interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘Dissolve the CRTC’

Personal Commitments vs. UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 3, 2010

No Usage Based Billing

Naturally Usage Based Billing would rear it’s ugly head just when I’m readying my debut novel Inconstant Moon for publication, and outlining the next one, which I plan to write during NaNoWriMo. I’ve been planning all along to keep my blogging to a bare minimum through the month of November. Apparently that isn’t exactly an option.   Thank you CRTC.

CBC: CRTC green lights usage-based internet billing

Still, I’ve been writing the StopUBB blog for well over a year. There is a wealth of information available right here.


This blog is licensed directly into the public domain, because I don’t need credit, I need people to do whatever they can to fight UBB. So you can legally morally and ethically use anything I have written here in letters to Tony Clement and your MP, letters to the editor, comments on blog articles, or in your own blog posts.

To make the website easier to use as a reference, I’ve an Index running down the left sidebar.

Because the Usage Based Billing issue is loaded with jargon, some of which is too new for wikipedia, and because Bell uses some jargon differently than other ISPs use the same words elsewhere in the world, I’ve compiled a Glossary blog post, as well as starting a Glossary II page with words that weren’t covered the first time.

I’ll try to post every couple of days or so…

… but almost always at days end. Initially NaNoWriMio will be very intensive. (Blogging and watching the “copyright pot” — Bill C-32 is in second reading — took most of today for instance, so today my outline still is not finished and I’m behind in my wordcount.   Tomorrow is a catch up day.)

There is a reasonable chance that all StopUBB blog posts during November will be shorter and on single points. Even still, I will be doing fewer and shorter posts than you might expect during this rather important time.

I anticipate that I’ll primarily be answering Usage Based Billing questions, clearing up misconceptions and passing along any new info and advice for strategy through the month.

I’ve also set up two two new StopUBB pages, the first is a place anyone can post UBB Questions I’ll try to answer in the blog. You can also make general comments or pass along information on the fresh UBB Comments page.

any assistance would be appreciated

If anyone wants to put together draft letters to help people write to their politicians, I’ll be happy to publish them here.

If anyone is interested in pitching in with a guest post on any aspect of UBB that’d be terrific.

Back when I was first starting out with this, a shade over a year ago, I extended the same invitation to @mpjamesmoore 😀 … little did I know.

There seems to be a new website called which is hosting an online petition to “StopUBB.”   I don’t know much about it, but in regard to online security issues, if the new StopUBB site is actually being run by the guy, it ought to be perfectly OK to sign the petition.

Help yourself to any information, and I trust that those of you who are not writing novels this month to write letters and spread the word about UBB. Because it is in all of our best interests to stop it.

Just in case you’re new to the subject of UBB, probably the best introduction I’ve written about the problem of Usage Based Billing was the very first blog post I did on the subject in my personal blog, A Disservice to Canada I had just heard about Usage Based Billing and wrote that when I realized that this subject was simply too important, which was what convinced me creating this Stop Usage Based Billing blog was important.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 11239 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: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

crtc speed matching saga

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 31, 2010


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.

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2010 is the new 1984

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 27, 2010

No Usage Based Billing2010 is the year the UK passed the Digital Economy Act. (formerly #DEBill now #deACT on Twitter) It’s also the year that Canada may get a Canadian DMCA and I suspect it is also supposed to be the year that the fast tracked A.C.T.A. is supposed to be put in place.

I know I should be talking about Usage Based Billing right now, since its been approved and all, but there is just so much happening all at once. I am working up several (long) articles right now. My novel is all but ignored. But I felt I had to respond to another comment on Cory Doctorow’s boingboing article today Canada’s sellout Heritage Minister ready to hand copyright to Hollywood to explain why it is so important to fight against all of this now. It seemed like a good idea to expand that a bit and post it here too.

Canadian DMCA graphic by laurelrusswurm

Standing back and letting those powerful corporations dictate what Canadian law should be isn’t just about our sovereignty, and it isn’t just about turning our young into criminals. It’s about freedom. Not as in beer, but as in liberty.

We may be living in a world where corporations have more of a say in our supposed democracies than citizens have. But that isn’t good enough.

And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight a Canadian DMCA or A.C.T.A.

We can’t afford not to fight them. Not just because its wrong, but because it won’t stop there.

Scale of justice gold by Erasoft 24, a public domain image from Wikipedia

Just because the DMCA it isn’t prosecuted all the time doesn’t mean it can’t be. Once a law is on the books, the authorities can use it all the time.

Or some of the time. Or none.

They might only haul it out when they need it to silence dissidents.

Even if they don’t bother to make use of a law, once it’s made, it has full force whenever they want or need it. Once enacted it can always be used.

