise their prices too high, they might lose their customers. A Buffet Restaurant deals with the very same business issues any restaurant does. The fact that some customers eat little and some a lot doesn’t comes into it.

In a traditional restaurant the light eater pays for food they don’t eat which is thrown out. In the Buffet Restaurant the light eater wouldn’t even have scooped the food they won’t eat onto the plate. In a traditional restaurant a heavy eater may not get enough to eat. Which makes them less likely to become a repeat customer. At the buffet, they can be sure they will get what they need.

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet

A Buffet Restaurant is not like the Internet.

Buck goes on to offer us an alternate scenario where he instead offers a “Mongolian barbecue” where the customer gets a big plate and can take what they want. Instead of paying one price, they are indiscriminately charged for everything they have taken by weight. Buck suggests that:

“The effect is that diners will take whatever food they want but are not as likely to overeat. Since the average eater is not paying more than their share in order to compensate for the big-eaters, the average eater pays less at a “per ounce” buffet than they would for an equivalent meal at a flat rate all-you-can-eat buffet. On the other hand, the heavy eater’s price for a comparable meal goes up, maybe even double what they would pay at a smorgasbord. These are the patrons that may be upset at the new pricing. Some will see the fairness in it and maybe curb their gluttonous ways while others will take their patronage to another restaurant. One could argue that these are good customers for the competition to have!”
writes Buck in the Occam Networks Blog

So, it would appear that in Buck’s model, the intent behind this pricing is not to make money for the restaurant, but instead to modify the customer’s behaviour. That is certainly an interesting business practice. Sadly, in modifying the behavior of his customers in an attempt to deliver them from their bad choices, it would seem that Buck’s ignorance of both human physiology and nutrition will certainly cause more harm than good. It would also seem to indicate that Buck is fortunate enough not to understand the correlation between poverty and obesity. Lucky Buck.

Errors of logic aside, the analogy is simply not… analagous.

Because the internet is NOT at all like a Buffet Restaurant.

When people access the internet they do not use it up. There is a finite amount of food in the restaurant which can be prepared and served at the buffet. When it is eaten it is gone. That doesn’t happen to the internet. Internet content isn’t finite. It doesn’t matter how many people visit a website, the content doesn’t get used up. In fact, websites want high traffic. The reason that they provide content is to attract an audience. They WANT high traffic.

In Buck’s analogy food is the content. Which brings to light another problem with this analogy. A restaurant offering a buffet has paid for the food. Yet the bulk of internet content is provided free of charge to the consumer, without any cost at all to the ISP.

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Lobster Thermidor

Really the only way to make Buck’s analogy work would be to say that the internet is not a Buffet Restaurant, it’s a neighborhood potluck supper being held in a rented Banquet Hall. The food is freely provided by the neighbors who attend, but somebody has to pay for the hall. That is the cost which needs to be portioned out.

It makes no difference to the owner of the Banquet Hall what the neighborhood group eats. Nor should it matter to the landlord how much any of the food cost to purchase, or how much time or effort was necessary in the preparation. The food is freely provided by neighbors for neighbors. The landlord set the price for the rental and the neighbors agreed to pay. Everyone is happy.

Until the night of the potluck when the landlord sees what the neighbors are laying out for the potluck dinner in his Banquet Hall, his attitude changes. These people aren’t serving Tuna Casserole, Baked Beans or Macaroni and Cheese, they are setting out Rack of Lamb, Chateaubriand and Lobster Thermidor.

Suddenly the landlord isn’t happy anymore. He could have charged them a lot more!

So the landlord decides to charge the neighbors for the food they ate at the potluck dinner in addition to what they agreed to pay as rent for the Hall, and we have finally achieved a good analogy for Usage Based Billing.

Hardly fair.


And let’s not forget:
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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

Usage Based Billing

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 27, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

There is a growing stock of information, articles and commentary about Usage Based Billing online. I’ve been adding links to web pages on this and related subjects in my sidebar. (All links… no ads!)

But reading through some of the online commentary I’ve found some bits that bear repeating, so that’s today’s thing.

It’s interesting to see what happens when the Usage Based Billing issue rears its ugly head south of the border. They actually have competition. And they appear to have Regulation which appears to be beneficial for the consumer. Particularly interesting is that in the US, Usage Based Billing is thought to be a bad thing for the ISPs for precisely the reasons that Bell Canada wants Usage Based Billing

From TELEPHONYONLINE
I’ve heard this before

“ But first, why is usage-based billing a really bad idea?

