interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘CTV’

UBB is a Non Partisan “Ripoff”

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 20, 2011

CBC logo

No Usage Based Billing

Today CBC online had a tiny article Extra billing for internet use a ‘ripoff’: NDP

I posted a comment, of course:

The CRTC’s Usage Based Billing ruling allows Bell to artificially inflate the costs of the Internet of Bell’s own competition: The Independent Internet Serivice Providers.

The Indie ISPs provide the ONLY meaningful Internet competition. This ruling, intended to reduce Canadian Internet use via economic traffic management will seriously jeopardize their very existence.

Interestingly, the article says:

“Primus and Shaw have said they will begin passing on higher fees to their customers.”

Thing is, Primus will be hit with the UBB increase because they connect through Bell GAS.

Shaw on the other hand, is a cable ISP and as such is unaffected,
It sounds like they are simply taking advantage of the public confusion, since most Canadians don’t realize that this UBB increase doesn’t impact on cable, unless triggering cable ISP greed counts.

Somehow I’m not surprised to see a Cable ISP like Shaw trying to fool their customers into thinking this forces them to raise the prices.

The biggest problem with UBB is still that most Canadians consumers don’t understand it. And won’t even know about it until we get the bills.

How can you reduce bandwidth when you don’t know what bandwidth is?

That is, of course why the CRTC is supposed to exist: to ensure Canadians are protected and not gouged by rich and powerful corporations like Bell. Except the CRTC isn’t doing their job.

Shaw will be charging UBB, but this has nothing to do with the CRTC UBB ruling, except as misdirection. As a cable ISP Shaw is totally unaffected by the UBB ruling.

[Thanks to @yurechko for the link!]

Charlie Angus, NDP MP

Charlie Angus, NDP MP

Some of the comments are knocking the NDP because Charlie Angus was the impetus of this CBC coverage. Charlie Angus is one of the few politicians who understands this. The Internet and the technology is so new that most of our elected representatives don’t get it either. That isn’t uncommon, it seems to be equally true around the world. Governments tend to depend on what Industry tells them. After all– they’re the experts. Thing is: they are also a very special interest group.

“When I buy a new television or washing machine, the hydro company doesn’t charge me more. I still pay the same rates. All the money Canadians have been paying for infrastructure that was obsolete more than a decade ago doesn’t seem to be going into upgrading, (else we would have state of the art internet capability) but into providing Bell with the capital to buy CTV.

Paying UBB to Bell is like paying a premium to the seed company for a loaf of bread.

It’s already been paid paid for. This is an extra level of pricing designed to penalize Canadians for using the Internet.

This is NOT a partisan issue. The biggest problem is that most of our elected representatives in all of the parties are just as unaware as most Internet users about what this means.

UBB will hurt the whole Canadian economy, no matter what party you support. We need to Stop UBB before it starts.”

—my second comment on Extra billing for internet use a ‘ripoff’: NDP

Canada does need a regulator, but not one that behaves as a sock puppet for the industry it is supposed to regulate, as the CRTC does. That’s why the CRTC needs to be dissolved or at minimum reformed.

Regulating Canada into the last century will not help our digital economy survive in this one.
We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11729 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.

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email:

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email:

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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

Has Bell Upgraded Internet Infrastructure?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on January 17, 2011

No Usage Based Billing

Paul asked in a comment:

The statement that Bell has not upgraded their infrastructure is a powerful argument against the need for UBB. Could you please advise where you found this information so I can reference it in my own discussions? Thanks.

Paul’s Comment on “There are no bandwidth hogs”

My only connection with any Canadian ISP is as a customer. I don’t have access to data, financial reports etc.

So I am looking at this issue clearly from the outside. And this is what I see.

When the Internet was first made available to the public, Canada quickly became a world leader. When Bell and Rogers entered the High Speed Internet market, they offered Canadians top speeds, and low prices for unlimited access. (They did such a good job that they killed off all the competition.)

Cheap and fast access is why Canadians so whole heartedly became early Internet adopters.   And that’s why Canadians are currently some of the most Internet savvy and Internet connected people in the world.

Even though the costs consumers pay have gone up and up and up.
It is not cheap anymore. In fact, we are paying some of the highest rates in the world before implementation of UBB.

What happened? Why does Canada lag behind on every study?
(I discount so-called “studies” paid for by the Internet carriers; those are advertising.)

If you like graphs, this website Website Optimization: November 2007 Bandwidth Report shows where we were in 2007.  (If you dig farther into the archives of this site you’ll likely find indications of the time when Canada was a leader), the figures here were not only borne out, but noticeably worse for Harvard’s 2009 study.