No Smoking Sign

If you have a restaurant smoking ban in a city, it doesn’t work well, because smokers (and their friends and families) will just go to restaurants outside city limits. It can be economically damaging for the city restaurants. Smokers lighting up in city restaurants won’t get stopped by management because management can’t afford to lose more business. So it’s usually only when a bylaw officer is at the next table that it gets rigorously enforced.

On the other hand, if you put the ban on the whole province, it will work much better. Smokers won’t have a choice, and restaurants aren’t going to have to worry about losing business. and for the most part, you’ll find smokers standing outside smoking even during blizzards. Because unless you live on a border, there won’t be a feasible alternative. Because unless you live on a border, there won’t be a feasible alternative.

In much the same way, if you pass the DMCA, it won’t work well because of all those other jurisdictions that don’t have laws like it.

So you lobby other governments to get them to do what you’ve done. You begin negotiations for a secret treaty called A.C.T.A., where you try and convince friendly governments that they should do what you want.

And in the meantime, you convince the UK to pass a Digital Economy Bill, and Canada to draft a Canadian DMCA.

The world wearing mickey mouse ears

Because the more countries who already have passed laws that pave the way for A.C.T.A., the more chance there is that A.C.T.A. passes. I mean, what’s the big deal? A.C.T.A. is only a few countries. Look at India… they just passed some great laws.

But the point is that if A.C.T.A. passes, the solidarity of the A.C.T.A. signatories can be used to intimidate the non-A.C.T.A. signatories to do what you want too. A.C.T.A. is doing it this way on purpose. It will be much easier to get their friends to sign on than try and get the whole world to agree.

Once the whole world has DMCA laws, there will be no safety for people who are doing what my generation was allowed to do legally. Funny, isn’t it, that cassette recorders and later video cassette recorders were made by companies like Sony… a corporation that wants to stop us and especially our children from making recordings today.

boombox graphic by Linda Kim, Public Domain clip art

Why on earth would anyone have purchased cassette recorders if it wasn’t to copy our favorite songs from records to make dance tapes for parties?

Because most people are law abiding, they will follow the new laws, even if they don’t agree with them.

Eventually the new laws will be accepted. Even though countries like India may have passed the non-DMCA copyright law any sovereign nation should be able to make, which conforms to the WIPO treaties India has signed India was placed on the USTR watch list, as was Canada. This is another way the United states seeks to bully sovereign nations into bending to their will. If Canada makes a DMCA copyright law and signs A.C.T.A. we will be able to help our American cousins bully India into following A.C.T.A. although clearly India has not chosen to. But surely India can be economically coerced into changing their laws to match ACTA. After all, how many call centers (like Bell Canada’s, for instance) are located in India? People have to eat.

Once the new DMCA/A.C.T.A, laws are everywhere it will be much more difficult to undo them.

Worse, the corporations behind them will be even more powerful.

If they haven’t already snuck in laws in allowing government spyware– not just on the Internet but on our computers too– as was attempted in Canada last year, it will be much easier now. Now that the law is universal, it is a vindication of the idea that piracy–even personal use piracy– is bad. And once piracy is no longer legally defensible anywhere in the world, law enforcement will need teeth to do the job of wiping out the insidious crime of piracy.

A nice little law outlawing private encryption would really be handy.

Original art from the public domain Oscar Wilde's “The Nightingale and the Rose” digitized by Project Gutenberg

Certainly large corporate entities with important sensitive data will still require encryption. They could be allowed to proceed with government oversight, perhaps licensing. The bank would have to allow government inspections of the data they encrypt, just to make sure that there is no piracy being hidden behind the encryption. There would need to be a whole new arm of law enforcement to manage it. And think of the income the government could generate by licensing encryption.

This is all to wipe out piracy, right? To get that underway, we’ll have to make some examples. Going after commercial pirates isn’t enough. It’s those bloody kids pirating movies in their parents basements that are the problem. Some of them are copying movies from DVDs they’ve purchased and upload them to p2p networks so other kids can watch them for free. What a dastardly crime. A few of those badly behaved kids need to be arrested to make the point. Put a good scare in them. Make an example of them. Throw some really big show trials and put a few of these depraved pirate children in jail. That’ll teach ’em not to share!

But of course even jailing non-commercial pirates won’t actually do the trick. In fact, it will probably encourage an entire pirate underground.

The next step in the war to wipe out those pesky pirates would be making p2p networks illegal. A final solution to digital piracy. After all, if there was no p2p there would be no piracy, right? So now, finally, p2p would become illegal. No loss, eh?