Consumers don’t get it.
While many understand that a gigabyte is a measure of file size, the average consumer isn’t able to correlate web activities—e.g., downloading movies, uploading photos—with bandwidth usage. And anyone claiming that consumers also don’t understand kilowatt hours might want to think twice before comparing themselves to regulated monopolies.

The bill could be really big.
Even the most eco-ignorant consumer, leaving lights and appliances turned on 24×7, is unlikely to receive a power bill more than two or three times the monthly average. Compare this with the following hypothetical example: a 5Mbps broadband service costs $34.95 per month and carries a 40 gigabyte per month cap. Each gigabyte above the cap costs a buck. Before going on vacation, your teenage son decides to download YouTube (like, the whole site). Assuming the broadband service could actually run at 5Mbps (few operators will admit that it can’t), the bill at the end of the month? $1,637.45, almost 50 times the base price.

Never change the price without improving the product. One of the reasons airlines encountered such stiff headwinds with their checked-luggage policy is that the service wasn’t improved. Bags didn’t arrive more quickly or get lost less frequently. Consumers dislike this, especially where technology is concerned. Although they may talk about fairness, few broadband operators claim that usage-based billing results in a better broadband product, it’s just priced differently. ”
— Kevin Walsh

I found this look at our growing internet need strangely appropriate:

from Slashdot Forum
“Such A SCAM
(excuse the vague “profit” comparison here )
1 – charge per use, people balk ‘ why do i need that internet thing’
2 – make it unlimited flat rate and people love it and flock to sign up
3 – let people get used to it for a decade or so
4 – start overselling to get the last few holdouts
5 – slowly add caps, incrementally so people don’t complain too much
6 – reinstate charges per use now that its an integral part of daily life.

Sounds like drug dealers to me.”
— nurb432, Thursday April 16, 2009

Quite often gems can be found in the online Comments pages.

From the CBC ONLINE: Petition spurs CRTC debate – Comments
“bottom line is : it should be illegal to be the carrier and the content-provider at the same time. Then EVERYONE is on equal footing. The carrier(s) (really, think about that) also should be so heavily regulated that even partial ownership in one and in a content provider should mean a 5 year jail sentence with no chance to buy your way out of it.”
–justcase, 2009/08/22, 2:32 AM ET

When I was first finding out about Usage Based Billing Antonio Cangiano’s blog told me the mechanics of how to complain to the CRTC. Even though it was already “too late” for the CRTC to happily accept submissions, I believe that it is important for Canadians to continue to make their complaints directly to the CRTC, select Tariff as a subject, use File Number # 8740-B2-200904989 – Bell Canada – TN 7181. If you want to ensure that your words are heard, you can post them in an online blog, or if you aren’t a blogger, copy your comment to somebody else’s blog or forum online, perhaps even in the Dissolve the CRTC forums

“If Bell were to be successful with their application, ISPs would be forced to change their current offerings, cap internet usage and substantially increase the price of extra Gigabytes per month. In practice, we’d be paying more to get much less, and most people would not go through the hassle of dealing with this, thus opting for Bell – despite their absurds usage limits (60GB per month, are you kidding me?).”
–Antonio Cangiano

One of the things that I especially like about Antonio’s post his very Canadian advice to those of us who are enraged to “please send your polite comments and concerns to the CRTC” Another place ordinary people are talking about Usage Based Billing is michaelgeist.ca:

CRTC should be dismantled
So we have the net neutrality hearings which were dominated by traffic-shaping practices, are we to have another for restrictive bandwith caps? I have had it with the CRTC. Why are former employees of the very organizations they seek to regulate being allowed serve on the CRTC? I mean lately we are seeing opposition to police investigating police as being a problem, should we not see the same concerns in the CRTC?”
–KickingRaven

Bell is effectively choking out competition with the aid of the CRTC.

The CRTC mandated access to the last mile connection to promote competition in the market, which spawned the formation of various businesses to use the network connection to supply their own internet connectivity. It seems that the CRTC has now seen fit to allow these businesses to be squeezed out of the market. This protection of Bell at the expense of competition is not healthy for the future of the internet connectivity in Canada and runs contrary to the purpose of the CRTC and the best interests of Canadian citizens.

What this does is highlight the problems in the CRTC and its inherent internal conflicts in both the Broadcast and Telecom sectors.
Perhaps rather than have these biased myopians deal with future convergence it is time to disband the CRTC and replace them with a body that really understands the big picture and represents the best interests of Canadians.

The CRTC’s interpretation of media convergence would seem to be, all Canadian media access controlled by two or three corporate giants. We are firmly on that road, now just a few gratuitous public hearings away from it being cast in stone.”
–Marcus Coles

Canadian Flag

Forgo politeness in favour of the public good.