Or Oxford.

And here’s an article explaining the numbers, 10 Gigabytes Per Month! (one of the things I have trouble with)

The absolute best speed available to Bell Internet consumers are — for a premium — Upload speed: up to 7 Mbps.

No speed is guaranteed, everything is: “Up to.”

One of my main reasons for putting my oar in on this subject is because I’m a parent. That’s why one of the saddest things I’ve read on this subject is this highly personal account of Canadian access woes dating back to 2009.

If I do a Google Search for:

bell canada upgrade infrastructure


and a Google News search: bell canada upgrade infrastructure

The only things that come close are upgrades to their cell phone systems (HSPA). But for the Internet the single Bell upgrade is their DSLAMs, which provide only a tiny boost in service. As I understand it, this is not considered “part of the back-haul infrastructure.” These DSLAMs were deployed in limited locations, and Bell fought to be able to deny Independent ISPs any access to the increased speeds. Ultimately the CRTC forced Bell to share the speeds with the Independent ISPs.

Of course, that CRTC ruling won’t matter to Bell anymore if the Independent ISPs are forced out of the market by UBB.

Beyond the fact Bell is offering essentially the same bandwidth speeds as they were when they rolled out broadband service, it certainly doesn’t look like there has been any infrastructure improvement.    If there had been can’t imagine why Bell would not be trumpeting it.

Bell’s best (per Bell website): up to 7 mbps
Japan’s best (per New York Times 2009): 160 mbps

Bell’s dual strategies have been to technically throttle customers, and now to introduce “economic traffic management.”

Both of these policies are designed to force consumers into less Internet access while still keeping Bell highly profitable.

If Bell actually improved the service they offered, they wouldn’t need to apply for permission to charge UBB. The traditional way for a corporation to justify increased rates has long been to provide added value. It seems that is no longer necessary in Canada.

Obviously Bell has made out very well indeed thanks to CRTC rulings.   Recession or no, they seem to  have  enough disposable income to now buy the entire CTV Television Network.

So I’m not aware of any large-scale back-haul infrastructure upgrades performed by Bell. And you can’t prove a negative.

We need to Stop Usage Based Billing before it starts.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11684 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.

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email:

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email:

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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

What Century is the CRTC in?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 24, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

On Monday March 22nd, 2010 the Toronto Star reported the long awaited “fee for carriage” results in the article CRTC backs TV over cable in fees dispute: Regulatory agency avoids imposing ‘fee for carriage’; leaves final decision up to Federal Court

London, star of the 1980's Canadian TV series "The Littlest Hobo"

My favorite CRTC "fee for carriage" commentator

What is happening here? Why did the CRTC spend a great deal of time and money providing a forum for the “fee for carriage” dog and pony show?   Dog is right… one of the Twitter commentators was HoboLittlest If you read Hobo’s Twitter feed you can clearly see that he has gone to the dogs.

Remember all the attack ads and finger pointing where each side accused the other of greed and the broadcasters declared that “local TV Matters”? That led up to the CRTC hearings which presented an opportunity for the Cable/Satellite carriers to duke it out with the TV Channels/Networks.

The CRTC decided this “fee for carriage” issue by saying the cable companies have to start paying the TV networks. Surprisingly, the CRTC has said that payments needn’t be in cash, they may instead choose to barter. Wow. Barter. Wonder how Revenue Canada… ooops, the Canada Revenue Agency feels about that?

passing the buck

Then the CRTC says the “final decision” must be made by the Federal Court as the CRTC might lack authority to make the decision.

So the TV broadcasters think they’ve got it made in the shade.

Well, everyone except for the CBC.   Because the CRTC quasi-decision specifically excluded the CBC from what CBC perceives will be a lucrative revenue stream.


Then a bad situation was made worse when the CRTC told broadcasters they must invest a percentage of the gross in Canadian Content.   Presumably funds will come out of the “new income” from the cable companies.   Except CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein never exactly explained how that would work if the new payments was made by barter.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the CRTC went on to reduce the total Canadian Content requirement by 5%.

I believe that Canadian Content regulations have turned out to be a very bad thing for Canadian Culture. If we must have Canadian Content laws, then the percentage must be high, at LEAST 80% for TV programming.

Scrapping CanCon altogether would be by far the best solution.

But the worst possible solution is to mandate a middling amount of CanCon and then chip away at it bit by bit.   Which is of course the situation we actually have.

What is the CRTC playing at– they have decided to dictate what programming broadcasters must fund.   Excuse me?