Project Gutenberg: Gone.
Maybe they could start selling those public domain ebooks, since distribution will be a problem without p2p.
But hey, if they go under that’s OK, people can still buy ebooks from Google and Amazon.
Loss to literature and literacy: immense

Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS): Gone
Without p2p distros, many FLOSS apps will of necessity become LOSS since “free as in beer” may no longer be affordable.
But that’s OK. The real pros like Microsoft and Apple are the ones that should be making software.
Loss to technology: astounding

Independent Music Recordings: Gone.
With the loss of nearly free digital distribution, musicians will have to give up their dreams if they aren’t one of the few acts signed by CRIA members. As it was in the days before the Internet, it will again be far too expensive for Independents to release their own music.
That’s OK. RIAA/CRIA are the experts after all. Why shouldn’t they have total control of the music we listen to.
Loss to culture: incalculable

Because you see, when enough countries have DMCAs and Digital Economy Bills, they will start clamping down.

Because they can.

Canadians don’t want a Canadian DMCA. Tell the Minister of Heritage James Moore on Twitter, although writing paper letters to all the politicians would a good thing too.

Just say:

No Canadian DMCA

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10808 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 both Canadians and our Economy.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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

Sign The Petition

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 11, 2010

no Canadian internet symbol
It is really easy to get disheartened when the politicians who are supposed to represent us behave in an undemocratically and ignore the wishes of the Canadian public by making laws and policies Canadians clearly don’t want. This is one reason for the widespread Canadian electoral malaise; too many Canadians have given up, and stopped even voting because it seems that the politicians ignore us anyway. This happens over and over again.

But we can’t afford to give this one up. The Internet has become far too important to Canada and the Canadian economy.

In the case of usage based billing, more than 4.000 Canadians told the CRTC emphatically that it would be bad but the CRTC went ahead and gave Bell Canada provisional approval anyway. In the case of the copyright consultation more than 8,000 Canadians made submissions against DMCA type copyright reform and it sounds as though DMCA copyright reform is exactly what our Minister of Heritage James Moore plans to introduce in June. Ironically this type of copyright “reform” would be the worst thing possible for Canadian heritage because it will suppress creation of new cultural expression.

When the Dissolve the CRTC petition and website was begun, the idea was to get 10,000 signatures and then present the petition to the Canadian Parliament. The ten thousand signatures were reached at around the same time the petition was to be presented Prime Minster Harper prematurely prorogued Canadian Parliament to avoid answering questions about Canadian complicity in war crimes/torture. As near as I can tell, the petition was never presented, or if it was I didn’t hear about it.

Now Parliament is back, and the CRTC has approved UBB. The Dissolve the CRTC petition could still be presented to the Canadian Parliament.

But whether it is or not doesn’t matter to me.

When Dissolve the CRTC was first put online, I thought it was a good publicity tool. Since most of the mainstream news media is not covering UBB it could have been something that would make them acknowledge the existence of the issue.

When Bell Canada first floated the idea of Usage Based Billing, the only people in the world who knew about it were people involved in the industry because then, as now, the mainstream news media wasn’t covering it. Even so, in a near vacuum with no publicity, 4,000 Canadians made official complaints to the CRTC. The CRTC barely acknowledged that input, then dismissed it out of hand and granted provisional approval.

When the Dissolve the CRTC website went online with it’s online petition one thing I watched in the beginning was to see if more people signed it than had complained to the CRTC. I suspect many people who made those initial complaints to the CRTC got frustrated and gave up and didn’t even sign the petition– after all, they had evidence that their input would be ignored, so why should they waste their time? But once the petition had more signatures than the CRTC had complaint submissions, I’ve followed the numbers carefully. I consider the signatures om this petition to be a good indication of how many people outside the tech community are learning about Usage Based Billing.

Because that’s important. The more ordinary people — people outside the tech community — know about Usage Based Billing and understand it enough to be angry about it, there is less chance of the this passing unnoticed outside of the “computer people special interest group”.

No Usage Based BillingCanada is supposed to be a democracy. Currently Canadians are blessed with the latest in a series of minority governments. The only reason I think no one has called an election is that the polls say that an election will probably lead to another minority government. In the absence of electoral reform, minority government is the next best thing to electoral reform for citizens because it means that the government has to at least give the appearance of listening to the electorate.

So I don’t think it matters if the Dissolve the CRTC petition is presented to the Canadian Parliament just so long as the numbers keep going up. Because every new signature belongs to someone who feels strongly enough about the issue to go sign it. It gives Canadians who are angry and frustrated with the CRTC and UBB a simple and constructive way to show our displeasure.

The petition isn’t just for computer savvy folks, its for all Canadians. Because UBB will damage Canadian participation in a global digital economy.

So long as the Dissolve the CRTC site is there and the petition is accepting signatures, it is a valuable advocacy tool.

Every signature counts.

Particularly since I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one with my eye on the numbers.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10737 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 both Canadians and our Economy.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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

CRTC Approved UBB

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 6, 2010

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

Canadian Flag Submerged in American FLAG

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

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

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

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

Conservative Party logo

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

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

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

Konrad von Finckenstein

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadians need to pay more and use the Internet less.