And yes, I do know we’re Canadian. And as a rule Canadians don’t like to push our views on each other. Personally, it made me uncomfortable to send a spam-like email to my Canadian friends and family. But the thing to remember is that this is not spam. This is a public service announcement.

It is in your friends’ and family’s best interests to know about this. Usage Based Billing will have a tremendous detrimental impact on every Canadian who uses the internet. So, I know you’re Canadian too, but anything you can do to help fight this fight will be worth it.

You may have noticed the dearth of Usage Based Billing coverage in the traditional media. A huge part of the problem is that the CRTC has allowed incestuous relationships between our major media carriers and broadcasters. So CTV is not likely to speak out against Bell Canada unless forced to. But if there is enough outcry, they will HAVE to cover this story. Fortunately we have CBC online covering the story.

But Canadian consumers have been at a decided disadvantage in this fight because the story has NOT been getting out. A huge part of the problem is that the interested parties conveniently control most of the media in this country. Should Usage Based Billing be implemented, I expect that will only get worse. So maybe we can help save the internet by using it now in any way that we can.

So of course after you’ve signed the petition, encouraging others to follow suit would certainly help.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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Usage Based Billing: The Misinformation War

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 26, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

It sure seems as if Big Brother is alive and well and living in Canada.

I’m beginning to think the misinformation being spread about Usage Based Billing is deliberate.

So here’s my attempt to address some of the pervasive misinformation I keep finding online. Funny, it’s always spread by anonymous or pseudonymous people.

Misinformation: Bell Canada’s infrastructure was privately funded.

False. Because of Canada’s sheer size, Canadian governments have done things to try to connect us. Once that meant building a railroad from coast to coast. In the early twentieth century, it meant creating a crown corporation called Bell Canada to run wire from coast to coast providing telephone service to Canadians. The Canadian telephone cable infrastructure was created through governmental protection and regulation protected and supported in its deployment, which is why Bell Canada is forced to share this infrastructure.

Bell Canada is only the custodian of the Canadian telephone infrastructure, not the owner of it. The Canadian government could have just as easily set up an independent body to manage the infrastructure. Maybe it’s time.

Misinformation: The Independent ISPs should be reinvesting all their profit in building their own infrastructure.

False. That would be nice but so far all they’ve had time for has been to run an honest business and re-invest every spare nickel in the self defence needed to strategize and battle against whatever the current Bell Canada effort to put them out of business.

Of course if we wanted a level playing field, along with dissolving the CRTC the Canadian government could simply dismantle Bell Canada. How many minutes would Sympatico last in a free market if they had to actually compete?

Misinformation: Internet service is slow because your neighbor is downloading movies.

False. If the internet is slow it is because Bell Canada is deliberately slowing it down by the process they call throttling.

Misinformation: When your neighbor downloads movies or music he is stealing.

False. In Canada peer to peer downloading is legal. Downloading a copyrighted movie would be copyright infringement, but only if the copyright holder doesn’t allow it. Depending on the license, it may be perfectly legal to download movies.

Bell Canada’s “throttling” of the internet actually comes much closer to stealing since customers are forced to pay for bandwidth that they don’t receive.

Misinformation: The Independent ISPs are making huge profits.

False. The huge profits are going to Bell Canada (and the rest of the Big 3) leaving the Independent ISPs to function on the crumbs that are left. And still, they provide better deals and better service and make a reasonable profit.

Misinformation: The internet is getting full. It will clog up and crash.

False. This is an urban doomsday legend that has been around pretty much as long as there’s been an internet. Sometimes referred to as the exaflood it is basically a fallacious prediction that the internet will come crashing to a halt because there is not enough space for everything we are using it for. This is used to justify inflationary pricing. Like for instance Usage Based Billing. In fact, if the Internet were full, there wouldn’t be any room in it for Bell’s inflationary practice of throttling.

Misinformation: There is a lot of competition in the Canadian internet market.

False. This one is often used to explain why the CRTC does not do its job. There is some competition. The small internet companies went into business to provide a service to Canadian customers. I’m willing to bet that setting up as an Internet Service Provider is not cheap. But those who have went into it in good faith, naïvely assuming that government watch dog (the CRTC) would at least keep things fair. If Usage Based Billing is actually implemented, most, if not all, will suffer severe economic reverses and may not be able to stay in business.

If that is allowed to happen it would be the end of competition, leaving the field to the Big 3. Aka monopoly.

Mudslinging, ad hominem attacks, name calling or otherwise trying to discredit the opposition by malicious innuendo is another generally used tactic when there is little to say for the position you’re defending.

Remember: Just because it’s in writing doesn’t mean it’s true.

The petition is at 5593 signatures!
http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

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