I thought the CRTC was supposed to regulate telecommunications for the benefit of Canadian consumers.   Yet here they are dictating programming decisions.   It isn’t the CRTC’s job to decide what programming is essential for Canadian audiences. It’s none of their business.

CRTC logo

The only thing the CRTC seems intent on doing is avoiding blame.

What the CRTC is failing to do — again — is protect the interests of Canadian consumers.

There is only one pool of consumers in Canada. In the real world, the only people who will be stuck with additional fees will be the beleaguered Canadian consumer. Again. In a recession. I guess the CRTC hasn’t noticed that there is a recession on from their ivory tower.

What should the CRTC be doing? Certainly not allowing the price gouging that will inevitably come out of this. What they need to do is enter the 21st Century.

Cable TV, like Internet Service Providers, should not be providing content. Cable/Satellite should be the TV industry version of “dumb pipes”.
In this digital world, there is no earthly reason why consumers are forced to pay for 50* channels in order to get the two that they actually want.   Why do we have to subsidize forty-eight channels to get two?   Just think how great the two good channels would be if they got all of that money.

The cable companies have the technology to deliver individual channels, and in fact have had this capability for quite some time. It should not cost consumers more than $10 per month per channel that they actually want. But instead most Canadian families are paying between $50 and $200 per month for the tiered “packages” the are forced to subscribe to in order to get the few channels that they actually watch.

I really don’t get it. Why does the CRTC exist? As I understand it, the CRTC is supposed to protect consumers, because we do not have the lobbying power of the big monopolies. Yet instead CRTC regulations have led to Canadian consumers subsidizing a great deal of programming that they don’t want or need. This is ridiculous.

The CRTC is mouthing platitudes about “market forces” resolving these issues. Yet there are no true market forces in play here. The only reasonable way that “market forces” could possibly be the deciding factor would be for consumers to pay only for the content they consume.

Canadian Flag

Which is certainly not the case now.

The decline in broadcast television is largely due to the broadcaster’s reluctance to restructure for the 21st century. Instead of working out new business models, they have instead asked the CRTC for what is essentially a bailout. And the CRTC is giving it to them — at the expense of the Canadian consumer.

Why is the Canadian television audience shrinking? Many Canadians have given up on cable. Like me. Four years ago we decided the cable bill was just too high for what we were actually watching. Let me tell you, it is a lot cheaper to buy the DVDs you are actually going to watch than pay for cable that you don’t.

Interestingly enough, there is more to watch online than YouTube.  Did you know that there is an awful lot of original content available legally online.

The cast of Team Epic superheroes posre in front of a skyline including the CN Tower.

Online Canadian programming isn't afraid to set Canadian shows in Canada.

The Internet Canadian superhero series Team Epic is a program that my family watches.   Hey, Canada isn’t exactly new to the superhero game, after all,  Canadian-born artist Joe Shuster created Superman with his partner American writer Jerry Siegel  in 1932

But that’s not all, there are all sorts of other online programming on LIFEFORCE[tv].   There is quite a lot of original made-for-the-Internet programming out there. For free.

But surprisingly there is also an awful lot of online television programming provided direct from — you guessed it — the television broadcasters.

Broadcasters like Global TV

or CBC

or CTV

or CityTV

The CRTC is also responsible for regulating the Internet. Yet the CRTC has allowed the Canadian Internet monopolies (essentially the same cast of characters who own the tv industry) to:

(a) discriminate against certain customers by selectively “throttling” the service these consumers are paying for
(b) deployment of Deep Packet Inspection to achieve this discrimination [DPI is of course illegal in Europe because of the invasion of consumer privacy it allows]
(c) encourage the monopolies to cap customers bandwidth consumption as a means of forcing Canadians to use the Internet less
(d) granted provisional approval of Usage Based Billing (which will likely kill off the fledgling Independent Internet Service Providers)

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Funny how the CRTC is not protecting the interests of Canadian Internet users.

Clearly the CRTC does not understand what is happening in the world of technology. What is worse, they are making absolutely no attempt to understand it.

Isn’t time to dissolve the CRTC?

Canada needs a regulatory body that can understand the technology and regulate in the best interests of Canadians.

What we have is the CRTC which regulates in the best interests of the Media/TV/Internet monopolies. If the CRTC continues down this road Canada’s economy will be in serious trouble.

*I chose “50 Channels” of cable programming as an example. Some people may only have to pay for 25 cable channels in order to get the two that they want to watch, while others might need to pay for seventy. Each cable package is different, but all discriminate against the consumer.


[Note: There will be more on CanCon coming in my new in the wind post later today.]

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

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

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

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?”

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.

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