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

I’m open for suggestions.

Here’s an oldie but goodie:

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

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

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm us all.

Usage Based Billing is a Disservice to Canada.

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 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.]

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Almost time to Dissolve the CRTC

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 3, 2009

No Usage Based Billing!

No Usage Based Billing

This is very cool. I should be sleeping but I just had to check my favorite website before clocking out. I usually try to mention this worthy cause in every post,
as well as working it into every other website I leave a comment on the Usage Based Billing topic.

And I have to admit, there has been a growing wave of discontent with the CRTC.

First it was Usage Based Billing (which was the straw that started it all).

Stabbing Windmobile in the back after Industry Canada had given them the go ahead — and taken their money!
(admittedly they were responding to a competitor complaint… funny, the competitors are afraid to compete with wind mobile!?!)
This has has irritated a whole different group of Canadians.

Then this whole fee-for-carriage absurdity….

And of course the interview.

But although I don’t have time even for this mini post I just had to mention this because it was just so cool: is up to 9929 signatures!


Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 8, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will stop being bold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

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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:

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Confusing Canadian Corporate Ownership: Who owns Who?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 27, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

One reader asked why I didn’t spell out the corporate relationships I meant when I referred to “incestuous relationships between our major media carriers and broadcasters” in my last blog post “Usage Based Billing” .

Having read varying claims of corporate “overlap”, but lacking factual authority I was reluctant to go on record to say who owned who.

The Corporate Dance

The problem is a common one for ordinary people in the 21st Century as corporations merge or buy and sell one another. Who owns who can change quickly so unless you’re paying attention– and we all have lives, right?– it’s easy to be confused. My “local” newspaper has been bought and sold so many times in the last few years that I have no idea which giant media corporation currently owns it.

This corporate dance makes it difficult for us lowly consumers to know who we are dealing with. How can we know if there is even a possibility of collusion among related corporations. I don’t think it is deliberate corporate strategy, although it is certainly a happy byproduct for many corporations who would prefer to keep some of their actions in the shadows.

Saying little about Usage Based Billing

Saying little about Usage Based Billing

Neigh: from the horse’s mouth

But now I have it from the horse’s mouth (or at least the GLOBE AND MAIL’s):

Report on Business: Bell takes TV fight to court to escape regulators’ squeeze – Monday, Mar. 30, 2009

Bell owns 15 per cent of CTVglobemedia, which is the parent company of CTV and also owns The Globe and Mail.

Saying little about Usage Based Billing

Saying little about Usage Based Billing

And confirmation of the CTVglobemedia roster is happily provided on the CTVglobemedia Website Home Page

CTVglobemedia Inc. is Canada’s premier multimedia company with ownership of CTV, Canada’s #1 television network, and The Globe and Mail, Canada’s #1 national newspaper. CTV Inc. owns and operates 27 conventional stations across the country, with interests in 32 specialty channels, including Canada’s #1 specialty channel, TSN. CTVglobemedia also owns the CHUM Radio Division, which operates 34 radio stations throughout Canada, including CHUM FM, Canada’s # 1 FM station.


So there is a definite connection between Bell Canada and CTVglobemedia. Bell Canada owns 15% of CTVglobemedia.

Now really, 15% doesn’t sound like very much at all. Until you look at how incredibly massive CTVglobemedia actually is. I would venture a guess that Bell Canada is probably the single largest shareholder. If that’s true, it would mean that Bell Canada would in fact have a very large say indeed in the policy of this gigantic media content provider.

So CTV News, “the most-watched national newscast in Canada” is going to be reluctant to say anything negative about Bell Canada.

So The Globe and Mail, “Canada’s most-read daily national newspaper” is going to be reluctant to say anything negative about Bell Canada.

So CHUM FM, “Canada’s # 1 FM station”, which also operates “34 other radio stations throughout Canada”, is going to be reluctant to say anything negative about Bell Canada.

They are supposed to be in the business of covering the news. But because this issue may be unflattering to Bell Canada, these news outlets have a huge conflict of interest. Due to economic considerations, given the choice, they would prefer to not cover this issue at all.

So they haven’t….   and this screen capture I was sent tells the story:

According to Google

According to Google

This is why the small number of Canadians who are even aware of Usage Based Billing have only found out “too late.”

And most Canadians still don’t even know about Usage Based Billing.

And that is why we have to keep speaking up.  If there is enough outcry, what passes for news media in Canada will HAVE to cover this story or lose all credibility.

And really, Usage Based Billing is just the tip of the iceberg. The reason that there are so many serious problems with the Canadian Telecommunications Industry today is because the CRTC has NOT been doing its job. Canadians need to get informed, so at the very least they can sign the petition!
5843 signatures and counting

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